by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer
ATHENS—Georgia entered today hoping for an easy victory this afternoon over FCS foe Charleston Southern (yet experience a tune-up for the Georgia Tech game next week), and a Tennessee win tonight over Missouri, which would clinch the SEC East title for the 9th-ranked Bulldogs.
Resulting in a resounding 55-9 victory over the Buccaneers (8-4), Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) has accomplished at least one of its two desires for the day.
“We talked all week about respecting this opponent and you show that respect by giving them your best shot,” Coach Mark Richt stated after Georgia improved to 16-0 all time versus Division I-AA/FCS opponents. “We did just that. … We had great execution offensively and our defense didn’t give them much hope all day long.”
The CSU offense may have lost hope on the game’s initial possession, when the Bucs fumbled on their third play, giving the Bulldogs the ball on their 35-yard line. It took Georgia just one play to score—Hutson Mason finding Chris Conley for a quick-strike touchdown—and the Bulldogs had a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the ballgame.
After a CSU punt, it took Georgia just two plays to score again when freshman Nick Chubb sprinted 83 yards for a touchdown—the third-longest rushing touchdown by a Bulldog in Sanford Stadium history. Chubb would finish the game with just nine carries, but for 113 yards—his sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance—and two touchdowns.
With just over five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Mason passed to junior receiver Justin Scott-Wesley for a 19-yard touchdown, and the Bulldogs had built a 21-0 advantage. For Scott-Wesley, it was his first reception in nearly 13 months when he departed the Tennessee game a year ago with an injury as the 2013 team’s leading receiver through five games. This afternoon, he would also add a 14-yard reception in the fourth quarter.
Following a 53-yard field goal by Marshall Morgan, Chubb scored his second touchdown on an 8-yard run, and the Bulldogs led, 31-0.
Less than five minutes later, Morgan’s try at a 49-yard field goal was a rare miss. However, two plays later, CSU quarterback Austin Brown’s pass was tipped and intercepted by safety Quincy Mauger, who returned the errant pass 13 yards to the Buccaneer 23-yard line. It was Mauger’s fourth interception this season—a team high.
“I was just reading my keys and knowing where to be,” Mauger said regarding his interception. “Doing my assignments properly has just put me in the right position to make these kinds of plays.”
On the very next snap following the turnover, Mason passed to Conley, who made a remarkable, back-of-the-end-zone catch for 23 yards and a touchdown. Mason was near-flawless for the contest, completing all but two of 12 pass attempts for 187 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, the fifth-year senior has now thrown just three interceptions in 234 attempts, or a 1.28 interception percentage—currently, the lowest single-season mark in school history.
Following a 38-3 lead at intermission, the second half was Georgia’s time to empty its bench.
“We had some young men who had never stepped on the field before in the game,” Richt said following the victory. “To get in and play for the Bulldogs and to play between the hedges was a big thrill for these guys. I’m glad they got this opportunity.”
Early in the third quarter, backup quarterback Brice Ramsey passed to Jonathon Rumph for a 12-yard touchdown. Rumph, who finished with 5 receptions for 67 yards, led Georgia in receiving for the second time in three games after not seeing the field at all the first eight games of the season. Ramsey completed 8 of 12 passes for 92 yards, but was intercepted on one occasion.
Late in the third quarter, fullback Quayvon Hicks streaked for a 33-yard touchdown, giving Georgia a 55-3 lead. For the junior Hicks, it was just his 19th career carry; however, he has gained a staggering 157 yards for an 8.3 yards-per-carry average.
In the second half, CSU’s offense began to show some life with a solid running game. After gaining just 35 total yards in 24 plays in their first seven offensive possessions, the Buccaneers gained 186 yards in 39 plays in its final six drives.
With 9:55 left in the game, CSU tallied what would be the final points of the contest on a 2-yard touchdown run by Christian Reyes, who led the Bucs with 75 rushing yards on 19 carries. Following the touchdown, CSU’s try for two points was no good. Therefore, in allowing just nine points today, and seven points last week against Auburn, Georgia yielded less than 10 points to back-to-back opponents for the first time since September 2006.
“I feel like some of the things [Charleston Southern] did gives us a good idea of what to expect from [Georgia] Tech,” said linebacker Jordan Jenkins who, along with his fellow Bulldog defenders, must face Tech’s vaunted triple-option offense next week. “This has definitely been a good learning experience for all of the guys on defense in terms of getting hit and blocked like that.”
But, before their regular-season finale against Georgia Tech, who clinched a spot in the ACC title game with a Duke loss on Thursday, the Bulldogs will be glued to the television tonight, rooting for Tennessee and hoping their second desire of the day is fulfilled.