A lot has
changed since this time last year for the Georgia Bulldogs. Heck, a
lot has happened since they last played...beating Penn State 24-17
in the Taxslayer Bowl on January 2. Their 10-3 record is misleading,
normally indicating that a team had a pretty successful season.
But, the natives were restless and a new head coach, Alabama Defensive Coordinator
Kirby Smart. Bulldogs fans
expect to see a heavy dose ground game with Nick Chubb and
Sony Michel and with the air game provided by quarterbacks
Greyson Lambert and rookie Jacob Eason.
The Tar Heels were a
solid team in 2015 under fourth year coach Larry Fedora. They
went 11-3, winning the ACC Coastal Division, their first double
digit win season since 1997 and gave the ultimate national champion
Clemson Tigers all they could handle in the ACC Championship Game.
No slouches on offense, scoring 40.7 points per game
last year with plenty of good receivers who can make long plays
through the air. Running back Elijah Hood can be hard to
bring down. Marquis Williams is gone at QB but junior
quarterback Mitch Trubisky should be more than able to take
over, completing 85 percent of his 47 pass attempts last season.
The crowd looks to be about 90-10 red making it a virtual Sanford
Stadium, enhanced by the playing of The Who's "Baba
O'Reilly" as the Dawgs entered the field. The 75,405 broke the
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game record breaking the Clemson-Auburn game's
A nice start with a pair of handoffs to Chubb for 19 yards ended with a
Lambert sack the UGA41.
UNC took over after the punt at their 28. But the Georgia defense held
them to a quick three and out.
The second Bulldog drive began at their 21 after a 42 yard punt.
Isaiah McKenzie converted a third and two with a nice 26 yard
catch to the UGA46. Chubb converted a third and one with a short run
to the UNC 45 then exploded for 23 more. A facemask call tacked on
15 more to the 11. Chubb put the first points of the season on the
board with a three yard dive. UGA 7, UNC 0.
Starting at their 23, the Tar Heels picked up their first first down on a
10 yard Carl Tucker catch at their 45. As Trubisky was
getting ready to throw, he pulled the ball back with it falling to
the ground. Safety Aaron Davis scooped it up and ran in to
the end zone. But, replay said his arm was moving forward making it
a mere incompletion. A little drama but no points and a 43 yard punt
to the 16.
Three downs couldn't get the first, but an illegal substitution call got
them what they needed moving the ball to the 26 as the first quarter
came to an end.
Except for the penalty, this drive produced no offense as Georgia had to
punt with North Carolina getting its best field position of the
night just short of midfield.
And that improved considerably with a 35 yard run by tailback T.J.
Logan all the way to the UGA17. Logan again for 16 more to the
one. A Trubisky bootleg tied the game at 7.
Heralded freshman Jacob Eason entered the game for his first ever
college appearance and combined with Terry Godwin to give the
Dawgs a spark with a 23 yard toss to midfield. Chubb added 24 more
on a pair of carries. But the promising drive stalled when
Brendon Douglas carried it for 15 before coughing it up at the
The Georgia "D" got just what they needed forcing a quick three and out.
After the punt, UGA took over at their 44. Eason stayed in the game
and connected with McKenzie for 13 to the UNC43. Chubb got 8 as he
ran out of bounds at the 35. He got more than enough for the first
on his next carry to the 23. And freshman RB Brian Herrien
from Douglasville grabbed his first career TD with an electric run
to the end zone to put the Dawgs up by 7.
The Tar Heels got an electric run of their own with a 31 yard Elijah
Hood rush into Georgia territory at the 47. But that's all they
could get with Georgia taking over after the punt at their 16 with
4:47 left in the half.
Lambert was back in at alternating QB but could only get nine. Carolina
called for a fair catch but Malkom Parrish didn't see it and
tackled him, picking up an unnecessary roughness call at the 43 with
2:30 remaining. UNC was able to make it down to the five yard line
before the Georgia defense stiffened, forcing a short 22 yard
Nick Weiler field goal to make it 14-10 at the half.
As the second half started, it took just one play to change the score as
Logan returned the kickoff 95 yards, giving Carolina its first lead
of the game 17-14.
Lambert was back in for his second straight series starting the first
drive of the half at their 25. A third and seven pass to McKenzie
got just enough for the first down. Following the play, an
unsportsmanlike conduct call on senior OL Tyler Catalina
moved it back to the 15.
WR Michael Chigbu got his first catch of the game for a first down
at the 37. Herrien got another first on a carry just past the 50.
Chubb hit a wall at the line and bounced free for an impressive 19
yard gain to the UNC30. But another effective Georgia drive came up
empty when William Ham missed a 42 yard field goal attempt,
keeping the deficit at three.
Carolina took over at their 25. Hood got a first on a carry to the left
side to the 37. The next play saw him move 19 yards to the right
side into Georgia territory at the 44. A quick pass to Ryan
Switzer for 23, then 21 more on the ground by Logan to the end
zone and suddenly the Tar Heels were starting to dominate with a ten
point lead. Since UGA went ahead 14-7 with Eason in the game in the
second quarter, UNC had outscored them 17-0. Carolina's offense had
struggled to start the game but had found it's rhythm, something the
Dawgs had not shown with Lambert at the helm. The ten percent of the
crowd in powder blue was sounding much bigger.
