Despite this Georgia team continuing to vanquish all foes by comfortable margins – only Missouri has stayed within two touchdowns of the unbeaten, 2nd-ranked Bulldogs – fans have complained about the manner in which the team has posted the six wins to date.
Inconsistency on offense, an inability of the defense to slow down opposing rushing attacks, how much backup quarterback Justin Fields should be playing in place of starter Jake Fromm and one nagging penalty after another. That’s some of the laments being thrown out by Bulldawg Nation.
Maybe it’s just because the 2017 Georgia powerhouse spoiled everyone with its run to the national championship game and UGA fans are holding this young team somewhat unfairly to that same standard.
Saturday night, the Bulldogs celebrated a happy Homecoming by dispatching Vanderbilt 41-13 but, again, it took the Georgia offense a while to get uncranked … before the Bulldogs were able to build a 21-6 lead at the half and then go about putting the game out of reach in the second half.
On a night when Georgia compiled 560 yards of total offense while limiting the Commodores to 321 total yards and allowing Vandy only a pair of field goals until the final two seconds of the game when the Dores finally cashed a touchdown against the Bulldog backups, there were still kinks in the UGA armor. Primarily, 13 penalties for 115 yards with many of the assessments against Georgia coming on inexplicable personal foul calls.
While happy to remain in the ranks of the undefeated, the Bulldogs themselves were in agreement with the UGA fandom to an extent, knowing they will have to perform much more cohesively to get by a previously unbeaten LSU team that is smarting from Saturday’s upset loss at the hands of the Florida Gators.
“We have to be better than we have been,” said senior center Lamont Gaillard, who left the game with an apparent hand injury but did return. “We’ve definitely got to start faster and we preach that. If we don’t go out and score every time, that’s on our offense. But we’ve definitely got to start faster next week when we play LSU,” he said. “We’ve got to come out and click on every cylinder. We’ve got to be more consistent, we’re definitely not consistent right now.”
Senior defensive end Jon Ledbetter said the defense made a couple of adjustments in the second half and did better in slowing the Commodore run game but still didn’t perform as it should have.
“We made some adjustments but those adjustments didn’t allow us to play to our standards so we didn’t adjust and then do what we’re supposed to do,” Ledbetter said. “They got 138 rushing yards and that’s just unacceptable. We’re used to holding teams to 50, 60 rushing yards. They’ve got a good football team and taking nothing away from them but that’s what we do at Georgia … we stop the run and I don’t think we did a good job of that tonight. We hinge on stopping the run and we’ve just got to go back to the drawing board this week and hone in on some things and get ready for next weekend. LSU is coming off a tough loss to Florida, they’re coming in with a chip on their shoulder and we’re in their house so it will be a hostile territory,” said Ledbetter. “It’ll be a fun game and we’ve definitely got to come in and execute. We definitely can’t have the mistakes we had out there today.”
Sophomore tailback D’Andre Swift contributed a solid all-around effort to the win, rushing for 50 yards on just seven carries and also showing four catches for 49 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown when he pulled in a short pass from Fromm and turned on the after burners in the open field.
“I think we did good and it showed what we can do when we all come together,” said Swift. “I think our best is yet to come as a football team. It felt good tonight to get out in the open field (on TD reception). But I’m good, I’m 100 percent again,” Swift said, alluding to a lingering groin injury that slowed him in camp and the season’s outset.
Junior tight end Isaac Nauta, who rendered several big catches and runs for Georgia, was asked how much the 17-16 homecoming loss to Vanderbilt two years ago motivated the Bulldogs.
“You really don’t want to focus too much on that because at the end of the day it’s about us, what we do, how we perform,” said Nauta.” It doesn’t matter where we’re playing, who we’re playing. It’s how we play and how we execute. We didn’t think about what happened to us here two years ago and we didn’t think about last year (blowout win for Dawgs in Nashville). It’s a new team for us and a new team for them and we had to make sure we came out ready to play.”
Fromm, who drilled 17-of-23 passing attempts for a season-high 276 yards and three touchdowns, said the jump start of the Bulldog running game – Georgia finished with 219 on the ground after running for just 56 yards in the opening half – helped to open up the passing attack even more.
“Our offense is built on running and mashing those guys up front so it pays off for us in the second half and I think it did tonight,” Fromm said. “You saw James (Cook) take off on a long run (an apparent 78-yard scoring run that was ruled a 22-yarder when replays showed Cook stepping on the sideline chalk in front of the UGA bench). Eventually those body blows start to wear on guys. We’re not playing as great as we want to be but I do think we’re starting to take more strides on offense and play a little bit better than we have in the previous games,” he said.
Fromm dished out praise for senior wide receiver Terry Godwin, who got the Bulldogs going with his 75-yard, first quarter touchdown catch from the Bulldogs’ quarterback. After pulling in the long heave running behind the Vanderbilt secondary Godwin, healing from a preseason knee injury, twisted away from a Commodore would-be tackler inside the 10-yard line and then faked out another Vandy defensive back before stepping into the end zone.
“It was a great play by Terry,” said Fromm. “It’s good to see Terry back out there making those kind of plays. He’s fully capable at any time of making a play like that. Like I say, it’s good seeing him back out there, kind of getting his mojo back and I can’t wait for him to be a vital part of our offense.”
“LSU will be out to bounce back,” said Fromm, alluding to the Tigers’ upset loss at Florida Saturday. “You put a Tiger in a corner and he’s going to come out fighting and I can’t wait to play them at their place next week.”
“I thought Jake did a great job of managing the clock tonight,” said head coach Kirby Smart.
Smart certainly liked the way the Bulldogs went about their business from near the end of the first half when they drove 75 yards in just over a minute to go up 21-6 at the intermission – on the strength of Fromm’s 10-yard pass to Riley Ridley in the right end zone corner – but overall, he said Georgia didn’t play its best football before the very vocal homecoming crowd.
“We could have played better,” said Smart. “This team just hasn’t played with the physicality we need to defensively. Offensively, we have at times but have to be more consistent. And again, we had way too many stupid, undisciplined penalties.”