Georgia came out and took command of its SEC opener against Vanderbilt, scoring the first 21 points of the game.
Thats the good news.
The bad news is that from the second quarter forward there were enough mistakes being made to keep Bulldog fans just a little nervous about what’s to come. A sampling:
• 10 total penalties for 115 yards. It’s the most penalty yards since, ironically, Georgia racked up 115 yards of penalties against Vanderbilt last season.
• Some missed tackles, especially against bruising Vandy tailback Ke’shaun Vaughn.
• A Kearis Jackson fumble on the way inside the five that took an almost certain six points off the board.
• A third and one midway through the fourth in which the vaunted Georgia offensive line (or at least center Trey Hill) got stuffed by the Vandy defensive front. If we can’t get one yard when we need it on this group it’s going to be a long year.
• The Red and Black offense was 1 of 7 on third down overall which is, how should I put this? Let’s go with “suboptimal.”
But let’s put things in perspective. Georgia also put up 480 yards of total offense, 324 of them on the ground. The ‘Dawgs also ground out 25 first downs.
Defensively the ‘Dawgs gave up a stingy 225 total yards to a Vandy attack that tried just about everything to get on track. But the Bulldog D is big, fast, and aggressive, and kept the ‘Dores out of the end zone all night. But for the aforementioned penalties, the home team likely would not have gotten on the score board at all.
Was it sloppy? Sure. Even the normally efficient Jake Fromm looked just a little out of sorts after his solid start. Fromm began the game 7 of 8 passing. He went 8 of 15 from there and threw for only 156 yards on the night. We didn’t see Stetson Bennett, which is a little disappointing, but given that Fromm jogged off the field in apparently good health, that’s a minor complaint.
This one was never really a blowout. But it was also never in doubt. It felt as if the Bulldogs came out, determined precisely how many points they needed to win the game, and decided to hit that number by halftime and call it a night.
Essentially, Kirby Smart and his club elected to score 24 points then just sit on the Commodores until they stopped struggling to get up. It works when wrestling your little brother, and it works in this context as well.
We also learned that this offensive line is indeed capable of opening holes the size of a Waffle House, that D’Andre Swift and Zamir White both look healthy. That Demetris Robertson (3 catches, 23 yards, 1 TD) is going to be involved with the offense, and that George Pickens will be as well if the coaches have any control over it.
Eli Wolf is now our short yardage fullback, or as I call it, the “blunderbuss back.” It’s not terribly accurate or elegant but at short range will blow your head off.
Eric Stokes picked up where he left off in 2018, hip-pocketing receivers up and down the field. The defensive line is ddeeeeeppppp, from seniors like Michael Barnett to freshman Nolan Smith. That’s going to be important later.
There’s plenty to work on following this one, but the things that need fixing are entirely fixable things. Don’t hit people out of bounds. Don’t grab face masks. Hold onto the ball. These are things that can be cleaned up, and likely will.
Georgia now returns to the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium to take on the Murray State Racers, who are unlikely to put up a stouter challenge than the ‘Dores.
Quibbling over style points following a 24 point conference win to open the season is the most first world of college football problems, especially when the rest of your division spent the day looking like a radioactive garbage fire. By not losing to Wyoming, North Carolina, or Georgia State we’ve separated ourselves from the pack decisively.
We’ll be better next week even if it’s not likely to be strictly necessary. That’s the name of the game until the games are against the big names. Until later...