Georgia’s 3rd-ranked Bulldogs, with the South Carolina Gamecocks on the immediate horizon, flexed their muscles in the 2018 season opener this past Saturday, dominating little FCS school Austin Peay both on the scoreboard and in the final statistics to the tune of 45-0.
But you can’t say the Bulldogs didn’t work up a sweat in the dispatching of the Governors. It was one of the most sweltering openers within memory between the hallowed hedges.
Still, Kirby Smart’s third football team ran up and down the field at will against the visitors from Clarksville, Tenn. And, as you can see, the Bulldogs played pretty fair defense as well, not allowing Austin Peay’s offense to get on the scoreboard.
So let’s go ahead and look at the Stats That Matter for the defending SEC champions’ season debut. They’re pretty one-sided of course in favor of the Red and Black:
Plays of 20 plus yards (Offense/defense)
With quarterbacks Jake Fromm and Justin Field nickel-and-diming the Governors’ defense with short, quick passes to the running backs and receivers, there were amazingly only four plays in the game that went for 20 yards or more. Highly-touted California transfer Demetris Robertson showed his speed by dashing 72 yards for a touchdown on the only time he touched the ball Saturday; Fromm connected with also speedster Mecole Hardman on a 59-yard scoring strike and still another Bulldog blazer, freshman tailback James Cook, reeled off runs of 36 and 26 yards. The Georgia defense allowed the Govs no gainers of 20 or more yards.
Untimely Mistakes (turnovers, penalties, clock management miscues, etc)
The Bulldogs didn’t have any turnovers that hurt them, losing only one fumble in the game and that came when third-string quarterback Matt Downing entered the game late with the final 45-0 already on the board. And for Georgia, it was a pretty cleanly played football game as the Bulldogs committed just three penalties for 40 yards. But admittedly, one of those infractions was costly as the freshman Cook, while in punt coverage early in the 10-minute final quarter, went helmet-to-helmet with the AP punt returner. Cook was disqualified and will thus have to sit out the first half of the South Carolina game.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
Good day here also as the kicking game was superb and coverage on the punt team was more than adequate. The Bulldogs didn’t have to worry about kickoff coverage because All-America candidate Rodrigo Blankenship booted all eight of his kicks into the end zone for touchbacks. “Hot Rod” also tallied Georgia’s first points of the game on a 34-yard field goal and converted all six of his extra-point kicks. And freshman punter Jake Camarda lived up to his prep clippings by soaring three punts for a 55.0 average, including one kick he boomed for 63 yards.
Not many missed stops by Mel Tucker’s defensive Dawgs in this first game, as evident by the shutout of Austin Peay and Georgia limiting the Governors to just 152 yards of total offense … 91 rushing yards and only 61 passing. Indeed, the Bulldogs swarmed the Gov running backs and receivers the day long.
Both the Bulldogs and Governors lost one fumble each, with outside linebacker D’Andre Walker recovering for Georgia. There were no interceptions thrown by Fromm and Fields and the AP quarterbacks.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
The Bulldogs’ offense was perfect in this category, scoring all five times it reached the red zone … with four of those scores being touchdowns. The Govs, meantime, got to the Georgia 20 only once and of course, couldn’t cash in with points.
Third down conversions
Georgia was 4-of-9 on third down conversions while Austin Peay was a frustrating 2-of-13 against the gang-tackling Bulldog defense.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
Georgia ran 60 plays in the season opener for a total of 508 yards … 33 rushes and 27 passes. The Govs had 50 plays for their 152 total yards, running the football 29 times and passing it 21.