ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart said he was “disappointed” with the Bulldogs performance at Arkansas, but not just with the players.
“We have to do a better job as a staff, including me, of helping our quarterbacks to be successful.” Smart said in the wake of his team’s 37-10 victory at Arkansas.
Redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis got the start but was replaced by Stetson Bennett in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs found success opening things up with the more experienced Bennett, but also, because they weren’t making as many mistakes and penalties.
Smart and his staff have plenty of clean up after Georgia was whistled for 12 penalties.
“It starts with the penalties, it starts with guys busting assignments and guys missing signals, and not doing what they are supposed to do, that’s 100 percent what I attribute it to,” Smart said, asked about the Bulldogs’ sloppy first half at Arkansas.
“So when you turn the ball over, which we did when we hd a good drive, when you hold people and you line up in the backfield, you’re not going to have a lot of success. That’s just not going to happen.”
Here’s a look at one viewpoint on position grades:
Stetson Bennett was excellent completing 20 of 29 passes for 211 yards and 2 TDs along with a first down scramble and 2-point conversion run. D’Wan Mathis showed his big arm and running ability, but he was plagued by penalties that put him behind the chains on more than one occasion. Smart also indicated the interception was not his fault.
Running back (C-)
Many wondered if there would be drop off and they got their answer at Arkansas, a decided “Yes,” so far. James Cook fumbled on the opening drive of the second half and did little in the way of breaking tackles, stumbling for just 26 yards on 7 carries. Zamir White had 13 carries for 71 yards, but he was stopped on third-and-2 and again on fourth-and-1 on Red Zone carries.
Freshman Jermaine Burton was guilty of a hold and running an incorrect option route resulting in an interception, and Demetris Robertson had a false start. Kearis Jackson raised the bar with a team-high six catches, and George Pickens was reliable with a third down catch and a 19-yard TD catch. Tight ends did some damage, with Darnell Washington making the longest play of the day (26 yards) and John FitzPatrick reeling in a 7-yard TC catch.
Offensive line (C)
There figured to be drop-off on the line after losing two first-round NFL offensive tackles and an guard starting as an NFL rookie. Sure enough, Justin Shaffer and Xavier Truss were whistled for holding. It appeared the line did a decent job creating creases in the run game, but the backs were not in sync.
Defensive line (A-)
Smart considers his outside ‘backers as linemen, so Azeez Ojulari’s safety-inducing strip falls into this grouping.Nolan Smith had six tackles and 1.5 sacks, a sign of progress. Adam Anderson and Jermaine Johnson also had two tackles.
Nakobe Dean made the most of his first career start making a team-high 7 tackles and getting in on a sack. Monty Rice had three tackles but a costly facemark penalty. Quay Walker saw significant playing time and made three tackles. Nate McBride also had two stops.
Subpar on Arkansas’ scoring drive, but excellent outside of that. Richard LeCounte’s two interceptions made a statement, and Eric Stokes made his first career interception count, returning it for a TD to atone for an earlier pass interference penalty. Lewis Cine had 6 tackles. Tyrque Stevenson had a stop, but also, a horse collar tackle penalty.
Special teams (A-)
The punters and kickers came through big. Jake Camarda had an All-American type of day averaging 49.9 and dropping 5 inside the Hogs’ 20. Walk-on kicker Jack Podlesny made a pair of 38-yard field goals. Kenny McIntosh had two kick returns for 91 yards, and Jackson had two punt returns for 34 yards. One would have gone for even more yardage if not for Matt Landers’ penalty. Zamir White had a blocked punt, but Quay Walker had a running into the kicker penalty.
Got to give the staff credit for the halftime adjustments, as UGA outscored Arkansas 32-3 in the second half, but the slow start and sloppy play was uncharacteristic. It was clear Sam Pittman had some tricks to exploit UGA tendencies.
Georgia’s depth continues to impress, as does the staff’s ability to have so many players prepared to step up in times of adversity. The fact Stetson Bennett was that dialed in speaks well for him and Todd Monken. The Air Raid principles were apparent once Bennett came in. That said, Mathis’ running ability and arm strength is something future defensive coordinators will remember. Three interceptions for the secondary is a good start. It’s a win, and there doesn’t appear to be any serious injuries.