Athens Well, this was the game Georgia had waited for all season. They certainly didn’t get it against Nicholls in Week 2, and the thought of an easy game for homecoming went out the window with Vanderbilt’s solid performance five weeks ago.
But Saturday, Georgia threw a touchdown pass on its first play from scrimmage. Then on Louisiana-Lafayette’s first play from scrimmage, Georgia’s Deandre Baker picked off a pass. A few minutes later, there was a punt return by Isaiah McKenzie for a touchdown. Then there was another interception for the defense.
Not a bad day, and that was all before 12:30 pm.
Must have been those black jerseys, right?
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Last week’s win over Auburn was the signature win for the Georgia program for this season. It’s unlikely a win over Georgia Tech next week or a victory in a bowl game will mean more than that surprising win a week ago. But there still hadn’t been an easy game all season, until Saturday.
Sure, Georgia only won by 14. Yes, the Bulldogs gave up 465 yards. But compared to what they’ve been through this season, this one was easy.
Georgia needed one of those games where you play a lot of people, where the bench is emptied (to some extent) and players who might be household names next year see the field.
It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it didn’t need to be perfect. It just needed to be easy. It’s about the only type of game Georgia hadn’t had all season. The Bulldogs had been blown out, had their hearts broken and embarrassed. They also had a couple of difficult victories.
With this game, they were at least able to not worry too much about a headline-grabbing loss. They just went out and played football.
“We haven’t really put a team away this year, so it was good to get some of those young guys in to get experience,” linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “A win is never easy, but it’s always good to get a win like this. We could breathe a little bit.”
A lot of names were called over the loudspeaker, especially on defense. Sure, they gave up some yards, but for the second week in a row, Kirby Smart’s defense played well.
Even if you are disappointed about how Georgia’s season has gone thus far, you would be nuts to not be excited about the development of the defense. This is a group that will only get better, as the two main linemen (Trent Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter) are sophomores, while there are four main freshmen already creating havoc.
Julian Rochester and Tyler Clark, two of those freshmen, stood out Saturday, and behind the line players like Bellamy, Roquan Smith, Reggie Carter and Aaron Davis also made plays. That’s what Georgia’s defense has been doing for a while now — making plays.
“I can enjoy this one,” Thompson said. “We won and we did what we had to do when we first stepped on the field.”
Last week, the Georgia defense held Auburn to zero first downs in the second half. Saturday, it stopped Louisiana-Lafayette on fourth down three times. That’s a defense getting better, one week, one game at a time.
“We’re getting better every week, because of practice,” Thompson said. “What we’re doing at practice is going to translate to the game. I think we’ve gotten much better.”
A few weeks ago, this Georgia team looked in jeopardy of not having a winning season. Now, with a three-game winning streak, the final record should look much better. But more work is required. Georgia’s players can also now forget about the easier win Saturday and concentrate on the clean, old-fashioned hate that awaits them.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.