Kirby Smart’s football work of art is not yet completed, but it’s not a stretch to call the Georgia regular season a masterpiece of sorts.
The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs capped a 12-0 regular season with a convincing 45-0 win over Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday.
The Georgia fans were just as dominant in the stands. The sea of red among the 54,400 spectators was another sign of a special season that has been long in the making, the first unbeaten regular-season run since 1982.
“It felt like a home game when you looked up in the stands and saw all the red,” Smart said. “I expected it to be that way but maybe not as much as it was.”
Smart, in his sixth season leading the program, has built what appears to be the most complete team in college football entering a postseason run that will start back in Atlanta against Alabama (11-1) in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Smart was pleased with how the Bulldogs finished off the season against the Yellow Jackets.
“I thought our guys started fast, and we challenged them to start fast, I was pleased with that,” Smart said. “I was pleased with no penalties.
“We had some sloppy series offensively and defensively. But all in all the guys came out and executed to a standard, and they didn’t play the scoreboard they played to our scoreboard,”
The Bulldogs showed they still have an explosive element in the pass game, too, when freshman tight end Brock Bowers took a pass 77 yards for a touchdown.
SEC Network analyst Gene Chizek had pointed out last week that Georgia had just one pass play over 40 yards in the previous five games.
Stetson Bennett looked comfortable operating the offense, distributing the ball effectively. Bennett’s touch-TD passes to Jermaine Burton and Brock Bowers impressed, and he provided just enough mobility with two first-down scrambles and was sacked only once. Bennett had a tipped pass and a couple deeper throws slightly off target, but he played confident with the offense on his shoulders.
RUNNING BACKS (A)
Kenny McIntosh looked capable and explosive in his first career start, breaking off a 59-yard run one one of his two carries and catching two passes for another 18 yards. Zamir White (6-34) and James Cook (8-37) got just enough work to stay in rhythm and ready for next Saturday. Daijun Edwards added 6 more carries, 43 more yards, and another TD to his resume.
Brock Bowers remains the most dynamic and consistent pass-catcher on the team, reeling in 3 catches for 100 yards. Bowers’ speed was on display on his 77-yard catch and run through and way from the Tech secondary. Bowers then showed off his 40-inch vertical, leaping to grab a Bennett pass in the end zone. Ladd McConkey was the only other receiver with more than one catch (2-19, TD), but Jermaine Burton’s burst was obvious as he blew by his defender on his 25-yard TD catch. George Pickens had one catch for 5 yards in his return.Adonai Mitchell had one catch for 9 yards, but also a drop.
OFFENSIVE LINE (A-)
The offensive line played one of its clearest games from the standpoint of not committing any penalties, which is more impressive than it sounds when one considers the heavy substitution load. Broderick Jones got beat for a sack on a play-action play that seemed a bit slow in developing, but the line looked capable and on point picking up the pressure when Tech blitzed.
DEFENSIVE LINE (A-)
Strong and disciplined throughout most all of the game, but there were a couple instances — Tech converting a third-and-2 run, and a 14-yard and 15-yard run — that leave room to strive for perfection. Nolan Smith didn’t appear slowed by an elbow brace, leading the defensive front with 4 tackles. Jalen Carter looked like himself again, too, his familiar 88 in pursuit to the tune of 4 stops. Devonte Wyatt (3 tackles) was quick off the snap, nearly beheading a Tech runner on one play.
Nakobe Dean finished with a team-high 6 tackles despite Georgia’s liberal second-half substitutions. Quay Walker, an outgoing senior, had 5 tackles but appeared to get beat on the 40-yard catch. Jamon Dumas-Johnson ran through a back to get a sack on Saturday. Robert Beal was so fast off the snap getting his sack the Tech player was convinced he was offsides.
Lewis Cine led the defensive backs with 5 tackles and Dan Jackson looked aggressive in run support, recording a TFL. Kelee Ringo was a bit tepid against the run but was sound enough in coverage. Georgia Tech managed just 8 pass completions for 73 yards, and 40 of them came on the throw to the tight end with a linebacker in coverage.
SPECIAL TEAMS (A)
Kearis Jackson’s 22-yard punt started the day right for the offense at the Tech 36. Jack Podlesny drilled a 38-yard field goal to start the scoring and made all his extra-point kicks. Jake Camarda put 6 of his 7 kickoffs into the end zone, while his only punt traveled 32 yards with no return. The Georgia kick coverage team swarmed Tech at the start, allowing just 6 yards after the Jackets’ botched the return.
Smart will always push for more, but it’s hard to imagine a much cleaner result for Georgia in terms of the team’s health, outside of Kearis Jackson sustaining a rib injury. The Bulldogs were penalty-free and the game was decided so early that no emotion was spent. Todd Monken’'s play-calling enabled Bennett to spread the ball around. Dan Lanning’s defense was as effective as ever.
Georgia was so much better than Georgia Tech there wasn’t time for any new hate to develop, much less the clean, old-fashioned variety. The Bulldogs completed a tremendous regular season at 12-0 that will go down in the history books as one of the best ever. Georgia held opponents under 7 points per game through 12 games, a stunning achievement not seen before in this millennium’s modern era.