NEW ORLEANS — Georgia football was put to the test like no other team in this bowl season, dealing with more attrition than any other UGA team in postseason history.
The Bulldogs that showed up, showed out, beating Baylor 26-14 in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Kirby Smart, now 8-4 against Top 10 teams, devised a premium game plan against a proven and cohesive Bears team.
Georgia did so despite missing three starting offensive linemen, their two most explosive receivers and two All-SEC defenders.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was inspired, and it was impressive.
Jake Fromm was 20-of-30 passing for 250 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, his turnover-free outing impressive considering Baylor’s 30 takeaways and over 40 sacks. Fromm secured the ball the three times he took sacks, his makeshift offensive line struggling at times, and he threw the ball away when appropriate.
Running backs (B)
Zamir White looked more impressive than ever, showing downhill speed and his first signs of wiggle en route to 92 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Kenny McIntosh’s running skills were also on display, gaining 26 yards on six carries with a smooth blend of acceleration and cutting ability. D’Andre Swift’s leadership was evident, as he took a few snaps including one on a successful 46-yard flea flicker.
George Pickens tied a school bowl record with 12 catches for 175 yards and a TD, and Matt Landers showed his upside with a key touchdown catch. Tyler Simmons also had a strong performance with four catches for 47 yards. Demetris Robertson dropped a touchdown pass, but he also made a nice grab for 4 yards on the sideline.
Offensive line (B-)
The run blocking seemed to improve as the game wore on, the Bulldogs asserting their will on the smaller Baylor defensive front for a respectable 130 yards rushing.The pass protection was not up to standard, as Fromm was sacked three times and Bears’ defenders won their share of battes against the shuffled offensive line. Trey Hill’s errant snap over Fromm’s head was the minus.
Defensive line (A-)
This unit was downright ferocious, but penalties on Travon Walker and Malik Herring were questionable. Herring had six tackles after starting in place of Tyler Clark, and Walker had three stops and a sack. Azeez Ojulari had five tackles and a fumble-inducing quarterback sack.
Solid but not spectacular, it seemed like this group missed some tackles and didn’t make as many plays as other groups. Monty Rice had an impressive minus-3 tackle for loss for one of his five stops, and Nakobe Dean showcased his speed chasing down Charlie Brewer for a 4-yard loss.
Richard LeCounte’s two interceptions and Lewis Cine’s six tackles in his first start were the highlights, but there were some missed tackles and passes surrendered. Mark Webb had a strong performance, with a big PBU, and the pass interference called on him appeared curious upon further review. Only one play was allowed of more than 30 yards.
Special teams (A-)
Jake Camarda came through with the 6-yard run on the fake field goal called on a fourth-and-2 at the Baylor 19. It was a play that provided energy and had been careful planned. Camarda also averaged 42.1 yards on his seven punts. Rodrigo Blankenship made both of his field goal attempts, from 24 and 31 yards. Demetris Robertson had a 24-yard kick return, and Tyler Simmons ran a punt back 9 yards.
Kirby Smart opened up the offense to the point of throwing passes on third-and-1, and he coached aggressive on special teams with a bold — and successful — fake field goal attempt. The Georgia staff out-coached and out-schemed Baylor, and they had their team ready to match the Baylor intensity.
DawgNation Sugar Bowl Game Stories