ATHENS—The third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs refused to drop to the tone of the moment on Saturday.
The Bulldogs showed up and took care of the day’s assignment by defeating Arkansas State 55-0 for their third win to open the 2019 season.
In all aspects of the environment things were a bit sleepy leading into Saturday’s game.
Clouds loomed over the area and a light mist fell in pregame warm-ups. It was almost a morning after for the morning before.
On the horizon sits the fated collision with seventh-ranked Notre Dame and Saturday’s game has been seen as the game in the way of the main course.
Not for the Bulldogs. The 2019 edition still needs an identity. The Bulldogs set out to be fast and physical and that will be a big part of their identity. Saturday they set out to make it clear to the opponent of the day that playing against Georgia means playing against a physical football team.
The Bulldogs’ defense again created problems for the opposing passing game as they collected four sacks as a unit and only allowed the Red Wolves’ offense to total 220 yards compared to the 656 yards put up by the Bulldogs’ offense.
Georgia’s offense was juiced by the passing game on Saturday. Junior Jake Fromm collected season highs across his stat line. Fromm was 17-for-22 for 279 yards and three touchdowns. Freshmen receivers George Pickens (5 receptions for 84 yards) and Dominick Blaylock (4 receptions 112 yards and a touchdown) were Fromm’s top targets.
D’Andre Swift carried the ball nine times for 76 yards. Swift also caught two passes for 64 yards and a score.
“On offense and defense all the leaders just come out and try to get everybody going,” senior linebacker Tae Crowder said. “Once you practice things you just come into the game ready to play. The leaders just have to lead. We’re a tough team. We’re physical, relentless and that’s what we want to be known as.”
The Bulldogs’ starters dripped with their desired identity and it trickled into the depths of the lower levels of the team’s pecking order as well.
Late in a game against an outmatched opponent the Bulldogs’ defense battled to uphold the shutout. Freshman Lewis Cine sealed the Bulldogs’ shutout with his first interception as a Bulldog as the Red Wolves threatened with 2:44 remaining. The Bulldogs’ starters appreciated the effort of the backups.
“When they get in we always preach that we want to get a shutout and we don’t want to have any explosive plays,” senior safety J.R. Reed said. “We play to a standard here. Those guys get in and it’s all about coaching them up. You don’t get a chance to do it very often and once the young guys get in you tell them to keep it and hold it and have them fight for that.”
The Bulldogs have cleared the deck for the elephant in the room game that’s been looming for most of the offseason for fans and outside sources. The atmosphere at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium is expected to be electric. The eyes of the college football world will be focused on Athens with ESPN’s College Gameday coming to Athens to highlight the Bulldogs’ matchup with Notre Dame.
Statements will be made for either team on Saturday, but the Bulldogs are trying to keep a level head of expectations.
“Every week we make a statement, but next week is going to be the same statement we made today,” Reed said. “We’re a great team and we make that every time we come out here. We play to a certain standard and we play up high.”