The Georgia Bulldogs, to a man, were happy to get a 45-0 shutout of Austin Peay in Saturday’s 2018 lidlifter at muggy Sanford Stadium.
At the same time, the 3rd-ranked Dawgs weren’t exactly turning cartwheels as they met with the media in the post-game interviews underneath the East end zone stands. They realize this was, after all, an FCS team they manhandled in the season opener, a team that didn’t resemble the one they will encounter next Saturday afternoon at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium.
Still, though, Georgia did everything it was expected to do in a game such as this, and then some, as the Bulldogs roared into a 38-0 halftime lead and then backed off the accelerator in the final two periods when coach Kirby Smart played everybody but the water boy and trainers.
“We’re happy to get the win,” said Smart. “It was a good way to start. The kids played hard. But there are a lot of things we can improve on. We knew we couldn’t get better until we played a game. We’ll learn from this one, learn from our mistakes. We’ll get some things ironed out. We did it in spurts, just not consistently.
“A lot of kids got to play, and it’s a great opportunity to play in the first game,” Smart noted.
Speaking of the performances of sophomore incumbent Jake Fromm and freshman quarterback Justin Fields, Smart said, “We’ve got two good quarterbacks and I think both got better playing today.”
Asked about California transfer Demetris Robertson, who raced 72 yards for a touchdown on the only time he touched the ball, Smart replied, “It had to be awesome for his first touch to be a touchdown. He’s still not in the condition he needs to be in and he will tell you that. I think he got gassed on that run. But he came all the way from California to play here and he should have been here in the first place,” smiled Smart, alluding to Savannah native Robertson.
“It was just like a sweep,” said sophomore wide receiver Robertson. “Justin has the option to give it to me or give it to the running back. I just had great blocks on the outside edge and I hit the seam. I just said, ‘I gotta go, I gotta go.’”
“Of course on defense, you always want to get a shutout,” said Smart. “And no matter who you play, that’s hard to do in this day and time.”
Smart knows the tough challenge facing the Bulldogs next weekend.
“South Carolina has really good players and their coaches have done a great job,” he said. “They have a quarterback (Jake Bentley) like (Jake) Fromm, who knows the game. In the SEC, it’s that way every week. There are tough environments to play in … it will be loud, but it’s still a football field and all that matters is doing the best job you can do with discipline and execution.”
For a first game, Fromm thought the Georgia offense was very efficient in its totaling 508 yards, with 284 of that coming on the ground and another 224 through the air.
“I think we’ve got to play a little bit cleaner and get some things fixed up going to Columbia and playing South Carolina,” Fromm said. “But I thought both of us (he and Fields) put the team in good situations. It was awesome for D-Rob to go out and have that big run. I’m sure it had to be a great feel for him and it got the guys on the sidelines pumped up. I don’t think it really mattered (which QB was in). The offense as a whole was clicking today, the offensive line was pushing guys and the receivers and running backs were making plays.
“That’s awesome for the defense to get a shutout, especially for the young guys to go in and have that kind of confidence,” said Fromm. “So it was good to see those guys flying around and getting hats on the ball. It was awesome for those guys and hope they can continue to grow.”
Starting sophomore tailback D’Andre Swift, who ran for 43 yards on eight carries and a touchdown and also snared four passes for 33 yards to lead the receiving corps, said the Bulldogs will still need to be more physical against South Carolina next weekend.
“And that’s for the whole team.” Swift said. “We have a big game next week and a big opponent, and we’ve got to really hone it in with our physicality and we need to bring it to this game. But we’re just so deep on offense with everybody. You can see it: we’ve got so many different people who can do so many different things. That’s an advantage we have that’s going to be huge.”
Junior safety J.R. Reed also thinks the Bulldog defense may need to be more physical against Bentley, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and the rest of the Gamecock offense next Saturday.
“We did a good job on defense as far as the first team,” Reed said. “We could be a little bit more physical, and we like to play physical: that’s our brand of football. We’ve got to get those young guys coached up so they can play physical just like us, but I’m proud of them for keeping that goose egg up on the scoreboard.”