Kirby Smart’s team won in 2017 largely due to a talented veteran defense. And while it’s unlikely the Bulldogs’ boss is going to ever neglect that side of the ball, 2018 is shaping up to be a lot more wide-open. The Red and Black rolled up a seemingly effortless 508 yards of total offense en route to a 45-0 victory over the Austin Peay Governors to kick of their SEC title defense.
It felt like it could have been 1,000 had Jim Chaney been so inclined. 14 different Bulldogs had a reception or rush of 10 yards or greater. Mecole Hardman got wide open in the middle on a 12 yard release route and took it 59 yards for a touchdown. Demetrius Robertson, making his Bulldog debut, took an end around 72 yards essentially untouched to the endzone.
If 2017 was about Georgia bludgeoning opponents into submission, this game was an indication that the 2018 ‘Dawgs may just fly over and around adversaries with any of a dozen potential playmakers.
Obviously the Austin Peay Governors aren't fielding an SEC caliber defense. It’s entirely likely that some of the gaping holes through which Bulldogs barreled today will be unceremoniously closed next weekend in Columbia against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
But it’s equally true that it felt in this one as if Jim Chaney never really turned on the afterburners, at least not for prolonged stretches. Jake Fromm after all played two polished series in the first half before yielding to freshman Justin Fields, and ultimately was wearing a ball cap and relaxing on the sideline well before Krypton Fanfare sounded. I expect there are a lot of wrinkles that could have been introduced in this one that will be unveiled on another day.
James Cook for one looks to be just as dangerous a weapon as advertised. However, we won’t get to see how he’s utilized in SEC play until the second half next week thanks to a fourth quarter targeting penalty on a kickoff. On replay it was an easy call and a dumb mistake, a freshman giving maximum effort which can't be faulted, but also using technique that the coaches have surely warned against this offseason. The heat of the moment got the better of him, he’ll learn from it.
Justin Fields looked like a veteran, though no QB controversy appears to be on the horizon in Athens. Fields was clearly running some plays with only two routes to choose from and wasn't changing at the line with any frequency. At this point it’s all about getting him on the field just in case, and preparing him for down the road. So far, the early returns are promising.
Georgia now moves right into SEC play, facing South Carolina on the road in Columbia next Saturday. At halftime Georgia’s leading rusher was receiver Demetrius Robertson and its leading receiver was tailback D’Andre Swift. Have fun with that, Will Muschamp. Until later...