Georgia overwhelmed the Samford Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon.
But they underwhelmed their head coach. “We really didn’t play very well, especially in the second half” Kirby Smart declared flatly after the game, perhaps foreshadowing a spicier version of the same sentiment delivered to his charges behind closed doors.
But on a day when #1 Alabama needed a late rally to down unranked Texas, and #6 Texas A&M fell to Appalachian State, the Red and Black’s home shutout stands out as a pretty fair performance. Defensively, the Classic City Canines demonstrated remarkable consistency. Chris Hatcher’s Samford squad was physically outmatched, but they tend to find at least a few completions against even good SEC defenses (ask Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham, they still have nightmares). But the ‘Dawgs smothered the Samford attack to the tune of 128 yards of total offense, and a 1 of 14 effort on 3rd and 4th down. The visitors’ drives consistently ended quickly and quietly. Eight quarters into the 2022 season Georgia has yet to allow a touchdown.
Offensively things were a little dicier. The Birmingham-ish Bizarro Bulldogs contested balls in the secondary and UGA receivers had trouble at times winning those battles. After an opener in which they couldn’t miss on third down the defending champions sputtered a bit when they needed a conversion, moving the chains on only 5 of 13 3rd downs. A 38% conversion rate will beat Samford. And combined with a solid defensive effort it would beat much of the SEC. But it’s not what we expect from the collection of playmakers Todd Monken has at his disposal.
For his part Stetson Bennett looked solid once again, completing 24 of 34 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown. He still hasn’t thrown an interception this season, and today distributed the ball to a remarkable 13 different receivers. All the usual suspects (Bowers, McIntosh, McConkey, Jackson, and Washington) got in on the action. But it was also exciting to see Jackson Meeks jump in and play solid snaps when Adonai Mitchell was forced from the game after the first snap. Dillon Bell caught his first pass and his first touchdown, and looks like a guy who may play a more prominent role in the rotation by the end of the season.
On the ground Kendall Milton tallied a career high with 85 yards on 10 carries. After fighting through injuries this felt like a good chance for Milton to get in a game rhythm and get solid double digit Carrie’s, something we may well need from him during the meat of the SEC schedule.
In the end, the Bulldogs won convincingly over an FCS opponent, avoided any serious injuries (Coach Smart confirmed postgame that AD Mitchell actually could have gone back in if necessary, which it most certainly was not). They now move on to a noon tilt in the armpit of the Earth, Columbia, South Carolina. It sets up as a solid test and a good chance for the Red and Black to get focused back in on the mission at hand. Until later….