ATHENS — It was supposed to be the first day of fall, so the calendar said anyway. But the temperature and humidity begged to differ. And so did the matchup of two of the SEC’s hottest teams between the hedges, No. 11 Georgia and No. 17 Mississippi State. In that way it felt more late-season clash with championship implications.
As it went, it was the home team Bulldogs who flourished in the heat, and they gave a raucous crowd of 93,000 what they came for. They scored a resounding 31-3 victory and gave some real hope to their fan base that something special might be a-brewing this season.
With its third consecutive victory over a Top 25 opponents going back to last season, Georgia improves to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in SEC play. The Bulldogs’ win over State was as thorough and impressive as State’s 37-7 victory was over LSU last Saturday.
“We came out and played with a lot of toughness,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Our mantra all week was discipline, discipline, discipline. I thought we executed pretty well.”
Well indeed. Georgia struck Mississippi State quick and fast on Saturday. On the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage, Nick Chubb tossed an inside handoff back to quarterback Jake Fromm, who hit wide-open receiver Terry Godwin striding down the middle of the field for a 59-yard touchdown.
On the Bulldogs’ second possession, Fromm and Godwin connected for a big third-down conversion that kept alive an eight-play, 78-yard scoring drive. Chubb scored from seven yards out on a nifty, high-stepping run on a toss-sweep left and Georgia was up 14-0 with 6:16 still remaining in the first quarter.
State finally caught its breath and managed to get to the halftime locker room trailing 14-3. But the Bulldogs got possession to start the second half and knew exactly what to do with it. They drove 75 yards and in six plays and Chubb scored his second TD of the night on a sweep left out of the Wild Dawg formation.
From that point on, the rout was on.
“The crowd was electric; the students were awesome,” Smart said.
The story of the night was Georgia’s freshman quarterback. Fromm completed 9-of-12 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter. One of his incompletions was a deliberate throw away and another a drop by Godwin that should have been a long first-down completion deep in State territory.
Even though Jacob Eason dressed out, warmed up and appears ever closer to returning, Fromm’s moves may make it moot.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs made mincemeat of a Todd Grantham for the second straight time since facing their former defensive coordinator. They also smoked him and Louisville in the 2014 Belk Bowl, 37-14.
And Georgia’s defense spoiled the return of quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to the place his uncle, Charles Pledger, once played for UGA. He had 14 incompletions, two interceptions and just 33 yards rushing through three quarters. State was leading the SEC with a 47.7 scoring average coming into Saturday’s game.
Georgia will be favored again next Saturday when it travels to Tennessee. The Vols (3-1, 0-1 SEC) struggled but held on to defeat winless UMass 17-13 on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
“Humility is a week away,” Smart said. “Whether we’d won or lost this one, er’d have to refocus and concentrate and get ready to do it all again.”