ATHENS – Here are seven series of observations as No. 9 Georgia leads Louisiana-Monroe 35-7 at halftime at Sanford Stadium.
1. Greyson Lambert = Hutson Mason, at least for the first half of Lambert’s Georgia career, and that’s not a bad thing. At least when it comes to beating Louisiana Monroe. Highly efficient, no turnovers, and a few well-placed passes. The stat line: 7-for-9, 113 yards, 1 TD, 0 interceptions. I wondered in the lead-up to the game what the approach would be with Lambert: Get him some early confidence by calling passes, or concentrate on the run? It was the latter. Four of the first five offensive plays were handoffs to Chubb. The only pass was a high-percentage one on third-and-long. But the second throw wasn’t as high-percentage: Lambert went play-action, then hit Jeb Blazevich, who was covered, at the goal-line for a 15-yard touchdown play. That got Lambert going, and he looked comfortable the rest of the half.
2. But when it came to trying to stretch the field, only Brice Ramsey got that chance, on his one series. He entered with 5:33 left in the first half, after spending the majority of the half with a headset on. His first pass, on third-and-long, was a reminder why so many thought he would win the job: He zipped it down the middle to Terry Godwin for a 20-yard gain. Three plays later it was third-and-long again, and Ramsey was rushed. But he had the poise to find Sony Michel open, and the tailback did the rest, going all the way from 31 yards out. It wasn’t enough yet to say Ramsey should get a longer look – that will depend on how Lambert performs – but it was enough to re-ignite Ramsey’s status as the tantalizing backup option.
3. The first half of the Brian Schottenheimer era? Very conservative. Very reminiscent of his reputation in the NFL. Maybe Schottenheimer is keeping it vanilla to hold back stuff for later or, well, this is him. But it’s way too early to judge him yet, given the opponent, and the possibility Schottenheimer is still getting comfortable with what he has. As long as Georgia is winning comfortably there’s no real reason to show much for Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Alabama or Tennessee.
4. This has to be prefaced by “it’s only Louisiana Monroe” but Georgia’s defense looked really, really good. (Other than the final drive, the result of which had Jeremy Pruitt throwing up his hands on the sideline as if to say: “C’mon, y’all couldn’t finish this?”) From the start of the game, the Bulldogs were swarming on every play, nor relying on individual plays – other than Aaron Davis’ interception on the first play of the second drive. And Davis might have been helped by a good pass rush. When it seemed on the verge of finally yielding a first down, Jake Ganus and Sterling Bailey led a horde that stopped the ball-carrier well short. The Warhawks didn’t get a first down until very late in the first quarter. Up until the final drive of the half, Georgia’s defense held ULM to 59 yards on 25 plays.
5. Leonard Floyd started at inside linebacker, which isn’t a surprise considering he was working with the ILBs during individual drills this week, the first time that’s been seen during media viewing. That doesn’t mean Floyd will stay there going forward. It will remain a week-to-week, perhaps play-to-play situation. Meanwhile, the other ILB spot was a rotation of Jake Ganus and Tim Kimbrough. So Ganus is officially more than just a nice spring story. Reggie Carter, missing this game with a shoulder injury, will be a factor when he returns. Chuks Amaechi for some reason was announced as a starter at ILB but I didn’t see him out there. Roquan Smith only played on special teams.
6. There weren’t any Trent Thompson sightings, which was a bit surprising. He wasn’t expected to start, but the thought here was he would play a lot. Maybe he will eventually, but the coaches could be sending a small message to the five-star freshmen that he’ll have to earn his way on the field just like everyone else. On the other hand freshman Rico McGraw started and played substantially at the star.
7. The heartwarming moment for Georgia was Keith Marshall, who got a nice round of applause when he carried the ball for the first time (gaining seven yards), then a few carries later got his first touchdown since the ACL injury. But it might have been more than a nice moment: Marshall looked pretty solid running the ball, like someone who can help the offense this year. He had a decent mix of power, speed, confidence and vision. He may not offer quite the explosive ability as Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, but Marshall looked a whole lot better than he did in his limited action last year.
Bonus: I mean, there’s not much more you can say about Nick Chubb, but it just feels like I should address him. Two touchdown runs, 77 yards on 12 carries. Just a normal day.