ATHENS — Georgia won its third straight game Saturday, a relatively easy 35-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in a game that saw the overmatched visitors score two late touchdowns for window dressing.
“Did not enjoy the way the game ended,” coach Kirby Smart said.
No, but Smart is much happier than he was a few weeks ago, after losses to Vanderbilt and Florida left the Bulldogs reeling at 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the SEC. For my full column on the game, click here.
It’s difficult to project what Georgia’s recent run — wins over Kentucky, Auburn and ULL — will mean going into the game against Tech, for a couple of reasons: 1) The Yellow Jackets also have rebounded, going 4-1 since a three-game losing streak; 2) Strange things often happen in rivalry games (Paul Johnson teams have won twice in Athens, in 2008 and 2014) and this has been an illogical college season on many levels.
But there are a few things worth noting from a Georgia perspective going into the game:
• Running back Nick Chubb: He rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown and scored another TD on a checkdown pass over the middle that turned into a 49-yarder. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in consecutive weeks, which had not happened since before his mid-season knee injury last year. He seems to be running with confidence again.
Smart’s semi-rebuttal: “I never saw him not confident. Maybe y’all did. Everybody talks about production. I don’t think that production is based on Nick. I think that production is based on a whole lot of other things: a new quarterback, the offensive line. You can point to me. Nick Chubb has been everything I anticipated him being.”
• Georgia’s defensive front: The front seven has been strong of late, notwithstanding that Louisiana-Lafayette rushed for 276 yards. Two young linemen, sophomore Jonathan Ledbetter and freshman Julian Rochester, have stood out on the line. The Dogs also have played well despite missing linebacker Natrez Patrick, who has been out with a shoulder injury. His status for the Tech game is uncertain.
Smart was asked if the Rajin’ Cajuns’ running game could be applicable for the defense’s game plan against Tech, which runs the option. “There’s nothing applicable to what we’re going to see next week unfortunately,” he said. “We have a hard time simulating it. I would venture to say coach (Paul) Johnson is not going to watch one game of who we’ve played. Maybe he will. But if he does, I’ll be shocked, because you tend to play a distinctly different style of football, and he knows that. Not that they don’t have perimeter runners. They have lots of them. But that’s just a different style.”
• Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason: He made some poor throws Saturday but he completed 13 of 19 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. He showed great pocket awareness on his touchdown pass to Chubb, buying time against the rush after failing to find an open target on his primary and secondary receivers, then scrambling and spotting a wide open Chubb over the middle. That’s progress.
• Isaiah McKenzie: Special teams could be key next week and I’m not sure Tech has an answer for McKenzie, who had his career fifth career punt return for a touchdown (82 yards) and also ran 55 yards for a score on a toss on the game’s first play.
So there are a few factors weighing in Georgia’s favor next week.
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