How about them Dawgs’ … offense!
On a night when the Georgia defense surrendered a season-high 28 points – two of those touchdowns coming on identical 63-yard touchdown passes by Missouri quarterback Drew Lock – the Bulldogs’ offense again erupted for the second consecutive Saturday, compiling a near school record of 696 yards to enable Kirby Smart’s unbeaten team (7-0) to dismantle the Tigers 53-28 on a happy Homecoming evening in Sanford Stadium.
That total yardage mark was the second most in school history, behind only the 713 yards the Bulldogs amassed in 2012 against Florida Atlantic
And you UGA fans who wanted to see freshman quarterback Jake Fromm throw the football more, well, you got your wish … and then some! Fromm, whose previous high passing mark this season was 201 yards against Mississippi State, riddled the Missouri secondary for 326 yards, completing 18-of-26 throws for two touchdowns with a lone interception that led to the Tigers’ first touchdown.
But it wasn’t only Jake Fromm and his band of receivers that provided the offensive fireworks for a Georgia team that entered the game with a No. 4 national ranking and is now sure to move up after the second-ranked and defending national champion Clemson Tigers were shocked by Syracuse Friday night.
For a second straight week the Bulldog rushing attack rolled up big numbers as, following a sluggish start, Georgia romped for 371 yards on the ground as freshman D’Andre Swift, thanks to a 71-yard run in the third quarter, led the balanced attack with 94 yards on just six carries and, he had a 36-yard jaunt nullified due to a penalty. Sony Michel followed with 86 yards on just nine carries, including touchdown runs of 36 and 16 yards, and then came Nick Chubb with 70 on 16 totes and Elijah Holyfield with 48 yards on six attempts.
With major upsets and near upsets dotting the football landscape this weekend, the 1-4 Tigers came between the hedges sporting the same idea. And Missouri, thanks to the two 63-yard passing bombs from Lock to Emanuel Hall when the Tiger receiver ran open twice behind the Georgia secondary to snare Lock’s deep throws, kept the Bulldog faithful on the edge of their seats until midway of the second quarter when Georgia pulled away from a 21-21 tie to move into a 34-21 halftime advantage.
The Bulldogs’ run game then kept pounding on the tiring Tiger defense after intermission, enabling Georgia to outscore Missouri by 19-7 in the second half and win the contest going away.
On a night when the Bulldogs’ offense erupted for one explosive play after another, sophomore wideout Mecole Hardman put up two touchdowns, getting Georgia’s first on a 35-yard run on the jet sweep and then pulling in a sideline pass from Fromm in the fourth quarter and turning on his jets to go 59 yards to the end zone. Michel also reached the end zone twice, on his 36 and 16-yard dashes, Riley Ridley made an outstanding 19-yard catch in the right corner of the end zone on a first-quarter Fromm throw; Fromm also scored on a 4-yard keeper and Rod Blankenship rounded out the Georgia scoring barrage by booting field goals of 37, 43, 29 and 27 yards to couple with his five PAT kicks and eight touchbacks on kickoffs.
Back to the UGA receivers, senior Javon Wims set the pace with five catches for 95 yards. Terry Godwin, before sustaining a ribs injury, snared four balls for 42 yards while Hardman showed two catches for 71 including his 59-yard scoring run and freshman Charlie Woerner also contributed two receptions for 66 yards including one 50-yard reception when he leaped over a would-be tackler on his run … a move that both Chubb and Swift emulated on this night, much to the delight of the 92,000 plus looking on.
In retrospect, though, one can say the Bulldogs’ defense maybe performed better than Missouri’s 28-point total reflects. Georgia limited the Tigers to just 59 yards net rushing and take away the two 63-yard touchdown strikes from Lock to Hall – which you surely can’t do – and the Missouri quarterback had just 127 yards on the other 13 passes he completed.
Going from sideline to sideline again with his astounding speed, junior linebacker Roquan Smith sparked the defense with eight tackles. Defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter and freshman linebacker Monty Rice followed with five stops each and then came Lorenzo Carter and J.R. Reed with four tackles apiece. Rice and Carter had tackles-for-loss but the defensive highlight of the night was provided by senior safety Dominick Sanders when he picked off a Lock second-quarter pass and returned it 18 yards. That led to Fromm’s 4-yard touchdown run which lifted the Bulldogs up by 31-21 at the time, with just 3:53 left until halftime. It was Sanders’ 14th interception of his career and now holds the school record for career interception return yardage with 329, passing the great Jake Scott who had 315 on a school-record 16 picks.
Now, the Bulldogs will have their annual open date next weekend before then placing their 4-0 SEC record on the line against the Florida Gators on Oct. 28 in Jacksonville. With Florida being dealt its second consecutive conference loss on Saturday by visiting Texas A&M, it’s safe to say Georgia will be facing a wounded Gator that Saturday afternoon at EverBank Field.
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