ATHENS – Georgia defeated Middle Tennessee 49-7 in what amounted to its second exhibition game of the 2018 season. The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs did receive full credit for the victory, however.
They’re now 3-0 for the fourth consecutive season and will take their 1-0 conference record on the road next Saturday. Georgia will face the Missouri Tigers at noon in Columbia, Mo. The Bulldogs – who dressed 116 players for the game – can expect considerably more resistance at Faurot Field than they got Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
The Blue Raiders (1-2) didn’t give Georgia a lot for the $1.7 million they were paid for this visit. The Conference USA team was down 28-0 by the halfway mark of the second quarter and only fell behind further after shocking the Bulldogs with a 41-yard touchdown late in the half. Georgia would add 14 points in the final 2:14 of the second quarter for a 42-7 halftime lead.
By that time, Jake Fromm already had been put on ice for the day. The sophomore quarterback left the game late in the second quarter in the middle of Georgia’s eighth offensive possession. By then he already had 128 yards and 3 touchdowns passing.
Justin Fields, who had first come in on the Bulldogs’ fourth series, took over from there. The freshman signal-caller also had a pretty good day. He exited the game late in the third quarter having completed 6 of 8 passes for 71 yards and a bullet of a touchdown pass to Jayson Stanley. Fields also recorded the first of what surely will be many career touchdown runs on a nifty 15-yard jaunt 23 seconds before halftime. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound freshman had 31 yards rushing on the day.
So the fourth quarter was a bunch of Matthew Downing under center. He’s a freshman walk-on from Alpharetta.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t a squeaky clean day for the Bulldogs. Fromm was sacked twice, one of them occurring in the Georgia end zone, resulting in a fumble that Ben Cleveland recovered fortunately on the 1. The Bulldogs were also penalized seven times and had some uncharacteristic drops on offense.
But Mecole Hardman finally got the punt return touchdown that had eluded him until Saturday. This one covered 70 yards and came midway through the second quarter. Hardman also had a 5-yard touchdown catch.
Other highlights included a 56-yard touchdown run by Tyler Simmons on a jet sweep, a 66-yard run by Elijah Holyfield, a 65-yard catch by Jeremiah Holloman and a 46-yard interception return by Deandre Baker.
With all those boxes checked, Georgia can close the door on its exhibition season. The trip to Columbia to meet Missouri will be the first of seven straight SEC games for the Bulldogs.
After winning these first three games by the combined score of 131-24, they should be well rested for it.
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