ATHENS, Ga. — This afternoon in Sanford Stadium, Georgia jumped out to big leads on a couple of occasions against UL-Lafayette only to see them dwindle; still, in the end, the Bulldogs prevailed over the pesky Ragin’ Cajuns, 35-21, to win their third consecutive game.
“I thought we had good juice coming out,” said head coach Kirby Smart following the victory. “Isaiah (McKenzie) had the great run and the great punt return, and I thought the defense started off well.”
Within the first seven minutes of the game, McKenzie rushed for a 55-yard touchdown and returned a punt 82 yards for a score, becoming the first individual in the SEC in 18 years (Kevin Faulk of LSU in 1998) to both rush and return a punt for touchdowns in the same game. In addition, McKenzie’s punt return for a touchdown was the fifth for his Georgia career, establishing a school record while moving into a three-way tie all time in the SEC.
“I’ve been thinking about that (the record) since I heard about me being close to breaking it,” said McKenzie. “As of today, they told me ‘you broke the record.’ But we’ve got to keep going and putting more numbers up.”
Georgia built a 21-0 lead with 2:50 remaining in the first half after a nine-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Eason to fellow freshman Isaac Nauta. The scoring drive was sparked by Reggie Carter forcing a Ragin’ Cajun fumble that Lorenzo Carter recovered at the visitors’ 45- yard line.
For the game, Eason completed 13 of 19 passes for 165 and two touchdowns. On a tipped ball, he did throw his first interception in 145 pass attempts. Defensively, the Bulldogs forced four turnovers, all in the first half: three interceptions and Carter’s fumble recovery.
Leading 21-7 at halftime, McKenzie hauled in a 26-yard pass to set up a one-yard touchdown run for Nick Chubb. Leading 28-7 in the final quarter, Chubb found the end zone again, catching a short pass from Eason and racing for a 49-yard touchdown. To go along with his two touchdowns, Chubb led Georgia with 108 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Midway through the final quarter and spite trailing by four touchdowns, UL-Lafayette refused to quit. Although primarily facing the Bulldogs’ backup defenders, the Ragin’ Cajuns scored two quick touchdowns on runs by quarterback Anthony Jennings to pull within 14 points, 35-21, with 1:34 left in the game.
Jennings completed 14 of 24 passes for 189 yards, but tossed the three aforementioned interceptions, and rushed for 98 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. UL-Lafayette’s Elijah McGuire rushed for a game-high 124 yards on 19 carries, and the Ragin’ Cajuns featured a 100-yard receiver, as well, in Al Riles, who made a game-high seven catches for 105 yards.
“Early on, I saw kids playing tough, with effort, fast and aggressive. I loved the start and the energy,” said Smart. “I did not love the way it finished. We elected to play the subs and they did not execute well and that was disappointing.”
Despite allowing UL-Lafayette 465 total yards while yielding 6.6 yards per play, in addition to forcing the four turnovers, Georgia’s defense also held the Cajuns to 0-for-3 on fourth downs. Sophomore Roquan Smith led the Bulldogs with seven tackles while freshman Tyler Clark tallied a career-high five stops.