No. 6 Georgia Blanks Missouri, 27-0

ATHENS, Ga. – The sixth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Missouri Tigers, 27-0, Saturday under the lights on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.

 

Graduate placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship matched his career best with four made field goals. The Bulldogs’ defense held Missouri to just 198 total yards, including 50 on the ground, and has still not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.

 

Junior quarterback Jake Fromm finished the game 13-of-29 through the air, including two touchdowns. Graduate receiver Lawrence Cager finished with 93 receiving yards on six catches. Freshman George Pickens made five catches, finishing with a career-best two touchdowns and 67 yards.

 

Defensively, senior Tae Crowder led Georgia with seven total tackles, while junior Monty Rice finished with six.

 

“I have a lot of respect for our offense,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “That (Missouri) defense is really good; they’re big and physical. … We made more plays than they did. Our quarterback made some throws. They didn’t make explosive throws and we did.”

 

After forcing the Tigers to punt on their opening drive, Georgia drove the field and scored when Fromm connected with Pickens, his third touchdown of the season, on a 25-yard pass to jump on the board first, 7-0. Georgia’s scoring drive included six plays, covering 60 yards.

 

Georgia didn’t allow a Missouri first down in the opening quarter.

 

The second quarter began with a 20-yard field goal by Blankenship, adding to Georgia’s lead, 10-0. The field goal, Blankenship’s 16th of the season, punctuated a 13-play, 67-yard drive that lasted five minutes, 51 seconds.

 

Junior defensive back Richard LeCounte intercepted a pass from Taylor Powell and returned it 71 yards to the Missouri 18-yard line around the eight-minute mark in the second quarter. The interception was LeCounte’s second of the season. Following a rush for a loss, Blankenship came on and split the uprights on a 48-yard attempt, widening the lead to 13-0 with 6:06 left in the half. The field goal was Blankenship’s fourth from 40 or longer this season and 19th of his career.

 

The first half concluded with a 47-yard field goal by Blankenship to bring Georgia’s lead to 16-0 at halftime. The opening half was the eighth time Georgia has held an opponent scoreless in a half this season, the third scoreless first half.

 

Blankenship connected on his fourth made field goal just under the seven-minute mark in the third, this time a 29-yarder, widening the lead to 19-0.

 

The Bulldogs’ second touchdown came with 14:02 left in the contest when Fromm completed an 18-yard pass to Pickens. Georgia completed a two-point conversion on a pass to sophomore James Cook, bringing the Bulldogs’ tally to 27-0. The touchdown completed an 11-play, 86-yard drive by the Bulldogs.

 

Up next, Georgia travels to Auburn next Saturday. Kickoff on CBS is set for 3:30 p.m., EST.

Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship Named Groza Award Semifinalist Again

Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (98) speaks to members of the media at a press conference on Monday, Oct., 1, 2018. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw)

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has been named one of 20 semifinalists for the 2019 Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s top kicker.

 

Blankenship is the only three-time semifinalist included and one of three kickers from the Southeastern Conference on the list.

 

Blankenship, a native of Marietta, Ga., is second in the league in scoring this year, averaging 9.5 points per game, and has connected on 15-of-17 field goal attempts and all 31 of his PATs.  The four-time 2019 SEC Special Teams Player of the Week has drilled three 50-yard field goals during his team’s 7-1 start.  He is the FBS active leader by 12 with a total of 68 made field goals.

 

The former walk-on who earned a 2018 UGA undergraduate degree is a 2019 CBS Sports/Athlon Midseason All-American.  Blankenship has connected on a school record 185 consecutive PATs, which ranks second in SEC history.  Thanks in large part to his contribution, Georgia leads the nation with 276 PATs in a row dating back to 2014.

 

Honors have already begun to roll in for Blankenship.  He has earned one of the National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar Athlete Awards and is a finalist for the Campbell Trophy; he is a semifinalist for the Wuerffel Trophy; and he is a nominee for the Burlsworth Trophy.

 

The No. 6 Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 SEC) play host to Missouri (5-3, 2-2) on Dooley Field in Sanford Stadium this Saturday.  ESPN will televise the game at 7 p.m.

 

Georgia’s Tae Crowder Included As Butkus Award Semifinalist

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia senior inside linebacker Tae Crowder has been named one of 12 semifinalist for the Butkus Award, which is given to the nation’s best linebacker.

 

Crowder, a native of Hamilton, Ga., is one of only two players from the Southeastern Conference on the list.  Finalists for the award are expected to be announced on Nov. 25.

 

Crowder’s friend and former roommate Roquan Smith was named the winner of the 2017 Butkus Award.  Smith is currently with the Chicago Bears.

 

Current Bulldog freshman Nakobe Dean was the 2018 high school Butkus Award winner following his career at Horn Lake High School (Miss.).

 

Crowder is currently tied for second on the Bulldog defense with 36 tackles, including three tackles for loss.  He also scooped up a fumble at Tennessee earlier in the year and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown.  Crowder mans the middle of a defense that leads the SEC in Scoring Defense (11.4 points/game, No. 4 nationally), Rushing Defense (77.6 yards/game, No. 4 nationally) and Total Defense (268.1 yards/game, No. 8 nationally).

The No. 6 Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 SEC) play host to Missouri (5-3, 2-2) on Dooley Field in Sanford Stadium this Saturday.  ESPN will televise the game at 7 p.m.

 

Smart, Bulldogs Preview Missouri Game

ATHENS, Ga. —  University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed Saturday’s game against Missouri. The Bulldogs and Tigers kick off at 7 p.m. ET on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. 

