Ge­or­gia pounces on Blue Raiders

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - BY DAVID PASCHALL STAFF WRITER

ATHENS, Ga. — The start­ing time of Satur­day’s Ge­or­gia foot­ball game against Mid­dle Ten­nessee State changed, but the ex­pected out­come didn’t.

En­ter­ing the non­con­fer­ence clash as 34-point fa­vorites, the No. 3 Bull­dogs built a 35-point half­time lead and cruised to a 49-7 vic­tory be­fore an an­nounced San­ford Sta­dium sell­out crowd of 92,746.

Roughly half of those fans re­mained for the sec­ond half of a con­test that was orig­i­nally sched­uled to kick off at 7:15 p.m. but was moved Thurs­day morn­ing by of­fi­cials of both schools to noon due to the un­cer­tainty of Hur­ri­cane Florence that has soaked the Caroli­nas.

“You al­ways con­cern your­self with dis­trac­tions, but at the point they made the de­ci­sion, it didn’t af­fect us,” Ge­or­gia coach Kirby Smart said af­ter his Bull­dogs im­proved to 3-0 this sea­son and 16-2 since the start of last year. “Our kids were pre­pared to do any­thing. We would have gone to a movie, but we didn’t go to a movie. We would have had a walk-through on Satur­day, but we had it on Fri­day.

“It moved some things up for us, but our kids un­der­stand it, and our kids em­brace play­ing in the heat. They think it’s an ad­van­tage for them.”

Smart praised the fans for be­ing a fac­tor from the start, and sev­eral Ge­or­gia sup­port­ers on the front row of the stu­dent

sec­tion had “Pray 4 Carolina” spelled out in paint on their backs.

Ge­or­gia sopho­more quar­ter­back Jake Fromm com­pleted 10 of 12 passes for 128 yards and three touch­downs, while ju­nior run­ning back Eli­jah Holy­field rushed eight times for 100 yards for his first col­le­giate 100-yard game. Nei­ther Fromm nor Holy­field played in the sec­ond half af­ter the Bull­dogs built a 42-7 lead.

“I didn’t re­ally know my sta­tus for the sec­ond half, be­cause they never re­ally tell you. They just tell some­body else to go in,” Holy­field said. “Some­body told me in the third quar­ter that I had 100. Get­ting 100 is like the sign of a pretty good day, so I had a pretty good day to­day.”

Bull­dogs ju­nior re­ceiver Mecole Hard­man con­tin­ued to pro­vide weekly ex­cite­ment with a 5-yard touch­down catch to cap Ge­or­gia’s open­ing pos­ses­sion and a 70-yard punt re­turn for a score mid­way through the sec­ond quar­ter that made it 28-0.

Ge­or­gia wound up amass­ing 484 yards of to­tal of­fense while hold­ing the Blue Raiders to 288.

“It was tough sled­ding out there,” MTSU coach Rick Stock­still said af­ter his team fell to 1-2. “They swal­lowed us up. They are big­ger than us and faster than us.”

Ge­or­gia didn’t waste much time milk­ing the drama out of Satur­day’s con­test, tak­ing its open­ing pos­ses­sion 87 yards in seven plays and grab­bing a 7-0 lead on the pass from Fromm to Hard­man. An off­side penalty on the Blue Raiders af­ter two plays from scrim­mage turned a po­ten­tial third-and-6 into a third-and-1, and Holy­field broke up the mid­dle mo­ments later for a 66-yard run down to the MTSU 8.

Af­ter a three-and-out by MTSU, the Bull­dogs did not look as im­pres­sive with their sec­ond pos­ses­sion, with fresh­man left tackle Cade Mays get­ting flagged for hold­ing and with Fromm get­ting sacked in the end zone and fum­bling. Right guard Ben Cleve­land fell on the ball at Ge­or­gia’s 2-yard line, which was fol­lowed by a Jake Ca­marda punt that re­sulted in the Blue Raiders tak­ing over at the 36 of the Bull­dogs.

That’s when Bull­dogs cor­ner­back Dean­dre Baker came alive, record­ing an 8-yard tackle for loss on a third-and-1 throw­back at­tempt and then in­ter­cept­ing Brent Stock­still on fourth down and re­turn­ing the ball 26 yards to the MTSU 49.

“My fa­vorite play was their trick play on third-and-1, be­cause the line got pur­suit to the re­ceiver, and I was happy to be there when he threw it back to the quar­ter­back,” Baker said. “That was 1 per­cent in­stinct and 99 per­cent film prepa­ra­tion. I’ve got to thank (safety) J.R. Reed for help­ing me learn that.

“That trick play came up in the film room, and I was wait­ing on it.”

Ge­or­gia needed just five plays to cover those 49 yards, tak­ing a 14-0 lead on an 11-yard pass from Fromm to Jeremiah Hol­lo­man with 4:02 re­main­ing in the first quar­ter. On the first play of the sec­ond quar­ter, re­ceiver Tyler Sim­mons took a speed sweep and raced 56 yards down the right side­line to make it 21-0.

The Bull­dogs’ 28-point sec­ond quar­ter also in­cluded Hard­man’s 70-yard punt re­turn for a score, a 65-yard pass from Fromm to Hol­lo­man that set up a 12-yard scor­ing strike from Fromm to Ridley and a 15-yard touch­down run by backup quar­ter­back Justin Fields.

Fields opened the sec­ond half by di­rect­ing a 10-play, 90-yard drive that cul­mi­nated with a 9-yard pass to Jayson Stan­ley, giv­ing Stan­ley the first touch­down in his four-year ca­reer. Fields com­pleted six of eight passes for 71 yards and the touch­down, and he also rushed three times for 31 yards and the score.

Ge­or­gia will play at Mis­souri this week in an SEC East game that also will be­gin at noon.

AP PHOTO/JOSHUA L. JONES

Ge­or­gia tail­back Eli­jah Holy­field (13) drives passed Mid­dle Ten­nessee safety Gre­gory Grate Jr. (3) dur­ing the first half on Satur­day.

AP PHOTO/JOSHUA L. JONES

Ge­or­gia backup quar­ter­back Justin Fields cel­e­brates af­ter a touch­down Satur­day.

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