Against a Louisville defense that was third in the land at topping the rush, the Georgia Bulldogs put up statistical numbers that Todd Grantham’s unit hadn’t experienced this football season.
With the magnificent freshman Nick Chubb setting a new UGA bowl rushing record of 266 yards on 33 carries – second in Georgia history to the 283 yards Herschel Walker ran for as an also freshman against Vanderbilt – the Bulldog offense of newly-named play-caller John Lilly punished the Cardinals’ defense for 305 yards on the ground. This, mind you, against a Louisville defense that was allowing just 93 rushing yards per contest. Throw in Georgia’s passing total of 200 yards and the Bulldogs amassed 505 yards of total offense in a 37-14 romp over the 20th-ranked redbirds Tuesday night in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.
And this outcome could have been much more lop-sided had not the 13th-ranked Bulldogs failed to cash in on several other excellent scoring opportunities.
Here is how Georgia, after double disappointment on the final weekend of the regular season, finished the season at 10-3 and thereby set the stage for maybe better things to come in the fall of 2015:
Plays of 20 plus yards, offense and defense
The Bulldogs managed six plays that gained 20 yards or more. Chubb had his bowl record 82-yard run as well as his 31-yard tackle-breaking touchdown run and another jaunt for 20 yards. Hutson Mason had a 44-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley, a 32-yard screen pass to Sony Michel and also hit Michael Bennett with a 20-yard strike. Meanwhile, the Georgia defense allowed the Cardinals to also convert six 20-yards or more plays.
Untimely Mistakes (turnovers, penalties, clock management miscues, etc)
Let’s see … a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Michel was brought back because of a block in the back by Kenneth Towns, Brice Ramsey’s only action of the first half resulted in a thrown interception, thwarting a golden scoring opportunity after the Cards had failed to convert a fake punt attempt at their own 31-yard line, and an intentional grounding call on Mason cost the Bulldogs valuable yardage in the first half. Michel, in the second half, lost a fumble at the Louisville 31-yard line.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
Marshall Morgan booted two 41-yard field goals and also split the uprights with a 22-yard kick. The Bulldogs had excellent kick coverage the entire night and punter Collin Barber averaged 41 yards on two kicks. The primary special teams miscue came when Towns’ block-in-the-back erased Michel’s length-of-the-field kickoff return.
The Georgia defense reverted back to the Georgia Tech game when Louisville tailback Brandon Radcliff ran through at least five would-be tacklers on a 20-yard run early in the game. Also, there were missed tackles on a 20-plus yard pass completion by the Cardinals but, all in all, the Georgia defense stymied the Louisville running backs with sure tackling at the line of scrimmage and limited the Cardinals to a meager 62 yards net rushing. They also got good pressure at times on the two Louisville quarterbacks, Kyle Bolin and Reggie Bonnafon, although Bolin did throw for 300 yards on the night.
Yards after contact
Chubb was at his tackle-breaking best on his 31-yard touchdown run, shaking off at least three Cardinal defenders, cutting to his left and scoring standing up. He also, as attested by his record-breaking 266-yard evening, ran over and through would-be Louisville tacklers for all four quarters.
Georgia lost the one fumble by Michel and Ramsey threw the only interception. Defensively, the Bulldog secondary had two interceptions by freshman safety Dominick Sanders and one pick by senior corner Damian Swann.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
The Bulldogs were a perfect 3-for-3 on Red Zone scoring chances, getting touchdowns on two of those three trips inside the Louisville 20. The Cardinals got both their touchdowns on their three trips into the Red Zone.
Third down conversions
The Bulldogs were much better in this department on this victorious night, converting on 12 of 18 third-down chances. The Cardinals, meantime, could cash first downs on only six of 14 third-down tries.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
Georgia ran the rock 52 times for its 305 rushing total and Mason and Ramsey combined for 24 pass attempts, completing 14 of them for the combined 200 yards. A solid balance for winning football, I’d say.