OXFORD, Miss. — Georgia avoided its worst loss in SEC history, but only because Ole Miss called off the dogs after shooting ahead 45-0 in the third quarter. The No. 12-ranked Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 SEC) scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make it look more respectable, but the No. 23-ranked Rebels (2-2, 1-1) clearly were an exponentially better team in what ended up as a 45-14 final score.
It was the Bulldogs’ worst SEC loss since suffering 42-10 defeat at the hands of LSU in the 2011 SEC Championship game and the worst regular-season loss since losing to Florida 49-10 in 2008. Georgia’s worst SEC loss of all time was 48-0 to Georgia Tech in 1943.
Here’s the breakdown (pun intended):
- Star(s) of game: Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly proved an unstoppable force for the Rebels. The senior set the school’s record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass with 17, passing Hall of Famer Archie Manning. For the game, Kelly was 18-of-24 passing for 282 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 53 yards and another score.
- Turning point: The pregame meal. The theory was that the early start would hurt Ole Miss, which was having to play pre-noon a week after a heart-wrenching loss to Alabama. But the Rebels were up by double figures 7:48 into the game and led 31-0 by halftime. It was the worst halftime deficit for the Bulldogs since falling behind by the same score to Alabama in 2008.
- Questions answered: Now you can see what coach Kirby Smart has been fussing about in regard to his team not being close to being championship caliber. Everybody knew that, but the Bulldogs’ 3-0 record masked a lot of their issues. Those were all exposed at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday afternoon: Porous offensive line play, secondary weaknesses, special-teams deficiencies.
- Questions looming: Georgia still appears to have nowhere to turn with its place-kicking situation. Walk-on Rodrigo Blankenship got first crack at it Saturday, and he missed a 36-yard try to drop the Bulldogs to 3-for-8 on placement kicks this season. Meanwhile, UGA’s offensive line continues to be underwhelming.
- Statistically speaking: It was a tough game for freshman quarterback Jacob Eason and the Bulldogs’ receivers as a whole. In his third start, the freshman from Lake Stevens, Wash., threw his third interception, which was returned 52 yards for an Ole Miss touchdown. The victim of several drops by his receiving targets, Eason was 16-of-36 for 137 yards and no touchdowns and an interception for the game. He was also sacked three times.
- What it means: In the grand scheme of things, this loss wasn’t a season killer for the Bulldogs. Georgia’s wounded pride aside, it will enter Saturday’s home game against Tennessee with its preseason goals intact. Namely, the Bulldogs could still win the SEC East. Of course, that would mean they’d have to play another West team in December, and early returns are Ole Miss is not the best team in that division.