On Monday, Coach Smart and student-athletes offered the following comments. 

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement … 

“Off to Missouri. [Head Coach] Barry Odom and his staff have done a tremendous job. Got a lot of respect for him. He’s a guy that I share a lot of ideas with and discuss a lot of things with when we are at SEC meetings, very similar to me, a defensive guy and also coaching his alma mater. I think he’s done a great job motivating this team, and putting them in a good situation.

They are extremely physical. They are a tough match-up from their defensive perspective because they are so big and physical up front. You look historically against us, they have done a really good job. They are top probably 15 in the country in almost every defensive category and they do a good job of that.

Their offense has been very explosive. They are tied for the most plays over 50 yards in our conference and they have done a good job of that. They have a tight end and stuff to match-up with and a quarterback that’s played in a lot of big football games. Have a lot of respect for what they have done and I know coming off an off-week, they will be ready and prepared.”

On how much winning time of possession helps you win a game … 

“Well, objective goals for our offense, one of them is to win time of possession. It’s one of the 15, 20 things we list and we hit some of those in the game. We didn’t hit some of those, time of possession, winning that battle, our offense, they won that battle and that was important to them. It’s important in every game that you win the time of possession, but it can be misleading for explosive teams that are scoring it all the time. But I’m really focused on Missouri and how we can kind of get ourselves in a position to play these guys.”

On moving on after an emotional win … 

“Just your actions speak louder than your words, and the actions you take towards practice and the actions you take towards preparation are all things that are in our control. I don’t think talking about it does it. I think the actions speak louder than your words, and that will be important to our guys, you know, how we prepare and how we get ready and what kind of plan we put together to help us with these guys because they do a good job of making you play left-handed a lot of times, and Derek [Dooley] does a good job offensively of mixing things up. They have got some good matchups, especially with some of their big guys.”

On if the game is different now than when he was a defensive back and the low number of interceptions … 

“I wouldn’t say it’s different. We play a little different style because we’re a match defense for the most part. I think a lot of interceptions come through zone defenses and being able to see the ball a lot of times. We are not all looking at the ball. We are looking at the man, whether it’s a zone match-up or a man match-up, but it’s what we think gives us the best chance to make people inefficient, and it doesn’t always promote a lot of interceptions. I mean, historically, we have not had a ton of interceptions. We’ve got to do a better job getting turnovers. There’s no doubt about that. That comes with forcing them, havoc, tipped balls, batted balls, strip outs, knocking the crap out of people, ripping the ball out; those things all effect turnovers, but we’ve been short on interceptions, for sure.”

On the importance of a player’s mental capacity when looking at graduate transfers … 

“Most of the time, you know enough about those guys to know they have got the mental capacity. I mean, they have played in an offense or a defense for a year. Usually have some kind of connection to them because otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be considering you. It’s not just completely out of the blue. Usually know something about them. You know a coach that used to coach them. You knew them out of high school through recruiting, but you have some connection, and you feel comfortable that they are going to fit in your program; otherwise, you don’t bring them in.”

On showing the team motivational videos before each game … 

“Well we use outside sources. We use Trevor Moawad, consulting firm. Trevor and I have had a relationship for a long time. We don’t always use them but we usually come up with some kind of message. Regardless of what the game is, there’s a point to it and an emphasis for it. This week it was more about — for him, it was an opportunity for him to make a decision that he wanted to do something rather than listening to the outside world and all the different pressures. He chose to wear gold shoes because he expected to win the race, and that was a decision that he made and he made it internally. Wasn’t really worried about everything outside that. That’s really what it’s about, because the men in this room that come in for meetings every day and fight and do all the things, they are the ones that matter. They make the decisions that determine the outcome of the game, nobody else.”

On pass protection … 

“I think the pass protection has been excellent. I’ve repeatedly said that. I thought earlier in the year is when it was at its, I guess you could say weakest. But coming in after the Vanderbilt game that, was a concern for me because we took some shots and some hits. They had improved. They worked hard on it and they have gotten better as far as snap-to-throw. It really depends on the route structure and it depends on the protection. Some protections, it’s quicker. It’s meant to be that way. Got to get the ball out. Some route structures, the ball is out quick. And then other ones, is longer, and longer developing. But our guys have done a good job up front. That’s one thing they do really well is pass pro, and it’s like Sam says, you get good at what you practice at. Well, we practice that, too.”

On Missouri’s road record … 

“I don’t look into it much to be honest with you. I think it’s not really to be — it’s not a big deal. The bottom line is, I know the football team they have got. I know the coaching staff they have got. I know the players they have got and I can watch the tape and know they have got a really physical football team. One of the games was played in some extreme weather conditions, which I know how that impacts the game, and I know that impacts when you’re playing against a guy that’s probably not a quarterback; he’s an athlete, he completely changed the game for how they played. It’s very different.”

On Tyson Campbell injury update…
“Tyson warmed up. Felt pretty good. Felt like he can go if he needed to. Didn’t feel like he was 100 percent and just never gave him an opportunity to play. There’s no other medical tent.”

On teams attacking the nickel and dime back in the middle of the field…

 “I think that’s where teams attack you, based on what you’re in. There were some things we were giving up in that game that was probably more inside routes than we tried to take them away a lot of times, a lot of times you take them away by coverage and sometimes you take them away by leverage and sometimes you just get beat. All those combinations are there and you rob Peter to pay Paul. So you move everybody inside, you’re more susceptible outside. It’s really about pitching to it and being able to change things up. I think Dan (Lanning) and the defensive staff is doing a good job of that.”

