The only significant difference between Saturday’s game and the season opener was the temperature. Otherwise, the outings were identical in every important particular; in each case, my son and I attended a game on a sunny day in Sanford Stadium, where we saw the Georgia Bulldogs maul an overmatched opponent by a final margin of 55-7.
It took us a while to get there, though. After the Bulldogs’ first three plays from scrimmage all produced first downs, Georgia’s opening drive stalled, and the home team was forced to settle for a field goal. Idaho State’s initial possession consisted of three incompletions and a delay of game penalty, after which the Red and Black moved 19 yards in eight plays before being forced to punt. A third Georgia offensive series featuring heavy doses of Washaun Ealey lasted a dozen snaps but advanced no closer to the Bengals’ goal line than their 35. As impressive as Blair Walsh’s 53-yard field goal into the wind may have been, the Bulldogs still clung to a 6-0 lead at the end of the first period.
Caleb King scampered to paydirt early in the second stanza, but the floodgates did not begin to open until Bacarri Rambo picked off an Idaho State pass and returned it 39 yards for the score. A Brandon Boykin pick on the Bengals’ next possession set up a three-yard touchdown strike from Aaron Murray to A.J. Green. Murray connected on two more TD passes prior to halftime, including the 46-yard completion that almost certainly was the last touchdown grab by Green that my son will see in person.
The Bulldogs emptied the bench in the second half, in which Vance Cuff became the latest Georgia defender to corral an interception and take it to the end zone. The Athenians led 55-0 after 45 minutes, cruising to the easy victory despite surrendering a fourth-quarter touchdown that was of strictly statistical significance.
Despite the slow start, the ‘Dawgs were dominant to the appropriate degree, holding the ball for more than 38 minutes, finishing the day with three takeaways and no giveaways, and tallying 26 first downs to the Bengals’ eight. Idaho State completed just seven of 32 aerials and gained only 39 rushing yards on 19 attempts. Georgia amassed 450 total yards to the visitors’ 151.
Murray misfired often in the early going yet still finished with 19 completions in 27 passes for 228 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Ten different Bulldogs carded receptions over the course of the afternoon, including players who are so far down on the depth chart that, when I first saw the stat sheet, I thought Rose McGowan caught a twelve-yard pass from Hutson Mason. (It turned out to be Rhett McGowan.)
The visitors are who we thought they were, and this game was what we expected it to be. Of course, the last time this Georgia squad dropped a 55-7 drubbing on a patsy opponent, the Bulldogs followed up that lopsided victory with a four-game losing streak, so I would prefer to err on the side of believing this game served its intended purpose but ultimately was meaningless.
As big cats go, after all, the Idaho State Bengals are small potatoes; the truly ferocious felines against whom the Classic City Canines will measure themselves are the Auburn Tigers, and that game will tell us much more about Georgia than a dozen outings against Division I-AA opposition ever could.