UGA vs. Ball State Recap and Reaction
UGA 45 – Ball State 3
UGA VS. BALL STATE RECAP AND REACTION – Georgia started slow for a second game in a row. And for the second game in a row, walk on Mekhi Mews sparked the offense.
After going scoreless in the first two drives, the first of which was due to a missed field goal from Peyton Woodring, Mekhi Mews housed a 69-yard punt return.
Georgia had not returned a punt for a touchdown since Mecole Hardman. Mews exploded onto the screen in G-Day, and has also been the key player to ignite the Georgia offense the first two games this season. Mews added a 47-yard kickoff return to his 3 catches.
Once Georgia began to score, the floodgates opened. Safety Malaki Starks hauled in a leaping interception to get the ball back to the offense. QB Carson Beck threw a couple of balls to WR Arian Smith, the second of which was a dime, to set up a touchdown catch by Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.
On the following drive, OLB Chaz Chambliss hauled in a pass that richoted off of a Cardinal receiver who was blocking rather than receiving.
The Dawgs got the ball in plus territory, when Dillon Bell made a jump cut for a gashing run than ended in the end zone. Bell took several snaps at running back with Georgia’s depleted room, showing he can be effective both out wide and in the backfield.
After forcing a 3 and out, the Dawgs marched 12 plays down the field for Woodring to kick in a 35 yard field goal.
Then Tykee Smith picked off a ball that was deflected by CB Daylen Everette on the first play of Ball State’s next drive. 4 plays later, Kendal Milton dove over the pile to punch in a touchdown. After being held scoreless in the first quarter, the Dawgs put up 31 points in the second quarter behind their 3 forced turnovers.
The Second Half
Georgia sputtered to start the second half as Carson Beck threw his first interception of the year. He launched a 50-50 ball that was tipped and picked off by Aljareek Malry.
When the Dawgs got the ball back, Beck was locked in, finding RaRa Thomas on a 16 yard throw, Mekhi Mews on a couple of passes, and eventually hit RB Cash Jones on a wheel route in the end zone. The Dawgs defense dominated the whole game, and when the Georgia back up QBs came in, the offense stalled out.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this game was that UGA lost safety Javon Bullard early in the game due to an ankle injury. He was seen on the sidelines in a boot without crutches. Kirby did not know the severity of the injury after the game.
- DL Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins had a procedure done this week on a nagging foot injury. He used a scooter to get around on Saturday.
- WR Ladd McConkey did not play (back).
- RB Daijun Edwards did not play (knee) although Kirby said he could have gone in if needed.
Carson Beck looked more comfortable in his second start. He finished 23/30 for 283 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 INT. His numbers would have been better if not for a few drops from his receivers; however, he was also bailed out on a couple of bad throws by some impressive catches.
While the offense started slow, they were explosive off of the turnovers created.
Beck contributed to the slow start by being out of rhythm with the rest of the passing game. It’s as if the timing on his drop backs did not align with the routes run by the receiving corps, which led to mistimed and inaccurate throws.
The game plan was still pretty bland, but Georgia was able to get 12 different receivers involved. Once Beck settled in and found his rhythm, the offense moved the ball much more effectively.
TE Brock Bowers was held out for stretches of the game and only had 1 catch for 3 yards. It was encouraging to see Georgia move the ball independent of Bowers, which it could not do in week 1.
Run Dawgs, Run
The running game still has work to do, and the Dawgs failed to get 100 yards on the ground. The most puzzling part of UGA’s performances this year has been the offensive line. They have done well pass blocking, but still have not gotten a good push up front.
Georgia rotated in more guys this week, particularly at Guard. Micah Morris and Dylan Fairchild were placed in early in the game. LG Xavier Truss continues to struggle. OL Austin Blaske injured his knee and will be out some time.
Blaske is considered the back up LT and C. Additionally, Georgia needs to improve their blocking on the perimeter. In the second drive of the game, the Dawgs went 3 and out after missed blocks from WR Arian Smith, WR CJ Smith, and then LT Earnest Greene all whiffed on key blocks in consecutive plays.
Traditionally a receiver Dillon Bell ended up being the most explosive running back, and the potential receiving threat he brings out of the backfield could bring a nice wrinkle to the offense. Yet, Smart insists he will not change positions.
