ATHENS, Ga. – A stout defensive effort coupled with an explosive Georgia offense lifted the Bulldogs to a 45-0 victory against the Austin Peay Governors in the season opener at Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The shutout marked the first in a season opener since 2003 against Clemson, as the Bulldog defense held the Governors to 152 total yards and seven first downs on 50 plays. In the first half, Georgia limited Austin Peay to 81 yards and one trip to the Red Zone. Redshirt junior J.R. Reed led the attack with six stops.
Offensive production was spread between 11 receivers from three different quarterbacks: sophomore Jake Fromm and freshmen Justin Fields and Matthew Downing. Sophomore tailback D’Andre Swift paced the backfield with eight carries and a career-high four completions, and shared responsibilities with juniors Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield and freshman James Cook.
“We’re happy to get the win,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “It was a good way to start. The kids played hard. But there are a lot of things we can improve on. We knew we couldn’t get better until we played a game. We’ll learn from this one, learn from our mistakes. We’ll get some things ironed out.”
As the Georgia defense held the Governors scoreless in the first half, every offensive possession from the Red and Black resulted in a Georgia score. The first of the 2018-19 season, a Rodrigo Blankenship 34-yard field goal capped a 10-play, 41-yard offensive drive directed by Fromm.
Following the first of many stands from the Bulldog defense, the Georgia offense conducted an 11-play, 80-yard march, featuring 46 total yards from Swift. Junior Riley Ridley claimed the first touchdown of the season and a 10-0 lead with a 10-yard connection with Fromm.
Thirty-nine seconds later, senior outside lienbacker D’Andre Walker placed the ball back into the hands of the Bulldog offense, recovering a fumble from Austin Peay quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall. The next play, Swift ran for an 8-yard touchdown, sending Blankenship to the field to secure the extra point and the 17-0 margin.
The Bulldog debuts continued into the second quarter: Fields entered the game and placed the ball in the hands of junior wide receiver Demetris Robertson. With a pair of blocks from the tight end tandem of Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner, the open field presented itself for the Cal transfer, cementing his first Georgia score on a career-high 72-yard run to set up the 24-0 lead.
After a three-and-out from Austin Peay, a 9-play, 69-yard drive was finalized with a handoff to Holyfield, who eluded multiple Governor defenders on his way to the end zone with a 17-yard touchdown. Junior Mecole Hardman closed out the half for the Bulldogs, using his speed to out-run the Austin Peay secondary to a 38-0 advantage with the help of a Blankenship extra point.
In the second half, a 36-yard run from Cook positioned the Bulldogs in Austin Peay territory, set up for a Fields-Nauta 12-yard touchdown. Blankenship sealed the final at 45-0.
The Bulldogs head to Columbia, South Carolina for a week-two matchup with the Gamecocks. Georgia’s Southeastern Conference opener is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.