No. 2 Bulldogs blank Samford in home opener
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No. 2 Bulldogs blank Samford in home opener

Georgia-Samford
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. — The No. 2-ranked Georgia football team cruised to an easy 33-0 win over Samford in the Bulldogs’ home opener Saturday afternoon. Stetson Bennett threw for 300 yards, the defense was dominant throughout, and kicker Jack Podlesny connected on four field goals in front of a crowd of 92,746 at Sanford Stadium.

After scoring touchdowns on its first seven drives in last Saturday’s season-opening 49-3 rout of then-No. 11 Oregon in Atlanta, Georgia (2-0) didn’t get into the end zone as easily against Samford (1-1), an FCS squad from the Southern Conference. Podlesny, who was busy booting extra points last week, made field goals from 27, 25, 26 and 25 yards.

Georgia ended the game with 479 yards of offense, averaging 6.4 yards per play, while the defense held Samford to 128 total yards. It was Georgia’s third win in three meetings against Samford. The teams first played in 1943 when Samford was still Howard College. Georgia won that meeting 38-0 and beat Samford 42-14 in 2017.

The Bulldogs hit the road next week for their Southeastern Conference opener at South Carolina. The Gamecocks dropped their SEC debut Saturday, falling 44-30 at No. 16 Arkansas.

After the Georgia defense forced a quick three-and-out from the Samford offense, Bennett and the Bulldogs took the field and quickly moved into Samford territory. Ultimately, Georgia had a first down at the Samford 12-yard line but had to settle for a 27-yard Jack Podlesny field goal and a 3-0 advantage.

Safety Dan Jackson derailed Samford’s next possession, stripping the ball from quarterback Michael Hiers. Linebacker Xavian Sorey Jr. recovered the loose ball at the Samford 41, setting Georgia up with excellent field position. On the next play, Bennett dumped a screen off to McIntosh on the left side and the back scampered 30 yards up the sideline to the Samford 11.

Georgia was again in great position deep in Samford territory, and it again had to settle for a field goal, this time a 25-yarder that made it 6-0 with 5:34 to play in the opening quarter.

The Bulldog defense again forced a Samford punt — Samford through three possessions had 26 total yards and one first down — and Bennett and the offense marched down the field. There was a 37-yard completion to Ladd McConkey deep downfield that got Georgia into Samford territory, and the drive ended with a 2-yard Bennett run to the right for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.

In the second, Georgia’s defense got another quick stop and then the offense kept rolling. Bennett hit receiver Kearis Jackson kwon for 16 yards to the 50, followed by two good Kendell Milton runs to the left that netted a combined 14 yards. Two plays later, Bennett faked a handoff to McIntosh, and then dumped off a short screen to the running back, who cut up for an 11-yard gain.

Three plays later, Bennett faked a handoff to Daijun Edwards and found Dillon Bell
in the end zone for a touchdown — the first of the freshman receiver’s career — and a 20-0 lead with 8:48 to play in the half. Following another defensive stop, McConkey helped give the offense great field position after a 21-yard punt return to the Samford 44.

Georgia started the ensuing drive with great field position and quickly got an 18-yard completion to tight end Brock Bowers, followed by a 5-yard completion to tight end Darnell Washington, plus a personal foul penalty. The drive later stalled inside the 20 and Podlesny pushed Georgia’s lead to 23-0 with a 26-yarder with 5:01 left in the half.

On the next drive, defensive back Javon Bullard reached in for a pass breakup on Samford’s fourth-down gamble, giving the offense the ball at the Samford 44 with 3:49 to play before halftime. Bennett hit Jackson for 17 yards on third-and-6, and later, he hit Bowers for 26 yards to the 2. Soon after, McIntosh ran the ball in untouched, pushing Georgia’s advantage to 30-0 with 55 seconds to play before halftime.

At the end of the half, Bennett tried a Hail Mary throw into the end zone that fell incomplete, snapping a streak of 14 straight scoring drives for the quarterback. Georgia had 329 yards of offense in the first half while holding Samford to 59.

