SEC football returned and along with it the familiar frustrations from the Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) fanbase with their offense. The Dawgs overcame numerous penalties, porous QB play, as well as a tough Arkansas Razorbacks (0-1) defense to earn a season-opening 37-10 win in Fayetteville.
The game got off to an auspicious start for the Dawgs as after the teams traded punts on their opening drives, Arkansas went 91 yards in 2:17, capped off by a beautiful 49-yard touchdown pass from Felipe Franks to Treylon Burks. That was the only burst of offense in the games first quarter however, as the teams combined for a whopping 5 punts and 2 interceptions in the opening frame. The exchange of interceptions was brutal for Georgia, as after Richard LeCounte returned an overthrown Franks pass to the Arkansas 15 yard line, D’Wan Mathis threw a 3rd down ball right to Montaric Brown, who. unfortunately for Mathis, plays for Arkansas.
Early in the 2nd quarter, the Bulldog defense and special teams got them on the board, as Jake Camarda had a punt downed at the 1-yard line, and a few plays later the defense forced a TJ Hammonds fumble out of the back of the endzone after a botched double reverse to cut the Arkansas lead to 7-2.
With the offense still flailing, Stetson Bennett IV replaced Mathis, who finished 8/17 for 55 yards and 1 pick, midway through the 2nd quarter, and Georgia started to move the ball down the field for the first time. It still came to nothing in the end though, as the Dawgs inability to run the ball came back to bite them when the couldn’t convert a 3rd & 2 or 4th & 1 just outside the red zone, giving the ball back to Arkansas. The Hogs continued to be unable to do anything against Georgia’s defense, and two drives later, Bennett IV led UGA 59 yards in 1:00 to set up a Jack Podlesny field goal to make it 7-5 at halftime.
The Georgia offense was notably better with better under the former walk-on Bennett, and despite a James Cook fumble setting up an Arkansas field goal to open the 2nd half, the dam was about to break. Bennett responded by hitting George Pickens for a 19-yard score, and followed up a blocked punt with a strike to John Fitzpatrick to make it 20-10. Two plays later, Eric Stokes picked off Franks and took it to the house to make it 27-10, effectively putting the game out of reach. It was a tough day for Franks outside of the opening touchdown pass. After a failed trick play gave LeCounte his 2nd interception of the day, Zamir White got his first touchdown of the season to make it 34-10. Bennett finished 20/29 for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns, providing a calm presence behind center and just allowing Georgia’s group of 5 star skill players to do the rest. White would finish with 71 yards on 13 carries and his touchdown, while Pickens caught 4 balls 47 yards. Kearis Jackson led Georgia with 6 catches for 62 yards, although he didn’t find the endzone.
There were some positives for Arkansas, as their defense did not look outclassed at all for most of the game, with guys like Bumper Pool making plays all over the field in the 1st half. Treylon Burks also had 7 catches for 102 yards, an impressive showing against team that consistently fields one of the best defensive backfields in the league. They will be worried by the lack of production for Rakeem Boyd, who carried 11 times for 21 yards and was unable to find space anywhere on the field. New OC Kendall Briles will have to find a way to get Boyd the ball in more space if Arkansas is going to move the ball like they want to. Trey Knox was also silent for most of the game, only catching 1 pass for 3 yards.
Georgia will now turn their attention their primetime home tilt with Auburn, as well as JT Daniels readiness to play, while Arkansas has the suddenly much harder looking task of facing Mike Leach’s Mississippi State and their Air-Raid offense next week in Starkville.