Smart Not Happy With Penalties But Overall Pleased With Dispatching of Blue Raiders

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Smart Not Happy With Penalties But Overall Pleased With Dispatching of Blue Raiders

Lamont Gaillard (53) hikes the ball to Jake Fromm (11).
Lamont Gaillard (53) hikes the ball to Jake Fromm (11).
There wasn’t a great deal for Kirby Smart to complain about Saturday at Sanford Stadium … not when his football team went out and took care of business against 33-point underdog Middle Tennessee State, to the tune of 49-7.
In climbing to 3-0 on the season and staying at 1-0 in conference play, the Bulldogs surged into a commanding 42-7 halftime advantage and then turned the game over to the Georgia backups in the final two quarters. Despite Jake Fromm and the starting tailbacks watching from the sidelines the entire second half, the Bulldogs finished with 484 yards of offense while limiting the Blue Raiders to 288 yards.
Smart again liked the physicality and toughness the Bulldogs played with and all the big plays that the offense and special teams rang up. But as he always does, Smart found some areas he wasn’t pleased with, namely seven penalties for 54 yards, as Georgia begins to think about the crucial SEC counter at Missouri this coming Saturday.
“We started off a little rough with some penalties and organizational stuff that we’ll clean up,” Smart said. “But I thought we came out physical and played hard … I like the toughness we show during the week. We’ve created a standard the last couple of years, and now we’re owning it with players holding other players accountable.”
Smart said he was happy that the coaching staff was able to play so many players on another warm day between the hedges.
“Every player who goes in needs to perform like a starter,” he said. “There’s no room for error because we’re one play away from those guys. At times, I thought we did that really well. We’ve been able to play a lot of players the first three games. But we know a fourth quarter kind of game is coming. The only way to get better is to play. We coach them during the week and they think they’ve got it, but it’s different in a game. They can grow from that and they’ll be ready when their time comes.”
It was sort of a breakout day for sophomore receiver Jeremiah Holloman, who had three catches for a team-high 90 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown reception from Fromm and a 65-yard catch that set up a 12-yard scoring pass from Fromm to Riley Ridley.
“It feels good,” said Holloman. “I mean, competition in the room definitely has brought out the best of me, so that’s really what has gotten me to the level of what I’m at right now, but definitely it feels good,” Holloman said the receiving corps has really good chemistry with sophomore quarterback Fromm. “It’s just the fact that we trust him,” said Holloman. “He was definitely commanding the offense. He knows what’s going on at all times, and he’s able to relay the messages to us just in case we’re off of it or something like that. All in all, we all just trust him. That’s what it is.”
On the other side of the ball, sophomore safety Richard LeCounte, who notched 10 tackles in the big win over South Carolina and came back with three tackles and a key fumble recovery in Saturday’s win, is pleased with the progress the Georgia defense has made over the three outings to date.
“I see our defense really making a stand, doing everything we’ve practiced and setting the tone early,” LeCounte said. “Guys are doing their assignments and getting the job done early. It’s a great picture of what our defense is about. Playing with guys like Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed, they’re very experienced and keep me on my toes. They’re getting me to my spots, us helping each other. Maturing in that secondary, that’s a great thing for us to do,” he said.
“It’s been really fun so far,” said junior wideout Mecole Hardman, who continued his early-season heroics with a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown plus a 5-yard scoring catch from Fromm. “Really, I’m just going out there trying to help our team as much as I can, and make plays when my number is called and go from there,” Hardman said. “But definitely, I’ve been having fun this season and it can shape out to be a great season. It feels good getting the hang of things (at receiver), but definitely right now I feel more comfortable than I ever have. I’m just trying to keep my confidence level high and just be the best receiver I can be.”
“Georgia’s an excellent football team that played really good today,” related Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill. “I have a lot of respect for Kirby; he’s one of the good guys in this profession. As far as us, it’s tough sledding out there. They swallowed us up. They’re bigger than us, faster than us. We couldn’t create any separation at receiver. There were no openings, they just swallowed us up. That’s why they’re ranked where they’re ranked. I’m proud of our team. I told them that in there. Losing stinks. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Georgia or the 130th team in the country, it doesn’t matter, losing stinks. When they hurt, I hurt and I’m proud of that team in there because it was tough sledding today.”
For Smart and his staff, this easy victory has already been put in the rearview mirror. Much tougher days are ahead.
“Missouri is really talented,” said Smart. “And they’re big. They have big offensive linemen, quarterback, tight end, wide receivers … they’re built like an SEC team should be. Playing at their place is never easy. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”

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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.