ATHENS — Georgia scored 14 points in the first quarter against Louisiana-Lafayette. The home team’s best first quarter scoring output of the season set the tone for a 35-21 victory.
UGA had scored only 48 total points in the first quarter prior to Saturday’s game against the Ragin’ Cajuns.
There were pockets of empty seats at Sanford Stadium (cough cough: student section) but the home fans were again thrilled by a familiar 2016 script: Watch Isaiah McKenzie run. Watch him cover a lot of green grass when given the slightest of a crease.
The Bulldog known as “The Human Joystick” fueled those early video game numbers. Not those black jerseys. McKenzie scored two quick-strike touchdowns to stake the Bulldogs to that 14-0 early lead.
The first of those came just 23 seconds into the game as he raced around the edge on a misdirection call that went for a 55-yard run. It marked the first time that Georgia scored on its first offensive snap since Hutson Mason found Chris Conley against Charleston Southern in 2014.
Isaiah McKenzie really likes the black jerseys. Dawgs score on their first offensive play pic.twitter.com/mIvAK0NEYm
— Dayne Young (@dayneyoung) November 19, 2016
The Bulldogs (7-4) lived up to a standard that Kirby Smart has preached since he took over at his alma mater. That’s getting the offense back the ball. UGA turned Louisiana-Lafayette over four times in the first half and three of those came on interceptions.
Both teams lived up to their reputations according to that metric. Georgia came into the contest tied for 28th nationally in turnover margin. Louisiana-Lafayette was ranked 89th and lived up to that crippling ratio.
Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason went 13-for-19 with 165 yards passing. He once again looked to highly-touted freshman roommate Isaac Nauta in the red zone for their third touchdown of the season. That distance covered nine yards to give Georgia a 21-0 lead with 2:23 left to play in the second quarter.
Chubb also added 108 yards on 16 carries. He showed some encouraging bursts of speed as he broke away for 32 and 35-yard gains. Those moments recalled the breakaways he showed prior to the season-ending knee injury he suffered last season against Tennessee.
The junior from Cedartown added one more highlight in the fourth quarter when Eason found him downfield. Chubb had snuck past the linebackers, snared the catch and raced away from the defense for a 49-yard touchdown.
Here’s how it broke down:
- Star(s) of game: McKenzie. No doubt. He authored another classic McKenzie punt return for his second score of the first quarter. That 82-yard effort set a new Georgia career record for punt returns. He moved past Buzy Rosenberg to set the new record a jaunt that also proved to be the longest punt return touchdown of his career. That moved him to No. 3 all-time in SEC history in that category. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound junior receiver — like many other times this season — provided the explosive plays that served as the primary highlight clips from a Georgia victory.
- Turning point: Georgia built 14-0 and 21-0 leads in the first half, but the victory was finally in doubt after junior RB Nick Chubb scored on a 1-yard run which meant a 28-7 lead with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter.
- Questions answered: Georgia provided the home crowd with a relatively stress-free second half for the first time this season.
- Questions looming: The Bulldogs won big, but this game showed something that wasn’t a problem last week against Auburn. The Ragin’ Cajuns tallied a stunning 465 yards of total offense on Georgia. L-L gained 276 yards on Georgia via the ground, 98 of those came from quarterback Anthony Jennings. That’s obviously going to be stressed this week with Georgia Tech, Justin Thomas and its triple-option rushing offense coming to town next week.
- Statistically speaking: While the halftime score might have gone down easy for the home folks, the stat sheet showed the two teams knotted in the first downs category and also essentially even in total yards. Georgia ran 20 times for 143 yards for the bulk of its 194-yard showing in the first half. There was a point early in the third quarter where ULL held an edge in total offense.
- What it means: The Bulldogs delivered on all fronts with a show force game against a lesser opponent. That carried over momentum established from back-to-back SEC wins against Kentucky and Auburn that changed the momentum of Smart’s first season at Georgia.
Hunker down for DawgNation’s latest news. Download our app: http://dawgs.us/2ctFtTG
Follow Jeff Sentell on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.