Nick Chubb

Associated Press

No. 7 Georgia waxes Tennessee in fatal blow for the Butch Jones era

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There would be no Hail Mary to bail out the Vols this time.

No. 7 Georgia dominated Tennessee from the opening stop and never let up, cruising to a 41-0 victory that could prove to be the final blow of the Butch Jones era in Knoxville.

The Bulldog domination began literally from the first snap, as Quentin Dormady was intercepted by Tyrique McGhee on the very first play from scrimmage. That pick set up a 38-yard Rodrigo Blankenship to put Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) up for good.

The Vols’ next two possessions went three-and-out, and the second led to a 7-play, 54-yard touchdown march capped by a 12-yard scoring strike from Jake Fromm to Javon Wims. Fromm completed Georgia’s next scoring drive — an 87-yard marathon — on a 9-yard scamper on a 3rd-and-goal, staking the Dogs to a 17-0 lead with 7:13 left before halftime.

Another Dormady interception — though this one ricocheted off the leg of his intended receiver into the hands of Georgia safety J.R. Reed, who returned it 34 yards to the Tennessee 26-yard line — set up Fromm’s second rushing touchdown, a zone-read keeper to bury the Vols at 24-0 just before the half.

Sony Michel added a 31-yard rushing score late in the third quarter. Brian Herrian punched in a 1-yard score in the fourth quarter, and David Martin completed the scoring with a 19-yard field goal with 5:24 remaining.

Georgia’s defense utterly owned Tennessee’s offense, limiting Dormady to 5-of-16 passing for 64 yards with two picks and a fumble before he was pulled for Jarrett Guarantano. Six Vols rushers combined to carry 29 times for just 62 yards. The Bulldogs pounded out 285 rushing yards, led by Nick Chubb‘s 109 yards on 16 attempts. The only drama for Kirby Smart‘s team moving forward is who to play at quarterback. Fromm out-played his stats (7-of-15 for 84 yards with a touchdown and a pick, with two rushing scores) and effectively moved the offense up and down the field. But competition is on the way, as opening day starter Jacob Eason returned to action in mop up duty.

Tennessee is still 3-2 (0-2 SEC) this season with a likely bowl appearance waiting, but patience for the Volunteers’ fifth-year coach was at an all-time low before Saturday’s blowout — and Jones himself knew it, as evidenced by his anti-media rant on Monday. Jones has failed to deliver Tennessee its first SEC East championship since 2007, and Saturday’s loss — coupled with the Hail Mary defeat to Florida two weeks ago — all but guaranteed the streak of title-less seasons will stretch to 11. Jones blew golden opportunities to win the division in 2015 and ’16, with Florida and Georgia clearly down but obviously retooling, and the frustration over his failure to cash in was exacerbated by his everything-is-fine-here demeanor — as if he was hired to go 18-8 over the 2-season stretch and nothing more, while conveniently ignoring Tennessee’s 9-7 SEC mark over that span, including an inexcusable 4-4 mark last season despite beating both the Gators and the Bulldogs.

This loss will likely make a comeback effort for Jones impossible, whether or not his official dismissal comes later this weekend or at a to-be-determined date in the fall. Georgia’s players were more talented and executed better than Tennessee’s but, worse than anything for Jones, they simply tried harder than the Vols. CBS cameras captured shot after shot after shot of Georgia players refusing to be tackled, and found none of the the opposite. And when Tennessee did fight as hard as, a 44-yard completion to John Kelly, it still ended in a fumble.

Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

Georgia doles out pair of hefty raises to two staff members

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Two football staffers at Georgia received a nice raise this offseason, according to documents obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to the AJC’s Seth Emerson, Bulldogs running backs coach Dell McGee took home a pay bum of $75,000 recently to put his total compensation at $350,000 per year. 2017 will be his second season with the team under head coach Kirby Smart and is probably worth it alone given the role McGee no doubt had in convincing star tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel to return to school this season.

That’s not the only staff member to get a nice raise however as the program’s strength and conditioning coordinator, Scott Sinclair, received an even larger raise of $80,000, according to the same report. He now makes a whopping $300,000 a year.

While you might think the six-figure raises for two staff members is a tad excessive, even for an SEC program, Georgia is saving $125,000 on the base salary of new defensive line coach Tray Scott compared to his predecessor. Given how important McGee and Sinclair will be for one of the SEC East favorites this year, it is probably money well spent for Smart and the administration.

Kicking woes, Kenny Hill miscues doom TCU in Liberty Bowl loss to Georgia

Associated Press
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In a microcosm of its entire season, TCU watched an immensely winnable game slip away thanks to mistakes in the kicking game and bad decisions by quarterback Kenny Hill, as the Frogs watched a 16-7 lead turn into a 31-23 loss to Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.

After Georgia staked a 7-0 lead, TCU took control of the contest when it ripped off 16 consecutive points over a 7-minute stretch, but should have stretched the run to at least 20 points. The Frogs got on the board with a 40-yard Brandon Hatfield field goal, then immediately took the ball back at the Georgia 21 when Tipa Galeai sacked and stripped Jacob Eason. Hill (18-of-27 for 146 yards with two touchdowns plus 17 carries for 72 yards and a score) raced in for a 10-yard touchdown dash one play later, but Hatfield’s ensuing extra point clanked off the right upright and ricocheted wide left.