On Jake Fromm’s relationship with Lawrence Cager and how that affects the receivers…
“Yeah, I’d say he’s comfortable with them. He’s comfortable with some of our other wide-outs. Some of those plays Cager got, they weren’t featured Cager plays. He was the second, third, fourth option. Some of them he’s primary. Some of them he’s primary based on coverage. Some of them he’s not. Some of them, Jake had time to work to him to make the decision on who to throw it to, so I don’t think it was a scheme deal. It was, some of them, he was just the best option. He was the open option in the zone. But Jake’s comfortable with all our guys. I think he’s got good rapport with all over receivers.”

On using the run game to wear teams down with the schedule ahead…  

“I don’t think you ever just stick with something to bang your head against the wall. If you’re not successful doing it, you can’t abandon it totally. But you’ve got to do what works and you’ve got to have enough change ups to keep them honest. I think we always try to do that. I mean, of all the games, that was the toughest game throughout because there was never a large success in the run game where it was like other games where you’ve been able to take over or third and fourth quarter really be able to power through them. That was tough sledding. Give Florida credit. They played really physical at the line of scrimmage. These guys will be the same way. They have a good defensive front. It’s just hard to run the ball in our league, and our success has been more second half oriented than first for the most part.”

On hearing the highs and lows of how good his team is…

I don’t know either one’s tougher because I don’t really try to pay attention to it. I try to emphasize to the kids that that inconsistency is consistent. So the highs and lows are going to be consistent as far as everybody is going to say one way or the other, it’s always higher or lower than it really is. As coaches, we always say that’s it’s never as good as it is, and it’s never as bad as it seems. More important, our kids understand what makes you successful is what you do, not what you listen to.”

On the upcoming schedule, the “gauntlet,” being a buy-in moment for the team…

“We don’t look past the gauntlet of Missouri because our team respects them. It’s a single-minded focus on one thing. We can’t look past that. As far as buy in, they never didn’t buy-in. They have bought in the whole entire time. There’s been a sense of urgency for our guys for a long time. Just execute and got to get better and most important thing is they understand they have to get better to get where we want to go.”

On how Albert Okwuegbuam stacks up against other tight ends…
“They all have some good tape to watch, that’s for sure, because we have had some tight ends have good performances against us, so they will have some good things to look at and he’s a good player. I think back to last year, he was probably the toughest match-up I thought we had. Last year seems like he stuck out more in that game plan. He’s a good player. They convinced him to stay. He’s done a good job this year being more of a complementary football player than being just a receiving tight end. He’s done more than that this year. They are doing a good job using him, and he is a match-up problem. He is a big, athletic guy, different than Pitts. I mean, he’s big.”

On Fromm’s comfort level with his tight ends…

“As far as tight ends, he doesn’t not target the tight end. We never go in the game and go, ‘We’re not going to target the tight ends this game.’ We’re going to move to the wide-outs. We take what the defense gives us, and so much of what people think is just a choice or a decision made to throw the ball or not throw the ball to the tight ends, it’s a game of matchups. It’s a game of leverage, it’s a game of coverages, and any good football coach will tell you that. It’s not going to this guy, that’s the guy. It’s not like that. You’ve got to go with matchups and where people play you, and the catches that the tight ends had in the game the other night, they were the right throw. So that’s where he went with it. We’ll continue to do that, and you take advantage of what the defense gives you.”

On the Missouri defense…
“They have done a good job every year he’s been there to me. They are an aggressive style. They load the box on you. They make you play one-dimensional. They are very multiple and they disguise things well. We always study what they do because we are always trying to get better and they do different things than we do. We are not like philosophically built the same as them. Yeah, stop the run, don’t let them score, don’t give up big plays, turnovers, we are all the same there. But schematically, they are different from us, and we are always trying to steal ideas from them. I have a lot of respect for them and the way they play defense.”

On the status of Tyson Campbell during the week and on gameday…

“Yes, he practiced last week. I think I talked about it last week. Went Tuesday and Wednesday pretty much the whole practice. It bothered him some having been on the turf more because of the weather. We were forced inside and so, we kind of shut him down Thursday, and then for the game, pregame, he felt pretty good. He felt like he could play if he needed to, but he did not feel 100 percent and we never really had the opportunity to put him in and play him. We were going to play him if we needed to, and we didn’t feel like we had to. We were playing pretty well. So that’s what it usually goes into. He’ll continue to work this week. If he has a good week of practice and he feels 100 percent, then we’d sure like for him to play. We have a lot of roles that we can play guys as fast and talented as him, so we want to try to work him in in some way. As far as other guys, yeah, pretty healthy coming out of it. I can’t think of anybody that didn’t finish the game out.”

On preparing for Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant…
“Well, I don’t think it will change how we prepare. We’ll prepare for his style, which he’s a really good athlete. They run him. He’s got quarterback runs. They make you count extra hats in the box when he’s a quarterback run guy. In a lot of ways, they can be like Lynn (Bowden, Jr.) from Kentucky with a really good passer back there. Now you’re defending two things. That’s tough. And the quarterback run element is always hard to prepare for, but he has a lot of experience in big games. It’s not like he hasn’t played in big games and been in these kind of stadiums. Been in the SEC and also playing at Clemson. Got a lot of respect for the way he plays. He plays with toughness, passion, runs the ball, scrambles, makes a bunch of throws. Really good player.”

