The 3rd-ranked Bulldogs ran up and down Sanford Stadium at will in this past Saturday’s 49-7 romp over the outmanned Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and in this game, the real Stats That Matter were all those big plays that Georgia unveiled to streak to a commanding 42-7 halftime lead.
Setting the stage for Saturday’s crucial conference battle at Missouri, the now 3-0 Bulldogs (1-0 SEC) had no less than eight plays that went for 20 yards or more. But it wasn’t just the long gainers Georgia threw at the Raiders that enabled Kirby Smart to empty his bench over the last two quarters, the Bulldogs dominated every other phase of the game as well.
Plays of 20 plus yards (offense/defense)
The big plays began early for the Bulldogs: a 66-yard dash by Elijah Holyfield, a 21-yard run by Brian Herrien, a 20-yard pass from Justin Fields to Isaac Nauta, a 56-yard end-around touchdown run by Tyler Simmons down the right sideline, an electrifying 70-yard punt return for a touchdown by Mecole Hardman and, a 65-yard pass from Fromm to Jeremiah Holloman … and that was all in the first half. The Blue Raiders’ lone 20-plus yards play came on their 41-yard touchdown pass from Brent Stockstill to Patrick Smith in the second quarter. In the second half, Demetris Robertson sped 23 yards on the only time he touched the ball and third-string QB Matthew Downing passed to James Cook for 24 yards.
This was the area Smart wasn’t too pleased with as way too many yellow flags were thrown against Georgia … especially in the first half. Ahkil Crumpton was slapped with an unsportsman-like penalty on the opening kickoff, Cade Mays and Charlie Woerner were whistled for holding penalties, Jayson Stanley was tagged for a block in the back, Isaac Nauta was offsides on one play and the offense also sustained an ineligible receiver penalty. The Bulldogs did clean things up in the second half as the only other infraction came on an offside call on the kickoff. But near the end of the game, Georgia was tagged for having two No. 25’s on the field at the same time … Crumpton and freshman Quay Walker. MTSU declined that penalty.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
Hardman reeled off his long punt return for a touchdown and that man Rodrigo Blankenship continued his perfect run over three games, booting eight more touchbacks to give him 23-for-23 on kickoffs into the end zone this season. Blankenship also was 7-for-7 on PAT kicks on a day he wasn’t needed for field goals. Freshman punter Jake Camarda averaged 46 yards on three kicks.
The defense whiffed on a few short runs by the Raider backs but again was its usual ball-swarming self, with MTSU’s only touchdown coming when quarterback Stockstill passed 41 yards to a wide-open Patrick Smith.
Senior corner Deandre Baker, just as he did last week against South Carolina, started the game with a bang, picking off a Stockstill pass and rambling 26 yards … that coming after he had thrown Stockstill for a huge loss in the backfield. Also early on, sophomore safety Richard LeCounte pounced on a Raider fumble, which was caused, yes, by Deandre Baker. Georgia didn’t lose any fumbles and Fromm (10-of-12, 128 yards, 3 TDs) and Fields (6-of-8, 71 yards, 1 TD passing and 1 rushing) didn’t throw any interceptions.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
Quite the contrast here. The Bulldog defense didn’t allow the Raiders to drive inside the UGA 20 a single time all day while Georgia was a perfect 5-of-5 with red zone chances … cashing touchdowns all five times!
Third down conversions
The Bulldogs were successful 7 of 11 times on third down conversions while Middle Tennessee converted on just 7-of-17 opportunities. The Raiders also went 2-of-4 on fourth down tries.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
Illustrating again how those big plays paid off for Georgia, the Bulldogs ran just 56 plays for 484 yards, running the ball 35 times and passing it 21. The Blue Raiders, meantime, had 68 total plays for 288 yards, running the ball 38 times and passing it 30 times.