Last night, after the Georgia Bulldogs’ 38-10 victory over the 18th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, Coach Kirby Smart was asked what he thought his team was elite at. He replied, “Taking a punch,” and with the way the game started, his team proved just that.
The Volunteers’ first play from scrimmage was a seventy-five-yard long touchdown run by Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright. The Dawgs were immediately down 7-0 just eleven seconds into the game. But, as Smart said, they’re elite at taking a punch. To answer that one touchdown, Georgia went on to not allow another offensive touchdown from the Vols while simultaneously scoring five of their own. It took what feels like most of the season to see it, but the Dawgs have clearly found themselves and embraced their ability to take a punch. However, that’s not the only ingredient to the success around these parts.
It was evident in the game, and Smart was asked about it afterward–Georgia is really good at third down, especially on offense. Georgia leads the nation in offensive third-down conversion rate at 56.76%, and that’s before yesterday’s nine for thirteen on third-down performance against the Vols–that’s 69.23%. Defensively, the Dawgs were there on third down too, holding the Vols to just two of eleven on the night.
Smart had this to say about his team’s ability on third downs:
“Third downs have been the difference for us, obviously, this year.”
Georgia’s ability to stay on the field and create scoring opportunities on offense has been such an underappreciated aspect of their journey this season. It’s easy to just look at the offense, see that they score a lot, and call it a day, but dominating third down and having the composure to convert is what’s really setting the Dawgs apart from the rest of the pack. You could see it play out against Tennessee.
Just look at Georgia’s time of possession compared to Tennessee’s. Georgia maintained possession of the ball for forty minutes and fifty-eight seconds of the game. Tennessee had only nineteen minutes and two seconds of possession. The Dawgs had twice as much opportunity with the ball in their hands, and the thirty-eight points on offense proved that they made the most of the opportunity.
All credit to the Tennessee defense. They created plenty of chances to get Georgia’s offensive unit off the field in the form of getting Georgia into thirteen different third-down situations. But Georgia–offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Carson Beck, in particular–just kept taking the punches and dealing them back.
It takes execution from all members of the team, but Carson Beck is often the star of the show when a conversion is completed. There were just so many moments where Carson Beck remained composed, went through his reads, and made the right decision.
This game versus Tennessee tells us that Georgia’s performance against Ole Miss wasn’t a fluke. Georgia has the ability and firepower to get it done. Ladd McConkey and RaRa Thomas didn’t even play against Tennessee, and Beck still threw for about 300 yards. It almost doesn’t matter who Beck is throwing to; the guy just gets it done.
Over the past eleven games they’ve played so far in the regular season, Georgia has grown elite at execution. They’ve been doing better finishing in the red area, keeping drives alive, and starting games off strong on the offensive side of the ball. And it’s just in time for rivalry week and then the SEC Championship, and then hopefully the College Football Playoff.