A look back at what decided the game between Georgia and Mississippi State.
MSU converted zero of its three attempted fourth down conversions. Coming into the game, Coach Smart said that third and fourth down conversions would be the key to this game. UGA’s defense did not disappoint. MSU was only 3-of-14 on third-down conversions. After the game, Smart seemed pleased with the defensive effort, noting that Kamari Lassiter made “a really good play” with an open-field tackle on a fourth and one from Georgia’s 9-yard line. Georgia’s defense continues to play at an “elite” level.
Ladd McConkey powered Georgia’s offense with a combined total of 141 yards running and receiving. The highlight was a spectacular 70-yard touchdown run on an end-around that saw McConkey out run the MSU secondary for a score. McConkey added five catches for 71 yards and another touchdown. McConkey’s latest offensive explosion follows his 94-yard effort against Tennessee. McConkey will likely earn an All-SEC selection at some level. As noted by Stetson Bennett after the game, McConkey has been “a stud from the moment he walked [on campus].” With AD Mitchell still on the shelf recovering from an ankle injury, McConkey has proven to be WR1 for the Dawgs.
Zavion Thomas’ 67-yard punt return for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half evaporated Georgia’s comfortable lead heading into the locker room. Georgia had controlled the momentum but suffered a quick three-and-out that forced the Dawgs to punt to MSU with 19 seconds remaining in the half. Thomas, who came into the game ranked third in the SEC with 9.9 yards per punt return, fielded the punt off a bounce and outran the punt coverage unit for a TD that brought MSU within one score at the break. Georgia has struggled just a bit of late with both kick coverage and kick returns. This is an issue that the Dawgs will need to button up heading into the final two regular season games and the SEC Championship game against LSU.
Georgia gave up only 47 yards to MSU on the ground while gaining 179 yards rushing. Georgia’s run defense has been spectacular and the return of Jalen Carter from injury has bolstered an already stout defensive front. Carter produced a total of seven tackles, including one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Georgia will look to bring the same defensive effort to Lexington next week when the Dawgs face a struggling Kentucky rushing attack that ranks second-to-last in the SEC, one spot ahead of MSU.
The number of touchdowns produced by Stetson Bennett. Bennett was 25/37 throwing the ball for 289 yards and three touchdowns. Bennett also ran for another score. Bennett’s TD run only covered four yards but Bennett looked like Barry Sanders as he figuratively broke an MSU defender’s ankles with a stutter step move that cleared his path into the endzone. “The three touchdowns were critical, really good throws,” Smart said. “He had some really good throws to Ladd.” Smart acknowledged that Bennett, who also had two interceptions, had some throws “he’d like to have back.” However, neither interception came from a bad throw, as the first resulted from Bennett having his arm hit while throwing and the second was on a tipped pass.