Georgia knew it was going to be tough to go into Jordan-Hare Stadium for its first true road test of the year. The Bulldogs probably did not anticipate the number of injuries they would have to deal with in such a hostile environment.
No. 2 Georgia took care of its rival, the No. 18 Auburn Tigers by a 34-10 score. Despite not having all of their top stars, especially on offense, the Bulldogs found ways to make efficient and timely plays leading to a decisive victory.
“If you would have told me that we were coming into Auburn this year six months ago and we would have had Ladd [McConkey] and [Adonai Mitchell] playing our X and Z, who would have thought that,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart after the game.
Georgia only had receptions from three true wide receivers on Saturday. Most of the yardage came from McConkey and Mitchell, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman, respectively.
The Bulldogs were without receivers Jermaine Burton (groin), Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (ankle) and Arian Smith (contusion). Dominic Blaylock also did not make his season debut as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken was able to rely on Georgia’s run game, which again amassed over 200 yards, and play-action passes to set up explosive pass plays for Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett.
“I thought Monken did a great job calling the game…tying the run game to the play-action,” said Smart. “Play-actions only work if you’ve got guys that can run and a run game that’s working. I thought there were some very timely calls there to get some explosives and a lot of our young player stepped up.”
Georgia got most of its chunk plays out of play-action with Bennett finding McConkey early in the second quarter for a 45-yard gain that would set up a Georgia touchdown. Later, Bennett found McConkey again, dropping it on the money for a 60-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs a comfortable lead at that point.
“Ladd freaking played a heck of a game,” said Bennett. “They brought the safety down on his touchdown and he stepped on his toes, took it deep and I just let it fly and trusted him.”
Georgia tight end Darnell Washington also had his first catch of the season off of a play-action pass. Part of the reason for UGA’s success in the passing game was because of the protection Bennett received.
The Bulldogs lost left tackle Jamaree Salyer during the game to an ankle injury. Broderick Jones, a redshirt freshman, filled in nicely as Georgia only allowed one sack on the game, which came on a rollout from Bennett.
Once the Tigers were forced to respect big-play ability in the passing game, Georgia went back to its bread and butter of running the ball. The Bulldogs have now rushed for 200+ yards in three straight games.
Zamir White led the team with 18 carries, totaling 79 yards and two touchdowns. Georgia’s last touchdown drive was perhaps its most impressive, mauling Auburn in the trenches. White, James Cook and Kendall Milton all contributed on the 10 play drive, putting the finishing touches on the win.
The Bulldogs offense will need to continue to get creative while some key stars heal up. However, Smart has instilled a mentality in his team that should suit them well when the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats come between the hedges next weekend. This is the first time that Kentucky has started 6-0 since Bear Bryant was the head coach in 1950.
“It’s gonna be next man up, no matter who is in,” said Smart.