 

On whether other graduate wide receivers besides Lawrence Cager considered Georgia…

“We had a couple reach out, but either it wasn’t a comfortable marriage or we didn’t know if they were going to be able to contribute. It’s a tough decision because you’re betting on this guy, and we haven’t been 100 percent. We’ve had guys that came in here and didn’t play as graduate transfers, and you’re looking for the right fit and we just felt comfortable that it was the right fit with him and he was the one that made the most sense.”

On the differences between hosting recruits for day games versus night games…
“Differences, I would say the earlier, you’ve got more time to go to dinner, do more afterwards. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere because the game is over, as opposed to, you know, a late game, you’re with them all day. Our assistant coaches try to spend time with them and you try to entertain them as much as you can, but you’re obviously preparing your own players for the game and the buildup there. It’s tough after the game on a night game. You’ve got a short window; they are tired, want to go to bed and then you’re looking at Sunday to spend time with them, but yet you still have to prepare for another game in some instances.”

 

On the possibility of limiting how much TV the players watch on Saturday…
“Yeah, I don’t know how I would monitor that. If you figure that out, let me know, because I’m not the TV police. So, we don’t monitor that, and we have walk-throughs and try to prepare mentally.

#2 Richard LeCounte | Junior | DB

On another big tight end challenge this week… 

“There are a lot of really athletic tight ends in this world. Every week is a new challenge and I think I am ready for it this week. Missouri has a great guy in Albert Okwuegbunam. He is extremely big and physical and I played against him last year. I am looking forward to the challenge.” 

 

On what he likes about night games… 

“I love the energy that is brought by our fans at night games. I love the LED lights and stuff like that. It makes for a really fun game. It is also going to be a little chilly this weekend so I am looking forward to the cooler weather.”

On how he prepares differently for a 7 p.m. kickoff… 

“You have to prepare differently because of the time. You have a lot more downtime for a night game to watch other games and mentally prepare. You can get a few more nuggets game plan wise for a 7 p.m. game that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get for a noon game. You have a little bit more time to prepare.” 

#30 Tae Crowder | Senior | ILB

On not giving up a rushing touchdown all season…

“It’s not really something we talk about. We just come to practice and work at it. We come to practice and work at it each and every day and it pays off on Saturdays.”

On his thought process the night before a game…

“We’re just trying to focus on what we want to do ahead of time before the game. We do see other teams playing, but we just want to focus on everything we can before we play the game.”

On DB D.J. Daniel…

“D.J.’s been doing a great job all year just coming to practice and working hard and it pays off on Saturdays.”

On what Daniel does well…

“He just comes to practice and works at it. He’s got great technique. He does a great job competing with our receivers.”

#89 Charlie Woerner | Senior | TE

On the advantages of time of possession/the importance of winning that battle…

“It’s huge. It really helps us out in a way that it gives our defense time to rest on the sideline and get ready for the next drive against [the opponent’s] offense. It keeps the ball away from our opponent, so it’s a really big thing for us. It wears the other team and their defense down so that, by the end of the game, they’re tired too.”

On the effect winning the possession battle can have on Georgia, especially against five-straight games against Power Five teams with no open dates…

“It’s something that continually helps us out, and it’s something that helps us win games every week. It shows that we’re executing, because it’s hard to have long drives— usually something messes up somewhere. To have that long of a drive just shows that we’ve really been practicing hard and better executing our plays.”

On whether Missouri is a tough team to figure out, considering the win over South Carolina…

“It’s the SEC. I feel like it’s hard to look at everything because every team is good in the SEC. You have to come out every Saturday ready to play. Everyone has to be really locked in to practice all week, or you’re going to come out and lose that game. Every team in the SEC has the capability to beat any SEC team on a given day, more so than any other conference.”

#15 Lawrence Cager | Graduate Student | WR

On the support he got following the game against Florida/this year in general…

“As you can imagine, a lot of family and friends reached out with amazing support and love. [Former Miami teammates] reach out to me pretty much every game. I still have family over there. I love all those guys over there.”

On what stood out to him about UGA when going through the graduate transfer process…

“It was Coach Coley and Coach Smart. Getting the opportunity to play with them was a once in a lifetime opportunity. At the same time, getting to be a part of this team and having Jake [Fromm] as a quarterback, I couldn’t have picked a better situation.”

Bulldog Football Duo Honored With SEC Weekly Awards

Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (98) during the Bulldogs' session on fhe Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia junior left tackle Andrew Thomas and senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship have earned weekly Southeastern Conference honors, according to a league announcement.

 

Thomas has been named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week while Blankenship has garnered SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after the Bulldogs’ topped No. 6 Florida 24-17 in Jacksonville, Fla., over the weekend.

 

Also of note, junior quarterback Jake Fromm was named a Manning Award “Star of the Week” for leading the Bulldogs to their third straight win over the Gators.

This is Thomas’ second honor of this kind in 2019 (third of his career) while Blankenship is a four-time winner this year (sixth of his career).  So far this year, Georgia has seven weekly league awards with junior tailback D’Andre Swift garnering the other honor following the Kentucky win.

 

Thomas, a native of Lithonia, Ga., played 70 snaps and graded out at 90 percent this past Saturday.  He had two knockdown blocks and allowed only one hurry as Florida, who leads the league in sacks, failed to sack Fromm a single time.  Anchored by Thomas, the Bulldogs churned out 398 total yards, including 279 yards and two scores through the air.

 

Blankenship, a native of Marietta, Ga., was 3-for-3 on field goals (31, 37 and 27 yards) and drilled his only PAT during the win.  He put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard near the end of the first quarter to give them a 3-0 edge and later extended that lead to 13-3 and then to 16-3.

