ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart couldn’t say enough in the days leading up to Saturday’s game about how good of a football program Arkansas State is and the respect he has for the Sun Belt Conference.
Smart said he’s glad his No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) prepared and played the game with the same mindset en route to the 55-0 blowout victory at Sanford Stadium.
“They approached this team with a lot of respect, which I did too,” Smart said. “I still think that they play in one of the tough conferences and they’ve got a good football team.
“We played probably better today, at least defensively, than we had been playing. We had some tough contested plays on the outside. And then offensively I thought we mixed tempo with playing with the ball well, and did some good things.”
That’s fair to say, considering Georgia out-gained Arkansas State 656 yards to 220 and held a 34-0 lead by halftime.
The win follows one-sided victories at Vanderbilt (30-6) and last Saturday in Athens over FCS Murray State (63-17).
Jake Fromm was 17-of-22 passing for 279 yards with 3 TDs, and Stetson Bennett came off the bench for 9-of-10 passing performance that netted 109 yards. Fromm showed, once again, he’s at his best in the 2-minute offense, smartly marching UGA 66 yards for a TD at the end of the first half with a 6-of-6 passing performance on the drive. Bennett redeemed himself after the careless Pick-6 last Saturday against Murray State.
RUNNING BACKS (A)
The depth of talent in the Georgia backfield continues to impress, topped by D’Andre Swift with his 140-yard day (9 carries, 76 yards; 2 catches 64 yards, TD). Versatile James Cook was also in form, carrying 3 times for 51 yards and a TD while catching both passes thrown his way for 17 yards. Brian Herrien was running over Red Wolves during his 4-carry, 25-yard one TD day and freshman Kenny McIntosh broke off a 62-yard TD run. It was a workmanlike 6-carry, 18-yard one TD performance for Zamir White.
Smart said there are still breakdowns and missed assignments in George Pickens’ game away from the football, but his team-high 5 catches and 84 yards were impressive, as were his blocks. Senior grad-transfer Lawrence Cager stepped up with a huge block on Cook’s 37-yard TD run after he made his first scoring catch as a Bulldog on a 5-yard diving grab. Dominick Blaylock stepped up and stepped out with a team-high 112 yards receiving on 4 catches, drawing heavy praise from Fromm.
OFFENSIVE LINE (A-)
Georgia’s offensive line played what appeared to be its best game of the young season, paving the way for 268 yards rushing at 8.1 yards per attempt. None of the starting players had any penalties, the only infraction in the offensive line room a holding penalty on Xavier Truss that negated a 7yard Trey Blount catch from Bennett. Georgia didn’t get as dominant of a push on a fourth-and-2 as some might expect, but Fromm dug in and churned out the 3 yards for the conversion.
DEFENSIVE LINE (A)
Smart was impressed with the level of play from his defensive line, saying “we played more physical up front.” Saturday’s game featured senior Tyler Clark making a team-high five tackles along with 1.5 quarterback sacks. Malik Herring, benched in the opener, was in the starting lineup for the first time in 2019 but appeared to suffer a shoulder stinger. Freshman defensive lineman Tymon Mitchell and junior Devonte Wyatt was credited with four tackles.
Robert Beal came off the bench to lead the linebackers with five tackles, and Monty Rice had four tackles and two solo stops in his limited playing time. Freshman Nakobe Dean looked closer to 100 percent after dealing with the ankle injury last week that kept him out of the opener, and Azeez Ojulari was sound with his containment and recorded a sack for a third consecutive game. Nate McBride made the most of his time at LB with three tackles and a PBU.
Arkansas State had just one pass play go longer than 17 yards, a 45-yard completion in the fourth quarter with both teams’ backups in the game. Tyson Campbell set the tone in the first half with three tackles and three pass break-ups before coming out of the game with what appeared to be a minor foot injury. Eric Stokes had 3 tackles and 2 pass break-ups, but also, a pass interference penalty.
SPECIAL TEAMS (A)
Tyler Simmons had one punt return for 17 yards before leaving the game with a shoulder injury, and that was the only return opportunity for the Bulldogs on Saturday. Georgia coverage units were again smothering against inferior competition, limiting the Red Wolves to a kick return for 12 yards and one punt return for 8 yards. Jake Camarda averaged 48.7 yards per punt, quietly having a solid year. Rodrigo put seven of his eighth kickoffs into the end zone and made both field goal attempts, from 29 and 41 yards. Brooks Buce kicked off twice, putting one of his kicks in the end zone.
It was about as complete of a win as Smart could have hoped for. Offense, defense and special teams executed and played clean, just five penalties for 41 yards and few apparently broken assignments. The offense averaged 9.9 yards per play, and the defense pitched a shutout. Georgia is ready for Notre Dame.
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