UGA’s Kirby Smart talks Dooley, slow start and Stetson Bennett after win over Murray
More from the series
Georgia Bulldogs 2019-2020 Season
The Georgia Bulldogs kicked off their season in Nashville on Aug. 31, 2019. Here are some of the recent season highlights as they take on teams like Arkansas State, Notre Dame, Auburn and more.
Georgia’s Dooley Field dedication capped off by decisive win over Murray State
Georgia’s freshmen shine against Murray State, including some ‘unbelievable’ performances
How did UGA’s running backs contribute to first win? Breaking down four performances
What we learned from Georgia’s season-opening 30-6 victory over Vanderbilt
Sanford Stadium field dedication a ‘Georgia family’ affair for Vince Dooley
Vince Dooley stood at midfield with his loved ones for an unforgettable moment. A “Dooley Field” sign was revealed on the club-level facade and Sanford Stadium officially had the legendary Georgia coach’s name attached to it.
He heard a roar from a packed-out home crowd after a congratulatory message played on the jumbotron. Dooley hugged his wife, Barbara Dooley, who he says is “500 times” more emotional. Dooley strutted some style, too, with a red sportcoat that he received from the Savannah Touchdown Club in 2004 and only wore twice before Saturday.
“It’s all been great, but I’ll be glad when it’s over and to focus the attention back the way it should be — on the football team,” Dooley said. “It may not happen next week like it should, but there’ll be total focus for Notre Dame. I’ll be fading away into the sunset; in my garden.”
As he walked off, Dooley got his wish and all eyes honed in on Georgia’s (2-0, 1-0 SEC) 63-17 win over Murray State. Georgia returns home on Sept. 14 to host Arkansas State.
SLOW START, THEN CRUISED ALONG
Some panic started to set in early. Murray State receiver DaQuon Green blew past Bulldog defender Mark Webb for a 60-yard touchdown. The visiting, jubilant Racers tied the game and an unsettling feeling percolated throughout the crowd.
“I wasn’t doing my job correctly and bad things happen,” Webb said. “Coach Smart just let me know that it’s not what we allow here at Georgia. I wasn’t guarding him.”
Could this be another Georgia State-Tennessee debacle? No. Not really close to one, either.
Georgia’s offense found its rhythm with some high-powered drives and racked up 35 unanswered points with ease. Seven different players — including safety JR Reed — found the end zone and the Bulldogs accrued 561 total yards.
Defensively, despite allowing 10 points (a Murray State touchdown came on a pick-six), the Bulldogs wreaked havoc with a hard-hitting approach. Therefore, the all-important havoc rate soared at certain points through the game.
Webb led the stat sheet with six tackles and a fumble recovery. Freshman Nolan Smith recorded 1.5 sacks with his fair share of thunderous hits. Georgia finished with six sacks in its victory over the Racers.
“Those guys were outmanned up front and didn’t have the same caliber of guys to protect,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “The game plan was to be aggressive and get up and cover them.”
The Telegraph’s Jed May calculated a havoc rate of 28%, but it’s unknown if Smart adds quarterback hurries into the equation.
TIGHT ENDS, ACROBATIC CATCHES LEAD PASSING ATTACK
Freshman receiver George Pickens can look like Spider-Man when contorting his body to make a catch. He hauled in three snagging catches for 68 yards and was rewarded with a 15-yard touchdown. That brought Pickens’ final line to 78 yards on four receptions.
He led the Bulldogs’ receiving attack as Jake Fromm accrued 166 passing yards on a near-perfect 10-of-11 passing. Stetson Bennett entered before intermission and had a 9 of 13 showing with 124 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Five of those completions went to … tight ends. Hard to believe, but Eli Wolf and John FitzPatrick (one reception, 22 yards) played a factor in the receiving game. Wolf, after not recording a reception against Vanderbilt, recorded 73 yards. One of his four catches resulted in a lost fumble.
“I was glad that the quarterbacks could trust the tight ends,” Wolf said. “We like to get fed the rock, so we’re glad to help the offense anyway we can.”
Of 548 total yards, 290 came from the passing attack.
ISAIAH WILSON OUT WITH INJURY, SALYER STARTS
Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson’s second home opener didn’t unfold as planned. He hobbled onto the field during warmups with a walking boot and crutches. Wilson suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice, and the Bulldogs don’t know the extent of his absence.
Georgia’s depth came into play, and it has plenty of options to choose from. Redshirt freshman Jamaree Salyer earned his first start after being held out due to injury against Vanderbilt. Midway through the first quarter, the Bulldogs rotated with Cade Mays at right tackle with Ben Cleveland at right guard.
“I thought his stamina was good,” Smart said of Salyer. “He played hard and there weren’t any plays that stuck out as really bad.”
The change didn’t affect Georgia’s running game, either, as it tallied 269 on 40 carries. Redshirt freshman Zamir White led the attack with 72 yards on eight carries while D’Andre Swift averaged 11.2 yards per carry.
Wide receiver Tommy Bush, offensive tackle Owen Condon and defensive lineman Tramel Walthour were also seen without pads.