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Georgia 45, Mississippi State 19: Bulldogs Bulldoze Their Way To SEC Title Game

Georgia v Mississippi State Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It wasn’t always pretty, but in the end Georgia survived a tough environment and some self-inflicted wounds to leave Starkville with a 45-19 victory.

In the process the Red and Black clinched the SEC East, and a date with LSU in the SEC Championship Game. They never trailed, but there were some moments of palpable discomfort. None more so than late in the second quarter, when a pass-heavy Georgia series resulted in a quick three and out and a short Brent Thorson punt which wasn’t covered well and resulted in a 63 yard touchdown, the first surrendered on special teams by Georgia this year (and the first punt return for a touchdown since 2012). As a result of that lapse Georgia went to the halftime locker room clinging to a 17-12 lead despite a commanding lead in offensive yardage (214 to 139).

Fortunately the Classic City Canines came out swinging in the second half, thanks in large part to the heroics of Ladd McConkey. McConkey took an end around for a 70 yard touchdown on Georgia’s second play of the second half to open some breathing room. The Murray County standout added a touchdown catch on the Bulldogs’ next drive that fairly well broke the game open. He totaled five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown through the air to make him both the Dawgs’ leading rusher and leading receiver.

Stetson Bennett looked solid whether throwing to McConkey or any of a number of other targets. The tight ends continued to be a major matchup problem, with Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington each snagging five receptions and a touchdown.

Bennett and McConkey did not get a great deal of help from the running game. Mississippi State always seems to have some players in the front seven, but came into this game in the middle of the packin the SEC in rushing defense, surrendering 150.6 yards per game.

Thanks to Kendall Milton’s late 34 yard touchdown scamper the Dawgs eclipsed that with 179 yards. But it was never easy, and generally uneven. The interior of the Bulldog line struggled with gap-shooting defenders all night, and put some things on tape that LSU and others will certainly take note of.

Defensively the Athenians played about as well as possible against an Air Raid attack that usually gets its yards. That was not the case on this night however, as Georgia’s defense held Mississippi State to 228 yards of total yards, the Bizarro Bulldogs’ second lowest total on the year. The secondary tackles well, with Kamari Lassiter continuing to emerge as the go-to hitman on that unit. Jalen Carter looks completely healed from that nagging knee injury that hobbled him mid season, tying his career high with 6 tackles and adding a sack for good measure.

Georgia now hits the road again, traveling next week to Lexington to face a Kentucky team reeling from a loss to Vanderbilt today. The Wildcats seem to always have a little something extra for the Red and Black in the Bluegrass State. If the visitors continue to turn the ball over that will likely be the case again. But Georgia is still looking for the team that can truly make this talented squad legitimately pay for its mistakes. Even if this game wasn’t terribly efficient it was still a four touchdown road victory, no small feat in the SEC. Until later…

Go ‘Dawgs!!!