No. 2 Georgia will look to establish itself offensively against defending Conference USA champion Alabama-Birmingham in a nonconference game on Saturday in Athens, Ga.
The Bulldogs’ defense seized the spotlight in season-opening upset of then-No. 3 Clemson last week. Georgia held the Tigers to just two yards rushing on 23 attempts — Clemson’s lowest rushing total under coach Dabo Swinney and the fourth-lowest total in program history — and just 180 yards of total offense. The Tigers’ longest run was 10 yards.
Georgia (1-0) sacked quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei seven times and safety Christopher Smith’s 74-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter proved to be the difference.
But as good as Georgia was defensively, the Bulldogs struggled to move the ball for most of the night against Clemson. Quarterback JT Daniels completed 22-of-30 passes for 135 yards and an interception, while running back Zamir White (team-highs 13 carries, 74 yards) paced a rushing attack that amassed 121 yards on 31 carries.
Georgia forced Clemson into five three-and-outs and punts on five of the Tigers’ first 10 drives. The Tigers didn’t score until there was 9:08 left in the game. It also marked the first time in 144 games that Clemson failed to score in the first half, the longest streak in the FBS.
The Bulldogs will continue to try to break in their inexperienced group of receivers, which include freshman tight end Brock Bowers (six catches, 43 yards), Jaylen Johnson, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Ladd McConkey. They have been forced to fill the void left by injuries to the team’s top receivers, including George Pickens, Darnell Washington and Dominick Blaylock, who were sidelined against Clemson and it’s unclear when they will return.
However, it’s unclear who coach Kirby Smart will have at his disposal, considering he said three or four of his players are sidelined with COVID-19, though he refused to identify them or declare them out for Saturday’s game.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’m as concerned as I’ve ever been, because we have three or four guys out with COVID and we have a couple staff members that have been out with COVID here recently,” Smart told ESPN.
“For us, we’re at our highest spike. And people are talking about vaccinations, well these are people that are vaccinated. We’re talking about breakthroughs, and so that concerns you not only for the players on your team that are unvaccinated, that are playing and not playing, because we want everybody to be safe. But it concerns me for the players that are vaccinated that we could lose them.”
The Blazers (1-0), who opened as a 29-point underdog against Georgia, had no trouble offensively in a 31-0 season-opening win over Jacksonville State.
Quarterback Tyler Johnston III completed 17 of 21 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Trea Shropshire had five receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown and RaJae’ Johnson-Sanders finished with three catches for 62 yards and a score.
Ryan Davis added three receptions for 51 yards, and Gerrit Prince caught three passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. Jermaine Brown Jr. rushed for a team-high 78 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries as the Blazers produced 518 yards of total offense.
Defensively, the Blazers were dominant against Jacksonville State, limiting the Gamecocks to 154 total yards and a 2-for-13 showing on third-down conversions en route to posting their first shutout since 2018.
“Obviously in Game 1 there’s always things to clean up, and we better get them cleaned up before we go to Athens,” coach Bill Clark said on “The Jim Rome Show.” “When people believe in whatever the process is and if they believe in what you are doing, I think that’s when you see good things happen and that’s what we have going right now.”
–Field Level Media