Posted: 12:55 am Sunday, September 24th, 2017
By Jay Black
ATHENS – This is the performance Bulldog Nation had dancing through its head when Kirby Smart introduced himself in December of 2015.
For those in the “Fire Mark Richt Camp”, the answer to your argument was right here under the steamy lights of Sanford Stadium on Saturday.
The victim was the Bizzaro Bulldogs from Mississippi.
The complaints were many. UGA doesn’t win the big games or if they do they never dominate. There’s too much barking and not enough bite. There’s no more Junkyard in the Dawgs defense.
Are you satisfied now?
Well I’d understand if you weren’t because no trophies were won tonight and this was a Mississippi State team that might be highly overrated. But that’s what the great teams do. They make good teams look awful. Missisippi State doesn’t stink. But they sure stunk up the place tonight.
It was the most impressive and complete win Georgia has had since it last won the SEC East in 2012.
Quite simply, this night, was awesome.
“We came and played with a lot of toughness,” said Kirby Smart on WSB after this 31-3 whoopin’. “Our mantra all week was discipline, discipline, discipline. I think we executed pretty well.”
Yeah no kidding.
Let’s start with King Kirby’s pride and joy. His defense. It’s been far too long since UGA fans watched a defense that was so fast and hit so hard that the opponents didn’t know how to handle it.
This is what you enjoyed tonight.
Smart has complained since he got here about too many missed tackles, poor tackling, bad tackling, etc.
This tonight is how you tackle a football player. This is how you hit and how you hit hard. Whether it was Lorenzo Carter on the first play of the night, or Roquan Smith planting Nick Fitzgerald on a near-miss sack later in the first quarter, or Monty Rice at the end of the game to keep the Bulldogs out of the endzone, these guys were all over the lot.
There’s some sore men flying back to Starkville.
“You can’t fake physical,” said Smart. “You have to live it, breathe it and eat it. I think these guys are starting to buy in.”
Through three quarters (we won’t count the fourth because the starters were hitting the showers), MSU rushed for 78 yards and threw for 79. This was a team that ran for nearly 300 yards a game and was outscoring the rest of the SEC by 10 points a game.
Tonight, they could not score a touchdown.
“That was big, big,” said senior LB Davin Bellmay. “We wanted to make a statement.”
That statement has been heard. Georgia is a contender in the SEC again and it has a defense that can win ball games again. This unit certainly has a shot to be ranked right up there with Brian Van Gorder’s squads that helped Richt win a couple of SEC titles.
It’s also the defense UGA fans thought they were getting when Kirby Smart was hired. The Alabama way.
“We are getting pretty close to it,” UGA analyst Eric Zeier told me. “There’s still always room for improvement, but when you look at the physical nature, the speed, the discipline, it’s a joy to watch those guys go play.”
Yes there’s always room for improvement, but there’s not much room to complain about anything on this night. Even Jim Chaney’s play calling, which is always a topic of great discussion, was masterful.
He drew up the perfect flea flicker to start the game and a fantastic playaction on third and short to end things in the third quarter.
“We got them twice,” said Smart. “We thought they had some undisciplined players that would peek in the backfield and that’s what they did.”
Jake Fromm answered plenty of my questions tonight. He only threw it 12 times which was all that was necessary. 201 yards on nine completions is a pretty good night, and 8-for-8 when it mattered in the first half.
“The kid is stepping up,” said Smart. “He’s starting to play.”
That’s going to be the missing piece. If defenses are afraid of Fromm, Georgia is going to be hard to beat. Because the offenses are certainly scared of the Dawgs D.
“In this league you’ve gotta be ready every week,” said Bellamy. “You can’t be too high on this win because we’ve got a tough environment next week.”
Davin is correct that Tennessee and that loud Neyland Stadium have all the makings of a trap game.
But, if Mr. Bellamy doesn’t mind, he has my permission to soak this one up because nights like these don’t come around very often.
Except its nights like these UGA fans were hoping for when Kirby Smart became top Dawg. Bulldog Nation hoped to see the culture of its football team change.
At least for one night, this is what that looks like.