 

Blankenship moved into No. 5 in SEC history for most points scored in a career (389).  His school record 185 consecutive PATs ranks second all-time in league history for most PATs made and helped extend Georgia’s national leading consecutive streak for PATs to 276.

The No. 6 Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 SEC) play host to Missouri (5-3, 2-2) on Dooley Field in Sanford Stadium this Saturday.  ESPN will televise the game at 7 p.m.

 

Georgia Wins Third-Straight Against Florida, 24-17

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In a matchup of two top-10 teams, the No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs defeated the No. 6-ranked Florida Gators, 24-17, Saturday in front of a crowd of 84,789 at TIAA Bank Field. 

The victory marks the Bulldogs’ first three-year win streak against the Gators since 2011-13. It also improves Georgia’s record this season to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference. 

Graduate wide receiver Lawrence Cager had a career day as he set new highs in receptions (7), yards (132) and career-long touchdown catch (52 yards). Junior quarterback Jake Fromm completed 20-of-30 passes for 279 yards and a pair of scores. 

Georgia finished the game 12-of-18 on third-down conversions, including a 22-yard reception on a 3rd-and-7 from tight end Eli Wolf in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs outgained the Gators, 398 to 278, on the day. 

“That was a hard-earned win against a good football team,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “Credit goes to these kids who played hard and played with grit. So many people doubted and they never did. I am just happy for these guys in that locker room.”

The Bulldogs gained possession after stopping Florida on a 4th-and-1 on its first drive. Georgia drove down the field and converted 4–of-5 third downs to set up a 31-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship. 

Up 3-0, Azeez Ojulari sacked Kyle Trask to set up a 3rd-and-25. The Gators were unable to convert and Georgia took the ball back deep in its own territory. Georgia’s drive stalled at midfield, but the Bulldogs forced a Florida punt on its next possession. 

A pass interference penalty on the Gators set Georgia up 1st-and-10 at the Florida 26. The Bulldogs once again were impressive on 3rd downs, converting 3-for-3 on the drive, including a 3-yard TD pass from Fromm to Dominick Blaylock. Georgia was 8-for-10 on 3rd-downs at that point in the game. 

Down 10-0, the Gators drove 54 yards in six plays, capped off by an Evan McPherson 38-yard field goal to cut into Georgia’s early advantage. 

Following a season-high 27-yard kickoff return from Brian Herrien, Blankenship added another score — this time from 37 yards out to give Georgia a 13-3 halftime lead. 

Georgia put together an efficient drive to open the half, highlighted by an acrobatic 18-yard reception by Herrien. Blankenship knocked in his third field goal of the day to give the Bulldogs a 16-3 lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the third quarter. 

The Bulldogs’ sizable lead was short lived as the two teams went into the fourth quarter. It took Florida just three plays to score with a 23-yard TD pass from Trask to Van Jefferson. Georgia still led, 16-10. 

On the ensuing Georgia possession, Fromm hit a wide open Cager on a 52-yard touchdown strike to give the Bulldogs the answer and the 22-10 lead. Cager was not finished as he caught a pass from Fromm to convert a two-point conversion to give his team a 24-10 advantage. 

Florida answered with a 17-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a Freddie Swain to cut Georgia’s lead to 24-17. The Gators’ offense would not the ball the rest of the way as the Bulldogs hung on for the win. 

Georgia now returns home to face Missouri on Saturday, Nov. 9. 

Bulldogs Boast Four Midseason All-America Honors

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s football team has four players who have earned nine midseason All-America honors this season.

 

Junior left tackle Andrew Thomas was named a midseason All-American by Sporting News, CBS Sports, Athlon, ESPN.com and Associated Press.  Senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was included on the CBS Sports and Athlon midseason All-American squads.

 

Wide receiver George Pickens and outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari were also named to the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Midseason Freshman All-American team.

 

Thomas, a native of Lithonia, Ga., has graded out at 87 percent.  He has 25 “knockdown” blocks and surrendered only three pressures to junior quarterback Jake Fromm.  Thomas has anchored a line that has the Bulldogs ranked second in the Southeastern Conference at 237.1 yards per game.

 

Blankenship, a native of Marietta, Ga., has earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors three times this year after scoring 66 points on 12-of-14 field goal attempts and all of his 30 PATs.  His 9.4 points per game ranks second in the conference and he has three 50-yard field goals this year.  Recently named one of the National Football Foundation’s Scholar Athletes, Blankenship owns the school record and is second in the SEC all-time with 184 consecutive PATs.

 

Pickens, a native of Hoover, Ala., leads the receiving corps with 23 catches for 318 yards and has added two touchdowns.  He has helped give Fromm a 70.7 completion percentage in his first season with the Bulldogs.

 

Ojulari, a native of Marietta, Ga., has started all seven games this season after redshirting in 2018.  He leads the Bulldog outside linebackers and is sixth overall with 20 tackles, including a team leading 3.5 sacks for loss of 25 yards.  Ojulari also has the most quarterback pressures this year for the Bulldogs with 24.

 

The No. 8 Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SEC) take on No. 6 Florida (7-1, 4-1) in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday.  CBS will televise the matchup at 3:30 p.m.

 

Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship Named A 2019 NFF National Scholar-Athlete

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has been named one of the 12 recipients of the National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete Award for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership, according to an announcement from the NFF and the College Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

 

With Blankenship’s selection, Georgia has now had a Southeastern Conference leading 14 NFF post-graduate scholars.  In fact, the Bulldogs rank sixth nationally in the category with their first kicker being honored since Robert Etter in 1966.

