Oh happy day, college football is BACK!! There is no better time of the year than the beginning of September when the smell of tailgates is in the air and optimism is generally at its highest point for your fan base (unless you’re Baylor). Unfortunately, that optimism turns into a feeling of despair very quickly for some. If you’re Florida State or Texas A&M, you’re looking at the rest of the season without your starting quarterback. Even Georgia is in a similar situation, although Jacob Eason is expected to return this season (more on that in a second). Despite that, the Dawgs started the season off with an impressive win over Appalachian State, and here’s what I saw from the game:
1. It’s Saturday in Athens: First of all, it’s hard to beat a game day in Athens, especially when it’s opening day. It started for me when I walked downstairs in my apartment to see like 6 bodies sprawled out on various couches, air mattresses, and floor space (shout out to my little brothers for that one). The atmosphere around the Classic City was electric on Saturday, and that optimism I referred to earlier could definitely be sensed. Year two is often a big one for new coaches, and there is a lot expected out of both Kirby Smart and the Georgia Football team this season. With Notre Dame coming up next weekend, this game could have been looked over, but it wasn’t. The Dawgs passed their first test of 2017 with flying colors.
2. Down goes the Skinny QB: Georgia struggled on their first few drives on offense as Jacob Eason was trying to find a rhythm. Unfortunately, he would never find it as he was trying to keep a play alive and got hit late out of bounds in the middle of the first quarter. If I’m being completely honest, Eason should have thrown the ball away well before he got to the sideline, but it’s hard to fault a kid for trying to make a play. It is unknown exactly how long Eason will be out, but (at least on this day) the Dawgs were in good hands with their backup.
3. Like a good neighbor, Jake Fromm was there: There’s an old saying that the backup quarterback is the most popular guy on campus. Well, that might be truer than ever here in Athens, GA. After Jacob Eason went down, Jake Fromm came in and looked every bit the part as Georgia’s quarterback. His poise, confidence, and patience were all seen and, as my cohost on the Morning Show said on Tuesday morning, he has that “it” factor. One big difference between Fromm and Eason that I noticed was that while Eason at times stares down his primary target, Fromm is constantly moving through his progressions. On a 4th and 4, Fromm could have tried to force one into a well-covered Mecole Hardman at the first down marker, but instead, he let the play develop and found Javon Wims on a crossing route for a bigger gain. Some have said that his touchdown pass to Wims was a bad throw and would have been picked off by a better defense. I’ll say this, it certainly was risky, but I love the way Fromm stood in the pocket, took a huge hit, and threw a ball up for his receiver to go get. His faith, as a freshman, in his teammates is high, and that rubs off on a locker room. He’s got a huge test this weekend, but from what I’ve seen so far, composure will not be an issue. Now, can we let him play in khaki britches?
4. Domination on D: Georgia’s defense has gotten a lot of hype going into this season, and for good reason. They got Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, and Dominick Sanders to all return. The front seven is as good as any in the country, and that was very apparent against Appalachian State. The Mountaineers couldn’t get anything going with any consistency, and even when they had a big play, the Dawgs would immediately make up for it with stops. Roquan Smith and Trenton Thompson each had 6 tackles, and both looked like they hadn’t missed a beat. Another bright spot was J.R. Reed, who had 5 tackles of his own, including a sack and forced fumble. They’ll definitely face a tougher test in South Bend on Saturday, but for week one, the Dawgs defense was just as good as advertised.
5. No Senioritis for these Backs: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returned to UGA on a mission. They both wanted to end their careers in Sanford Stadium on much better notes than a loss to Tech, and both worked very hard in the offseason. That was very apparent in this game as the two combined for 183 yards and 3 touchdowns. This offense is going to go as far as these two will take it, especially while Jake Fromm adjusts to his roll as the starting quarterback. Against App State, both backs did what they do best. Chubb ran over people on his way to two touchdowns and Sony was very good hitting the hole and making Mountaineer defenders miss. I feel like a broken record here, but they both have a harder road ahead of them against Notre Dame, but if the offensive line can give them some holes, I expect huge games from both against the Fighting Irish.
6. Kicking game bringin’ the boom: Georgia definitely had trouble last season on special teams. Weather it was consistency in the kicking game (both kicking off and kicking field goals) or the punting game; this was an issue that Kirby Smart definitely wanted to correct. We started to see more consistency in the field goal department when Rodrigo Blankenship was promoted, but improvements still needed to be made in other areas. In terms of kickoffs, Rodrigo definitely improved in the offseason, as he was booming the ball for touchbacks left and right. He also hit on his only field goal attempt and all of his PATs. The other area that needed improvement was the punting. Enter Cameron Nizialek. He had five punts in this game, averaged 43.8 yards per punt, and hit a long of 53 yards. He was one of the best parts of the game for the Dawgs, and if he can continue to hit punts like this with consistency, punting should no longer be an area of concern for Georgia.
7. Wake up the echoes: I haven’t been this excited about a Georgia road game maybe ever. So much worked out for those of us making the trip up to South Bend. Personally, I’ll be going to Wrigley Field on Friday to see Coach Dooley throw out the first pitch, Notre Dame on Saturday, and back to Chicago for the Falcons/Bears game at Soldier Field on Sunday. It may end up being the best sports weekend of my life, and I know I’m not alone in this pilgrimage. As for the game on the field, Notre Dame had a very impressive performance against Temple this past Saturday, with three players rushing for over 100 yards. Georgia’s defense will have to play even better than they did against App State, and the running backs will have to perform well to take pressure off of Jake Fromm. That being said, Fromm looked cool as a cucumber last weekend, and hopefully he can bring that same attitude with him to South Bend. Touchdown Jesus awaits Dawg fans. Let’s hope #TeamKhakis can bring back a win!