Before Saturday’s 42-14 win over Samford, the last time Georgia scored at least 40 points in a game, Kirby Smart was the defensive coordinator at Alabama. The game was against Southern, a 48-6 thumping on Sept. 26, 2015.
A week later, Smart and Alabama would come to Athens and embarrass the Bulldogs.
Since Smart was hired as Georgia’s head coach and Jim Chaney as its offensive coordinator, the Bulldogs have struggled to establish a rhythm offensively. They had scored more than 30 points just three times.
Playing against FCS level Samford at home on Saturday, Georgia’s offense needed to find chemistry and discover an identity before conference play begins next week against Mississippi State, which defeated No. 12 LSU, 37-7 Saturday.
Georgia became stagnant for a stretch against Samford. By the time the game had ended, Georgia displayed a level of offensive consistency previously unseen in Smart’s tenure.
“We're right on the verge,” wide receiver Terry Godwin said. “Probably next week or the week after, we're going to be clicking on all cylinders. Right now we got to fix the little things we're on messing up on.”
Supported by the legs of Nick Chubb, who rushed for 109 of his 131 yards in the first half, Georgia’s offense scored touchdowns on three of its first five possessions to take a 21-0 lead. But with a chance to put the game away before halftime, the offense faltered.
After Samford scored its first touchdown with 5:49 remaining in the second quarter, freshman quarterback Jake Fromm scrambled on third-and-9 from Georgia’s 26-yard line. He was hit and fumbled. Samford recovered.
“(Fromm) needs to learn how to slide, but other than that, he's getting better,” Smart said.
Georgia blocked a field goal attempt to hold Samford to no points on the drive, but Georgia had to punt on its ensuing possession, its final one of the first half. Georgia held a 21-7 lead at the break. At halftime, Smart challenged the offense to take over the game and “impose your will on a team we thought we could.”
Georgia responded by scoring touchdowns on its first three drives of the second half to take a 42-7 lead. In the third quarter, Georgia ran 16 times for 93 yards. It finished the game with 54 carries for 284 yards and three rushing touchdowns, even though Sony Michel didn’t play because of an ankle injury.
“It's our identity,” running back Brian Herrien said. “We want to run the ball. It's no way around it. Just want to run the ball.”
Added Chubb: “That's what we try to do every game, just get a good run game. I think tonight we did well at that.”
After the game, Smart said Georgia’s offense was “up and down.” He thought it performed similarly to how the Bulldogs’ offense had operated in the recent past. At times, there was a rhythm. Other times, stretches of stagnation. The offense isn’t as consistent as it needs to be, Smart said, and for the next eight games, Georgia will play teams from the Southeastern Conference.
“We got to continue to improve,” Smart said. “We're going to play better defenses, so we better get ready.”