Georgia was supposed to be tested by the high octane Ole Miss offense.
And they were for a solid twenty minutes or so.
Now to find someone to test the Georgia offense. The Bulldogs moved at will for most of the evening, churning out a season high 611 yards and 52 points in an absolute shellacking of the #9 Ole Miss Rebels.
Carson Beck was his usual efficient self, completing 18 of 25 passes for 306 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. One of those went to Brock Bowers, who played nearly every offensive snap in his first game back from TightRope surgery. The wise move for a guy who had two screws drilled into his leg bones less than a month ago would normally be to take it easy. Let him build back into game shape.
But that would be the advice when dealing with mere mortals. Bowers, quite possibly the inspiration for Wolverine from the X-Man comics, instead went for 34 yards on 3 catches. He repeatedly decoyed the Ole Miss defense into allowing other Bulldog receivers to get, and this is a technical term, wide ass open.
Nine different Bulldogs caught passes on the evening. Ladd McConkey led all Bulldogs with 4 catches for 81 yards. Dominic Lovett was right behind him, notching 77 yards on 4 carries in the biggest game of his Bulldog career.
And yet somehow the rushing numbers were just as gaudy. The Athenians pounded out 300 yards on the ground on 35 attempts, 8.6 yards on average each time a Bulldog took the ball. Kendall Milton had a career night, blasting through the Ole Miss front like dynamite in a Nike-branded wrapper. His 127 yards on only 9 attempts included a pair of touchdowns. Daijun Edwards also found the endzone twice, amassing 59 yards on 12 attempts.
For his part Carson Beck also ran it 4 times for 30 of the most frustrating yards Lane Kiffin has probably ever seen. We keep saying that he’s no Stetson Bennett, and that remains true. But Beck is getting better and better and knowing when to take off, and he’s able to long-stride his way out of trouble quicker than you’d expect. I absolutely didn’t have “Carson Beck, ground threat” on my 2023 bingo card, but I’m glad we keep getting to stamp that square.
The true hero of this offensive performance however had to be the offensive line. With Amarius Mims back and guys like Monroe Freeling and Ernest Greene improving the unit played its best game of the season. Beck was sacked only once on the night. And perhaps more mind-boggling, the Dawgs didn’t have a single negative yardage play all night that wasn’t the result of a penalty. That only happens when you’re not missing assignments and you’re pushing the guys in front of you down the field. If all the positive signs for the future over the past couple of weeks, this one may be the most exciting.
Defensively, we saw the same first quarter foolishness we’ve come to expect, with the Rebels scoring on two their first three possessions. But things went downhill for the visitors from there. After blazing for 185 yards on those first three possessions Ole Miss only managed 19 yards total on their next six. By that point they were down 45-14 and the rout was decidedly on. We wondered how CJ Allen would do in a stepped up role in place of Jamon Dumas-Johnson. The answer was “absolutely fine”, as the true freshman tallied a team-leading 9 tackles and a sack to boot.
The victory clinched the SEC East for the Bulldogs, their third straight divisional crown. The Dawgs will once again play Alabama for the conference title in December, as the Tide secured the SEC West with a win over Kentucky.
As you’ve no doubt heard, the SEC is eliminating divisions in 2024, so this likely marks the final SEC East title for Georgia, or anyone else. The Classic City Canines won 13 SEC East titles, second only to Florida’s 15 (Alabama has won the West 15 times as well).
But as Kirby Smart said postgame, that’s all stuff for another day. What today’s victory means is that the ‘Dawgs go play Tennessee next week. It’ll be an opportunity to once again complete a perfect SEC regular season and take another step in pursuit of perfection. Better never rests. And tonight the Bulldogs absolutely got better.