ATHENS — Georgia football opened the preseason for its postseason on Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium.
Coach Kirby Smart has said a football season is a continuum. This 2021 campaign has three noteworthy segments: 1) The Clemson Game; 2) The SEC season; 3) The postseason.
The “Senior Day” element provided a nice backdrop on this sunny, mild day of preseason postseason action.
Smart made sure to enjoy special moments with his players and their parents before turning his attention to one of the two “warmup games” leading into the SEC Championship showdown on Dec. 4.
Georgia scored the 56-7 victory over Charleston Southern, an overmatched FCS-level team from the Big South Conference. UGA had 488 total yards on 69 plays, the Bucs had 126 yards on 68 plays.
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The Bulldogs overcame an early turnover to charge out to a 28-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, and it was 49-0 by halftime. The second half was little more than a glorified scrimmage.
But it was important, and the game film backup players produced will be broken down at a microscopic level.
“For us, it’s about continuing to get better,” Smart said in the days leading up to the game. “Our goal is to peak at the end of the season. It doesn’t matter who you play, you’re trying to execute at a high level.”
It’s a championship mindset, and for the most part, that’s how the Georgia players performed in the first half despite the lopsided margin.
A notable amount of fans had headed for Sanford Drive long before time ran out, having seen enough highlights and significant moments to call it a day.
Georgia produced plenty of talking points before the clock ran out on the home portion of the Bulldogs’ schedule.
• Jordan Davis’ visibility was surely bolstered by his 1-yard TD run. Davis was stopped from the 2 on his first carry, but Smart obliged the crowd and the team captain’s teammates by giving him a second opportunity to live out the lineman’s dream.
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• Dominick Blaylock made his long-awaited return from ACL surgery and a pulled hamstring, entering the game on special teams and later catching his first pass in official action since the 2019 SEC Championship game.
• All four quarterbacks played, in order, Stetson Bennett, JT Daniels, Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff.
• George Pickens dressed out. One. Step. Closer. To. Returning.
Outside of all that, Smart gave backups valuable game reps, aware that at any time the Bulldogs might find themselves in a “next man up” scenario at any position in the postseason.
The goal was the same as the previous 10 games: Improve, ascend and maintain the edge that has made the Bulldogs the most complete team in college football and the No. 1-ranked program in the nation.
The effort was not an issue, though there were enough hiccups on the execution end to wonder about focus.
Smart and his staff will, no doubt, have plenty of “teaching points” to drive home on Monday, likely sharpening Georgia for a better performance next Saturday at Georgia Tech.
Bennett and Beck threw interceptions, Daniels fumbled a snap. Receivers and backs dropped passes, failing to maintain the consistency they had built up throughout the team’s historic run to the first perfect SEC season since 1982.
Smart’s iron-clad defense had a blooper moment, a fumbled interception.
They were the sorts of things that Smart was aware could happen in this sort of mismatched game.
“We don’t want to lose the edge,” Smart said in the days leading up to the game. “Sometimes that can happen if you don’t have the same caliber of opponent.”
All that matters now is what happens next at noon next Saturday against Georgia Tech in the final preseason game before the postseason.