I was speaking
with my wife and said, "this is my favorite month of the year..."
She replied, "I know, me too. I was a bit surprised, knowing she
didn't care about football. "The leaves are changing, the weather is
cooler, a new TV season..."
"Right," I said preferring to just leave it at that.
There's something in the air all right. And its the sound, sights and
smells of a new college football season with the NFL following on
its heels next week.
Fans at Sanford Stadium are noticing some nice changes with off season
renovations. The north stands restrooms have new epoxy flooring,
touchless and LED fixtures, heaters and more. Additional
improvements have been made in the 300 and 100 levels north and all
of the 200 level.
New concessions include Dreamland BBQ (from Alabama) and Dunkin' Donuts.
The whole Gate 6 Plaza is now a food court.
Once the game starts, fans will notice a nicer video board and a new
LED ribbon board on the 300 level running from end to end.
Once again, Georgia comes into a season picked by the experts to win the
Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.
But, hold your
horses. Six times in the last ten years (2003, 2004, 2012, 2013,
2015 and 2017) the media has chosen UGA in preseason
polls. How did they do?
They made it and lost
to LSU in 2003. A no show in 2004. Fans still remember as they lost to
Alabama in 2012 as the clock ran out. Mizzou replaced them in 2014 and
Florida in 2015. So, of the six times they were picked, they made it
twice and lost both.
So, maybe this year will be different. Lets check out the schedule
and see what the possibilities are there. The pair of FCS schools as
home games shouldn't pose a problem. But, a few have given the Dawgs
fits in recent years.
Appalachian State is no cream puff. The Mountaineers will be
optimistic coming off a 10-3 season in which they earned a share of the
Sun Belt Conference championship and beat Toledo in the Camellia Bowl.
App State is picked to win their league title. And, they have been
reminding themselves as motivation that this is the 10th anniversary
when they pulled off one of the greatest upsets in college football.
On September 1, 2007, the Mountaineers went to Ann Arbor and stunned
No. 5 Michigan 34-32. And, App State did nearly defeat Tennessee in
Knoxville last season.
Georgia can also use that as a reminder not to take anyone for granted.
But, apart from those two games, which coincidence or not, each had
Mike DeBord as opposing offensive coordinator, the
Mountaineers have not fared well in facing Power 5 teams.
Appalachian State has hometown fifth-year Taylor Lamb at
quarterback. He also has someone to hand it to in 1,400-yard rusher
Jalin Moore. On the other side of the ball, their
D-Line is pretty agile. But, they're facing an older and improved
UGA's offense should put up a lot of points with Jacob Eason back
with a season under his belt at quarterback. The sophomore will also
have the benefit of both Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to
hand the ball to. Both backs waived a shot at going to the NFL to
come back for a final season. And both are healthy.
Everything is all set. All we need is
Baba O'Riley on the
PA system and we'll know its time for kickoff.
Appalachian State won the toss and deferred. Mecole Hardman took
the kick out to the 23. Not a great opening drive as the Dawgs could
only muster a yard. A short 43 yard kick was fair caught at the 33
where the Mountaineers took over. Not much better as they also went
three and out. An even shorter 36 yard punt was fair caught by
Terry Godwin at the 24.
The offense had a slightly better drive getting three yards. The
Cameron Nizialek punt was better going 53 yards to the 20.
Jalen Moore caught one for seven. A keeper by Lamb made it 32
yards all the way to the UGA41. But on the next play, JR Reed
forced a sack and a fumble for a 24 yard loss. The loss was too much
to overcome with UGA taking over after the punt at their 16.
On a play that drew a 15 yard penalty on nose tackle Myquon Stout,
Eason came up limping after running out of bounds with an injured
left knee and had to be helped off the field. Freshman Jake Fromm
came in for his first action. He immediately hit for a pair of
receptions to Isaac Nauta and Hardman to the 40. Michel broke
free for 10 to midfield. The drive stalled, but at least it was
showing signs of life. The punt pinned the visitors at their 8. The
defense with Trenton Thompson getting a sack at the six.
Goodwin took the punt for great starting field position at the AS39.
Nauta caught a quick one for 16 yards up the middle followed by 26
more to Javon Wims for a first and goal at the three. Chubb
got the rest for Fromm and the Bulldog's first TD of the season to
make it 7-0. Four plays, 39 yards in just 1.25.
The Mountaineers began at their 25 as the game moved into the second
quarter. On a third and seven, Lamb hit Moore for 29 on a wheel
route to the UGA49. D'Andre Walker took Moore on, head coach
Scott Satterfield went for it on fourth and six and failed
turning the ball over to UGA in great field position at its own 43.
