Like all those 92,000-plus fans in red and black who packed Sanford Stadium Saturday night for the Georgia homecoming game, Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart was elated with his UGA offensive unit, which ran and passed for a total of 696 yards … the second largest output in school history.
Coming within 17 yards of matching the record 713 yards the 2012 Bulldogs compiled against Florida Atlantic (as noted by the UGA official media guide), Georgia broke away from a 21-21 tie early in the second quarter to rout the upset-minded Missouri Tigers by 53-28, thus boosting the 4th-ranked Bulldogs to 7-0 on the season and 4-0 in the SEC with the reeling Florida Gators now on tap Oct. 28 in Jacksonville, following next weekend’s open date.
With freshman Jake Fromm enjoying his most productive game yet in a Georgia uniform with 326 passing yards and two touchdowns and the Bulldogs’ running game rolling up 370 yards after getting off to a slow start, Georgia has now beaten six opponents by 25 points or more, the lone exception, of course, being the 20-19 win at Notre Dame.
On this night, the Bulldogs’ offense needed to be sizzling, to overcome a bit of a letdown by a Georgia defense that had been superb in the six previous outings. Being jolted by a pair of 63-yard touchdown passes from Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock to speedy wide receiver Emanuel Hall, the Bulldogs gave up more points than they had in the last three games combined.
“The offense really saved us,” said Smart. “They did a tremendous job converting third downs, making plays, answering the bell. We had two deflating plays defensively and the offense had the backs of the defense.
“I was a little disappointed in some of the things we didn’t do well,” said Smart. “We just can’t do that to beat really good teams. … We did some poor things tonight that could get us beat in the future and we’ve got to continue to improve. Offensively, we still have series where we shoot ourselves in the foot,” he added. “What if we execute at the highest level?
“Defensively, what if we keep the players in front of us? How good could we be? We’ll keep showing things to the players and hopefully get better.”
Junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who again fronted the Bulldogs’ defense with eight total tackles, said Georgia had to make some adjustments at halftime after the secondary was burned by the two long touchdown passes in the first half.
“Missouri was doing a lot of nice protections and then just taking shots and it was fastball shots,” Smith said. “We just had to make those adjustments at halftime and we did a little bit better in the second half, but we still have room to improve. But they definitely have a great offense. They’re averaging like 400, 500 yards a game (469 entering the game). We knew they had a great offense, but we have a great defense, too,” he said. “We felt like it was gonna be a stalemate, but they made a few plays on us and we just have to get better.”
Senior nose tackle John Atkins, also noting the defense’s adjustments for the second half when the Bulldogs limited the Tigers to just one additional touchdown, said it all comes down to the unit’s experienced leadership.
“It’s very different this year,” said Atkins. “The guys, we’ve been together for some years now. Me, (Davin) Bellamy and Lorenzo (Carter), we’re kind of alike… what we said in the locker room earlier before the game is it’s a different vibe. The vibe that we have now, I haven’t felt that on other teams.”
Atkins, commenting on Fromm’s play, said the freshman signal caller continues to show remarkable leadership and poise.
“I expect that with all of my teammates because we practice it,” Atkins said. “The way we practice is the way you’re gonna play. I feel like with Jake — in the locker room he’s on my row, and he’s always just talking and happy. I’ve never really seen pressure get to him, that’s one thing I can say about him.”
Missouri head coach Barry Odom labeled the Bulldogs as a very impressive football team.
“I want to give credit to Georgia and Kirby,” Odom related. “They did a heck of a job, they have a really good team … as complete of a team as I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve known (Georgia offensive line coach) Sam Pittman for a long time, and I respect the job that he’s done everywhere he’s been. I think that offensive line is playing really, really well, at a high level.’’
Both Smart and Georgia linebacker Smith said they’re looking to get back to work in this upcoming off week and get prepared for a Florida team that will be coming off consecutive SEC losses to LSU and Texas A&M.
“They have to embrace work if they want to be champions,” said Smart. “We’ll find out about this team this week. Some call it an off week, some call it a bye week, we call it a work week. The seniors carry that load. They drive that message home. It’s their team and the young guys need to listen.”
Smart said the open week comes at a good time.
“It’s been seven weeks in a row in our league along with Notre Dame and Appalachian State. We need some rest and recovery. It’s coming at a great time. We’ve got some healing to do. It’s tough and it wears on your depth. We’ve got to get some guys healthy.”
Smart pointed out that the Florida game is always special.
“It’s a great atmosphere and a great rivalry,” he said. “It’s a great tradition game.”
“There’s no days off,” said Smith. “It’s the bye week and we’ll go and enjoy this for 24 hours. Then throughout the bye week we’re gonna do some things, a lot of things, to work on ourselves and we’re gonna focus on Florida. We’re excited for the opportunity.”
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