DAndre Swift

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No. 3 Georgia extends winning streak vs SEC East to 15 in blowout win at Tennessee

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Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC) just can’t seem to beat teams from the state of Georgia. Of course, the Vols haven’t been able to beat most teams this year. The painful state of the Vols received no mercy on Saturday night in Knoxville against No. 3 Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) as the Bulldogs left Neyland Stadium with a 43-14 laugher.

Georgia scored 33 unanswered points starting late in the second quarter to turn a 14-13 deficit with some mild concern into a blowout win on the road against a division opponent. The Bulldogs racked up 529 yards of offense and forced two turnovers, including one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that was probably important to a few viewers still wondering about the outcome. Jake Fromm completed 24 of 29 pass attempts for 288 yards and two touchdowns and D’Andre Swift had 72 rushing yards and 72 receiving yards and a touchdown reception in the win.

Georgia has now won three straight games against the Vols and eight of their last 10 in the series. Tennessee once had a decent lead in the all-time series with Georgia but now trails the Bulldogs 24-22-2 since 1903. In addition to dominance over the Vols in recent memory, Georgia has extended its winning streak against the rest of the SEC East to 15 straight games. The last loss taken by Georgia within the division came on October 29, 2016 in a 24-10 loss to No. 14 Florida. That was the first season as head coach at Georgia for Kirby Smart.

Georgia will look to keep that division-winning streak going with some favorable matchups coming up in the next couple of weeks. Georgia hosts South Carolina next week and then welcomes Kentucky to Athens. That all leads up to the game of the year in the division against Florida at the beginning of November. Florida celebrated a big win over Auburn earlier in the day and takes their undefeated record on the road in their next game against LSU. It seems likely the two teams will square off with no more than one combined loss at the start of November.

As for the Vols, Tennessee is already starting to flirt with being ineligible for the postseason. Tennessee is already 1-4 and still has a road trip to Alabama looming in a couple of weeks. Tennessee has to win five of their remaining seven games in order to become bowl eligible. Tennessee has not missed a bowl game in the first two years of a head coach’s tenure since Johnny Majors took over the program in 1977. Tennessee missed out on a bowl game in 1977 and 1978 before being invited to the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1979. Next up for the Vols is another home game next week, against Mississippi State. The two programs have not played each other since 2012, and Tennessee has not beaten Mississippi State since 2008, which was the last time Mississippi State played in Knoxville.

No. 3 Georgia holds off No. 7 Notre Dame for 23-17 win

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Before the largest crowd ever to watch a football game in Sanford Stadium, No. 3 Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) took time wearing down No. 7 Notre Dame (2-1) for a 23-17 victory Saturday night. Despite a handful of injuries before and during the game, Georgia managed to overcome an early special teams mistake and shut down the Irish in the second half. Georgia outscored Notre Dame 13-0 after halftime.

Georgia running back D’Andre Swift led all players with 81 rushing yards and scored Georgia’s first touchdown in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7. Jake Fromm gave Georgia a cushion in the fourth quarter with a 15-yard pass to Lawrence Cager. The touchdown lifted Georgia to a 20-10 lead at the end of an 82-yard drive after Notre Dame had gone three-and-out.

Notre Dame’s second-half drive summary was not good, to put it kindly. After halftime, Notre Dame fumbled on the third play of their first offensive series, which led to a Georgia field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship to tie the game at 10-10. The Irish then went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, leading to another field goal by Blankenship to give Georgia their first lead of the night late in the third quarter. Another punt after losing two yards in three plays led to the Georgia touchdown drive, and Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was picked off by J.R. Reed on the following possession at the Georgia 33-yard line. That was Notre Dame’s last chance to make things interesting because the Bulldogs began to work the clock. Keeping things on the ground, for the most part, Georgia killed nearly four minutes off the clock before one more field goal by Blankenship to extend the lead to 23-10.

If the atmosphere was a factor, it showed. Notre Dame was called for seven false start penalties in the game. A record crowd at Sanford Stadium of 93,246 was crammed in to watch the events unfold in person. Most of them ended up going home with a smile on their face.

