What would you expect?
When you dismantle the 17th-ranked team in the nation by a dominating 31-3 tally, the Georgia players were all smiles Saturday night in their post-game comments. As for head coach Kirby Smart, he’s never all smiles but despite his all-business demeanor, you’ve got to believe he was tickled pink with the manner in which his 11th-ranked Bulldogs took it to Mississippi State from the opening whistle to the closing gun in a performance that absolutely elated the Bulldog Nation everywhere.
“We came out and played with a lot of toughness,” Smart said. “Our mantra all week was discipline, discipline, discipline. I thought we executed pretty well,” he said, in somewhat of a gigantic understatement after his team completely shut down a Maroon Bulldogs’ offensive unit that came in averaging more than 47 points per contest. And after the Georgia offense clicked for 404 yards against a State defense that was also residing near the top of the Southeastern Conference statistics sheet.
The tone for this one was set on the Bulldogs’ very first play from scrimmage when tailback Nick Chubb took a handoff from freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, pitched the ball back to Fromm and the latter uncorked a 59-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Terry Godwin. Georgia never looked back after that, commanding a 14-3 halftime lead and then adding insult to injury by outscoring the Starkville Bulldogs by 17-0 in the second half.
On the quick touchdown strike, Smart commented: “I had gone to Jim (offensive coordinator Chaney) and told him I’d like to open with that and he said they had been talking about the same thing. We felt like there would be some players peeking in the backfield, and Terry (Godwin) got behind them.”
Smart, commenting on Fromm starting the game with eight consecutive pass completions and ending the night with a 9-of-12 performance for 201 yards and two touchdowns, said he was most pleased with the way his freshman quarterback managed the game.
“The kid is stepping up,” said Smart. “He’s starting to play. He’s always had that in him. He’s a good leader.”
Again, Smart was pleased with the sterling effort of his defensive team.
“We finally had a couple of turnovers,” he said, alluding to Georgia’s first interceptions in four games … second half picks by Deandre Baker and Dominique Sanders. “It’s been a long time coming. I can’t say enough about our defensive staff. They have worked really hard with the defensive group.”
Sophomore cornerback Baker said it felt good to notch the Bulldogs’ first interception of the season and, the third of his Georgia career.
“It came from a good rush from the D-line and the linebackers dropping in their zones, so (MSU quarterback Fitzgerald) had to put a little bit of air on it,” he said. “I thank those guys… We knew it was coming eventually. We have a saying in the defensive back room that ‘turnovers come in bunches,’” added Baker, referring to Sanders’ subsequent interception. “So I knew it would eventually come sooner or later.”
Senior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy, who teamed with Lorenzo Carter, Roquan Smith and the rest of the defense to apply pressure on Fitzgerald the game long, said holding the Maroon Bulldogs without a touchdown was huge for the Georgia defense.
“That was big, big,” Bellamy said. “We wanted to make a statement. This team that we have is a very humble team and we’re very disciplined. We knew that would come down to the winner of this game, and we wanted to make a statement with our helmets instead of our mouths.
“It’s the same that it was last week, just with how we practiced,” he said. “We practiced physical every day, full padded-up. You saw the results of it. The team right now… in this league you’ve gotta be ready every week. We can’t be too high on this win, because we’ve got to go to a tough environment next week and play some football.”
“It’s a great win,” said senior tailback Nick Chubb, who ran for touchdowns of 7 and 28 yards while again leading the Bulldogs in rushing with 81 yards on 15 carries. “Every win is great, but we’ve got to enjoy it for tonight and prepare for next week.” On playing at Tennessee for the first time since a season-ending knee injury in 2015, Chubb related: “Yeah, I’m ready for it… It’s a blessing. Last time I went up there, all that happened. It’s a blessing for me to go up there and be able to run like I always have been. I’m looking forward to it.”
Again, despite the Bulldogs’ most impressive performance in his two years at the helm, Smart said the team can’t get too full of themselves with this victory.
“Humility is a week away,” he said, alluding to next Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. date with Tennessee. “Whether we’d won or lost this one, we’d have to refocus and concentrate and get ready to do it again.”
Smart lauded the Georgia fans for making it difficult at times for Fitzgerald and the State offense to communicate their signals to each other.
“The crowd was electric,” he said. “The students were awesome. They were there in pregame warm-ups and that was really good to see. We need to keep doing that.”
Georgia’s performance left no doubt in the mind of Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen concerning the strength of the red and black Bulldogs.
“They’ve got a ridiculous amount of talent, that’s evident!” declared Mullen.
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