090322 Atlanta, Ga.: Georgia Bulldogs tight end Darnell Washington (0) runs after a catch against Oregon Ducks defensive back Bryan Addison (13) during their game at Mercedes Benz Stadium, Saturday, September 3, 2022, in Atlanta. Mitchell had four catches for 65 yards and one touchdown. Georgia won 49-3. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Georgia football standouts share why 2022 win over Oregon was crucial: ‘We had a lot to prove’

Georgia won a lot of games in blowout fashion last season. Just two teams played Georgia within single digits. By comparison, the Bulldogs won 10 games by at least 20 points.

But of those many blowouts, one game stands out above the rest. While yes, winning 65-7 in the national championship game was a sweet moment for many Bulldogs, it was the season-opening win over Oregon that showed Georgia what it was really capable of.

“It was the first game of the season,” offensive tackle Broderick Jones said at the NFL combine. “We had a lot to prove, losing 15 people. We came out with a chip on our shoulders and just tried to play to the best of our ability. I think we proved that.”

It seems so long ago but Georgia-Oregon was a top-15 matchup to open the 2022 season. Georgia had 15 NFL draft picks to replace and it was not fait accompli the Bulldogs would win the national championship. Alabama and Ohio State were seen as the two favorites at that point in time.

Oregon had some knowledge of what it was going up against, as Dan Lanning was the team’s new head coach. Lanning had spent the previous three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. He knew what Nolan Smith and Chris Smith were capable of doing.

Conversely, there was a lot of respect for Oregon. Despite the 49-3 loss to Georgia, the Ducks still finished the season ranked No. 15 after going 10-3.

“I know Coach Lanning got them boys ready to go,” Nolan Smith said. “He’s bringing an SEC-type criteria over there to the Pac-12. They were a really good team.”

Georgia did not punt in the win over Oregon. The Bulldogs rolled up 571 yards of offense. Stetson Bennett and Carson Beck both threw for touchdowns, with the former finishing his day in the third quarter. He completed 25 of his 31 passing attempts for 368 passing yards, a career-high at the time. It was the first of many times that season Bennett would shred against a ranked opponent.

It also helps that Bennett had players like Darnell Washington, who hurdled an Oregon defender while ripping off a 25-yard gain.

Related: Malaki Starks makes immediate impact for new-look Georgia football defense: ‘One of the greatest interceptions I ever seen’

The win over Oregon proved to the college football world that despite all the turnover within the program, Georgia was going to be alright. More statements would be made during the season — a dominant display against No. 1 Tennessee, a thrilling comeback against Ohio State in the Peach Bowl and of course the record-breaking blowout of TCU — but the Week 1 win over Oregon provided proof of concept for the players.

Even against talented teams, the 2022 Georgia Bulldogs could reach an extra level that no one in the sport could attain.

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