NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This was not a case of only a sliver of daylight being open and Nick Chubb and Sony Michel rambling through it. This was not Georgia coaches diagramming plays around a deficient line.
This was dominance. This was push. This was what everyone associated with an offense wanted from run blocking.
“There were holes everywhere,” Chubb said.
And all game: Georgia ran for a season-high 423 yards in its 45-14 win at Vanderbilt. It was a triumph for an offensive line that for a season-and-a-half has been regarded as the team’s weak link.
“Every play it felt like I was getting 10 yards,” Chubb said. “And the other guys too, just from watching. And that starts up front.”
Chubb’s feeling wasn’t too far off: Georgia averaged 7.8 yards per rush attempt. Chubb averaged 8.6 and Michel averaged 12.5.
Afterwards, coach Kirby Smart awarded the game ball to the offensive line. They played physical, Smart said, lauding the unit as he began his postgame press conference. They played tough and overpowering.
And when the subject of the quarterback situation came up, Smart implored the media (only about half-jokingly) to write instead about the offensive line.
“You guys want to make a great story out of [the quarterbacks]. You know what the story ought to be? Georgia’s O-line finished Vanderbilt off,” Smart said. “They ran the ball well. Can we talk about that?”
In the media’s defense, there were five questions directly about the line (more than about the quarterbacks), because it was so obvious the unit had a great game.
The starting five, after some turnover mainly due to injury, appears to have settled: Senior Isaiah Wynn and freshman Andrew Thomas at the tackles, junior Lamont Gaillard at center, and junior Kendall Baker and redshirt freshman Solomon Kindley at the guard spots.
Wynn and Thomas have played well basically from the start this season. But the interior line was a worry early on, not getting enough push in the running game. That has changed lately, especially on Saturday.
“Every game we want to come out and have the same thing,” Gaillard said. “If we can have that every game then we’ll be unstoppable.”
Smart credited the continuity for some of the improved physical blocking. He also said that the coaching staff has “simplified” the run game since last year.
“It’s fewer runs with more decorations,” Smart said, alluding to the pre-snap motion. “Other than that fact, some of the guys are a year older. I think Isaiah Wynn is playing at a really high level. He gets a lot of movement and is really physical. We have a little more size with Solomon in there.”
That all said, Smart was justifiably cautious about anointing the line as having completely turned around. The pass protection and perimeter blocking needs to improve, he pointed out.
The latter half of Georgia’s schedule could be more difficult, and an SEC Championship Game against powerful Alabama may await.
“By no means has anybody arrived now,” Smart said. “They got the gameball, but that’s gone on Monday. They’ve got to get back to work.”