For the first time since 2014 the Georgia defensive unit can add a blocked field goal to its repertoire.
With less than three minutes remaining before halftime, Samford’s Jordan Weaver stepped back from 37 yards out for a field goal attempt. However, Georgia’s J.R. Reed was there a millisecond quicker with a hand standing in between Weaver’s kick and the three points.
And it might have been a surprise for everyone except for Reed himself.
“I told Deandre Baker that I was going to go block the kick,” Reed said. “I told him let’s go block it and I just came hard and got my hands up.”
The last Georgia block on a field goal attempt came back in 2014 when Ray Drew kept Georgia Tech off the board early in a game that the Bulldogs ultimately lost at home in overtime, 30-24.
However, the blocked field goal on Saturday night against Samford was more beneficial to the Bulldogs from Athens, as the team went on to beat the Bulldogs from Alabama 42-14.
But for Reed and the rest of the defense, the blocked field goal meant a momentum swing for Georgia after a fumble by quarterback Jake Fromm set up the field goal opportunity for Samford.
“I knew we had to get the stop and put the fire out,” Reed said. “We had a turnover ourselves so we had to turn one over.”
The blocked field goal was the product of a new emphasis on the importance of special teams by head coach Kirby Smart, who stated back in preseason that a goal of the fall camp was to “change some things up special teams-wise”.
By hiring Scott Fountain, a former special teams coach at Auburn, along with retaining special teams coordinator Shane Beamer, Georgia emphasis on special teams gained traction.
“I love Coach [Shane] Beamer and Coach [Scott] Fountain, all those guys,” Reed said. “They give us a good look and put us in the best situation to block the kicks.”
But the emphasis on special teams doesn’t stop with helping the defense block field goals, it extends to punting, kicking and all facets of the special teams game.
Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship registered seven touchbacks for Georgia on kickoffs, while punter Cameron Nizialek included a 57-year punt that dropped Samford back on their own 16 yard line after a loss of a yard on the return by Kelvin McKnight.
“I felt like that one punt was huge, it was a bomb,” Smart said. “And Rod did a hell of a job kicking all of ours out. I mean how many did he kick out six, seven? I mean that is incredible.”
The work on special teams has not gone unnoticed between both players on the special team or off. And for Terry Godwin, who finds himself switching back and forth between returner and wide receiver, he is exceptionally proud to “finally” see the special teams unit get the recognition.
“Special teams has been a big part of our unit and just to come out here and see special teams kind of take over the game and put us in field position, that is a big thing,” Godwin said. “We work on special teams a lot in practice and I feel like it is finally paying off.”
However, Smart would have liked to see even more from the special teams against Samford knowing how important that specific area of the game is, especially moving forward into SEC play next week.
“Those are areas where you better improve on,” Smart said. “You better improve on because the Dan Mullen-coached teams take a lot of pride on special teams, all the SEC does.”
And now with one blocked field goal added to the list of things accomplished so far this season, Reed hopes this means the opportunity for more.
“We just have to keep blocking kicks,” Reed said. “That shows people that we can do that.”