After forcing two more three-and-outs, TCU added another touchdown when Hill hit John Diarse for a 10-yard score at the 9:15 mark of the second quarter. (Hatfield’s extra point was good this time.) After another Georgia three-and-out, Hill set the Frogs up with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20 with a 45-yard rush, but a sack and an incompletion forced a 41-yard field goal — which Hatfield missed.

Hill compounded his sack by costing the Frogs another scoring opportunity late in the half, losing a fumble at the Georgia 44 with 30 seconds still remaining before the half.

Running back Kyle Hicks (15 carries for a team-leading 88 yards) opened the second half with a fumble of his own, handing Georgia (8-5) the ball at its own 48. The Bulldogs marched 52 yards in 12 plays, aided by another TCU special teams error when holder Brice Ramsey converted a 4th-and-6 with an 11-yard fake field goal rush. Eason hit Javon Wims for a 4-yard strike three plays later, putting Georgia on top 21-16.

TCU (6-7) see-sawed back in front when Hill and Diarse hooked up for their second score of the day, this one a 9-yarder with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, but Georgia’s offense was fully alive after a first half stretch in which it registered four three-and-outs and a lost fumble. The Bulldogs moved 56 yards in seven plays to set up Rodrigo Blankenship‘s 30-yard field goal to push Georgia back in front at 24-23 with 13:27 remaining.

Just like in the first half, Hill once again positioned the Frogs with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20, but he once again took a sack he shouldn’t have taken on third down and, once again, Hatfield missed his ensuing 47-yard field goal. Georgia took advantage of the miscue, riding Nick Chubb most of the way on a 9-play, 70-yard march to push the lead to 31-23 with 2:48 left to play. Chubb and the Georgia running game came alive in the second half; the Dogs finished with 247 yards on 5.6 per carry after mounting only 49 yards in the first half. Chubb led the way with 17 carries for 142 yards and a score, while Sony Michel added 15 totes for 87 yards and a score. Eason hit 12-of-21 passes for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one fumble.

Needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to push the game to overtime — instead of simply a field goal to win without Hatfield’s missed kicks — TCU moved to the Georgia 44 when Hill’s 4th-and-4 pass to Taj Williams was broken up by Georgia’s Deandre Baker.

The win lifts a struggling SEC to 2-4 in bowl play while the Big 12 falls to 3-2. The two conferences have split their two meetings thus far, with the rubber match between Oklahoma and Auburn coming in Monday night’s Sugar Bowl.

Kirby Smart sends Alabama to SEC title game as Georgia upsets No. 9 Auburn

AP
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Kirby Smart no longer coaches for Alabama, just as Maurice Smith no longer plays for them. But a former Tide coach and player did a major favor for their former team as Georgia upended No. 9 Auburn 13-7 in Athens. The loss dropped Auburn to 5-2 in SEC play, thereby clinching the SEC West championship for the undefeated Tide.

Of far more importance, of course, for Smart is what this means for his new team. The win sends Georgia (6-4, 4-4 SEC) to a bowl game, extending the program’s streak to 20 consecutive seasons. It’s Smart’s first win over a top-10 team, and the program’s first since beating a similarly-ranked No. 9 Auburn team in 2014. And it provides an image of what this program wants to become under Smart, an image for the new staff to point players, fans and recruits to and say “this is where we’re going, now hop aboard.”

It didn’t look that way through one half, though. Georgia’s offense was stuck in mud and the defense played well but still permitted 109 rushing yards and the game’s only score, a 3-yard Kerryon Johnson rush with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.

But Smart’s defense completely smothered Auburn in the second half.

The half started when, after two incomplete passes, Auburn quarterback Sean White fired an interception directly into Smith’s gut, who returned the ball 34 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

Every other Auburn possession ended after just three plays except the final one. And that one only lasted four because the Tigers ran out of time to punt. When accounting for Smith’s 34-yard return and the seven points it produced, Auburn’s second half produced a net of minus-2 yards and minus-7 points.

That’s not to say the Georgia offense found success against its Auburn counterparts, however. The Bulldogs never found the end zone, but two Rodrigo Blankenship field goals — a 45-yarder at the 13:44 mark of the fourth quarter and a 21-yard chip shot with 2:25 to play — on the heels of 13- and 14-play drives provided enough offense.

And, unlike Auburn, Georgia’s offense avoided the crucial mistake. Freshman Jacob Eason completed 2o-of-31 passes for 208 yards (and narrowly missed catching a reverse pass from Terry Godwin that would’ve provided a clinching touchdown before Blankenship’s final field goal) while Nick Chubb carried 23 times for 101 yards and Sony Michel added 55 yards on 10 attempts.

The Tigers’ offensive numbers finished as ugly as their drive chart. White completed 6-of-20 passes for 27 yards and that pick six, while six Auburn rushers managed only 14 rushing yards in the second half.

With a closing kick of Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech before the bowl game, Georgia can now reasonably point toward a possible 5-game winning streak to send Smart’s first season out with a bang.

Auburn, meanwhile, must regroup after this dud and use next week’s working vacation against Alabama A&M to prepare for Alabama without a possible SEC championship on the line.