Georgia did suffer some notable injuries in the game. Starting offensive linemen Isaiah Wilson (didn’t play; ankle) and Solomon Kindley (left game; left leg injury) were among the injured Bulldogs, and cornerback Eric Stokes left the game after injuring his knee on the second play of the game.

This all sets Georgia up for a playoff run. With a win against a top 10 opponent under their belts and a favorable schedule the rest of the season, Georgia should be a near-lock for a spot in the SEC Championship Game with a possible 12-0 record. A road trip to Auburn late in the year could be the biggest hurdle remaining, and that could be a nice boost to a playoff profile if things fall just right for Kirby Smart and his program.

While it would be premature to suggest Notre Dame has been eliminated in the playoff discussion, it is a safe bet to say they have a much tougher path back into the playoff mix with a loss. With no conference championship game to fall back on and Michigan getting steamrolled earlier in the day to take some of the luster off their late October showdown in Ann Arbor (note: just some luster), Notre Dame is already in a likely position where they will need to take care of their own schedule the rest fo the way to go 11-1 and then hope for a little help from around the country. The good news for Notre Dame is they likely won’t fall back too far in the polls and there will be teams that take losses the next few months. But it will be tougher on the Irish now.

Georgia will get next week off before jumping into SEC play in October. The Bulldogs will play on the road against a Tennessee program that continues to struggle. The Vols were blown out on the road at Florida earlier in the day. For Georgia, all eyes may be looking ahead to November 2 when Georgia meets Florida in Jacksonville. That game is expected to decide the fate of the SEC East Division, but Georgia must get past Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky first. Those three teams are a combined 4-8.

there will be no bye week for Notre Dame until mid-October, so the Irish will be back at it next week with a home game against No. 21 Virginia. The Cavaliers avoided a home upset to Old Dominion on Saturday. Notre Dame will play their next three games at home with Bowling Green and USC each visiting after Virginia before Notre Dame reaches their next bye week.

No. 7 Notre Dame capitalizes on special teams mistake by No. 3 Georgia to lead at halftime

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No. 3 Georgia may have been a big favorite against No. 7 Notre Dame coming into Saturday night’s contest of unbeaten teams, but it is the Fighting Irish who reach halftime with the lead. Notre Dame leads Georgia 10-7 at halftime.

Defense has been the theme of the game so far, which makes a mistake on special teams by Georgia even more a factor. Georgia punt returner Tyler Simmons muffed a punt return deep in the Georgia end of the field in the second quarter. Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool came swooping in to recover the live ball and gave the Irish field position at the Georgia eight-yard line. But it would take a fourth-down pass from Ian Book to Cole Kmet to get on the board. Kmet didn’t appear to be the intended receiver, but Notre Dame was happy to take it.

Georgia would respond to tie the game before halftime. On the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs got their running game going against the Irish defense. D’Andre Swift finished off a 12-play drive with a short touchdown run that was upheld by a video replay. Notre Dame had a quick answer in their pockets before halftime though, as Book completed four straight passes to move from the Notre Dame 25-yard line down to the Georgia 12-yard line. The Irish settled for a field goal in the final seconds of the half to take the lead.

Georgia did lose one of their big offensive linemen in the first half. Left Guard Solomon Kindley was carted off the field as Georgia was finishing off their touchdown drive. Earlier in the game, Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes was helped off the field at the end of a play as well.

Will Notre Dame continue to hang with Georgia in the second half, or will the Bulldogs find a way to take the lead and pull away for a big win?

No. 3 Georgia defense handles Vanderbilt as Dawgs are clearly team to beat in SEC East

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The No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 SEC) started their SEC and season opener at Vanderbilt with touchdowns on each of their first three offensive possessions and the defense took care of things from there. Georgia handled Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC) from start to finish and left Nashville with a 30-6 victory to start the season.

Georgia scored touchdowns on drives of 75, 89, and 80 yards to start the game but the offense went quiet for most of the remainder of the night. A couple of field goals by Rodrigo Blankenship helped pad the lead and a late Vanderbilt turnover, but there were not a ton of offensive highlights for the Georgia offense to speak of. D’Andre Swift did lead the ground attack with 147 yards as the Bulldogs took advantage of their strength on the ground. As a team, Georgia rolled up over 300 yards of rushing offense, which led Jake Fromm to not have to turn in a big night throwing the football. It was a game that Georgia was fine just dominating on the ground, even if it didn’t lead to much damage on the scoreboard.

