Kevin Butler’s Players of the Game: UGA vs. Arkansas State

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Kevin Butler’s Players of the Game: UGA vs. Arkansas State

Kevin Butler, former Georgia legendary kicker and a member of the Georgia radio broadcast team, will each week during the 2019 football season select his offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week for Bulldawg Illustrated. And this season Butler has added a new category to his superlative awards, “The Kicker” (Unsung Contributor to the Game). Here are Butler’s selections and reasons why for the Bulldogs’ 55-0 win over Arkansas State Saturday.

Andrew Thomas (71)
Andrew Thomas (71)

OFFENSE

Junior tackle Andrew Thomas, who helped pave the way for the Bulldogs to compile 656 yards of total offense — 5th best in school history — in the romp over the Red Wolves. Georgia rushed for 268 yards and passed for 388 behind the blocking of Thomas and his fellow O-linemen.

“The junior tackle is the leader of the offense and the entire team,” said Butler. “He has consistently graded out as the top-performing lineman in each game this year. That play continued Saturday against Arkansas State with a dominating performance in a game that was tough to predict … how the team would respond with the Irish looming in the background. Andrew will be the first offensive lineman taken in the NFL draft, in my opinion, because of his ability to secure the left side of the offensive line. That gives Jake (Fromm) the confidence to hold that ball a little longer and that time makes a difference in a completion and a sack. Andrew and the O-line will be tested this week by a much bigger and faster D-line than they have faced since Texas. Keep leading by example, Andrew!”

Tyler Clark (52)
Tyler Clark (52)

DEFENSE  

Senior defensive tackle Tyler Clark, who recorded five tackles and 1.5 sacks to spur a Bulldog defense that not only shut out the potentially explosive Arkansas State offense but also limited the Wolves to a meager 43 yards net rushing and 177 passing.

“The senior from Americus, Georgia. proved his domination Saturday, limiting Arkansas State’s rushing yards to 43 total for the day,” said Butler. “Tyler had five tackles on the day, two solos with three assists. He dominated with a sack and a half for a loss of 9 yards. That kind of pressure will be dearly needed this week against a much more potent Notre Dame offense. As a senior Tyler can develop into the leader of the big boys in the trenches for the Dogs. A great performance is a great lead into the anticipated ‘game of the century’ Saturday night in Athens. Tyler Clark is the key leader on the D-line and his leadership is very important heading into Notre Dame week.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

Redshirt freshman snapper Payne Walker, whose snapping for extra points, field goals and punts has been vital for the Bulldogs’ special teams’ success thus far.

“A snapper … that’s right!” said Butler. “Payne has stepped up and filled a need that can be the Achilles heel for any team. The snapper is a thankless job that takes time and precision. Payne has been consistent in his first three games and the pressure will ramp up as Saturday approaches. When the two plays that you are involved in happen in 1.2 and 2.1 seconds, there is no room for forgiveness. Whether it is Rodrigo (Blankenship) or Jake (Camarda), the snap needs to be perfect and they have been. Payne is also challenged to get down the field and provide lane coverage on the punt coverage team. Also, his name helps — Payne Walker! This week Billy Payne and Herschel Walker will be in the stadium. So will Payne Walker!”

UGA Paint Line honor Wendy Anderson, the late wife of Arkansas State Head Coach Blake Anderson, during Saturday's home game versus the Red Wolves, September 14, 2019.
UGA Paint Line honor Wendy Anderson, the late wife of Arkansas State Head Coach Blake Anderson, during Saturday’s home game versus the Red Wolves, September 14, 2019.

THE KICKER

The Georgia fans, who wore pink to the stadium Saturday to honor Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson and the memory of his late wife, Wendy, who lost her life Aug. 19 to breast cancer.

“In a sports world that is often run by greed and doing anything you can to win, the University of Georgia’s fan base took a step back in time and did the right thing,” said Butler. “The ‘Pink Out’ that the Georgia fan base committed to Saturday proved that there is still a bigger purpose than just winning. Honoring Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson and his wife, who last month lost her battle to cancer, was an unbelievable tribute to the man, the husband, the coach and the organization that had to battle with a real-life situation. The Georgia fans proved Saturday that there are much bigger things in life than winning at all costs. Coach Anderson showed great appreciation to the fans and their support, which helped him and his team get through a very challenging time. Now you know the real meaning of Damn Good Dawgs!”

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.