Perhaps Neyland Stadium isn’t that difficult a place to play after all. The Georgia Bulldogs turned lock-tight defense and big plays on offense to secure a fairly breezy victory over the upset-minded Tennessee Volunteers.
Carson Beck played some of the most flawless football of his Bulldog career. 298 yards on 24 of 30 passing and 3 touchdowns is about as impressive a performance as one can ask for. And save for a couple of drops those numbers could have been even more majestic. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but Beck somehow looks a bit more in control of the offense every week. Additionally Mike Bobo looks more and more comfortable opening up the playbook for his junior signal caller.
Today one of the best quarterbacks in SEC history returned to Neyland Stadium. Peyton Manning dropped by too. pic.twitter.com/ZmOrQr1aZh— Dawg Sports (@dawgsports) November 18, 2023
Beck’s numbers were aided significantly by a career effort from Dillon Bell. Last week Ladd McConkey provided a matchup that Ole Miss couldn’t cover and Beck just kept hitting him. This week it was Bell, who caught 5 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, who couldn’t be stopped. He even threw the Dawgs’ first touchdown pass of the day, an 18 yard strike to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.
The Red and Black ran the ball less explosively, but certainly enough. Their 40 attempts for 156 yards (3.9 per attempt) were more about forcing the Big Orange to respect the threat from Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton. Milton by the way found the endzone for the sixth game in a row, scoring his eighth touchdown on the season from 15 yards out.
After surrendering a 75 yard touchdown due to bad run fits on the first snap, the Georgia defense tightened up considerably. In fact that one play accounted for over a quarter of the Fightin’ Creamsicles’ 277 yards of offense.
Jaylen Wright, who took off on that lone touchdown jaunt, had 8 runs for 15 measly yards the remainder of the game. I never like to say “but for a couple of plays” because those couple of plays are of course real. Georgia came out on the first snap of the game and looked bad. But in the end they played one of their more complete defensive games of the season.
It is perhaps a bit trite to say that the Bulldogs are rounding into shape as they head toward an SEC Championship Game which could yet be a play-in game for the College Football Playoff. To be certain, there are still things which look like worrying weaknesses.
Once again Georgia gave up a touchdown on the first drive of the game. The Athenians have surrendered a touchdown on 6 of 8 opening drives in SEC play this season. I don’t think they can afford to spot Alabama or Ohio State a touchdown.
Once again the Bulldogs took the ball out of the locker room in the third quarter and did next to nothing with it. Kirby Smart famously likes to play defense first and get the ball to start the second half. So far this season Georgia has gotten the ball to start the second half seven times and scored a grant total of ten points (a touchdown against South Carolina and a field goal against Vandy).
And there are now some injuries which certainly bear watching. We do not know yet how serious Tate Ratledge’s knee injury was. Ladd MacConkey, after warming up with the team, appears to have suffered more back stiffness and was a late scratch from action. Finally, Brock Bowers came up limping in the third quarter. While Kirby Smart told the CBS crew that he asked Bowers five times whether he was OK and was told each time that he was fine, the Napa Nightmare’s left ankle remains the most watched joint in the entire state.
Georgia now heads to Mark Richt Field at Your Name Here Stadium to take on the perpetually upset-minded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It’s a chance to complete a third straight undefeated regular season, something only done once before in school history. It’s also a chance to remind little brother who runs this state, which is never not fun. Until later…