Robertson adds speed to UGA’s deep wide receiver group
— Demetris Robertson “ran out of gas” when he scored on a 72-yard run the first time he touched the ball in his Georgia debut.
That was the report from Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
Smart’s claim couldn’t be confirmed by Austin Peay. No defender was close enough to Robertson to offer an expert opinion.
Robertson’s second-quarter scoring run was one example of No. 3 Georgia’s newly expanded options at wide receiver and running back during Saturday’s seasonopening 45-0 win over the Governors.
Mecole Hardman scored on a 59-yard pass from Jake Fromm . Freshman James Cook had runs of 36 and 26 yards.
Robertson, a sophomore from Savannah, was granted immediate eligibility following his transfer from California. As a freshman at Cal, he had 50 catches for 767 yards and seven touchdowns and tied for fifth nationally with five receptions of 50-plus yards. He also ran sprints on Cal’s track team.
Robertson’s big run was his only chance to shine in Georgia’s debut. The Bulldogs open their Southeastern Conference schedule at South Carolina next week, and that may be Robertson’s chance to play a bigger role.
Against Austin Peay, Smart could afford to be patient. There was ample depth at wide receiver even with 2017 starter Terry Godwin sitting out with a knee injury.
Eleven receivers caught 21 passes from Fromm, freshman Justin Fields and Matthew Downing.
Georgia also showed depth at tailback even after losing Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to the NFL.
D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Cook had runs of at least 15 yards. Brian Herrien had only one carry for two yards, but he added three catches for 20 yards.
“We can do a lot,” said Swift, who started at tailback and had a team-high eight carries for 43 yards and a touchdown, plus a team-high four catches for 33 yards.
“We have a lot of weapons on this offense,” Swift said. “That’s to our advantage this year.”
Smart said the depth at the skill positions means the competition extends to less glamorous parts of the game.
“They look at it as if they call on me to go block somebody, I better do it good or I might not be back in here,” Smart said. “The motivating factor is I’ve got to do great things without the ball, not necessarily great things with the ball.”
Riley Ridley had three catches, including a 10-yarder for Georgia’s first touchdown of the season. Smart said Ridley “was physical in his blocking.”
Swift was one of six players to score a touchdown.
“We’re just so deep on offense with everybody,” Swift said, adding, “We can use so many people on so many different things.”
Robertson didn’t have a pass thrown his way. Even so, he wasn’t complaining after taking a handoff from Fields, cutting between two defenders and sprinting to the end zone. He was all alone at the end of the run.
He said he told himself, “I’ve got to go! I’ve got to go!” when he saw open field.
Robertson wasn’t with Georgia for spring practice and is behind on his conditioning drills. Thus the reminder from Smart.
“In the SEC, that might not have been a touchdown,” Smart said. “So we want to encourage him to keep getting in shape so he can turn that into a touchdown against an SEC opponent.”
Saban makes it official by naming Tua Alabama’s starting QB TUSCALOOSA, Ala.
— Nick Saban made official what anybody who watched No. 1 Alabama’s opener likely assumed: Tua Tagovailoa is the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback.
The top-ranked Tide’s coach didn’t wait for the question to be asked Monday before saying Tagovailoa will start Saturday against Arkansas State, but even he acknowledged it wasn’t much of a secret.
He said two-year starter Jalen Hurts will still play a role.
“I think everybody knows that Tua’s going to start this game and we’re going to use Jalen’s skill-set in the future to help however we feel that he can benefit the team,” Saban said. “I just want to be clear with everyone that I have done this in the past where we don’t say who the starter’s going to be for the first game and we give both quarterbacks an opportunity to play in the game, which is exactly what we did in this game. Not a whole lot different than what we’ve done in the past.”
It was just amplified this time because of the circumstances. Hurts has a 26-2 record as a starter and has led the Tide to a pair of national championship games.
Tagovailoa was the hero of the title game against Georgia in January after entering for the second half, guaranteeing a quarterback battle during the offseason. The sophomore from Hawaii was terrific in his first start in a 51-14 victory over Louisville . He was 12-of16 passing for 227 yards and two touchdowns while running for a third score.
“We make all of our decisions here based on winning,” Saban said. “Whoever we feel will give us the best opportunity to go out there and win, that’s who we’re going to play. Obviously, it’s how you practice, how you prepare. I said it at the beginning, who wins the team.
“In our opinion, the one player did a little better job of that so he got the opportunity to start and we got the opportunity to play both guys and look and see how they performed and we’re going to continue to try to help both players improve and get better.”
It had become a touchy subject for Saban after repeated questions about the starter leading up to the game. Saban got testy with an ESPN reporter following a postgame question about the decision.
Saban called sideline reporter Maria Taylor and apologized.
Taylor simply asked: “What answers did you have about your quarterbacks after watching them both play tonight?”.
Taylor was part of the ESPN crew for Monday night’s game between No. 20 Virginia Tech and No. 19 Florida State. She declined to comment when asked about Saban’s remarks the past two days.
Saban is taking pains to avoid seeming critical of Hurts.
“If I get asked to vilify a player and make another one a crown prince publicly, I might not respond to that, and I need to learn a better way to respond to that,” he said. “And I will in the future. And I pray every Sunday that I never get angry. But it was a time and circumstance thing for me. I was a little upset by the way we finished the game, the penalties we had, the mental errors that we had. So it was totally my responsibility and we apologize for it.”
Saban said he hasn’t made any decision on working to let Hurts take advantage of the NCAA’s new rule allowing players who play in four games or fewer to redshirt. Hurts has two years of eligibility left and played significant time in the opener.
“I don’t know how you can prepare when you pick and choose when you’re going to play players,” Saban said. “I don’t know how you can do that. I mean, you have to get somebody ready to play in the game. So if you have any suggestions, I’d be glad to listen to them. But I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how a player really can choose when he wants to play and have any respect for his teammates.”
Georgia’s Demetris Robertson (16) runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first half of last Saturday’s game vs. Austin Peay.