OXFORD, Miss. – While easing past Archie and Eli Manning on the Ole Miss career passing list, Rebel senior quarterback Chad Kelly also did a number on the Georgia Bulldogs here Saturday.
Guiding the Rebels to a 17-0 first quarter lead, Kelly drilled 18-of -24 pass attempts for 282 yards and two touchdowns – 233 of those yards coming in a one-sided first half – to spark 23rd-ranked Mississippi to a 45-14 rout of a 12th-ranked Georgia team that now must regroup for next Saturday’s key SEC East battle with the visiting Tennessee Vols. And adding insult to injury, Kelly also showed his legs to the Bulldog defense, racing 41 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to send the Rebels up 45-0 at the time.
Indeed, there wasn’t any suspense to this one from the get-go. Not only did the Rebels put the Bulldogs into that deep first quarter hole but they boomed their advantage to 31-0 at the halftime break … Kelly completing still another touchdown strike with just 43 seconds left before intermission.
The Bulldogs simply didn’t show up on either side of the football against a pumped Ole Miss team that had blown giant first half leads against both Florida State and Alabama but weren’t about to let this one get away against a Georgia team that couldn’t counter a single Rebel score.
Highlights for the Bulldogs on this day? That would be like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. The lone Georgia scores came on runs of 10 and 1 yards by backup Brian Herrien, the first with five minutes left in the third quarter and the score already 45-0 at the time and his second touchdown coming with 7:38 left in the game.
Now 3-1 and 1-1 in the league, the Bulldogs have a week to find out what went wrong before welcoming East division favorite Tennessee between the hedges for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on CBS-TV.
One thing head coach Kirby Smart will never do is try and sugarcoat a defeat of this magnitude. Georgia was simply bad on this afternoon in northern Mississippi and Smart said as much in his post-game press conference.
“We’re obviously very disappointed,” Smart said. “It’s frustrating. Their quarterback made some plays early and we didn’t respond. And offensively, we never got into a rhythm in the first half. Penalties kept us behind the chains some and we dropped some balls. We’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities when we’ve got them.”
Georgia ended the game with 230 yards net rushing but most of that came in the final quarter when the game was long since decided. The Bulldogs had just 93 yards at the halftime break.
“We’ve still got to have balance,” Smart said. “We’ve got to be able to run the football. We’ve got to run it on first and second downs so we can manage third down.”
Smart said he thought the Bulldogs had a sound game plan coming into Saturday’s contest.
“I had no idea we’d play like that,” he said. “We simply didn’t respond well when they had success and it’s the first game we haven’t done that. Again, we just couldn’t make any plays down field with their DB’s and our receivers.”
While the Rebels, recording eight plays of 20 or more yards, finished with 330 total passing and 180 rushing, the Bulldogs showed their 230 on the ground and 166 through the air. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason, harassed all day by the Ole Miss defensive front, could complete only 16-of-36 attempts for 137 yards, including throwing a 52-yard pick-six interception in the opening quarter.
“Jacob didn’t run the offense efficiently today,” stated Smart. “He’s a freshman, guys. He’s got to play better and control the huddle better. Still, he competed today and made some throws.”
With junior tailback Nick Chubb not playing in the second half due to a sprained ankle, freshman tailback Herrien led the Bulldogs with 78 yards on 11 carries and the two touchdowns. Junior back Sony Michel added 66 yards, also on 11 attempts. Chubb had 57 yards on 12 carries and freshman Elijah Holyfield made his first appearance at tailback and zipped for 27 yards on just four carries.
“Elijah ran the ball hard,” noted Smart. “They might have had some of their second people in there then but he ran hard and I’m proud of him.”
After his big night at Missouri, the Rebel defense all but took Isaiah McKenzie out of the game, limiting the junior speedster to three catches for 13 yards and one punt return for just eight yards.
Defensively, when a team surrenders over 500 yards of offense and 45 points, there’s not many Bulldog defenders to mention but junior safety Dominick Sanders did have seven tackles, with Trenton Thompson and Quincy Mauger following with five stops each.
“It wasn’t what they did,” said Sanders. “It was more of what we didn’t do. We just didn’t execute. We’ve got to go out to practice this coming week and get things corrected and get ready to play Tennessee.”
“There will be no finger pointing,” said Smart. “This falls on all of us, coaches and players alike. We just didn’t have anyone to make plays today. But I promise we will show up next week and give an ‘A’ effort against Tennessee.”
Georgia will face a Tennessee team that is really on top of ‘Ole Rocky Top after knocking off Florida 38-28; the Vols first win over the Gators in over a decade.