The Georgia Bulldogs have the most impressive win of the young college football season following last Saturday night's 10-3 downing of Clemson in Charlotte.
This week's objective?
Scoring their first offensive touchdown.
A 74-yard interception return by Christopher Smith served as the only touchdown during Georgia's win in that top-five showdown. The Bulldogs did advance into Clemson's red zone on three separate occasions, stalling at the 5-yard line late in the third quarter before taking a 10-0 lead and taking the final snap at the 12 after consuming the game's final four minutes and 49 seconds.
"You go through the reasons why and you go through each play," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Monday. "A lot of it was attention to detail — not converting on third down and missing a couple of explosives. They played us very different than what you would normally say a Clemson team would play. They prepared for speed breaks and shots and fast balls, because that's what they had given up. They did a good job of defending that.
"We ran the ball well at times. It's pretty obvious that they knew we had to run the ball there at the end, and we were still able to, so we did do some really good things offensively. I'm excited to see what our guys can do moving forward. The greatest jump you make is from game one to game two, so we've got to find a way to be more explosive."
Georgia will make its Sanford Stadium debut this week against UAB, which opened last Wednesday night with a 31-0 blanking of Jacksonville State at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.
The Bulldogs won their biggest game since the 2017 Southeastern Conference championship season without the services of former five-star tight end Darnell Washington and former five-star receiver Arik Gilbert, who transferred earlier this year from LSU. Georgia could be without top receiver George Pickens all season due to his ACL injury in March, and neither Jermaine Burton nor Kearis Jackson are fully healthy at receiver, either.
Jackson only played special teams against Clemson, and the absence of all that perimeter talent resulted in Smart having to turn to youngsters such as tight end Brock Bowers and receivers Ladd McConkey, Adonai Mitchell and Arian Smith. Only Smith had previous experience for the Bulldogs, playing in four games last season.
"We had a play where Brock Bowers misses a block, Arian lines up wrong and AD is in the wrong spot and doesn't block the right guy, and the play is unsuccessful," Smart said. "Those three players on one key play all do the wrong thing. We have to make sure that doesn't happen again."
The Bulldogs have moved on this week without starting guard Tate Ratledge, the redshirt freshman who suffered a fracture in his foot during Georgia's opening possession. Redshirt junior Warren Ericson, the projected starting center until injuring his hand early in preseason camp, quickly entered Saturday's game at guard.
"That's one of our deepest positions on the team in terms of sheer scholarship numbers — not necessarily talent, but sheer scholarship numbers we can use to move around," Smart said. "Jamaree (Salyer) has played at guard, and we've got Owen Condon. Warren Ericson stepped in and did a tremendous job. Xavier Truss can play guard, and we feel like Broderick (Jones) is ready to go and play at tackle, so we'll have to wait and see."
Said Ericson: "As an offensive line, we pride ourselves on being a brotherhood. It's tough to see someone go down."
Redshirt junior tight end John Fitzpatrick has been hobbled by a foot injury, while Washington and junior cornerback Tykee Smith missed the opener with ailing feet, but Smart said each of those situations have been different.
Smart admitted Monday that three or four players are missing time due to COVID, as are a couple of staff members.
"We're at our highest spike," he said. "These are people who are vaccinated. We're talking about breakthroughs. It's at the highest it's been since fall camp right now. I think there is this relief that everyone feels like everything is back to normal, but it's not for us right now."
Georgia is 20-2 in nonconference games under Smart, which includes two victories over Notre Dame and wins over Clemson and Oklahoma. The losses have been against Georgia Tech in 2016 and to Texas in the Sugar Bowl after the 2018 season. The Bulldogs are 2-0 lifetime against UAB, escaping 16-13 in 2003 and rolling 34-0 in 2006.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.