Smart and Bulldogs Happy With Win But Know Much Improvement Is Needed

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Smart and Bulldogs Happy With Win But Know Much Improvement Is Needed

Kirby Smart talks about Georgia's 31-10 over Appalachian State in his post-game press conference - Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 -
Kirby Smart talks about Georgia’s 31-10 over Appalachian State in his post-game press conference
– Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 –

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was generally pleased with the Bulldogs’ season-opening 31-10 romp past the outmanned Appalachian State Mountaineers but at the same time, he said his team must improve in a number of key areas before they can expect to beat Notre Dame next Saturday night in South Bend, Ind.
“That was a long time coming for our kids,” said Smart. “They’ve worked really hard. We have a lot of respect for Appalachian State. Our team played really hard in the second half. Our kids were persistent. Appalachian State is very quick on the defensive front and it’s hard to run the football against teams like that. But we talked about just chopping wood and keeping it going,” he said.
Of course, Smart said it was tough losing starting sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason in the early going with a knee sprain but at the same time, the Bulldogs coach was pleased with the way freshman Jake Fromm performed in relief of Eason.
“We didn’t have to make a lot of adjusting. Jacob and Jake have similar qualities,” Smart said. “Jake’s a good player and we’re excited about what he can do. Jake managed the game well. We’ll keep working to get him better. Jake did everything what we expected Jake Fromm to do. He plays in scrimmages like he did out there tonight (10-of-15 passing for 143 yards including a 34-yard touchdown pass to Javon Wims). Jake plays up tempo like he did in high school but we also did it when Jacob was in there – we just couldn’t get going.”
Smart was especially pleased with Georgia’s defensive performance. Before the Mountaineers intercepted backup quarterback Brice Ramsey twice in the final minutes, it appeared the Bulldogs’ defense would pitch a first-game shutout.
“Coach (Mel) Tucker did a tremendous job and the kids played hard for him,” said Smart. “He’s so passionate. We just kept executing. And with our special teams, the punting flipped the field. Cameron (Nizialek) did a great job. The coverage did a great job. Rodrigo (Blankenship) kicked it in the end zone and was a weapon.”
“We did a good job offensively today,” said sophomore tight end Isaac Nauta, who had two catches for 24 yards in the victory. “There’s definitely stuff we’ve gotta clean up, but overall I’m proud of everybody. They fought hard.”
Concerning Eason’s injury, Nauta commented: “Obviously, Jacob is one of our brothers. You never like to see that for a guy. We’re all gonna rally around him and it’s going to be good. But we’ve practiced so hard and those guys get a lot of reps, so Fromm came in and he did a great job. We knew he was gonna do good for us and he’s a good player, so we were excited.”
Junior defensive lineman Trenton Thompson was also proud of the defensive unit’s first-game showing.
“We just keep working, ‘cause we won’t stop,” said Thompson. ‘We’ve gotta keep staying together because if we don’t, something else could happen. But we have confidence is in the game plan our coach has for us and how we practice Monday through Thursday. As long as we stay together at practice, understand what we have to do as a unit and as a defense, we’ll be okay,” said Thompson.
“We’ve got a huge game next week,” Smart said, when asked about the approaching game against the Fighting Irish. “That’s a great opponent on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. We’ll make it simple for the players. We’ll go out and get ready to go play. Notre Dame is a good football team, a great program. We’re excited for the opportunity. We’ll get prepared because it will be a physical, tough game. And it’s an awesome opportunity for our fan base,” concluded Smart, “to get to go to a place where Georgia players have never performed.”



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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.