Surprise, surprise, Georgia still looks like the best team in the nation in 49-3 win over Oregon

Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) scored touchdowns on this 9-yard rush along with a 4-yard catch from Stetson Bennett. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

ATLANTA — Kirby Smart said to “expect the unexpected” in the days leading up to Georgia’s opening game against Oregon.

The seventh-year UGA head coach wasn’t wrong.

The reloaded No. 3-ranked Bulldogs beat the No. 11-ranked Ducks easier than anyone could have expected, scoring a 49-3 win before a crowd of 76,490 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

RELATED: Kirby Smart comments on Stetson Bennett’s blazing start

Smart focused his offseason narrative on the program avoiding complacency, and it certainly looked like that mission was accomplished with UGA fans making up approximately 80 percent of the crowd.

Georgia showed no drop-off from last season’s championship level of play despite losing a record-15 players in the NFL draft.

UGA scored on its first seven possessions in the game, quickly plucking the Ducks in a game that featured a 17-point spread.

The Bulldogs’ offense looked as sharp as ever behind sixth-year senior quarterback Stetson Bennett.

Bennett was 25-of-31 passing for 368 yards and 2 touchdowns before exiting the game with 5:20 left in the third quarter and UGA up 42-3.

Bennett led Georgia on touchdown drives the team’s first six possessions, and his 368 yards passing represented a personal best.

UGA back-up quarterback Carson Beck assumed control of the offense and the onslaught continued.

Beck marched the team 89 yards on nine plays on his first series, capping the Bulldogs’ seventh-straight scoring drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Milton with 14:50 left in the fourth quarter.

Georgia didn’t have its first punt until the 10:19 mark of the fourth quarter, up 49-3 by that point.

Tailback Kenny McIntosh led the Bulldogs’ in total offense with a career-high 9 catches for 117 yards, along with 5 carries for 18 yards and a touchdown.

Ladd McConkey topped the wide receiver group with 5 catches for 73 yards and a touchdown, in addition to 2 carries for 16 yards and a touchdown on a nifty end around.

Milton led Georgia with 8 carries for 50 yards, with a rushing touchdown in addition to his receiving touchdown.

The Georgia defense, meanwhile, forced two turnovers and kept Oregon quarterback Bo Nix in check.

The Bulldogs set a modern-era record allowing just 6.9 points per game in the regular season last season, a mark better than any team dating back to 1986 Oklahoma.

But with that defense producing five first-round NFL picks -- including three first-rounders off its defensive line -- many felt a drop-off was imminent.

That was not the case Saturday.

Nix, who transferred from Auburn, was 17-of-29 passing for 146 yards with two interceptions.

Veteran safety Christopher Smith came up with one of the picks, while true freshman Malaki Starks had the other.

Starks led the UGA defensive with eight tackles.

It was the first time Oregon went without a touchdown in a football game since a 38-3 loss to Washington in 2017, and the most lopsided loss for the Ducks since the Huskies beat them 70-21 in 2016.

The Bulldogs play host to FCS Samford at 4 p.m. next Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

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