ATHENS — Kirby Smart has raised the bar so high on Georgia football that program records barely register.
The Bulldogs’ 48-7 win over UT-Martin was UGA’s 18th in a row, breaking a 75-year old mark.
“I didn’t realize that,” Smart said at the end of his press conference on Saturday night. “That’s good.”
That was the extent of acknowledgement; there was no celebration, commemorative cake or balloons at Georgia.
These Bulldogs are too busy and too focused on trying to win a third consecutive championship to be looking back on the past.
It was a slow start to the season on Saturday night against an overmatched opponent, to the extent some likely tuned out before Georgia heated up for most of its 559 yards of offense.
So maybe the Bulldogs didn’t cover the 50-point spread or feature as many highlight friendly moments as some expected.
Smart said he’s not concerned about that.
“I don’t think our mantra has been about expectations the last two years,” the eighth-year Georgia head coach said. “It’s always about getting better.”
That’s where Smart’s roster management expertise comes into play, as it was once again evident on Saturday.
Georgia was able to clear the bench and play three quarterbacks even after a slow start netted only a 7-0 first-quarter lead and 17-0 halftime advantage.
“Everybody just thinks you’re going to just walk out there and roll over these teams and it ought to be 40-0 by halftime,” Smart said. “And then it’s not, and you get tighter, and guys get worried. I’m over that. I’m past those days.
“I want to grow and get better.”
Some key points from Kirby Smart:
Offensiveplan catered to defense
If the offensive game plan appeared somewhat conservative, Smart explained it was supposed to be.
“I talked to the offensive staff, and I talked to the defensive staff, and said ‘look, we’re going to lean our defense because we’ve got some guys who had not played on offense,’ " Smart revealed.
“The defense executed like they should. We should play well, and we’ve got to continue to do that.”
Carson Beck praised for performance
Beck was late on a couple of throws, got his wires cross with Dominic Lovett on another and was part of a clock management snafu that led to a field goal instead of a possible TD at the end of the first half.
And yet, by the time he came out near the end of the third quarter, Beck had a very good opening night.
“I thought he had great composure,” Smart said. “He threw the ball away when he had to, he hit spots when he had to, he made good decisions, he didn’t put us at risk, he made good checks. He did some really good things, and I’m proud of him.
“We’ve got to get some more help around him with weapons, get some guys healthy … "
Brock Bowers banged up
Smart revealed that All-American tight end Brock Bowers played at less than 100-percent, although that was not apparent as Bowers broke tackles and made highlight plays.
“We could’ve gotten him the ball more,” said Smart, who watched Bowers haul in a game-high 5 catches for 77 yards and run for a 3-yard TD. “We were smart about that and got the ball to other guys.”
Smart did not indicate what injury Bowers is playing with, other than to say he was less than 100 percent
“He really tonight showed a lot of toughness, a lot of grit,” Smart said. “He’s been banged up too. You wouldn’t have seen it or noticed it the way he played.”
Offensive growth, feedback pending
Smart could have approached the postgame several ways, but he chose to stay positive and encouraging.
The film session may lead him in a different direction, and he was candid enough to say so.
“Setting the standard for how we play the games, we probably didn’t meet that criteria,” Smart said. “I did think we had some players grow up out there today. When you look on the sideline and there’s 5-6 guys dinged up, banged up, you knew there were going to be some butterflies for some guys - particularly on offense.
“The next step in this process is, what is the feedback? And I’m not talking about feedback from you guys, unfortunately I don’t care what you think or what you say. We get to watch the tape and say, ‘What does the feedback say?’ and figure out who we are and where we go from here.”