There was never much doubt Georgia would beat Appalachian State on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t more drama than there needed to be for a game like this.
Yes, Georgia won by 39 points in a 45-6 victory. That should be considered a blowout, much like the North Texas win earlier in the season. But also like that game in September, Georgia’s win wasn’t the prettiest you’ll ever see by a football team.
There was sloppy defense at times, inconsistent offense and, of course, poor special teams. For a while, the game was almost a microcosm of the entire season for Georgia.
But the opponent was Appalachian State, and it was not the same team that upset Michigan in the Big House a few years ago. It was a team with only two wins, so the Bulldogs were able to get away with things and still look like they had a dominant win.
It was one of those games that makes you shrug your shoulders. It was on the schedule, so the Bulldogs had to play it, but it’s not one they’ll put in a time capsule for people to see decades from now about how football looked in 2013.
There were positives. The Bulldogs gave up 145 passing yards to the Mountaineers in the first quarter, which had the entire crowd ready (once again) to find a new defensive coordinator. But then Appalachian State had only 76 passing yards the rest of the game.
Georgia allowed only 32 rushing yards on 32 carries. Now let’s not confuse Appalachian State with Don Coryell’s San Diego Chargers, but could this Georgia defense be getting better?
“We’ve developed a mental toughness,” said the current defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham. “We’re not perfect. We played better as the game went along and adjusted to what the other team was doing and pretty much shut them down.
“We were able to stop them when they got in positive territory and kept them out of the end zone. There were no touchdowns. Holding a team to no touchdowns is a good thing.”
It’s the third straight game you can say the Georgia defense played better, and considering all that has happened this year, the Bulldogs will take those gradual signs of improvement.
The offense scored only 14 points in the first half and then could manage only a field goal on the first drive in the third quarter. It took a pep talk from quarterback Aaron Murray to get the offense on track.
“We weren’t being consistent. We were dropping balls and having false starts,” running back Todd Gurley said. “(Murray) said we were playing like crap. We weren’t playing to our full potential. After that drive, we picked it up and went on that streak.”
Georgia scored four more touchdowns after Murray’s words of motivation, and he was finally afforded a much-needed rest. Murray got the record for most touchdown passes in SEC history and then turned it over to Hutson Mason, his backup and next year’s starting quarterback.
Some fans probably came just to see Mason, as it has been no secret all week Georgia wanted to get the junior some playing time. Mason finished 11-for-16 for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Mason had perhaps the biggest smile in the locker room after the game.
“Words can’t describe it,” he said. “You always want to go out there and execute. I kept preaching to guys, ‘Keep the gas pedal on. Don’t settle for just running the clock out.’ We take pride in that. We wanted to move the ball. We wanted to put it in the end zone, and we did.”
It’s something Georgia will have to do early and often this week against Auburn. The Tigers put 55 points on the board Saturday at Tennessee, with quarterback Nick Marshall running for 214 yards.
Georgia did what it had to do to win Saturday, but a game against a 9-1 Auburn team it will be a different challenge. Which team will show up? That has been the question almost every week for a Georgia team limping to the finish line of the regular season without many impressive performances.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at email@example.com.