The first and last plays of the game were the perfect bookends to a dominating night. The defense came out to play, and play it did to the final whistle. While Lorenzo Carter’s six-yard tackle for loss was a textbook example of talent, preparation and execution, Monty Rice’s stoning of the MSU tailback on the goal line as time expired on a 28-point victory was the perfect distillation of pride.
I am of a mind that Georgia’s only great when it fields a defense that is good enough to welcome it being on the field. I can remember those moments during a game when it suddenly dawned on me the D was there: the 2002 game against Florida, the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii (okay, that didn’t last long), the 2011 game against Mississippi State.
And Saturday night.
There was some junk yardage gained in garbage time, but, bottom line, Georgia’s defense took on a team that was averaging almost fifty points a game and held it to three. More than that, you realized from the very first series it was on its game. Players looked confident, did a superb job with contain (I can only remember a couple of plays when they were fooled) and were sure-handed with their tackling.
Damn, they looked good.
- The reason Georgia was so dominant was that Saturday night was the time the offensive line and secondary turned in their best efforts of the season. With regard to the former, that was the best pass protection I’ve seen through the first four games. Fromm completed almost everything he threw out there. A lot of that came because he had time to maintain his composure. Run blocking wasn’t quite as consistent, but it was again the best of 2017.
- Did Jeffrey Simmons play? I kept listening for his name.
- Run blocking may not have been totally consistent, but it was literally perfect on Nick Chubb’s touchdown jaunt out of the Wild Dawg. (It was a jaunt because nobody laid a finger on him.)
- Yes, Virginia, Georgia does have tight ends who can catch passes.
- My only regret about Nauta’s touchdown catch was wasting Christian Payne’s wide open wheel route, but such is life.
- I’ll miss Chubb and Michel next year, but I have a feeling D’Andre Swift is going to ease my regret.
- Hardman made a nice catch on that slant throw. I’m glad to see the slant making a comeback this year. With the talent Georgia has in the slot, it should be deadly.
- If there’s one stat that should make it easy to grasp how the game went, it’s Jake Fromm only attempting 12 passes. It is remarkable watching his progress from week to week. The completions were the big story, but the one time he elected to throw the ball away told me more in that regard. A week or two before, he might have tried to make something out of that and paid a price for it.
- I will admit that Mississippi State’s receivers were no great shakes, but that doesn’t take away from the secondary’s dominance. Very few passes weren’t contested. How much of that was the result of Malkom Parrish being back on the field in obvious passing situations I can’t say, but I have to think that helped. Even Tyrique McGhee had a terrific pass breakup on the goal line.
- Deandre Baker played out of his mind all night; indeed, after a while, I began to wonder why they kept throwing in his direction.
- Whoever told Kirby to take a chance on J.R. Reed deserves a bonus.
- If you ever doubted Dominick Sanders’ ball hawking abilities, the move he made on his pick should convince you.
- Roquan Smith.
- The defensive line showed up, rotated and stayed fresh all game. I might have liked a little more pass rush now and then, but they more than met the physicality of the MSU offensive line.
- I will say this for Nick Fitzgerald. He’s a tough kid. He got smacked around pretty good by Georgia’s front seven when he ran, and, while he looked a little shaken a couple of times, kept going. He didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers when he needed it, though.
- Raise your hand if you thought both flags would get picked up on the play when Bellamy was initially called for targeting.
- Special teams were just silly. Zero return yardage, a 45.5 punting average and a 49-yard field goal from Blankenship that would have been good from at least another five yards out. I could get used to that.
- You don’t watch a dominating performance like that and quibble about the coaching. Well, at least I didn’t. However, that didn’t stop one dude a couple of rows in front of me from steadily bitching about how Chaney wouldn’t call any play action passes when Georgia was up by 28. Or the guy after the game who patiently explained how disappointing it was that the offense didn’t score on every series in the first half. Where’s Mike Bobo when you need him? Never change, Georgia fans.
- Seriously, I think we really got a taste of Chaney opening up the playbook. Lots and lots of movement, everything from formation shifts to decoy jet sweeps, in an attempt to create mismatches and some space to offset teams loading the box to stop the run. Much of it worked, too. It’s nice to see what can be done when you have a little more confidence in your offensive line and quarterback, but bottom line, Chaney’s done a good job letting the running game set the pace. With that defense and those special teams, why not?
- Mel Tucker seems to be having fun and I can’t say I blame him.
- As far as Kirby Smart goes, he’s got a team that’s playing confidently and that starts with him. The quote I posted yesterday about the election to go with the flea flicker to start the game matched the vibe I felt all night, the feeling that Georgia’s staff had thoroughly absorbed what Mullen’s team brought to the table and felt it had the right stuff to handle them. It was as good a prep job as I’ve seen come to fruition in Sanford Stadium.
Now, they just need to do it again.