5 takeaways from 33-0 Georgia win over Samford

Kirby Smart made a concerted effort to get Kendall Milton going this season against Samford. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

ATHENS — Kirby Smart wasn’t happy with his team on Saturday, but those who follow Georgia football know he rarely is.

The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs throttled Samford by a 33-0 count, the FCS school asking for the mercy of a 12-minute fourth quarter.

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Smart had seen about all he needed to from his starters, anyway, his team managing only a field goal those final 27 minutes of play after taking a 30-0 lead to the half.

Stetson Bennett summed things up well when he said “too many field goals,” with Jack Podlesny kicking four of them.

It did seem interesting that the same Georgia team that scored touchdowns on its first seven drives against Oregon the week before — the first SEC team to do so in four years — struggled in the red zone against such an overmatched opponent.

The defense, meanwhile, tackled better and appeared sound in holding the small private Birmingham school to 128 yards on 43 plays.

Smart talked about how he wanted to see how his team would respond with a quicker turnaround and a higher degree of unpredictability from the opponent.

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The Georgia staff looked like it was in Dan Lanning’s huddle in the 49-3 season-opening win, and was at the very least in his mind.

Lanning just knew the way to attack the Bulldogs was on the perimeter — what he didn’t know was his Ducks’ players weren’t good enough to win those battles.

Here are five takeaways from Georgia’s home opener:

Steady Stet

Bennett looks considerably more comfortable spreading the ball around in this offense than a season ago, and it has nothing to do with the level of competition.

Bennett is a more studied quarterback now and gets through his progressions quicker, leading him to the No. 2 QB rating in the SEC through two games (176.94).

There were still a few missed throws, but Bennett’s accuracy was solid for the most part, and his mobility factors into the game plan enough that opponents will need to account for it when scheming.

Getting downhill

It was obvious there was a concerted effort to get the run game going, and it needed time to gain momentum against even a physically overmatched opponent like Samford.

There are holes and run lanes, but not as expansive as Georgia has provided its backs in the past.

Kendall Milton appeared to run stronger in this game, his forward lean back, his legs chopping high and pushing the pile for 85 yards on 10 carries, including a 16-yard burst.

Milton is a classic one-cut runner, getting North-South quickly and then asserting himself into the second level.

It’s likely Milton will break off longer runs with more work; he appears to be getting back into game speed rhythm and regaining the “feel” the most successful backs possess.

Another weapon

It’s one thing to hear the coaches talk about a player emerging in practice, but it’s another when they actually surface in the game.

Jackson Meeks is one such example, as he was pressed into action at the “X” receiver position when Adonai Mitchell hopped off with an apparent ankle injury on the opening series.

Meeks looked capable, though perhaps not dynamic, in his opportunities.

It led to Georgia having 12 different players make catches in this game — five targeted in the first 11 plays.

Tight ends

Brock Bowers is the All-American everyone looks for, but Washington continues to be the biggest mismatch and X-factor on the field.

Washington threw down a defender when lead blocking on Bennett’s touchdown run with comical ease on one play, and then he skied to catch a high pass the next.

Washington’s versatility makes him one of the most important players on the team, as defenses will struggle to find plans that can account for both him and Bowers without a degree of vulnerability,

At some point, Arik Gilbert will emerge more in-game action, but the transfer from LSU is obviously still adjusting to a new offense and his return to SEC game speed.

Enriching depth

The more players that see snaps, the happier your locker room and the better the ensuing practices.

Georgia flipped Warren McClendon to left tackle early and inserted sophomore Amarius Mims at right tackle.

Smart shrugged off any concern there could be any drop-off in the line’s timing, saying that concept is “overrated.” And it just might be with the amount of talent UGA has.

Safety Tykee Smith was also among those getting quality snaps, an important step in his comeback from the knee injury that sidelined him last season and in the opening game.

Smart noted Smith, a former All-American at West Virginia, is still building confidence in his knee and in the system.

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