ATHENS — The Georgia football team doesn’t always make it look pretty, but the Bulldogs’ brutal efficiency has become impressive.
Georgia has three shutouts in a season for the first time since 1981, and through nine games Kirby Smart’s players have not allowed a rushing touchdown — a feat no other team in the FBS ranks can claim.
“You can’t say enough about the defensive staff and the game plan they put together,” Smart said. “The defensive players hung their hats on that, and they showed some competitive character at the end with that stand.”
The No. 6-ranked Bulldogs (8-1, 5-1) beat Missouri 27-0 on Saturday night between the hedges at Sanford Stadium.
The offense, while not flashy, was once again efficient.
Georgia was 8-of-18 converting on third downs and played turnover-free football for a third consecutive game.
Here’s one view of how each position graded out:
Jake Fromm was 13-of-29 passing, just the fourth time in his 38 games he has completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Fromm had two touchdown passes, however, without any interceptions. Fromm gets a plus for a heady 16-yard first-down scramble, as he kept the chains moving most of the night.
Running Backs B+
D’Andre Swift broke his longest run of the season, a 47-yarder in the third quarter. It was tough running between the tackles against a stacked Missouri box, but Swift and Herrien kept churning. Swift had 12 carries for 83 yards, and Herrien chipped in with 10 carries for 42 yards. Freshman Zamir White came off the bench late to get 6 carries for 24 yards. Ball security earns the group a plus.
Lawrence Cager appears to be the only consistent option, and he had 6 catches for 93 yards in the first half before exiting with an aggravated shoulder injury. Freshman George Pickens had 5 catches for 67 yards and 2 TDs, but Pickens made a rookie mistake lining up incorrectly, leading to a penalty that negated what would have been a 68-yard TD catch. Matt Landers had what appeared to be a catch stripped away, another tough break for a young player who has struggled this year. The tight ends were shut out, Fromm under-throwing Eli Wolf, and Charlie Woerner unable to get any separation.
Offensive line (A-)
Fromm got sacked once — for only the fifth time this season — but it was more of a coverage sack than it was on any offensive lineman. The line did a reasonably good job in protection and run blocking against what Smart said is one of the better defensive fronts in the SEC. Georgia’s offensive line depth and versatility impressed, with three different players leaving at different ties and the level of play not skipping a beat.
Defensive line (A)
Devonte Wyatt continues to emerge up front for what was once a much-maligned defensive line unit. Previously a group of relative no-names, this group is starting to get some well-deserved recognition. Jordan Davis had a TFL, and Malik Herring keeps appearing in backfields as a disruptor. Veteran Tyler Clark is also forcing plays to bounce so linebackers can clean up. Smart counts his OLBs as down linemen, so give Nolan Smith credit for a sack and a QBP.
Monty Rice came through with a TFL during Georgia’s fourth quarter goal line stand against Missouri. Fellow inside linebacker Tae Crowder led the team with 7 tackles. Quay Walker had a sack, but he also had a costly offsides penalty that sustained a Missouri drive.
Richard LeCounte’s interception and 71-yard return was a momentum-changing play that Georgia needs more of this season. LeCounte was also aggressive and firm in run support. Cornerback DJ Daniel was also playing physical football in run support in addition to strong coverage. Tyson Campbell returned from a foot injury and appeared to be on top of his game. Freshman Tryrique Stevenson could be emerging at just the right time.
Special teams (A-)
It was a cold, slick turf but Rodrigo Blankenship still managed to convert field goals of 20, 48, 47 and 29 yards while barely missing on a 43-yard attempt. Dominick Blaylock had two impressive punt returns of 18 and 16 yards. Jake Camarda was solid, five punts for an average of 45.4 yards with two dropped inside the Missouri 20.
The Georgia offensive continues to evolve, Jake Fromm showing poise and accuracy when it matters most on third downs while not turning the ball over. The run game is solid, D’Andre Swift showing more durability and power than many would have expected, while still possessing home run speed. Kirby Smart has his football team in a good place with four games left in the regular season.