Defense wins championships. It’s also kind of handy when your starting quarterback goes down in the first quarter and you find yourself leaning on a true freshman in his first collegiate game.
A Georgia defense that returned ten starters played like it, not allowing Appalachian State to advance further than the UGA 41 Yard line in the first half, then held serve in the second half to help a UGA offense running on one engine to a 31-10 win.
Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm’s final numbers were, objectively speaking, pedestrian: 10 of 15 passing for 140 yards and a touchdown. And there were some throws in there that he could have been made to pay for. The lone touchdown to Javon Wims was thrown squarely off Fromm’s back foot and had the Mountaineer defenders properly bracketed Wims the ball might well have been picked off.
Fromm was playing with only a sampling of the play book at his disposal, but looked poised from the word go. He validated the Bulldog coaches’ rave reviews of his early performance. How will he perform against a faster, bigger defense if called upon in South Bend? I wish I knew.
The good news for Georgia is that whoever lines up under center will have Nick Chubb and Sony Michel behind him. Chubb finished the game with 96 yards on 15 carries and 2 touchdowns. Michel chipped in 87 yards on 16 touches. Georgia also got a solid contribution on the ground from true freshman D’Andre Swift, who pitched in 6 carries for 31 yards.
On the whole Georgia’s offensive effort was sufficient if not spectacular. The ‘Dawgs ground out 221 yards rushing and 368 yards total. While criticizing Jim Chaney is certainly in vogue among the Bulldog faithful, I think the big man in the booth deserves some credit for calling a game plan that Fromm could execute and which got him in rhythm quickly.
There’s no doubt that Fromm gained some confidence as the evening went on, and that Eason looked ill at ease in the two series he got before his injury. I don’t think Georgia has a quarterback controversy, assuming Eason is able to return next week in South Bend. That being said, the thought of Eason essentially getting his first substantial game action on a sore knee against a solid Irish defense makes me nauseous. The alternative of course is to stick with Jake Fromm, and give the true freshman his first collegiate start on the road at Notre Dame. Also not ideal.
The offensive line looked better as the night wore on, but is still not opening gaping holes for anyone. I haven’t reviewed the film yet, but it looked like Gaillard in particular struggled at times with the Mountaineers’ quick interior linemen. Still, I think this unit will end up being an improvement over the swiss cheese 2016 group.
Appalachian State’s Taylor Lamb came into the night with a lot more experience than Fromm. He didn’t leave it with much better results. The Bulldog defense harassed Lamb all night, and he ended the game with a pretty bland stat line: 18 of 27 passing for 128 yards and no touchdown. As expected Lamb did use his legs on occasion and finished with a respectable 10 carries for 66 yards, but he was never really able to run loose on a UGA defense that played fast and tackled reasonably well.
As they did for much of 2016 Roquan Smith and Trenton Thompson led all Red and Black defenders with 6 tackles apiece. As predicted, freshman Richard Lecounte made his presence known immediately, finishing right behind them with 4 solo stops and 1 assisted tackle.
Tulsa transfer J.R. Reed also stepped up, including batting a ball away from Taylor Lamb in the first quarter that pushed the Mountaineers back deep into their own territory, erasing some early momentum for the visitors.
If you had asked most Bulldog fans whether they’d be happy with a 31-10 win in this one they would have likely accepted gladly. But they also would have expected to have a much more severe case of the warm fuzzies about it. Nevertheless, a win’s a win.
A few additional observations:
No quarterback in UGA history has thrown more interceptions per pass attempt than Brice Ramsey. I haven’t researched that, but I can’t imagine it’s not true (Ramsey has thrown 6 interceptions in only 76 attempts in his UGA career). Sheesh.
Georgia had 8 penalties on the night, a quarter of which were snap infractions on Lamont Gaillard.
I can’t remember the last time Georgia kicked that many touchbacks. It was nice.
Neither team had a turnover until Brice Ramsey came in and got charitable in a hurry. That’s really uncharacteristic for an opener.