For those continuing to wonder how good Georgia is this season, Saturday’s performance may have answered the question. This is a really good football team. Yeah, OK, it’s a great football team.
When a team has a defense like Georgia has, great things usually happen. This defense, wow. Just wow.
This was not your dad’s Tennessee team. There was no Peyton Manning or even Tee Martin for the Volunteers. The Vols are a mess. Their head coach likely will be be fired soon. But good teams take advantage when the opponent is in turmoil, and that’s what Georgia did Saturday.
Last week, Georgia’s first play from scrimmage, the long flea-flicker touchdown, set the tone against Mississippi State. On Saturday, it was the Georgia defense that made the big play. Tennessee’s first play from scrimmage was a pass intercepted by Tyrique McGhee, the Peach County product who was great all day.
Georgia went on to kick a field goal for the first points of the game. And you kind of felt, just like last week, the game was over right then and there.
Even when Tennessee would do something right, Georgia’s defense would make it do something wrong. In the third quarter, when Vols quarterback Quinten Dormady completed a nice pass that John Kelly turned into a 44-yard reception, Georgia’s Aaron Davis stripped the ball away from him.
Georgia then scored to make it 31-0. It was over. And Georgia had more points to score before the final horn sounded.
This is a relentless defense that never stops. Kelly ran hard for Tennessee, but he had nowhere to go. Georgia’s defensive players just have a motor that keeps going and going and going. And when they smelled a shutout, that became the priority.
Kirby Smart took only a little more than a year to make this his team. No longer should there be any worry that Georgia won’t show up in a big game. The Bulldogs are not perfect, but they’ve had three tests so far this season, and they’ve passed.
This looked like an Alabama team going into an opponents’ backyard and taking care of business. It looked like a defense Georgia hasn’t had too often. Maybe go back to the 2012 Georgia team, but this just looked like something we’ve haven’t seen in awhile.
This defense tackles well, and when one player is there to try and bring a runner down, there’s someone else right there with him to finish off the receiver. It’s a swarming defense, with speed and a pursuit that Smart has implemented as the signature of this team. The defense just never quits.
The Bulldogs didn’t quit last week when they kept Mississippi State out of the end zone with seconds left on the clock, and they never stopped Saturday in Knoxville. They were determined to not hear “Rocky Top,” and we barely heard it all day.
There was trepidation for some Georgia fans going into this game. Sure, there have been other times when Georgia went to Knoxville expected to win and instead left with its heads bowed. The 2007 game was a decade ago, but when unranked Tennessee beat 12th-ranked Georgia 35-14, it created a scar for fans that hasn’t gone away easily.
Saturday’s game may change that. This team is different. This defense is different. This head coach is different. Shutouts matter now. Stomping the opponent matters now.
Georgia has something going here, and the scary part is the Bulldogs may be better in another month. Then they’ll be playing games that matter even more, and after five games it doesn’t look like they’re going to be intimidated.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 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.