Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during a game against Mississippi State at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (photo by Rob Davis)
Rob Davis

On The Beat: Inside the championship mindset of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart

ATHENS — Georgia’s win at Mississippi State didn’t have the glitz or efficiency of the 49-3 win over Oregon, nor the glamour or brute power of the 27-13 win over Tennessee.

But it will surely be remembered by Kirby Smart has one of his favorites because of the way his football team responded on the road, under the lights in a hostile SEC environment amid challenging conditions.

Smart asked his team to respond at halftime after a clock management miscue enabled the Maroon Bulldogs to pull within 17-12 and take the momentum, and the UGA players answered the bell.

Georgia scored on a well-blocked 70-yard end around two plays into the second half and came up with two fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter in pulling away for a 45-19 win that was not nearly as easy as the score suggests.

Smart says that sort of resiliency is what it takes for a program to enjoy the sort of success the Bulldogs have under his leadership, ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the polls 25 of the past 27 weeks.

“It takes physicality in this league,” Smart said. “It takes a really mature team to manage every game like it as a history and life of its own.”

That’s why Georgia will be dialed in for its 3:30 p.m. game for Kentucky, taking great care not to look ahead to the SEC Championship Game with LSU on Dec. 3.

The Bulldogs have gotten stronger as the season has progressed, most recently with the return of elite defensive tackle Jalen Carter.

A Georgia team that lost 15 players to the NFL draft and another 13 in the portal strengthened what Smart calls its “resiliency muscle” in that win in Starkville.

“If you just lift a 50-pound bar all your life, you’re never going to get stronger, right?” Smart said after the win in Starkville. “You’ve got to lift heavy weight. We lifted some heavy weight in terms of our DNA, our composure, our resiliency, our toughness, and we were ready to use them.

“Because we practice them all year and it’s like, okay, here’s our opportunity guys. What do we want to do with it?”

Georgia made the most of it.

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