 

Each of the players honored win an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and will be recognized at the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner in New York City on Dec. 10.  The honorees also comprise the list of finalists for the 2019 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the best scholar-athlete in the nation.

 

Blankenship is the only player from the SEC on the 12-man team and he is also the only special teams player on the squad.  The 2018 Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team member and 2019 CBS Sports/Athlon Midseason All-American is the first Bulldog to garner the honor since quarterback Aaron Murray received the NFF award in 2013.

 

This marks only the second time in school history that Georgia has had an NFF Scholar Athlete as well as an Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member in the same year.  In 2011, punter Drew Butler was included as a Scholar Athlete while tight end Aron White was on the Good Works Team.

 

The Bulldogs have now had 14 players in school history to earn this honor.  While this is the first in the Kirby Smart era, there have now been five in the 2000s: Blankenship, Murray, punter Drew Butler (2011), quarterback David Greene (2004) and offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb (2002).

 

Etter in 1966 was the first Georgia winner.  Tommy Lawhorne (1967), Billy Payne (1968), Tim Callaway (1969), Tommy Lyons (1970), Tom Nash (1971), Jeff Lewis (1977), Terry Hoage (1983) and Matt Stinchcomb (1998) are also Bulldogs who have been honored.

 

A former walk-on who was a member of the 2018 SEC Community Service Team and a 2018 UGA undergraduate degree winner, Blankenship has distinguished himself as exceptional both on and off the playing field.

 

Blankenship, a 6-1, 191-pound native of Marietta, Ga., is second in the league in scoring this year, averaging 9.4 points per game and has connected on 12-of-14 field goal attempts and all 30 of his PATs.  The three-time 2019 SEC Special Teams Player of the Week has drilled three 50-yard field goals during his team’s 6-1 start and is the FBS active leader with a total of 65 made field goals.

 

A two-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist, Blankenship has connected on a school record 184 consecutive PATs, which ranks second in SEC history.  Thanks in large part to his contribution, Georgia leads the nation with 275 PATs in a row dating back to 2014.

 

Blankenship’s journey has included kicking a game winner at Kentucky in 2016 as a redshirt freshman walk-on and drilling a 30 yarder to clinch the victory at No. 24 Notre Dame in 2017 before announcing to his teammates postgame that he had earned a scholarship.

 

Two of his more memorable moments in uniform were setting a Rose Bowl Game record with a 55-yard field goal during the double-overtime win over No. 2 Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Semifinal and hitting a 51 yarder in overtime of the National Championship Game less than two weeks later versus No. 4 Alabama.

 

Blankenship graduated Cum Laude (3.71 GPA) in December 2018 with a degree in Digital and Broadcast Journalism.  He is currently enrolled in a Journalism Master’s program and has a 3.65 GPA.  The 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-District selection was a 2018 winner of the Billy Payne Award for graduating with at least a 3.0 GPA and being on the football team for four years.

 

Georgia’s 19th Allstate AFCA Good Works Team member since 1992 has been just as stellar in the community.  He is a member of the UGA Athletic Association’s Leadership Academy (L.E.A.D.) and has given his time to the following activities and many more: spokesperson for “No More,” which is a public service announcement against domestic violence and sexual assault; visitation at Camp Sunshine, which is a camp that provides support programs for children with cancer and their families; volunteer for the “Empty Bowl” luncheon, which is a luncheon sponsored by the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia where hand-painted ceramic bowls done by the football players were part of a silent auction to raise funds for needy families; and volunteer for the Home Runs for Hometown Rivals, which is a softball game at UGA’s Foley Field for Special Olympians.

 

The NFF’s National Scholar-Athlete program, launched in 1959, is the first initiative in history to award scholar-athletes postgraduate scholarships for their combined athletic, academic and leadership abilities.  This year’s class members finds themselves in good company with past National Scholar-Athletes who include former Bulldog All-American and past chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, Billy Payne.

 

Each finalist will receive the postgraduate scholarship at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on in New York City, and one of the 12 will be announced as the 30th recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy.  Named in honor of Bill Campbell, the award comes with a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship.  Matt Stinchcomb (1998) is the only Bulldog to win the Campbell Trophy.  A total distribution of $223,000 in scholarships will be awarded on Dec. 10.

 

Blankenship and the No. 8. Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SEC) travel to Jacksonville, Fla., to take on No. 6 Florida (7-1, 4-1) at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday.  CBS will televise the annual matchup at 3:30 p.m.

Georgia Continues Preparations for Florida

Georgia inside linebacker Monty Rice (32)(Photo by Steven Colquitt)

ATHENS —— The Georgia Bulldogs continued their preparations for their Saturday contest against Florida in Jacksonville with a two-hour practice on Tuesday afternoon.

Head Coach Kirby Smart, along with a pair of Georgia defenders, redshirt sophomore Eric Stokes and junior Monty Rice, fielded questions from the media after practice.  Excerpts from their sessions follow:

Head Coach Kirby Smart:

Opening Statement

‘’It was good to get back out there yesterday and get some guys back. Guys were able to practice and pushed and did a good job.  Had a light practice yesterday and then got after it pretty good today.  Got a little bit of weather, so we were able to practice in the rain for awhile, which was good.  It was not a heavy downpour, more of a light deal.  Got to do some good-on-good, got to work on some third downs, some red-area stuff.  Got some guys back, so that was helpful, and I thought the guys had really good energy, which you would expect this week.  So there was some good competitive periods out there.  We’re a little ahead of schedule for a normal week, which helps us get more time to fix some things.’’

