The No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs found themselves in a surprisingly close contest against the Kent State Golden Flashes at home. It was Georgia’s sloppiest game of the season so far, but in the end, they still took care of business at home and defeated the Kent State 39-22.
This is not the first time that the Golden Flashes have been on the road against a Power 5 opponent. Kent State started off the season playing road games against Washington and Oklahoma. Their previous experience showed in their game play today. The Golden Flashes defense was flying around, and they did not miss many tackles in space. The offense was able to drive down the field multiple times and generate big plays in the run game and the pass game.
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Ladd McConkey had an uncharacteristically rough first half. In the first quarter, McConkey dropped the ball on the first punt return of the game, and Kent St. recovered the ball in UGA territory. Later on, he fumbled the ball after making the catch, and once again the opposing team recovered. The Golden Flashes scored their first 10 points off of both those turnovers, and it gave them momentum early on.
Late in the first half, Bennett tried to connect with McConkey on a deep pass to help him regain some confidence, but McConkey dropped the ball. He sat there on one knee in disbelief for a few seconds before exiting to the sidelines.
Nevertheless, McConkey bounced back in the second half. The Bulldog fans cheered him on as he made a fair catch early in the third quarter. He then went on to catch three passes for 47 yards in the second half alone.
“Just that ‘I love you,’” head coach Kirby Smart said when asked what he told McConkey after the fumbles. “I was more upset after the punt then the fumble, because fumbles happen. The punt was more of a decision.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs gave up a lot of explosive plays to the Golden Flashes offense. Kent State averaged 5.4 yards per play and 12.4 yards per completion. Junior running back Marquez Cooper was able to rush for 90 yards on 21 carries.
The Georgia defense also wasn’t able to generate any turnovers until late in the fourth quarter when senior safety Christopher Smith picked off junior quarterback Collin Schlee. Schlee threw the ball into double coverage and the receiver stopped in the middle of his route. That gave Smith the easy interception with no one else in the vicinity.
Despite losing the turnover battle and giving up explosive plays, the Bulldogs pulled out the win. Finding different ways to win could prove to be beneficial for the Bulldogs later down the line, when they face more adversity against stronger competition.
Throughout the week, Smart and the players stayed consistent with their respect for Kent State as an opponent. Georgia played a hungry, battle-tested team that gave them their best shot, and they still kept their composure to pull it out in the end.
Offensive Player of the Game- TE Brock Bowers: 2 rushes 77 yards 2 touchdowns; 5 receptions 60 yards
Defensive Player of the Game- ILB Jamon Dumas-Johnson: 6 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL
- Georgia has two legitimate Heisman candidates
The Heisman trophy is usually awarded to a quarterback. Stetson Bennett’s play so far has entered him into the conversation to be considered as a finalist at season’s end. He is not afraid to take off and use his legs when nothing is open downfield. It also helps that he is establishing chemistry with multiple receivers in the absence of Adonai Mitchell. However, if there is anyone on this Georgia team that could be a Heisman candidate outside of Bennett, it’d be Brock Bowers.
After his three-touchdown performance at South Carolina last week, Bowers showed up in a big way again today. On the second play of the game, Bowers took the handoff and sprinted for a 75-yard touchdown. Bowers has the ability to line up anywhere on the field. He has strong hands as a pass catcher, and he’s a strong blocker on the outside for the Bulldogs. On top of all that, he is a very dangerous weapon in the open field when the ball is in his hands.
- No need to worry about McConkey
Ladd McConkey has been a big playmaker for the Bulldogs this season and last season. Other than today’s game, he’s been virtually mistake-free as a returner and a pass catcher. Even though Georgia has rotated in a lot of receivers in the past couple of weeks, McConkey will be one of the main contributors at wide out for this offense. Every player has bad days, and this was one for McConkey. The Bulldogs will need him in order to win games later in the season, especially come post-season time.
“There’s nobody that’s more upset than Ladd, and we need Ladd,” Smart added. “We’re going to go where we need to go? Ladd’s a big part of our offense; a big weapon for us.”
- Jalen Carter’s absence showed
Georgia’s defense gave up a lot of explosive plays to Kent State throughout the entire game. Jalen Carter is arguably the best defensive player for Georgia, and he was listed as questionable coming into this game with an ankle injury. Carter entered the game early on, but at a certain point in the first quarter, he did not return to the field.
His presence in the middle of the defensive line was definitely missed. The Golden Flashes were able to get a couple of big runs up the middle, and there wasn’t as much disruption from the interior lineman in passing situations. The Bulldogs need Jalen Carter to be healthy if they want to get back into the College Football Playoff.
- Expect to see more of Daijun Edwards
Daijun Edwards got a lot of the touches in the second half of the game, especially in the fourth quarter. He showed his explosiveness, and his ability to make defenders miss. Edwards is the shortest of the three running backs that get the most playing time at 5’11, but that lower center of gravity helps with his balance and power. Edwards finished today’s game with 12 rushes for 73 yards, and he added two receptions for nine yards. Smart said that Edwards continues to show his toughness this season, and that his running ability helped them close them out.
“He’s the one guy now that consistently breaks tackles, Smart said. “He’s low to the ground. He’s like a ping pong in there and just keeps going. I though his run game really came through for us in the end when we knew we had to run the ball.”