It was Chubb's turn as the back picked up 23 followed by pair of nice
catches by D'Andre Swift to the 25. Godwin drew a pass
interference call by Clifton Duck at the six as Satterfield
took his first time out. Michel took the direct snap and barreled
his way into the end zone for a three TD lead, 21-0. Another fast
drive going just four plays and 57 yards in 1:07.
App State began their drive at the 15 with 6:51 left in the half. Lam
reached Thomas Hennigan for eight to the 29, then kept it for
a first down at the 34. A flair out to Hennigan picked up another
eight. The QB faked a handoff and took it for nine more up the
middle into UGA territory. Under duress by Reed, Lamb escaped and
ran out of bounds for a four yard gain to the 46. Then, the drive
started going in the wrong direction. Jalen Virgil shook a
few tackles for a nice gain but had it erased on a personal foul by
OL Victor Johnson moving it back to the AS 45. A third and 16
play drew another flag, this one a face mask on OL Beau Nunn.
At the 30, the Mountaineers faced a third and 31. Unable to find
anyone open, Lamb took off for nine but well short. The punt was
fair caught at the UGA23.
The Dawgs could only get seven yards and were forced to punt with 0:47
left on the clock. The Mountaineers worked their way to the UGA25
before time expired in the half with Georgia up 21-0.
Looking back, I'm not sure who was more impressive, Fromm or the Dawg
defense. The freshman QB came in under high stress conditions and
performed exceptionally well completing 8 of 12 for 109 yards. And
much of UGA's 209 yards of offense came after Eason left. Prior to
that, with the exception of the 15 yard penalty where he was
injured, they had nothing.
But, more importantly, he managed the offense. The defense held
Appalachian State to 190 yards. But most of that was between the
20s, tossing a shutout in the half.
App State's decision to defer to the second half gained nothing as they
went a quick three and out. The Bulldogs got the ball at their 34
with Chubb grinding a pair of carries for 19. After a penalty, Fromm
hit TE Jeb Blazevich for 12 to the AS39. Michel picked up the
first down at the 34. An off sides call gave Fromm a free play that
picked up a pass interference call on DB Shemar Jean-Charles
moving it to the 17. Chubb broke a few tackles and motored for 10
for a first and goal at the five. The drive ended there with
Blankenship coming in for his first field goal of the season,
connecting from 23 to put his team up 24-0.
The defense forced another three and out with Godwin fair catching
still another Xavier Subotsch short kick at the 33.
Chubb evaded several defenders weaving his way for 28 to the AS 43.
Wims pulled down a 22 yarder at the 15. Michel caressed the sideline
for six. Chubb refused to be taken down rambling for the remaining
eight for six points. UGA 31, App State 0. At this point, the even
running game had Chubb with 96 yards, Michel 87.
The Mountaineers would try again from their 30. About the only thing that
remained in doubt moving forward for both teams was whether the
shutout would remain intact. A three and out kept the thought in
place. As the game progressed into the final quarter, thousands of
phone lights imitating candles illuminated the crowd.
The Dawgs took over at their 31 but managed nothing. App State took over
after the punt in the shadow of their end zone at their 8. Lamb got
them some breathing room after an off sides call with a seven yard
toss to Zy Letman. Lamb converted a third and three with a
short pass to Dante Jones the 31. But the defense held it
there as UGA began their next drive at their 26.
For the rest of the game, it was plain vanilla on offense. No need to
show future opponents anything. Also, a great chance to give a lot
of freshmen playing time. Sixteen in all would get in the game.
Bryce Ramsey threw a pair of interceptions to allow the
Mountaineers a way to get on the board. And they got 10 before it
was all over. But, the first team UGA teams won 31-0. The second and
third stringers were outscored by the App State starters 10-0. Final
score, Georgia 31-10.
Michel and Chubb combined for 183 yards and three touchdowns in basically
three quarters of play.
The kicking game saw a vast improvement with Ivy League graduate transfer
Cameron Nizialek putting five of six unreturnable into the
end zone. The only one that was returned only came back 15 yards.
After the game, head coach Kirby Smart talked about the smooth
transition from Eason to Fromm.
"We didn't have to make a lot of adjusting," he said. "Jacob and
Jake have similar qualities. Jake's a good player and we're excited
about what he can do. Jake managed the game well. We'll keep working
to get him better."
Next up, the first ever trip to South Bend, Indiana for any UGA team as
the Bulldogs take on Notre Dame.
"We've got a huge game next week, said Smart. "That's a great opponent on
both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. ... We'll make it
simple for the players. We'll go out and get ready to go play. Notre
Dame is a good football team, a great program. We're excited for the
opportunity. We'll get prepared because it will be a physical, tough
The Fighting Irish beat Temple earlier 49-16 amassing 422 yards rushing.
The game will be on NBC at 7:30pm.