ATHENS — Georgia is worthy of its No. 3-ranking, but for the second consecutive game, the Bulldogs revealed growing pains.
One week after Vanderbilt’s defense exposed some UGA offensive weaknesses, a scrappy Murray State “Air Raid” attack spread out Georgia’s defense and provided Kirby Smart more areas to work on.
It was a 63-17 win for the Bulldogs. But this is a Georgia team that’s aiming for perfection and operating with little to none margin for error.
Nobody knows that better than Smart, and that’s why he maintained a sense of balance when addressing his team’s victory against an FCS squad.
Yes, there were some good things, but also, some areas where Smart and his coaching staff will be eager to get back to work with one more warm-up game ahead against Arkansas State next Saturday.
Here are three quick takeaways from Georgia’s win over Murray State on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
Turn ‘em loose
Georgia wanted to take an aggressive approach against the Racers’ quick-strike offense, so there were gambles involved.
Defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and Smart took their chances, anyway. The result was an impressive 6-sack effort that highlighted the skills of the Bulldogs’ linebacking corps.
Nolan Smith, the No. 1-ranked player in the 2019 signing class, recorded 1.5 sacks. Jermaine Johnson, the No. 1-ranked JUCO prospect in the 2019 class, got his first UGA sack.
More outside ‘backers got in on the act: Azeez Ojulari, Adam Anderson and Walter Grant. And then, inside linebacker Channing Tindall got a sack .
Freshman defensive lineman Travon Walker found himself in the Murray State backfield, too, as UGA “havoc” began in earnest on Saturday.
Jake Fromm showed that he and freshman receiver phenom George Pickens can work together just fine. Fromm and Pickens hooked up three times for 68 yards in the second quarter, including a 15-yard TD that capped the starting quarterback’s day.
Smart hinted that Pickens has some growing up to do, talking about how emotional of a player that he is. But the good news is that Pickens has shown the talent, toughness and desire to be a great player, and now it’s up to the Georgia staff and team leadership to do the rest.
Pickens is a Great One in the making, and he’s also a key cog in the Bulldogs developing a championship level pass attack. Pickens led Georgia with 4 catches for 78 yards.
Georgia’s strongest and fastest tight end is proving himself to be a capable replacement for Isaac Nauta in the season’s early goings, no small feat. Wolf is faster than Nauta (4.59-second 40 time), and he’s proven to have reliable hands and good route-running skills through the first two games.
The Bulldogs have enough speed on the perimeter and out of the backfield to keep safeties and linebackers occupied, opening up the middle of the field for a smart and capable route-runner like Wolf — who was a record-setting receiver in high school. The fact OC James Coley came back to Wolf after he got walloped fighting for extra yardage and fumbled was a telling indication that UGA believes in its tight ends.
Wolf had 4 catches for 73 yards against Murray State, including a career-long 24-yard grab.