I was way off base with my prediction for this game. It is not that I predicted Georgia to lose the game. However, I did predict a much tighter contest. Arkansas State is a program with a proud tradition of playing excellent football. Additionally, they had what I saw as the added boost of getting their coach back on the sidelines after his highly-publicized bereavement leave. Saturday’s tilt in Athens seemed to have all the earmarks of a closer than expected game.
The problem with my analysis was that I underestimated Georgia’s development on defense. A shutout always means that a defensive team has played well, but this performance was a stop-’em clinic. The Dawgs completely shut down ASU’s ground game and harassed the Red Wolves’ quarterback consistently. Arkansas State averaged 1.5 yards per rush attempt. Even in today’s pass-happy environment, that is a loser’s stat.
From my vantage point on the sidelines, Georgia was all business. Kirby Smart always talks about focus, and one could easily see that the message was absorbed by his charges this week. Admittedly, there were smiles and celebratory chatter after the game was out of hand, but the Bulldogs had furrowed brows and a sense of purpose in the leadup to kickoff. One thing is certain. This staff had cemented the team’s attention on the visitors from Arkansas. There was no looking ahead to the Fighting Irish.
Speaking of Notre Dame, the tune-up for Georiga’s 2019 run toward the post-season is over. The Irish will descend on Athens next Saturday, determined to avenge the loss inflicted by Georgia in Jake Fromm’s first start two years ago. The thing I remember most clearly from that game is that I never felt that UGA was going to lose. Although it was an extremely close game, one could sense that Coach Smart’s team never panicked. They keep playing their game and creating their breaks. I expect this year’s team to do the same thing – except the 2019 Dawgs are a much better team and will rise to this opportunity to shine in the national spotlight.
See you Saturday in Athens!