In Georgia’s win last week, freshman punter Brett Thorsen’s didn’t deliver his first boot as a Bulldog until the fourth quarter. On Saturday, he finally got on the field late in the third, with Georgia still up 30-0.

Bennett gave way to backup Carson Beck late in the third quarter and ended his dad 24 of 34 passing for 300 yards, with a 3-yard touchdown run and a 3-yard TD pass to Bell. Through two games this season, Bennett is 49 of 65 for 668 yards, with three passing touchdowns and two rushing. Milton led the rushing attack with 85 yards on 10 carries, while McIntosh led the way receiving with five receptions for 61 yards.

Podlesney added to Georgia’s lead early in the fourth quarter, kicking a 25-yard field goal that make it 33-0. The defense got its first sack of the season in the fourth quarter, when freshman defensive end
Mykel Williams tackled Samford backup QB Quincy Crittendon for a 9-yard loss.

Georgia returns to Sanford Stadium on Sept. 24, against Kent State.

POST-GAME NOTES

Another Shutout For The Defense: For the ninth time in the Kirby Smart era, the Bulldogs registered a shutout in posting a 33-0 win over Samford today. Samford finished with 128 yards of total offense on 43 plays. The leading tackler for the Bulldogs was Smael Mondon with four stops and 1.5 TFL. Samford finished the first half with only 59 yards of total offense on 23 plays. Late in the second quarter and trailing 23-0, they turned it over on downs at their own 44, which led to a TD. T Georgia forced one turnover that led to three points. Last year, the Bulldogs posted three shutout (Vandebrilt, No. 8 Arkansas and Ga. Tech). In the season opener last Saturday against No. 11 Oregon, Georgia limited the Ducks to three points on the day including a goal-line stand with less than two minutes left in the contest. For the day, Oregon ran 68 plays and had 313 yards of total offense.

Offense Puts Up 33 Points: Georgia posted a 33-0 victory, rolling up 479 yards of total offense on 75 plays. In the first half, the Bulldogs were 6-for-6 in the Red Zone with three TDs and three field goals, tallying 329 yards of total offense on 47 plays in building a 30-0 lead. At the start of the 4th quarter with Georgia leading 30-0, it was announced that by mutual agreement of the coaches, the 4th quarter would be shortened to 12 minutes. The Bulldogs would add one field goal in the second half and finish 7-fo-8 in the Red Zone.

Georgia’s first drive of the day resulted in a 27-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 7:52 left. Georgia converted a pair of third downs until stalling out at the Samford 4. It was a 12 play, 47-yard drive. Following a turnover, Georgia reached the Red Zone again and had to settle for a field goal on a five play, 34-yard drive. Georgia’s third possession resulted in a TD on a three-year rush by QB Stetson Bennett. It capped a 7 play, 71-yard drive in 3:44. It was Bennett’s second rushing TD and sixth of his career. Georgia extended its lead to 19-0 as Bennett directed another 71-yard drive on nine plays capped by a three-yard TD pass to freshman Dillon BellKenny McIntosh had a one-yard run to finish the final scoring drive of the half and a 30-0 lead. It was the second of the year for McIntosh and eighth of his career. It was Bell’s first career TD catch.

Bennett finished the day 24-for-34 for 300 yards and 1 TD in three quarters of action. In the first half, he was 20-for-28 for 252 yards and one TD plus four rushing yards with one rushing TD. Redshirt sophomore QB Carson Beck (5-for-7, 52 yards) entered the game with 2:34 left in the 3rd quarter. Today’s leading receiver was senior TB Kenny McIntosh with five for 61 yards with junior Kendall Milton leading all rushers with 85 yards on 10 carries. A total of 15 different Bulldogs caught a pass today.

