Georgia (10-3) once led Penn State (7-6) 24-3 in the TaxSlayer Bowl but a furious rally by the Nittany Lions with a backup quarterback fell just shy. Georgia’s 24-17 victory was made official when a Hail Mary attempt from Trace McSorely fell incomplete at the goal line.
Georgia’s defense knocked out Penn State starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the first half of the game. He returned on the sideline in the second half in street clothes, giving way to backup McSorely for his first serious playing time at Penn State. It was a rough adjustment once he entered the game but McSorely and Penn State eventually got in a groove and established some momentum through the air. McSorely passed for 142 yards and two touchdowns to lead the second half rally, but Georgia had done enough to grab the win.
Georgia running back Sony Michel and Keith Marshall played a key role on the ground for the Bulldogs. Neither had a big performance, but Michel’s 85 yards and touchdown and Marshall’s 62 rushing yards came at key moments to move the first down markers in the fourth quarter and keep the clock running. Georgia’s Greyson Lambert completed just 10 of his 20 pass attempts for 115 yards, but they also seemed to be picked up at key moments when needed. Malcolm Mitchell hauled in 114 receiving yards and a touchdown, but it was receiver Terry Godwin who caught Penn State’s defense off guard for the touchdown play to Mitchell in the first half.
Georgia’s defense did more than knock Hackenberg out of the game. The run defense was well prepared for Penn State freshman running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley was limited to 69 yards on 17 carries and the Georgia defense always seemed to have a presence in the backfield to shut down any play attempting to develop laterally. Penn State’s offense did gain some juice in the second half though, and the Nittany Lions rolled up 401 yards of offense to Georgia’s 327. Penalties proved costly for Penn State though, with six penalties totaling just 39 yards, but that included a crucial 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on Austin Johnson on Georgia’s final offensive possession of the game to move the ball into Penn State territory.
With the win by Georgia, the SEC improves to 7-2 in bowl games this bowl season. The SEC still has a handful of games to be played, including Alabama’s national championship appearance against Clemson. The Big Ten closes out the postseason with a 5-5 record in bowl games, including a 1-3 mark against the SEC. Georgia interim head coach Bryan McClendon earned his first career bowl victory as a result of the game as well. Penn State’s James Franklin dropped to 3-2 in bowl games in his first loss since his bowl debut in 2011 with Vanderbilt.
Georgia will now turn the page as a program by ushering in the Kirby Smart era, just as soon as Smart is done with Alabama’s championship run in Tuscaloosa. Smart was on hand for the game to check out his new program. Penn State may also be turning a page depending on what happens with Hackenberg. If Hackenberg is on the move, Penn State got a glimpse of what may come in 2016 by seeing McSorely get some playing time and find himself in the offense. The two-minute drill with no timeouts left plenty of room for improvement, but McSorely was thrown into the fire for the first time for any extending playing time. If Hackenberg turns pro, McSorely will likely be the starting quarterback in 2016 for the Nittany Lions.
Georgia will open the 2016 season in Atlanta against North Carolina from the ACC in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Penn State’s 2016 season kicks off against Kent State at home in Beaver Stadium before taking to the road to renew an in-state rivalry with Pittsburgh.
Georgia linebacker Tim Kimbrough will not play in the Bulldogs’ bowl game next week. Georgia has suspended the team’s third-leading tackler for the TaxSlayer Bowl for a violation of team rules. The extent of the violations were not disclosed. It remains to be seen if the junior will face any further discipline by new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart.
“Right now it’s just this game,” Georgia interim head coach Bryan McClendon said after practice Monday, according to Athens Banner-Herald. “Kind of just how I told him, anything beyond this game is up for coach Smart.”
Kimbrough recorded 67 tackles this season for Georgia’s defense. He also had one sack and forced a fumble this season for Georgia’s typically solid defense. Kimbrough’s absence will lead to more snaps for freshman Natrez Patrick. Patrick appeared in 10 games this season, in which he recorded 18 tackles in backup duty. He recorded a season-high four tackles against Georgia Tech in the final game of the regular season, including three solo tackles.
Georgia will also be playing slightly shorthanded at running back. Backup running back Brendan Douglas will be out of action for the game against Penn State as he rehabs his wrist following surgery. The good news for Georgia is they have their top two running backs in the fold with Sony Michel and Keith Marshall ready to go.
Georgia running back Nick Chubb did indeed suffer a “significant” knee injury during the Bulldogs’ loss to Tennessee Saturday, but it was not an ACL tear.
The sophomore injured his left knee on his very first carry Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium, but is expected to undergo a full recovery.
A leading All-America candidate, Chubb had rushed 91 times for 745 yards and seven touchdowns in the Dawgs’ first five games. His streak of 13 consecutive games with at least 100 rushing yards, snapped Saturday, was the nation’s longest and a school record.
From the athletics department:
University of Georgia sophomore tailback Nick Chubb suffered a significant left knee injury on the first play from scrimmage in Saturday’s Georgia-Tennessee game in Knoxville. According to UGA Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Ron Courson, the injury involves damage to multiple ligaments and cartilage; however, the damage does not include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Neither does the injury involve arteries or nerves.
Courson said all the damage is repairable and a full recovery is expected following surgery and rehab. Chubb is currently in the hospital for observation and surgery would be expected sometime in the next two weeks.
Expect Sony Michel, Keith Marshall and Brendan Douglas to see an increased workload in Chubb’s absence.
One is a legitimate SEC championship contender, with a two-headed rushing attack, a stable, efficient quarterback (for one night, at least) and a talented defense. The other is South Carolina.
No. 7 Georgia did everything it wanted in a 52-20 destruction of South Carolina in Athens Saturday evening. One week after briefly being pulled at Vanderbilt, senior quarterback Greyson Lambert set an FBS record for completion percentage, hitting an astounding 24-of-25 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Nick Chubb rushed 21 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Sony Michel added eight carries for 61 yards and a score. Keith Marshall chipped in with four carries for 19 yards and a score.
The Bulldogs’ defense, meanwhile, limited replacement quarterbacks Perry Orth and Lorenzo Nunez to a combined 3.81 yards per pass attempt and the entire Gamecocks’ offense to 4.46 yards per carry.
In short, Georgia looked every bit like a team that will play in Atlanta this December and a major bowl game in later that month or early January. South Carolina looked like a team that will once again struggle to make a bowl game.
After exchanging field goals in the first quarter, Chubb and Michel broke the game open with touchdown rushes. South Carolina briefly pulled within 17-10 after Orth rushed in from four yards out with 2:17 to go before halftime, but Lambert answered with a five-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell with 17 seconds to go before halftime.
Georgia turned a comfortable win into a blowout in the third quarter, as Lambert hit Michel with two 11-yard touchdown passes, and Chubb added a seven-yard scoring dash with 4:13 to go in the third quarter. At that point Georgia led 45-13 and had scored touchdowns on six of its last seven possessions. The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter to provide the final score.
Georgia doubled South Carolina’s first downs output, 32-16, and did the same in total yardage with 60 yards to spare – 576 to 258.
Playing for an injured Connor Mitch, Orth completed 6-of-17 passes for 66 yards and an interception, while Nunez hit 4-of-5 throws for 18 yards and led the club in rushing with 10 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown.