Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, “..They made plays they needed to make”

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Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, “..They made plays they needed to make”

Georgia WR George Pickens (1) and head coach Kirby Smart
Georgia WR George Pickens (1) and head coach Kirby Smart

Going into the 2020 Allstate Sugar Bowl, Georgia fans didn’t really know what to expect. Especially with all the buzz in the media about the team missing so many skilled players, but when it came down to it in the end Georgia proved they are the better team Wednesday night as they beat the No. 7 Baylor Bears 26-14.

The Bulldogs proved the country wrong when they jumped out to a 19-0 lead to in the first half, and continued to dominate in the second half, despite only scoring seven more points the rest of the game.

“A lot of credit to Georgia,” said Baylor head coach Matt Rhule in his post-game press conference. “I thought obviously they made the plays they needed to make. A lot of credit to Coach [Kirby] Smart. He got his team ready to play.”

After being embarrassed last year, Smart made sure his team was focused. He completely shut the media out of those eleven practices in Athens to ensure that his team had no distractions. In his post-game presser he seemed satisfied with the effort that his guys gave him Wednesday night.

“I said it the other day, I was very concerned about our players coming back to this bowl game where they would know the events, know the places, know all that, and not be excited about it,” said Smart in his post-game press conference. “But our kids embraced it. They embraced being with each other. They went to a bowling event. They went to a barbecue event. They went to a basketball game, and they had a blast each time. Each time we told them to turn on and work, they worked. We didn’t work long, but we worked really hard and really physical. They bought into that. I thought our coaching staff did a great job. Our players bought into it. The Allstate Sugar Bowl Committee has just been tremendous to us. I finally got a Sugar Bowl victory,” said Smart. “I’ve been to a lot of these and didn’t get many wins, but I got one this time. I’m proud of this team.”

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Granted it did take Georgia a few drives to get the offense going, but once it did Baylor had a hard time stopping it in the first half. A 46-yard reception by Pickens late in the first quarter led to a Rodrigo Blankenship field goal, and Georgia led 3-0.

Pickens continued to be a threat as he hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Fromm in the left corner of the endzone. For the game, Pickens caught 12 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. In the first half, Pickens had 11 receptions for 165 yards, and he caught one pass for 10 yards in the second half. The rest of the team combined for eight receptions for just 75 yards.

“[Pickens] is a really good player,” Rhule said. “When we left him one-on-one, he made the plays. When we played off him a little bit, they threw it out there and he made guys miss. That had been [Georgia’s] ‘M.O.’ coming into it—to get the ball to him.”

Pickens was named the Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP for his performance, and in his interview with ESPN reporter Holly Rowe he gave credit to his teammates.

“Put the camera on my teammates,” Pickens said. “We got after it. We chopped wood, and we’re going to continue to chop wood next season. Chop wood forever.”

Jake Fromm didn’t have a bad game himself as he was 20 of 30 passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns. But Fromm didn’t take any of the credit as he hyped up his teammate after the game.

“I love George,” declared Fromm. “George is a great teammate, a great football player. What I love about George is he loves football. He loves going out, competing. I can say for him showing up at practice, he’s the same guy, same competitor every single day. And I know I love it. I know Coach loves it. But he’s a competitor. He goes out and competes,” Fromm emphasized. “Seeing him do something like he did today, no surprise to us. And he’s just going out and playing the game he loves.”

“I thought the first half had us reeling,” Rhule said. “The second half [we] came back and, you know, fought to get back in the game, maybe had a chance. But credit to Georgia. They made the plays they had to make and came away with the win.”

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.