- The game: Mississippi State at Georgia, Sept. 23, 2017.
- The moment: Touchdown pass on first offensive play of game for Bulldogs.
- Key player or players: Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Nick Chubb and Terry Godwin
- What it meant: Established a tone and mindset for the Bulldogs in a Top 25 SEC matchup against an opponent that came in riding high.
ATHENS — It was one of those plays the players start getting excited about the moment it’s installed in the game plan. And this one went in early in the week before Georgia played Mississippi State.
To appreciate what happened on that play in that game, we have to take into account the dynamics of that matchup. The Bulldogs were just two weeks removed from their dramatic 20-19 win over Notre Dame in South Bend. But there still wasn’t much context to that victory. Nobody could be sure how good the Fighting Irish were, or Georgia, for that matter. UGA (3-0) entered the contest against Mississippi State ranked 11th.
Likewise, Mississippi State was coming in walking tall. The maroon Bulldogs (3-0) had just orchestrated an impressive 37-7 home win over LSU and shot into the Top 25 rankings at No. 17. Led by Georgia-born quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State entered as a trendy pick to pull off an upset.
Fromm ➡️ Godwin.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 23, 2017
Georgia dispensed with that idea quickly.
Georgia anticipated that Mississippi State’s defense, under the direction of former UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, would be coming hard to stuff the run, so the Bulldogs decided to run a flea-flicker on their first play from scrimmage. Mississippi State received the game’s opening kickoff, so Georgia’s offense would have to wait. But not long.
After forcing State into a three-and-out and punt, Georgia took over at its 41-yard line at the 12:47 mark. On first-and-10, freshman quarterback Jake Fromm handed off to tailback Nick Chubb at right guard, same as he does most every game. But instead of running the ball into the hole behind Solomon Kindley, Chubb stopped, about-faced and tossed the ball back to Fromm about nine yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Facing zero pass pressure, Fromm calmly delivered a high-arcing pass to wide receiver Terry Godwin, streaking toward the east end zone just inside the right hash mark. Facing man coverage, Godwin had gotten behind Mississippi State senior cornerback Tolando Cleveland by a couple of yards, hauled in the football basket-style with two hands and cut hard to left to ensure that he would remain untouched, which he did.
Ten seconds after the snap of the ball and 2:23 into the game, Georgia led 6-0. Sanford Stadium exploded in celebration.
The home-standing Bulldogs did not look back on the way to a 31-3 blowout victory. It was the second of what would be six consecutive lopsided victories by an average of 31 points.
Turns out that the play, while called by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, actually had been suggested by coach Kirby Smart.
“I had gone to Jim and told him I’d like to open with that, and he said they had been talking about the same thing,” Smart said after the game. “We felt like their players would be peeking in the backfield, and Terry got behind them.”
Said Mississippi State defensive lineman Braxton Hoyett, “It’s just something we should have expected honestly. We knew coming into the game they were going to try something. I felt like we were prepared for it, but it happened. I can’t even make an excuse for it. They came out with a trick play and they were gone.”
Fromm went 9 for 12 for 201 yards passing and 2 touchdowns in the game. Chubb had 81 yards rushing and scored twice, and Godwin had one other catch and finished with 80 yards receiving. The Bulldogs improved to 4-0 before heading to Knoxville to obliterate Tennessee.