ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart studied UAB closely leading up to Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium knowing his team would be tested.
The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs responded to the challenge, scoring a 56-7 victory over the Blazers on Saturday.
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“We’ve got a lot of things we can get better on our team, but our team did start fast today and that’s what we challenged them to do,” said Smart, whose Bulldogs raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead.
“Be aggressive and be explosive, because we haven’t been, and I thought they did a good job of that, at least, in the past game.”
Georgia’s offense took off despite being piloted by redshirt senior Stetson Bennett, who was technically third on the depth chart at quarterback at the start of the season.
The Bulldogs outgunned UAB 539-174 and were 6-of-11 converting on third downs while the Blazers were just 1-of-11 on third down.
Stetson Bennett was an A-plus, delivering a performance worthy of folk hero status. Number 2 quarterback Carson Beck was underwhelming, uncertain at times, late on others, and floating the sort of Pick-6 throw that explained why Kirby Smart and Todd Monken knew he was not quite ready for his first start. Beck will show rapid improvement — seeing was believing at the G-Day, the redshirt freshman has star potential. Brock Vandagriff got his first college snaps, worth noting, but not significant beyond getting his feet wet.
RUNNING BACKS (B-)
Kenny McIntosh looked to be the most impressive back in this game, showcasing his skills with an impressive 12-yard run and sharp 12-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Zamir White had 34 yards on 7 carries, but was not as physical running as he was against Clemson. Kendall Milton had 25 yards on 8 carries, disappointing when he was stopped in a short-yardage situation. James Cook had a 14-yard TD run, but just 4 yards on 4 carries outside of that.
Brock Bowers is the most consistent and dangerous healthy target on the team two games into his career, his 3 catches for 107 yards highlighted by 82 yards after the catch. Jermaine Burton took a positive step with 3 catches for 92 yards and a TD, though he had a holding penalty that wiped out a 24-yard gain. Adonai Mitchell, Justin Robinson, Arian Smith and Ladd McConkey are just getting warmed up.
OFFENSIVE LINE (B-)
Not allowing any QB sacks is impressive, even when there were only 22 pass attempts. The run blocking wasn’t dominant, but UAB had a lot to do with that, focusing its efforts on plugging holes in the trenches. Sedrick Van Pran’s play at center continues to impress, and Jamaree Salyer’s play at left tackle has been stellar.
DEFENSIVE LINE (A-)
Travon Walker stepped up with 4 tackles (enough to overlook a facemask penalty), and Jordan Davis will have NFL scouts drooling after he ran down UAB’s “mobile” quarterback in the open field. Nazir Stackhouse had a QB pressure that led to an interception. Smart, always a stickler, wanted to see better results from the second team.
Channing Tindall is emerging, making a team-high 7 tackles and showing off sharp pursuit lines. It still seems like there’s a Nakobe Dean echo effect, as his number seemingly keeps popping up everywhere on almost every play. Dean was only credited with 3 tackles, but it seems like any time he’s on the field he’s in the middle of the action Trezman Marshall had a day, too, with 4 stops.
Smart said teams would be coming after Kelee Ringo, and the redshirt freshman made the Blazers pay with his first career interception. Ringo also came up in run support with a hit that seemed more fitting for a linebacker. The upside is obvious. Lewis Cine had an interception, but he didn’t get the sort of return yardage out of it possible. It will be a point of improvement for Cine, a perfectionist and team leader. Christopher Smith had a relatively quiet day compared to the Saturday before, but that’s not a bad thing when you are a safety.
SPECIAL TEAMS (B)
Jake Camarda is hitting some “wow” punts to the tune of 50 yards a pop, but more importantly and impressively, he’s hanging those kicks high and burying opponents inside the 20. There’s a lot of hidden yardage coming this key senior, who also put all 7 of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Kicker Jack Podlesny missed his only field goal attempt (32), though both his kickoffs went into the end zone. Podlesny just needs to get back to kicking and not thinking, it appears. Kearis Jackson had a 33-yard punt return and a 15-yarder.
Smart made a brilliant coaching move going with the more experienced quarterback against a UAB defense that was intent on wreaking havoc. Bennett has been through so much he was not going to get fazed, and watching him validate his talent in historical fashion was truly a college football treat. Todd Monken set up UAB with self-scouts on his bunch formation, and Dan Lanning made sure his defense kept the Blazers’ quarterbacks uncomfortable and their linemen jumpy.
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It was a very strong display by Georgia football, which achieved a team goal when it got off to a lightning-fast start with Bennett under center. Smart also eased Beck into the action, letting him have his struggles in the midst of a blowout win that represented the sort of final score a No. 1 or No. 2 team should have. A more impressive run game and better run defense could have raised the grade.