Who exactly did you get back at practice?

‘’Yeah, (Lawrence) Cager has been out there practicing, Tyson (Campbell) has been out there practicing, Travon (Walker) has been out there practicing.’’

What does it add to a rivalry like this when there are also implications in the SEC East race?

‘’That’s what makes it a rivalry, you know.  You’ve got so much at stake.  I really don’t think that it would matter if it was about the SEC East or not.  It’s Georgia-Florida, so that in itself carries a lot of weight.  The game, the history, the tradition, the fact that you have a Hall of Fame for the game alone, and players can be remembered for their performances in that game alone is pretty big.  The SEC East weighs heavily in this game, but I wouldn’t say that it determines it all the time.’’

Is there anything about this game that stands out to you, having played and coached in it?

‘’Probably the most unique thing is that it (crowd) is split 50-50.  It’s weird.  You have a weird feeling in there sometimes.  It’s so different.  I call it a pro mentality because there’s no, like, student section chanting for you or against you when you come out for warmups. It’s not like that.  The atmosphere in pre-game is very different.  It’s a very different feel because when you go out for pre-game at a road game, it’s like enemy territory.  When you go out at your place, you’re in friendly confines, but there’s a lot of more energy and buzz.  It seems like at this game — the times I played in it and coached in it — it’s more flat in warmups and then, all of a sudden, boom, you come out for the game and everybody’s in their seats.  They come in at the same time, as opposed to being in there early.’’

Does the fact that coach (Charlton) Warren coached at Florida last year mean anything at all to this game?

‘’I don’t think it means a lot.  I think the history that our staff has from years in the West, going against Dan (Mullen).  I mean, he probably watches countless films of times we’ve gone against each other, and we do the same, as far as schemes and things like that.  Personnel, I think obviously there’s personnel there that he knows or he’s gone against.  Sometimes that can be beneficial, sometimes it’s not because you don’t know how matchups are gonna work.  How the left guard, right guard, center, the left receiver, right receiver, tight end are gonna match up on certain guys.  He’s seen more of them because he’s seen them every day in practice.  It’s very similar to (former OC Jim) Chaney.  I don’t know how much that helps or hurts.’’

The NCAA announced today that it will allow college athletes to be paid.  How do you think that’s going to affect college football?

‘’To be honest with you, I don’t know.  I’m not smart enough to know and understand how it’s going to affect the future.  I do trust the hands that it’s in, and the committee that’s been formed to look into it, and I think they’ll do a tremendous job.  It looks like to me that they would come up with a proposal somewhere around January 2021, maybe, and that still seems like a long way off in my mind.  But we’ll have to prepare, and whatever they decide to go with, we’ll deal with it.  I don’t have enough information to form a complete opinion on it, to understand it completely.  Our biggest concern, as coaches across the country, is it going to be an even playing field.  The biggest concern, from state to state, is not being balanced.  If it comes out balanced state to state, then we’re all playing on the same playing field.’’

From a recruiting standpoint, what does it say about the matchup of these two teams that there are a lot of guys on each roster considering both teams?

‘’It says we recruit against them a lot.  It seems like every player that’s on their roster, we were at least in contact with.  They’ve still got guys playing that were recruited under the other staff.  Most of ours were under ours. But I think both places recruit probably 80 percent of these kids overlapped, and they were probably in the final four teams.  It makes a player probably want to win more, if you almost went there, and there’s also the overlap in that they recruit our state and we recruit their state.  They’ve got quite a few Georgia kids and we’ve got quite a few Florida kids.  Those kids want to win, obviously, because they’ve gotta go home and live and be seen in their communities.  Anytime there’s a border rivalry, it makes it that much more.  We just have a lot of those.’’

With (Tyson) Campbell and (Lawrence) Cager practicing, does that mean they’ve been green lighted to play in the game? 

‘’They’ve been cleared to play, but we’ve got to find out if they’re ready to play.  If they’re practicing, they’re cleared.  Cleared doesn’t say, ‘that guy’s ready to play’ and that’ll be determined by how they practice, and what they’re able to do and not do, what kind of shape they are, how much they can sustain.  Those are all important factors that we have to factor in to how much they play, and if they’re able to play.’’

What’s your relationship with Dan Mullen been like since he got to Florida?

‘’I sit by him at every SEC meeting because ‘F’ and ‘G’ are alphabetized, side by side.  So we get to sit and talk about things.  When a topic comes up about, you know, whatever the conversation is, whether it’s some recruiting thing, some rules thing, we’re always sharing ideas.  Everybody looks at it like, ‘how does it affect you?,’ ‘How does it affect me?’  ‘How does it affect him?’  We’re both the only SEC schools in our state, so sometimes we agree on certain things.  I don’t get to see Dan a whole lot, even when he’s at the lake and I’m there.  We’re both spending time with our families.’’

What’s your lasting memory of the 1997 win over Florida?

‘’To be honest with you, we didn’t win a lot of big games, so that was the highlight of our time here.  That was a big game, it was a big upset.  Probably the highlight for me, or the biggest memory, was walking out after the game, showered and cleaned up, and my mom was there.  She was born and raised in Florida, almost went to the University of Florida.  She’s from Plant City, so it meant a lot to her, and getting to see her was probably the best part of it.’’

How has Eric Stokes progressed since he’s been at Georgia?

