ATHENS – With most of their classmates already checked out of the dorms and headed home for fall break, the Georgia Bulldogs had to hang around and earn those scholarships in a play-for-pay game against UMass.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they were able to spread the work out evenly among the 90 or so players who dressed out for Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium. Most of them played as No. 5 Georgia made relatively easy work of their FBS visitors, 66-27, before a less-than-capacity home crowd.
The 66 points was the most since 2014 when the Bulldogs blanked Troy 66-0 in Athens and second-most since they beat Northeast Louisiana 70-13 in 1994.
Here’s how quickly it became a blowout: The Bulldogs kicked off to the Minuteman, then quickly scored on their first two possessions for a 14-0 lead within the game’s first eight minutes. They appeared poised to increase their lead, but a muffed punt by Terry Godwin gave UMass unexpected life at the Georgia 16. The visitors scored in four plays to slice the lead in half with 1:59 remaining in the first quarter.
But the Minutemen had no answer for Georgia’s offense, whether it was Jake Fromm or Justin Fields at the controls. The freshman Fields came in every third series in the first half of the game and had a 57-yard touchdown pass, a 47-yard run and a 3-yard touchdown run on a goal-to-go down among his highlights. Not to be outdone, Fromm had a 71-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Simmons, was a perfect 5-for-5 throwing the ball overall and led the Bulldogs on long scoring drives on all four of his possessions. He led the offense to 28 points on just 19 plays.
In fact, Georgia scored touchdown on all seven of its first-half possessions as it built a stress-free 42-13 lead before halftime. The 42 first-half points matched Georgia’s season-high against Middle Tennessee in Week 3.
Coach Kirby Smart surely went to the locker room spitting and cussing, especially after UMass went 60 yards in nine plays to kick a short field goal at the halftime buzzer. That gave the pass-happy Minutemen 206 yards at the half. But with the Bulldogs on an 862-yard, 84-point pace, it really was a moot matter in terms of the outcome.
What will keep Smart agitated for the rest of the week is how UMass wide receiver Andy Isabella torched Georgia’s secondary. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior – who came in leading FBS with 1,479 receiving yards – added 219 yards and two more touchdown to his totals. His scores covered 75 and 45 yards.
The second half resembled a G-Day Game for Georgia as it emptied its bench and gave a lot of deserving scout team players a shot at playing between the hedges. Accordingly, the Bulldogs were unable to maintain the blistering pace from the first half.
But the important work was done as the Georgia seniors, who will be honored before next Saturday’s home finale against Georgia Tech, got the 41st win of their careers. While all this was going on, the Yellow Jackets were locked in a battle with Virginia on The Flats. A touchdown and 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter helped Tech pull off a 30-24 overtime victory.
As no one wearing red-and-black needs reminding, Georgia Tech has won in each of its last two trips to Athens – 30-24 in overtime in 2014 and 28-27 in 2016, Smart’s first year.