Eason was back in starting at the 20. So far, I haven't seen Sony
Michel. The defense for the Heels was also picking up steam
making two stops on run plays to make it third and five. But Eason
found Chigbu for a first down at their 37. A pass interference call
on a long pass attempt to Jayson Stanley gave UGA new life at
the UNC46. Nothing much on the next two plays bringing up still
another third and long. And still another pass interference call on
a deep pass giving new life at the UNC 28. A pair of runs got
another first at the 17. McKenzie sprinted the distance flying over
the left pylon to make it a game again with the Heels still leading,
but just by three, 24-21.
Again, the offense had gotten a spark under Eason, with the help of
a few 15 yard penalties. On the drive, Chub set a new Chick-fil-A
Kickoff game record with a net 154 yards.
Carolina began their drive at their 12 and had a first called back with
an ineligible receiver call moving it back to the 7. The 90% red was
sounding itself again. I've been to every Falcons home game for 20
years and have never heard it this loud. The result was a rattled QB
with a pass for a four yard loss in the end zone to Hood and a
safety to pull UGA to within one. Smart agreed. "I've been in this
stadium a lot and that was the loudest I've ever heard it," he said.
Eason still in. Georgia got the ball back with a good return to their 40
followed by a six yard catch by Godwin as the game moved into the
They could only get to the 48 and hope their defense could slow
down the Carolina offense, which hadn't been on the field for what
seemed like a half an hour. The Heels started at their 29.
A wide open Switzer converted a third and two at the 40. But a false
start made it first and 15 at their 36, a bit too much to overcome.
Georgia started at their 17 needing just a field goal to retake the
lead with 10:56 remaining.
Apparently, Eason would finish the game, something that the flow of the
game seemed to justify. Chubb chugged for 11 to the 28. But a
holding call pushed it back to a first and 20 at the 18. Douglas got
seven back on a catch at the 25. McKenzie caught another at the 33
for a third and five. Instead of going for the five, the crowd
erupted as Eason went deep for 51 yards to McKenzie at the UNC 16.
That might be the play of the game as the clock ticked down to 7:23.
A unblocked sack made it second and 21 at the 28. Herrien made it
third and six with a power carry to the 12. The Dawgs had to settle
for a 29 yard Ham field goal to get the lead back to 26-24. But, the
Heels still had 5:27 to go needing just a field goal to win.
But their offense would have their work cut out for them. A short return
was worsened by an illegal block in the back call moving it back to
the 8. The clock ticked to less then five minutes to go. A complete
pass to 84 made it third and one at the 17. A converted pass was
nullified with an offensive pass interference call to make it third
and 9 from back at the 8. A huge play as 12 came down with a catch
at the 17 for a new set of downs with 3:58 to go. But replay said
the ball hit the ground. UNC had to give the ball back and giving
UGA a chance to run out the 3:45 that was left with a running game
that should be able to do just that.
No clock problem as the ball was handed off to Chubb and Nick did the
rest taking it 55 yards to the house. Georgia's lead upped to 33-24.
Now, the back and forth game had the Dawgs outscoring the Heels 16-0
on this scoring run.
Carolina tried to cut the lead trailing by nine with 3:29 remaining and
the ball on the 21. Bud Howell pulled in a first down catch at
the 34. Switzer got nine more with Hood converting for another first
at the 45. Switzer got another. But the free flowing drive got
reversed with a holding call. Georgia was giving them the short
passes as they watched the clock get eaten down to 1:45. UNC called
their first time out with the ball at the UGA44. Hood moved the
chain to the 34 then an out of bounds pass stopped the clock at 1:31
on the 34. Fedora called his second time out at 1:22 facing a third
and 10. A near sack stopped the clock on a deflected pass to bring
up a do or die 4th down. An offsides call stopped the clock at 1:11.
The defense had everyone covered as Trubisky looked and ultimately
threw to no one, effectively ending the game.
Anyone wondering who should start at QB for Georgia should again, look at
the flow of the game. The UGA offense was looking stagnant with
Lambert scoring only 7 points in the first quarter. At 8:41 in the
first quarter, Eason appears and Georgia scores to give them a 14-7
lead. Lambert back in and nothing again as UNC takes the lead by 10
points 24-14. Eason back in and Georgia stages an amazing comeback
outscoring the Tar Heels by 16 points to win 33-24.
On if there is a plan now for who will start game two, Smart said "There
is no plan right now. Both kids competed hard in the game. I'm
really proud of both of them. Greyson was cheering for Jacob to do
Nick Chubb rushed for 227 yards and two touchdowns (tied record) to be
named the player of the game. That also blew away a 2009 record that
was held by Smart's old teammate, Mark Ingram (150).
Another Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game record was 171 total penalty yards. "We
had 13 penalties (101 yards). That's going to determine these
early games. We couldn't overcome those kind of things," said coach
Fedora after the game.