ATHENS – Everybody got what they wanted Saturday. Georgia got a stress-free, season-opening victory over Louisiana-Monroe, the Warhawks got a $1.2 million paycheck and the dude that monitors the weather radar got to cut a lopsided game short because of lightning strikes nobody saw.
In a rare “mutually-agreed termination,” the game ended with 9:54 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs were awarded a 51-14 victory.
The list of positives was long, for UGA at least:
- First-year transfer Greyson Lambert made a solid, if unspectacular, debut as Georgia’s starting quarterback.
- Nick Chubb had another 100-yard game – 120 and two touchdowns, in fact – representing his ninth straight as the Bulldogs’ starting running back.
- Leonard Floyd showed he’s going to make a pretty good inside linebacker, looking much like former Bulldog Alec Ogletree patrolling the middle of the field.
- And after some mid-game struggles defending the pass, the Georgia defense regained its footing after the first of two lightning delays and shut down the Warhawks the rest of the way.
“We got the victory, number one, so we’re excited about that,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Overall, I’m very proud of the team and how we prepared and how we performed. There are some things we need to get better at. … It would’ve been nice to continue to play, because we were getting ready to play a lot of young players. Other than that it was a great day and a great victory.”
Georgia’s defense experienced a lull after the Bulldogs had shot out to a 35-0 lead late in the third quarter. ULM started throwing the ball to good effect and scored on its last possession of the first half and its first possession of the second.
But the Warhawks had the ball in the third quarter when the first lightning delay was called at 2:10 p.m. with 6:40 remaining in the third quarter. And after an hour wait, Georgia’s defense came back out and forced a punt, freshman D’Andre Walker blocked the punt for a safety and ULM never threatened again.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs’ defense was the senior Floyd. Coming off two shoulder surgeries, the former outside linebacker was moved to inside linebacker and his play there was reminiscent of former Bulldog Alec Ogletree. He led the defense with eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and half a sack.
“He was being Leonard Floyd; that’s what he was doing,” senior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.
Safety Quincy Mauger also had eight tackles, Lorenzo Carter also blocked a punt and sophomore cornerback Aaron Davis had an interception and 26-yard return.
But it was the new quarterback Lambert who had all eyes on him. Starting a game exactly 33 days after having his first practice with the Bulldogs, the junior transfer from Virginia had a successful debut. He completed 8-of-12 passes for 141 and two touchdowns and the offense didn’t commit a turnover.
“There were a few butterflies, but that’s natural,” Lambert said in the postgame locker room. “I just took a knee and prayed and turned it over to God. I feel extremely blessed to be in this position and have this opportunity. I’ve worked really hard, but so has everybody else on this team.”
Lambert’s touchdown passes went to tight end Jeb Blazevich from 15 yards out in the first half and split end Malcolm Mitchell from 28 yards in the second. His incompletions were two deflections at the line of scrimmage and two throw-aways.
But the true difference in this game came from Georgia’s loaded tailback position. In addition to Chubb’s good work, junior Keith Marshall came off an injury redshirt year to rush for 73 yards on 10 carries and score two touchdowns. And sophomore Sony Michel had 41 yards on 6 carries and added 79 yards on two receptions, including a 31-yard touchdown.
It was sweet redemption for a backfield that felt dissed by some remarks from ULM defenders earlier in the week.
“Those guys thought they were going to stop our running game, which we do as our bread and butter,” Chubb said afterward. “That was kind of disrespectful to us. So we came out here and showed them we can run the ball against them.”
As for that lightning-induced termination, it’s a rare occurrence in college football but one that was established for the safety of the fans and athletes.
“It was a decision that started with the coaches,” Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said. “By the time I got there, they were already talking about it. It was a mutual decision. It became a student-health issue. Louisiana-Monroe had suffered some serious injuries and they thought it was in their best interest to stop the game.”