How Arian Smith raced out of shadows and into spotlight; X-factor in Georgia’s 42-41 win over Ohio State
ATHENS — Arian Smith sprinted from out of the shadows and into the spotlight Saturday night, providing big plays in a passing game that sputtered throughout most of the first three quarters.
Smith more than doubled his season totals last Saturday, reeling in 3 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown in Georgia’s 42-41 come—from—behind win over Ohio State.
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Smith first made his presence known with the Bulldogs in desperate need of a big play, trailing 21-7 in the second quarter after Stetson Bennett was flagged for an illegal pass.
Facing a second-and-14, Bennett reared back and lofted a deep pass over the middle that Smith hauled in 47 yards downfield at the Ohio State 11-yard line, setting up a Kendal Milton TD run that cut the lead to 21-14.
Smith, who has missed 21 of 39 games during his UGA career on account of injuries, sparked and spiked in Georgia’s fourth quarter, making a 6-yard catch as the Bulldogs began to mount what proved to be a historic comeback.
Big plays have been Smith’s calling card over his three years at Georgia when he has been healthy enough to play.
Smith’s career numbers now stand at 11 catches for 383 yards and four touchdowns — an eye-popping average of 34.8 yards per catch.
Coach Kirby Smart said that Smith — who had 3 catches for 66 yards in nine games this season entering the Ohio State game — had been working hard behind the scenes to be prepared for the moment.
“Arian has developed through not being injured, his role has increased with every week this season, though it may not have always showed that way in the stat line or the number of snaps he played,” Smart said of the oft-injured speedster.
“He has grown and developed and gotten better and better, and he really just got more opportunity to do what he’s been doing … because of Ladd’s injury and we didn’t know how long or how hard Ladd would be able to go.”
McConkey played, but he was not at 100 percent, still slowed by the knee injury suffered in the 50-30 SEC Championship Game win over LSU to the extent he yielded punt return duties to veteran Kearis Jackson.
Smith’s big-stage performance, however, has been a long time coming, as he has finally seemed to overcome a laundry list of injuries dating back to the 2020 season which have included:
• torn meniscus
• fractured wrist
• turf toe
• shin contusion
• broken fibula
The fibula was the most recent injury to sideline Smith, suffered in a November 2021 practice, it kept him out of contact drills last spring.
Smith began his Georgia career splitting time between track and football, running a 10.18-second time at the SEC outdoor meet.
But Smith has since went all in on football, recognizing that with Tyreek Hill-like speed, fortunes might await him in the NFL if Scott Sinclair’s UGA strength and conditioning staff can help condition him for more durability.
“I feel like I”m that guy,” Smith said last April, “but I just want to show it. I’m not a big talk guy. Actions speak louder than words”