Kent State
22
Final
39
(1) Georgia

Kirby Smart: Strike fear, respect the opponent, keep players happy

091022 Athens: Georgia quarterback Carson Beck has the highest QB rating and longest run of the season for the Bulldogs through the first three games. Curtis Compton / Curtis Compton@ajc.com

ATHENS — Kirby Smart is fighting to keep a chip on his team’s shoulder, but it’s getting harder with each lopsided win and national accolade.

This week’s pushover opponent for No. 1-ranked Georgia is Kent State, a Mid-American Conference team the Bulldogs are favored to beat by 46 points.

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“I know you guys don’t ever listen to anything we say in here, but this is a really good football team and they have played two really good football teams,” Smart said on Monday, doing his best to create a sense of urgency for the game with the …. Golden Flashes.

“And you watch the first half of the Oklahoma game, you have no question how good they are. They, really, played Washington well outside of a couple of drives. Washington scored on them. But outside of that, they went toe to toe with Washington.”

Indeed, the Sooners held only a 7-3 halftime lead over Kent State, which is located in Kent, Ohio, which is located (scrolls out on Wiki map) northeast of Akron, Ohio, which is located (scrolls out more) just south of Cleveland.

WATCH: Motivation in the mirror, former Kirby peer shares mentality of head coach

Oklahoma ended up winning 33-3, despite the Golden Flashes matching them with 20 first downs and holding the ball 36:19.

The week before, at Washington, Kent State fell by a 45-20 margin, out-gained 525-340 and down 31-13 by halftime.

“The worst thing that can happen to this team is to start believing what people say about them,” Smart said about his Bulldogs.

“The toughest job we have this week is trying to explain to everybody that Kent State’s a really good football team.”

The common thread in both games the Golden Flashes lost was that they had multiple turnovers, three interceptions against the Huskies, an interception and fumble against the Sooners.

Georgia’s defense will likely feast, and the Bulldogs will win handily, and more people will say more good things about Kirby Smart and his players, much to their dismay.

Here are some key takeaways from Smart this week:

WATCH: Hilarious Eli Manning video with Stetson Bennett, who recaps transfer and return

Roster management

The game within the game continues with Smart working to develop championship depth and reward the backup players he wants to keep in the program.

A look around the SEC shows former UGA players who fell deep on the depth chart helping other schools win football games, and Smart and his staff know they have to provide opportunities or others will follow suit.

“What we’re doing now is preparation for what is to come, and that includes getting better every day, regardless of who our opponent is,” Smart said. “We’re not out there just getting ready for Kent State, we’re getting ready for the entire schedule we got. We want to get our players better.

“We’re trying to get guys better for the first game next year, because we got some guys that may not play this year. So we’re in the development business, and we do that really hard. We’re not caught up in statistics or where we are right now because it really doesn’t matter.”

QB TWO

The 2022 version of Carson Beck has improved clearly and greatly, and actually has the highest QB Rating on the team through three games.

Observers have noted the ball “explodes” out of Beck’s hand on his throws, and his 20-yard run is the longest on the team this season. Beyond that, Beck looks confident and prepared, and also quite capable each time his number is called.

Smart knows Beck needs real reps, throwing passes, running the offense, to be ready.

“Carson’s done a good job. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, (and) he understands our system, he’s another year in being in the system,” Smart said,.

“You remember, there’s a point in time where he probably had more reps than Stetson did in terms of volume of work because he took a lot of reps as the two when Stetson took some as the three.”

Indeed, the coaches had JT Daniels and Beck ahead of Bennett on the depth chart the entire offseason and up until a poor Beck practice the week of the UAB game.

“(Beck) is intelligent, he understands what the defense is doing, (and) he understands his protections,” Smart said. “He knows where to go with the ball. He’s accurate. He’s done a nice job with the opportunity he’s been given.”

Attack mentality

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