‘’It’s a hard question to answer.  Eric works as hard as anybody on our team.  He’s very intelligent.  He takes notes in the meetings, he understands things.  He has made himself into a good player.  I say that because it wasn’t natural for him.  He didn’t grow up playing corner.  He was a talented athlete.  He was fast, he was a running back.  He was a raw guy who has developed and gotten better through hard work and habits.  With his length and his speed, the sky’s the limit for him.  But at the same time, you have to understand that our guys haven’t had the chance to play a lot of guys, when you think about it.  The rain, a young quarterback, whatever the reasons, we haven’t had a lot of opportunities.  We’re gonna get ‘em in this game because they (Florida) have good wideouts, good quarterback, good scheme.  So there’s gonna be opportunities.  When you click on that tape, from LSU and Auburn games, there are NFL matchups all over the field.  This corner against this wideout.  This corner against this wideout.  Well, the games in the SEC, they’re not gonna change week to week.  They’re going to boil down to who can win in some one-on-one matchup, and he (Stokes) will get his opportunities.’’

Redshirt Sophomore DB Eric Stokes:

On Florida’s group of receivers…

“[Florida] has a great group of seniors. I know each and every one of them can do something different. This could be a real big key for us as [defensive backs]. I know [Florida] can rotate and all of them can move and show something different.”

On ways Georgia’s defense has prepared to face Florida receivers…

“We’ve just got to prepare for each one of [Florida’s] receivers. We have to embrace the challenge and prepare to handle everything. I know, personally, this week I’ve just been trying to run extra at practice, because I know their guys are going to be fresh and will keep rotating. I’m just doing it for myself to get in extra conditioning with the time I’ve got [outside of practice].”

On how much credit he gives former defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for where he is now as a player…

“I give him a lot of credit. He was the one who took a chance on the three-star speeder that a lot of people just looked at as a track guy. He looked at me as a football player.”

Junior ILB Monty Rice:

On what he sees in Florida’s offense…

“I think [Florida] throws the ball a lot more than last year. Their quarterback [Kyle] Trask puts the ball where it needs to be to be able to make plays. Florida has great receivers. They’re all fast, and they’ve got three good running backs— Dameon Pierce, Lamical Perine and Malik Davis.”

On the threat Florida tight end Kyle Pitts poses for Georgia’s linebacker group…

“He’s a great player. He makes a lot of plays. I think he has the most targets probably in the nation for a tight end. In order for Florida to win, they’re going to have to get him the ball for him to make plays. We’ve just got to play our coverage and do what we’re supposed to.”

Bulldogs Named As Maxwell, Bednarik Award Semifinalists

ATHENS, Ga. — A Bulldog has been included as a semifinalist for both the 83rd Maxwell Award as the collegiate player of the year and for the 25th Chuck Bednarik Award as the outstanding defensive player of the year, according to an announcement from the Maxwell Football Club.

 

Junior tailback D’Andre Swift is one of 20 semifinalists for the Maxwell, a list that includes four others from the Southeastern Conference.  Graduate safety J.R. Reed has been named as one of 20 semifinalists for the Bednarik.  Five others from the league have been included on this list.

 

Swift, a native of Philadelphia, Pa., is averaging 6.8 yards/carry on 110 attempts for 760 yards and seven touchdowns.  Both his yards per carry and rushing yards lead the SEC and his yards per carry ranks ninth nationally.  Averaging an SEC leading 107. 4 yards per game, Swift also has 13 receptions for 148 yards and a score.

 

Most recently, Swift earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors after carrying the ball 21 times for 179 yards (8.5 average) in the win over Kentucky in the driving rain.  This was the highest output for Swift since he piled up a career-high 186 on 17 carries during the win over No. 24 Auburn last year.  He now has seven career games with at least 100 yards, including three this year.

 

Reed, a native of Frisco, Texas, leads the defensive backfield and is third on the team with 34 stops this season, including two tackles for loss.  Starting a team leading 36th straight games, the 2019 Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist forced a fumble in Georgia’s last action that the Bulldogs turned into their second touchdown versus Kentucky in a 21-0 victory.

 

Reed also collected a loose ball and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown earlier this season against Murray State.  He is one of five Bulldogs who has an interception in 2019.  Thanks in part to the contributions listed above, Reed has helped lead the Bulldogs to rank first in the SEC in Scoring Defense at 10.6 points/game (No. 5 nationally), Rushing Defense at 85.7 yards/game (No. 5 nationally) and Total Defense at 266.7 yards/game (No. 7 nationally).

 

Semifinalist voting for both of the collegiate awards will begin on Wednesday and will close on Nov. 24.  Three finalists for each award will be announced on Nov. 25 and a second round of voting will take place at that time.

 

The winners of the Maxwell Award and the Bednarik Award will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show that will be broadcast live on ESPN on Dec. 12.  The formal presentation of these awards will be made at the Maxwell Football Club’s Awards Dinner on March 6, 2020 at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

 

Current New York Giant Deandre Baker was the Bulldogs’ last Bednarik Award semifinalist in 2018 while current Cleveland Brown Nick Chubb was the last Georgia player to be included as a Maxwell Award semifinalist in 2017.

 

Charley Trippi (1946) and Herschel Walker (1982) both won the Maxwell during their time at UGA.  David Pollack (2004) collected the Bednarik as a Bulldog.

The No. 8. Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SEC) travel to Jacksonville, Fla., to take on No. 6 Florida (7-1, 4-1) at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday.  CBS will televise the annual matchup at 3:30 p.m.