Down through the ages in high school football, college football and the NFL, the real formula for winning success has been fairly simple: Run the football and stop the run!
And the South Carolina Gamecock Nation discovered at Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday that Kirby Smart’s third Georgia team does that extremely well, as everyone will see in these weekly Stats That Matter. The Bulldogs’ dominating 41-17 spanking of the Gamecocks – the most points Georgia has ever scored in Columbia – enabled the 3rd-ranked Dawgs to capture their first SEC outing and climb to 2-0 on the young 2018 season, with Middle Tennessee State on tap this coming Saturday night in Athens and then a big conference road trip to Missouri looming on Sept. 22.
Plays of 20 plus yards (offense/defense)
Illustrating what kind of day he had, three of the five plays the Bulldogs managed in this category came from the flying feet of junior wide receiver Mecole Hardman. Hardman had a 30-yard run on a lateral pass from Jake Fromm, scored on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Fromm on Georgia’s clutch touchdown drive to open the second half and, also, pulled in a 42-yard strike from Fromm to set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Elijah Holyfield. The Bulldogs’ other big play came when cornerback Deandre Baker sped 55 yards on an interception to the South Carolina 1-yard line in the opening minutes of the game. When Baker dropped the ball before crossing the goal line, on-the-spot linebacker Juwan Taylor scooped it up and stepped into the end zone for Georgia’s first touchdown. Holyfield also reeled off a 26-yard run in the win. And the Georgia defense didn’t allow the Gamecocks a single 20-plus yard gainer until the final quarter when the game was well out of reach. That came on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Jake Bentley to Bryan Edwards.
Untimely Mistakes (turnovers, penalties, clock management miscues, etc)
While Bulldogs’ senior corner Baker had the big interception run to set up Georgia’s first touchdown, he also was whistled for two pass interference infractions while defending Carolina’s highly-touted wideout, Deebo Samuel, on consecutive Gamecock possessions in the first quarter. But Smart said in his post-game session with the media that he liked Baker’s aggressiveness in covering Samuel, who was limited to 33 yards on six catches by the UGA secondary. Also hampering the Bulldogs a bit in the first quarter was a delay-of-game call and a personal foul assessment against wide receiver Riley Ridley for an illegal block. But, good thing, the Bulldogs didn’t have a single penalty in their 21-7 second-half domination.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
Rodrigo Blankenship was his usual perfect self, booting field goals of 45 and 44 yards – the latter coming on the final play of the first half to provide Georgia a 20-10 halftime advantage. And again, he boomed all seven of his kickoffs into the end zone, thereby preventing any possible kick returns by Samuel. Blankenship has now recorded touchbacks on all 15 of his kickoffs in the team’s two wins. “Hot Rod” also again converted all five of his PAT attempts. Freshman Jake Camarda punted only three times for a 41.3 average, one a 62-yarder that bounced into the end zone. But he also shanked a 33-yard punt.
For the second consecutive game, the Georgia defense was superb in this area, especially against the Gamecocks’ running game where the Bulldogs limited South Carolina to a meager 54 net yards.
Neither team lost a fumble but the Bulldogs got two interceptions off Bentley, Baker’s 55-yard pick on a deflected pass and J.R. Reed intercepting Bentley in the end zone in the final quarter. Georgia’s lone turnover came in the opening half when Fromm’s badly overthrown pass was picked off by the ‘Cocks … only one of three passes Fromm misfired on in his 15-for-18 showing for the game.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
Georgia got touchdowns on three of its four excursions into the red zone while Carolina had a touchdown and field goal in its three trips inside the Bulldogs’ 20.
Third down conversions
One of the areas where the Dawgs didn’t fare well on Saturday as they converted on just four of their 10 third down attempts; however, they were 1-of-1 on a fourth down conversion. South Carolina was 6-of-14 on third downs and the Bulldogs stopped the Gamecocks both times when they went for it on fourth down.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
Georgia rushed the ball 52 times for 271 net yards and passed it 19 times for 202 yards for 71 total plays. Carolina rushed only 20 times for 54 yards while passing the ball a whopping 48 times for 282 yards.