ATHENS — Georgia receiver and return man Mecole Hardman and cornerback Deandre Baker were among the sharpest Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium, following Kirby Smart’s instruction to play up to a standard regardless of opponent.
The No. 3-ranked Georgia football program improved to 3-0 with a decisive 49-7 win over Middle Tennessee (1-2) on Saturday in a game that was moved up to a noon start because of Hurricane Florence.
Hardman caught all four of his targets in the first half for 21 yards and a touchdown, and he scored again with a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Baker, meanwhile expertly picked off Blue Raiders all-time leading passer Brent Stockstill in the first quarter at the Georgia 25, returning it 26 yards to set up a touchdown the made it 14-0.
Here are some other performances that stood out:
Elijah Holyfield broke a career-long 66-yard run in the first quarter, helping to set the pace for the Georgia run game. Holyfield had 100 yards on eight carries in the first half. That made Holyfield the first Bulldogs back to have 100 yards rushing since Sony Michel (181) and Nick Chubb (145) accomplished the feat in the Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma.
Rodrigo Blankenship has started the season with 19 consecutive touchbacks on his kickoffs, and he is 3-of-3 on his field goal attempts this season.
Tyler Simmons has become known for his prowess as a blocking receiver, but Simmons showed his speed with a 56-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep. It was his first career touchdown.
Jeremiah Holloman had three catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. Holloman’s 65-yard reception from Jake Fromm was a thing of beauty. Fromm hit him in stride with a pass that traveled 55 yards through the air.
Justin Fields has been an impressive talent since he stepped on the field, and he exhibited those skills against Middle Tennessee, going 6-of-8 passing for 71 yards and a touchdown. Fields continued to pull the ball down quickly when his first read wasn’t there in the first half, running almost as much (three times) as he attempted passes (four).
Freshman left tackle Cade Mays got the start in place of injured incumbent Andrew Thomas. Mays had a holding penalty on the second series of the game that wiped out an 18-yard run and put Georgia inside its own 10-yard line, and Fromm was sacked on the next play. The experience was valuable for Mays, but he continues to need work.
Riley Ridley has had a relatively quiet start to the season considering how much work he gets in practice, but on Saturday the talented receiver got into the end zone by hauling in a perfectly thrown 12-yard fade pass from Fromm.
Jake Fromm was 10-of-12 passing line for 128 yards and three touchdowns wouldn’t seem to indicate a drop-off, but considering how high his level of play has been, it wasn’t going to take much. Fromm suffered two needless sacks after holding the ball too long, and it nearly cost Georgia points. Fromm was hit in the end zone and the ball came loose, but Bulldogs’ lineman Ben Cleveland fell on it after it rolled out to the 2-yard line. Fromm escaped pressure in the second quarter, only to get sacked on the same play.
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