Georgia’s victory in the SEC East game came on the same day much of the division had some trouble in Week 1. A week after Florida won an ugly game against Miami in Week 0, Kentucky took a while to take care of Toledo at home, South Carolina lost to North Carolina in Charlotte, and Tennessee was dumped at home by Georgia State. Missouri was in some serious trouble at Wyoming in the same time slot. A couple others in the SEC had some struggles as well. Arkansas had a seven-point win over FCS Portland State at home. Mississippi State had a closer game on the road against Louisiana than expected. Ole Miss lost at Memphis and Auburn was struggling in primetime against Oregon as the Bulldogs were taking care of Vanderbilt. Alabama may have taken a while to get rolling but took care of Duke in Atlanta, and LSU had no concerns against Georgia Southern. All in all, Georgia clearly looked like the best team in the SEC East, and the gap may not have closed much since last season if we are to judge on one week of games.

Regardless of that outlook in the division, Kirby Smart will have plenty of issues to take into practices next week while preparing for Week 2. Georgia was flagged for too many penalties (but Vanderbilt was called for even more), and the offense went into a bit of a lull after their first three possessions went for touchdowns on drives covering at least 75 yards. Third-down conversions were almost impossible to find (1-of-7), which should be another concern to address. There should be credit given to Vanderbilt’s defense for not allowing Georgia’s offense to run away with things on their home field, but it should be at least a sticking point that Smart addresses with the team in the coming days once they begin reviewing the film from this game. And to be clear, Georgia was hardly ever in a stressful situation where the game could have been lost.

The Georgia defense, however, will earn high marks for their season debut. Vanderbilt was unable to be effective on third down for much of the night and scratching together yards was incredibly difficult from start to finish. Georgia has a defense that will be tough for teams to find much room to work this season, and that bodes well for the Bulldogs. It is not often the Georgia offense will be limited as much as they were against Vandy, and expect Smart to clean up a few things moving forward.

Look for the Georgia offense to have some more big numbers in the next couple of games. Georgia is home next week against an FCS opponent, Murray State, and then they host Arkansas State in Week 3. That allows plenty of time to iron out some wrinkles and clean things up a bit as Georgia is set to host Notre Dame in primetime on Sept. 21 before jumping into SEC play for the rest of the season (not counting the Georgia Tech game).

As for Vanderbilt, the defense proved they can hang in there. After giving up long touchdown drives their first three times out, the Commodores were not easy to move on the rest of the night. They’ll look to continue that defensive effort and improve the offensive output next week with a road game in Big Ten territory against Purdue. Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season. Purdue lost their season opener on Thursday night against Nevada.

Georgia scores on first three first-half possessions to take 21-6 lead at Vandy

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You can’t get much more efficient with the ball than Georgia has been in their season opener at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on all three of their first-half possessions. Georgia leads Vanderbilt 21-6 at halftime in an SEC opener in Nashville.

Georgia marched down the field on the game’s opening possession to get the ball rolling. Jake Fromm ended the 8-play, 75-yard drive with a short touchdown pass to Demetris Robertson. James Cook ran 18 yards for a score on Georgia’s next drive, a 10-play series spanning 89 yards. Brian Herrien was responsible for the third Georgia touchdown, a one-yard run on second down to cap a 7-play, 80-yard drive for the 21-0 lead.

Although he has not scored, star running back D’Andre Swift has had his own impact on the game with 74 rushing yards on seven rushing attempts. Fromm has been efficient with 7-of-12 passing for 103 yards. The numbers won’t “wow” anyone at first glance, but it’s been reliable and perfectly fine for Kirby Smart and his program in a conference game.

Derek Mason hasn’t been afraid to try anything and everything so far. It just hasn’t resulted in any dent son the scoreboard just yet other than a field goal late in the first half. Riley Neal‘s passing has been accurate but the Vandy offense hasn’t been able to get much room to work. That likely won’t be changing after halftime.

Crazy things can always happen, but Georgia looks to be on its way to a 1-0 start to the year after one half of play.