Beck and Bell Lead the Bulldogs Past the Vols
For the fourth time in Kirby Smart’s tenure, the Bulldogs went up to Rocky Top to put together a dominant performance. The game started like they seemingly all do now: with a quick score from the UGA opponent.
RB Jaylen Wright needed just one play to house a 75-yard carry and put Tennessee up seven points. But the Dawgs would respond with 24 unanswered themselves. The Vols notched a field goal just before half, but didn’t manage to put up points for the remainder of the game.
The Dawgs cruised in the second half and became the first team to go undefeated in the SEC three years in a row since the league went to an eight game conference schedule. This win also tied UGA with Alabama for the longest winning streak in SEC history.
Carson Beck led the Dawgs with 298 yards and three TDs on 24-30 passing.
With receivers Ladd McConkey held out with an ankle injury and RaRa Thomas hurting his foot mid-game, Dillon Bell responded with a big game. He caught five balls for 90 yards and a touchdown and throwing an 18 yard score to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.
Things I Liked
If you aren’t all in on Carson Beck, I don’t know what’s holding you back at this point. He has shown he can do almost anything you’d ask of him.
He was surgical against Tennessee’s defense Saturday, and nearly went a perfect 10-10 on passing on 3rd downs if it wasn’t for a dropped ball from Oscar Delp. Beck rifled throws into his various receivers while fitting the ball into tight windows. His back shoulder throw to Dillon Bell on 3rd and 12 was perfectly placed.
The UGA QB showed, once again, an ability to scramble for first downs when needed, and he showed for the first time an ability to move in the pocket and still deliver key throws. Twice in the red zone he had to step up in the pocket to avoid a defender, only to find a streaking receiver who caught it and ran in for 6. While UGA is taking the deep ball shots anymore, they don’t have to because Beck has been so efficient and successful with throws 10-20 yards downfield. He did all that while missing two starting receivers? Yep.
Dillon Bell also broke out in this game. Without their key playmaker out wide, Dillon Bell answered the…bell. Sorry.
He did everything you could have hoped for playing the X receiver position. Bell was more effective than RaRa Thomas has been all year; he won on key slants routes and on 50-50 balls outside. The UGA receiver scored in the red zone and made plays in a big way for the Dawgs, who had devastatingly efficient offense during the game.
Third Down Magic
Third down was a key component of this game, with UGA finding incredible success and Tennessee struggling mightily. Beck led the Dawgs to 9-13 on 3rd downs, while holding the Vols to just 2-11 on their conversions.
The Dawgs were often in 3rd and medium or 3rd and long situations but still were able to convert regularly. Despite Tennessee having much more manageable yardage, they couldn’t do the same. UGA was able to stack up 3 and outs against the Vols, giving the offense more chances to extend the lead. The game was in full control before half time.
Taking a Punch
After the game, Kirby Smart was asked what is this team elite at. He said taking a punch. The defense got punched again on the opening play, but then responded by only allowing 3.4 yards per play for the remainder of the game.
I’m encouraged by this, because as I look ahead to the SEC Championship and potentially the playoff, we know UGA will have to eat some punches and deliver their own. It’s the kind of make up that championship teams need.
Kendal Milton had himself a game but in a very different way than last week. He had a solid performance with 66 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Nothing remarkable, but not bad.
Where he stood out was in his pass blocking. He stuffed multiple blitzes from the Vols, allowing Beck time to throw downfield. His blocking is so sure and steady, a real asset to the passing game.
CB Kamari Lassiter may be the best corner Kirby Smart has coached at UGA. He continues to make key plays, breaking up passes. Last year, fans groaned as Kelee Ringo would run with a defender, only to not track the ball in the air and get a PI call against him. Lassiter doesn’t get many PI’s, but turns his head and even makes plays on the ball. So far, there hasn’t been a receiver he can’t shut down.
Things I Didn’t Like
Yeah, a classic trip to Knoxville in that UGA gets a bunch of dudes hurt. McConkey couldn’t go. RaRa aggravated his foot. RG Tate Ratledge’s knee was rolled up on from behind. Brock Bowers was limping one play into the second half.
Just sit all of those guys this week to get ready for Bama. I doubt Brock will allow it, but man, I just want a healthy squad. I’ll take a healthy UGA over anyone at the moment.
Remember Warren Ericson? He was a senior offensive lineman on the ‘21 championship team. He could play almost any line position, and his versatility brought value to the team.
Ericson began the year at guard, but had stints at center and tackle too. He had up and down performances all year, and then in the national championship against Alabama, he was getting abused in the first half. UGA moved LT Jamaree Salyer into left guard so they could bench Ericson. Then they played true freshman Broderick Jones, who had hardly played all year, to left tackle.
It worked and the Dawgs managed to find enough offense to win the game.
I think Xavier Truss is this year’s Warren Ericson. He’s a senior, has played a ton, and yet this guy is so bad some games it’s hard to fathom. This week was another example. UGA was rotating him around the line at LG and both tackle spots. Especially at the tackle spots, Truss was beaten over and over.
He just isn’t good enough. UGA’s best 5 linemen do not include him. Honestly, their best 6 don’t include him. Part of what UGA needs is for Ratledge to get healthy just so we can keep Truss out of the rotation when the games matter most. Morris and Fairchild can handle the guard spots better if Ratledge can’t go.
First Down Success
As good as third downs went in this game, UGA should be concerned with their first down success. Both Missouri and Tennessee stopped UGA on first down repeatedly in this game. T
he Dawgs did a better job of picking on a depleted secondary from the Vols, but Missouri’s corners were able to lock up receivers from time to time. If the Dawgs can’t win on first down against Alabama, they’ll struggle offensively because Bama has the best defense, and in particular cornerbacks, that UGA has seen all year.
UGA’s defense had a great game, but they were helped out quite a bit by ol’ Bazooka Joe. Joe Milton went 17-30 for 147 yards, but also missed multiple throws downfield. The problem is that Tennessee receivers got behind the UGA defense multiple times. They just never paid for it because Milton couldn’t connect.
Again, looking ahead to Alabama, I see a potential problem here. Milroe’s deep ball is lethal and key to their offense. Georgia can’t let their guys get beat deep like they did against UT, because Milroe will make them pay. And God help me if I see Jermaine Burton catching a ball in the endzone against us.
What an incredible 4 game stretch. Dawg fans, take this in. We just humiliated our biggest rival, slugged it out against the toughest opponent on our schedule, destroyed a top 10 team, and went on the road to Neyland Stadium and silenced Dolly Parton and the rest of the rednecks up there.
Average score: 40-17.
Plus, the Dawgs have never been at full strength while doing it. This team is tired, but have earned everything that’s before them. I’m expecting a down performance this week and I don’t care.
They need a physical and mental break, and hopefully can get healthy to face Bama.
If the Dawgs can win the SEC, I like them against anyone in the nation right now. It’s taken longer than we would have liked, but I’m beginning to love this team, warts and all. They can take a punch and man can they dish them out too.