No. 18 Georgia (1-0) defeated No. 22 North Carolina (0-1) 33-24 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game Saturday at the Georgia Dome. It was a big night for Nick Chubb (222 yards rushing, 2 TDs), Jacob Eason (8-12 passing, 131 yards) and Kirby Smart (1-0 as head coach)
Here’s how it broke down from a performance standpoint:
Chubb didn’t account for all of the Bulldogs’ offense – his 32 carries represented just shy of half – otherwise the offense would have probably pulled an A here. As it was, Georgia’s offense was solid despite flaws. Pass protection was shaky, as well as the quarterbacks’ ability to escape pressure, which together accounted for four sacks. The Bulldogs rushed for 289 yards but turned the ball over on a fumble by Brendan Douglas. But thanks to Chubb and a formidable job by a rebuilt offensive line, Georgia was able to achieve its primary objective to possess the football via the run, which it did 38 minutes to 22.
Lost in all the excitement about Chubb and the quarterbacks was a fairly impressive effort by the Bulldogs’ defense. UNC came into the game with a reputation for being almost unstoppable on offense. In limiting the Tar Heels’ “fastball” offense to 315 yards and 24 points, Georgia held them to 170 yards below their average a year ago and 16.7 points below their average scoring. They did that by keeping 1,400-yard rusher Elijah Hood in check (72 yards), holding quarterback Mitch Trubisky to only 156 yards and not allowing a touchdown pass. They did let UNC’s receivers get loose a couple of times, and tailback T.J. Logan broke loose on a 35-yard TD run.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
This is the area in which Georgia will hope to make the most improvement before Saturday’s home opener against Nicholls State. The Bulldogs gave up a 95-yard TD on a kickoff return, missed a field-goal attempt, shanked a punt and had a personal-foul call for hitting a returner after he’d called for a fair catch. UGA also got very little out of its vaunted return game (4 for 22 yards total).
Smart joked that he felt weird and was “a comedy of errors” in his first stint on the sideline as a head coach. But the truth is the longtime defensive coordinator made a pretty smooth transition into the power position. Smart burned a timeout as the Bulldogs tried to draw UNC offsides on fourth-and-2 late in the third quarter when they probably should have taken the delay penalty as they were punting from midfield anyway. But after starting senior Greyson Lambert and rotating in freshman Jacob Eason, they weren’t afraid to stick with Eason with the outcome teetering in the balance. Smart will get the head phones figured out eventually.
Though it was just down the road at the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs’ victory represented a win over a ranked team away from home. Coming in, Georgia was 8-9-1 against ranked teams to open a season, going 8-2 in Athens, 0-5-1 on the road and 0-2 in neutral-site games. That represents an immediate improvement and could bode well for the future.