I know a lot of hardcore fans dread games like this. The win is a sure thing, the competition isn’t interesting, the stars you come to see are done by halftime, and you just hope to come out on the other side without injuries. And, yes, things got slow in between nine Georgia touchdowns. A game like this gives you plenty of opportunities to look around. I saw families taking kids to their first Georgia game. I saw fans who had been given tickets by friends making a rare visit to see their favorite team in person. To them, this was the biggest Georgia game they’ll see this year.
It was a little bit of the same on the field. Gurley and Mason had early exits, but this was the most important game in the lives of some of the players either making their debuts or showing their coaches that they deserve more opportunities. Take Tramel Terry and his difficult path to this moment. Since a knee injury at the tail end of his high school career, Terry hadn’t played in a game in nearly two years. He’s switched positions and gone from the next great receiver to a rookie safety trying to learn and earn playing time. So even though the score was 52-0 at the time, Terry’s third-quarter interception in the end zone meant the world to him.
Thank you lord it's been a long road felt good bringing one down
— Tramel Terry? (@TeamTDterry_GC) September 20, 2014
For the sake of those fans or players for whom this game was a big deal, it was a great day. Otherwise there’s not much to take away from such a lopsided win in terms of what it means for the rest of the season. One thing we did get a good look at was the future of the program, and Georgia fans have to be happy with what they saw. Michel and Chubb are hardly secrets after the first two games, but even then Michel was able to raise some eyebrows with his play. McKenzie had also contributed this season, but he had his first big highlight with one of what’s likely to be several scores on kick returns.
Other newcomers we hadn’t seen yet had their moments too. Ramsey shook off nerves to show nice arm strength and led several scoring drives. There’s no need to spend much time debating it, but the backup quarterback order seems fairly certain. Bellamy came off his suspension with an impressive second half and ended up being Georgia’s second-leading tackler. Several defensive backs got a look, and Shaq Jones might’ve been among the best. If the encouraging 2015 recruiting class holds up and pans out, there’s going to be a very solid foundation for this program going forward.
The downside to playing such an overmatched opponent is that you might not get an opportunity to work on the specific things you’d like. We had hoped Mason might get a few more attempts, but when Gurley and Michel are ripping off long runs down the sideline, what’s the point? When the line between running it up and playing ball starts to blur before the end of the first half, the focus shifted more towards experience for younger players rather than reps for the first team.
It was a laugher of a win over a bad team. Other Georgia teams have looked much worse before pulling away from similar opponents. We won’t get too carried away with the big win or the shutout, but credit to the team for coming out reasonably well-focused and aggressive considering 1) the post-South Carolina hangover and 2) the early start and subdued crowd.
- Fun day for the special teams. Morgan got back in the saddle with an accurate field goal from intermediate range. Kickoff coverage was more disciplined than it was towards the end of the South Carolina game. About the only negative was a shaky punt. Then there were the punt returns. You could tell McKenzie was itching to scoop an early short punt that bounced in front of him, but he wisely let it go. When the bounce went his way on the next punt, he exploded through it and showed why the staff took a late risk on a return specialist. As Troy started punting away from McKenzie, Georgia adjusted by having Reggie Davis drop back as a second returner. Davis got to show his own return skills on a late return made possible by an impressive block by McKenzie.
- I’m really concerned for Keith Marshall. It’s not just the injury during the third quarter – fortunately the news seems to be good on that. We all remember how devastated he looked on the Tennessee sideline a year ago, and he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. He’s not there yet. The pressure has to be incredible with one half of the former “Gurshall” duo mentioned for the highest honors while a pair of talented freshmen begin to earn their carries. I doubt Marshall will play against Tennessee, so the staff has a couple of weeks to think about it. With Gurley performing well, the freshmen looking more than capable, and Douglas able to do his part, do they consider a medical redshirt for Marshall? As a junior, would Marshall be receptive to the idea?
- Marshall might not have much faith in his knee yet, but his competitiveness hasn’t suffered. He had to make a quick adjustment against a pass rusher to make a key block on a long pass play to Conley.
- Troy had open receivers all day, and Trojan incompetence had about as much to do with the shutout as anything Georgia did. It’s worth noting that we saw a lot of man coverage from the Georgia secondary. Since Georgia was able to clear the bench, was this Pruitt’s method of finding some answers in the defensive backfield while he had the opportunity? We’ll see if the rotation looks a little different against Tennessee.
- If there’s one newcomer in the secondary well on his way to a regular role, it’s Dominick Sanders. With Swann sidelined and Green ejected, Sanders had plenty of time as the nickel back. He’s a favorite choice on corner blitzes, and he’s started to pick up on receiver screens and flare passes.