It’s still hard to know exactly how good UGA’s offense will be as they have not opened up the playbook yet. However, so far the sense I’m getting is that Georgia dearly misses Darnell Washington. Their offense really ran through him, both in the running game, but also in the passing game.
Monken’s offense was ruthlessly efficient last year, having one of the best points per drive in the nation. I don’t think efficiency is Bobo’s mojo. Explosiveness might be. Once the Dawgs get rolling, they do look frightening even without key players.
WR CJ Smith had another nice catch. Arian Smith and Oscar Delp added some helpful grabs, but all receivers had 3 or fewer catches except for Dom Lovett. RaRa Thomas showed some explosivity. As he continues to learn the playbook, he’ll develop more and more into a key weapon.
Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint’s return was key for the Dawgs as he is the best blocking receiver they have. He had a good game but was called for a bogus offensive PI that negated a touchdown.
TE Oscar Delp has to get better at blocking. He’s got too big of a frame to be so consistently poor at blocking. His skill set is more of a receiving tight end, which he showed on his lone grab as he hurdled a defender in the second half.
Offensive Grade: A-
The Dawgs took a nice step forward defensively from last week. After week 1 the defense made a point to create more havoc plays. They succeeded in the 3 turnovers created. While they have not gotten pressure on the QB well this year, I don’t think they are dialing up any exotic blitzes either.
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LB Smael Mondon returned to action this week and led the team in tackles. His presence was key to Georgia looking more like themselves on defense. Freshman LB CJ Allen had 3 tackles and continues to be difficult to keep off the field. Plus, the Dawgs were bolstered by LB Raylen Wilson’s return to action.
OLB Darris Smith had a couple of nice tackles and 1 TFL. The outside backers did a much better job at setting the edge this week. Chaz Chambliss played much better than last week in this regard.
STAR Tykee Smith stood out again this week with an INT and 1.5 TFLs. He has really stood out the first two games and always finds himself around the ball. While I can think of one play his effort was lacking, he has really impressed, and is looking like the All-American that he used to be.
One weakness that is obvious in the defense is when our ILBs are in coverage. Pop Johnson doesn’t cover well, so the Dawgs have been looking to use Xavian Sorey in that role. Unfortunately, Sorey was burned a couple of times in coverage. We still don’t have an answer and teams will key in on our inability to cover at some point.
With Javon Bullard out early in the game, Dan Jackson and David Daniel came in at Safety. Daniel consistently found himself near the ball. His play was solid. Nothing flashy, nothing poor. His snaps last year may prove invaluable with Bullard out indefinitely.
Defensive Grade: A-
Mekhi Mews had 3 punt returns for 111 yards. Georgia has not had this kind of a threat in some time as a returner. He added a nice kick off return as well.
Punter Brett Thorson averaged an impressive 45.3 yards on his 3 kicks. Other than Woodring’s miscue on his first field goal, the UGA special teams looked dominant.
Special Teams Grade: B+
- Very little action from RB Andrew Paul this week. He’s pretty sore after his first game back from ACL surgery.
- QBs Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton looked awful, but only got one drive each.
- RB Rodrick Robinson averaged over 6 yards/carry and looked a little more explosive this week.
- DL Christen Miller was having a nice game before leaving with an injury. No update on his condition so far.
At the end of the week 2, there still in a lot of unknown about this Georgia team.
We know they are immensely talented. I don’t know if they have what it takes to achieve all of their goals yet.
At this point, I don’t think that UGA is a championship caliber team, but I also believe it can become one as the year goes on. Offensively, UGA needs to get healthy, and start a game in rhythm.
It begins up front with the offensive line and Beck. Defensively, while Georgia has only given up 10 points so far this year, they haven’t been tested at all. They need to prove they can pressure the QB without having to bring too many players, and show they can be sound in the back end even without Javon Bullard.
I also can’t help but shake my head at the fact that a team full of 4 of 5 star players also sees key performances from walk-ons like Mews and Cash Jones. If you think Kirby can’t develop, you’re crazy.
Next week will be the most telling game so far, but the Dawgs are still heavy favorites against South Carolina. This game is personal for the coaches, so let’s hope that translates into a dominant performance on the field.