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 chomping at the bit for the new season.
They're normally excited anyway. But, after the success of 2017,
everyone is looking for more of the same, and more. They had waited
235 days since the National Championship Game. That's the shortest
offseason in UGA football history.
The Bulldogs lost a lot of talent with Nick Chubb (now with the
Cleveland Browns) Sony Michel (now with the New England
Patriots), Isaiah Wynn (also with the Pats but out for
the season with a torn Achilles) and Roquan Smith (now with
the Chicago Bears). For most teams, that would be too much to
overcome in one season. But, UGA had an incredible recruiting class
and will be the definition for the term "reloaded." That's not to
mention the many returning players who will provide leadership.
Deandre Baker should shine at defensive back. And Andrew
Thomas may be a better left tackle than the departed Wynn.
Jake Fromm has a season under his belt and should be even
better. It will be fun to watch the likes of Justin Fields, Tyson
Campbell, and Brenton Cox.
Many are expecting a cakewalk against Austin Peay, an FCS team from the
Ohio Valley Conference. But the Governors are pretty talented,
finishing 2017 at 8-4 record. AP has completely turned around their
program since the arrival of head coach Will Healy. After
being a perennial loser, they are now considered a favorite for the
Ohio Valley conference in 2018.
With the familiar opening notes of
The Who's Baba
O'Reily, the season was under way. The Bulldogs got the ball
first and after a nice Brian Herrien return, began their
drive at their own 42. A toss left to D'Andre Swift gained 8
and a first just across midfield. A Jake Fromm 8 yard
completion to Ahkil Crumpton got another first. But the drive
stalled with UGA settling for a Rodrigo Blankenship 34 yard
field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
Austin Peay began their first drive with some confusion. Before the first
snap, they got a delay of game call. Then, QB Jeremiah Oatsvall
took a time out. On a third and 8, a toss right to
DeAngelo Wilson picked up a first. A third and four at the 42
netted nothing ending the drive. UGA began at their 20.
Swift took a handoff and motored out to the 35, then took a pass to the
45. Herrien made a defender miss and got 13 and a first into AP
territory at the 40. Riley Ridley got his first catch for 11
to the 29. On a third and seven, Fromm hit an open Swift, who took
it to the 15. On the next play, Ridley caught it at the three and
dove in for a 10-0 lead. The scoring drive moved 80 yards in 11
plays in 3:50.
The Governors took over at their 25. Again, mistakes as a 5 yard carry by
Oatsville was called back on a false start moving it back to the 20.
Then a missed toss was fallen on by D'Andre Walker giving the
Dawgs a first and goal at the 9.
It took just one play for Swift to tack on six extending the lead to
The so far feeble AP attack, if you could call it that, tried again at
their 25. JaVaughn Craig came in at QB and hit Wilson for a 9
yard first down at the 35. A sideline warning was given to the
visitors. Another completion to DJ Montgomery got 10 more to
cross midfield for the first time as the first quarter came to an
A third and two was converted with Craig keeping it to the 29. Another
third and two and Craig was brought down by Monty Rice short
to force a 37 yard field goal attempt. Attempt was the key word as
it sailed wide left keeping the shut out in tact.
Freshman QB Justin Field came in and kept it for six. On the next
play, the Dawgs showed them how to do it with Demetris Robertson,
a recent transfer from Cal, taking it the distance 72 yards for a
Again starting at their 25, again the Governors went three and out.
Mecole Hardeman fair caught the kick at the 31.
A nice gain by Tyler Simmons was nullified by a hands to the face
call, putting it at the 35. Fields still in behind center, keeping
the ball for a 10 yard gain to the 45. Fields found no one open and
took off for 17 all the way to the AP34. A third and six was
converted by a wide open Ridley. First and ten at the 18. Elijah
Holyfield went left, then did a couple of nice jukes, scrambling
for all of the 17 yards between him and the end zone to make it
So far, the 25 yard line had not been very nice to Austin Peay to start
drives. They were there again. Oatsvall returned to QB. Same result.
Another punt. Bulldogs at their 30.
Fromm back in with an 11 yard completion to Crumpton for 12 yards to the
UGA41. Hardeman got wide open up the middle and outran the coverage
for a 59 yard TD. 38-0. The drive only took four plays, giving the
Governors another shot to score with 1:28 remaining in the half.
With 74 total yards of offense, it didn't look likely. After three
failed plays they let the clock run down to 10 seconds. The half
ended with UGA dominating every stat with 360 well balanced total
yards of offense to 81.
Austin Peay started the second half with a dropped handoff. But a lateral
to Wilson got it out to the 42. The 12 yards was their longest gain
so far. They couldn't get any more with Georgia getting it back with
their worst starting position at their 15. At this point, about 25
percent of the faithful had left satisfied that victory was not in
Fields back in. The field position quickly shifted to the 38 with a nice
pass to Trey Blount. But, for the first time in the game, UGA
had to punt. The touchback put the ball at the 20 for the hapless
Craig took his turn at QB trying to find a spark. Instead they continued
to flicker. Three and out again with the fair catch at the UGA40.
Fields still at QB and right away, a handoff to James Cook went 36
yards all the way to the 18. A short third down pass to Isaac
Nauta and the tight end shook off a defender and turned into the
end zone for a 45-0 score.
You could almost pencil in each AP drive. Start at the 25, three and out,
punt. UGA ball at their 30.
Third string freshman QB Matthew Downing spent most of the time
behind center for the rest of the game as Kirby Smart took
his foot off the gas and just ran the clock out. Even with that, UGA
finished with 508 yards of offense to 152 for AP. The only item of
note was James Cook getting flagged for targeting. Part of that
penalty will be assessed in the first half of next Saturday's game
at South Carolina.
"We played hard, but there's a lot to improve on," said Smart after the
game. "It won't be as easy next week. South Carolina has really good
players and their coaches have done a great job. They have a
quarterback like (Jake) Fromm, who knows the game. In the SEC, it's
that way every week. There are tough environments to play in. ... It
will be loud, but it's still a football field and all that matters
is doing the best job you can do with discipline and execution."