Podlesny Tallies 15 Points: Senior PK Jack Podlesny scored a career-high 15 points today (4 FGs, 3 PATs) and that was the most by a Bulldog placekicker since 2017 when Rodrigo Blankenship had 17 against Misouri. He connected from 27 yards out for his first field goal of the year and a 3-0 lead with 7:51 left in the first quarter. Later in the first quarter, he made a 25-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead. He made a 26-yarder with 5:01 left in the half to make it 23-0. He made three PATs. Podlesny had six touchbacks on seven kickoffs with one going out of bounds. In the second half, he attempted a career-long 54-yard field goal, and it was short. It was his first career miss from 50+ after going 3-for-3 in 2020 and did not attempt one from that distance last year. In the second half, Podlesny added a 25-yarder for a 33-0 lead with 11:11 left. In his career, he is now 16-for-16 in the 20-29-yard range.

For Starters & Game Captains: Georgia had one first-time starter today in freshman Malaki Starks (DB). Samford won the toss and elected to take the ball. Georgia forced the Bulldogs to punt. Senior Warren Ericson (OL), junior Zion Logue (DL), and junior Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (WR) were the captains. Sophomore WR Adonai Mitchell injured his ankle in the 1st quarter and did not return.

Points Off Turnovers: Georgia got three points off one turnover today. In the first quarter, junior Dan Jackson caused a fumble that was recovered by redshirt freshman Xavian Sorey. The Bulldogs are +3 for the year with 17 points off turnovers. In the first half of the season opener against No. 11 Oregon, Georgia converted two interceptions into 14 points.

Up Next: No. 2 Georgia (2-0) heads to Columbia, S.C. Saturday for its SEC opener against South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC) at noon on ESPN. Earlier today in their SEC opener, the Gamecocks fell 44-30 to No. 16 Arkansas in Fayetteville.

POST-GAME QUOTES

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

On being back home at Sanford Stadium…
“I was worried that we wouldn’t have a great crowd but they did a great job. The rain stayed away, they stayed
out. Our fanbase showed up, our students showed up. They were loud and proud and the weather held out,
which was positive.”

On the offensive execution in the Red Zone…
“We didn’t score touchdowns. We were the No. 1 team in Red Zone defense last year, in the country.
Offensively, our goal was how can we score more touchdowns. When you come off a week like Oregon where
every opportunity to score a touchdown, we score a touchdown. No. 1 in the country on Red Zone offense.
And then we take a huge step back and have to kick field goals. Good teams, you can’t do that. You have to be
able to execute well. I can’t say what it was- one mistake here, one mistake there. We have to go back and
watch the tape, but we have to do a better job.”

On how the team ran the ball against Samford…
“Well, we didn’t get explosives, but we did get a lot of five, six, seven yard runs. I want to be really tough and
physical. I want to be able to run the ball downhill. Our quarterback has done a good job of distributing the ball
to all of the attachments to the running game and the backs did a nice job of running downhill, we just didn’t
have a big homerun hitter.”

On the play of the defense against Samford…
“I thought they played hard, fast, and understood the game plan. The defensive staff did a nice job of putting
the game plan together. Let’s be honest, that team was overmatched and outmanned. We executed well and
we turned the ball over some.”

#2 Smael Mondon | So. | LB

On Dillon Bell’s first score today and fall camp performance…
“Since he first got here in the summer, I looked at him and said, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be a problem.’ He’s a
hard worker. I feel like he’s going to be really good.”

On grading his performance from today…
“I haven’t really thought too much about it yet, I’m just happy the team came away with the win. I’m going to
watch film and start critiquing that.”

On Javon Bullard’s early season performances…
“He plays fearless. He plays bigger than he really is. That’s a guy that’s not afraid to throw himself in there and
make a play. I really look up to him myself, honestly, us being the same age, I still look up to him.”

#13 Stetson Bennett | Sr. | QB

On the difference between last week’s game and this week’s game…
“I’d hope that we know that it’s not going to be handed to us, but if we didn’t know then I’m sure this is going to
be a good reminder we’re going to have to get back on Monday. And, we still had around 500 yards of offense,
we didn’t punt in the first half, we still had a good day. But, it was not our day; it was not the day we wanted to
have. We’re going to get that fixed on Monday.’

On if being held to field goals on offense is frustrating…
“Yeah, just because we felt like they were self produced errors that maybe if we were a little bit more locked in
then maybe [things would’ve gone differently]. I think we came to play today, it’s just, we didn’t execute.”

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