OXFORD, Miss.—–Apparently, there was good reason the 12th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs entered this afternoon’s game at Ole Miss as nearly a touchdown underdog–the second-most points the Bulldogs have been an underdog in this 46-game series. Still, no one–not even the so-called experts in Las Vegas–could have believed how much out of hand the affair at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium actually would become…
The Rebels came out firing by putting up 31 points to Georgia’s zero in the first half. The last time the Bulldogs trailed by as much at halftime was by the exact same score—31 to 0—to Alabama in 2008. And, the deficit proved to be too large for the Bulldogs as they were defeated, 45-14. For the contest, Ole Miss accumulated 510 total yards (330 through the air and 180 on the ground), while UGA managed 396 total yards (230 rushing and 166 passing).
“They came out and dominated from the start of the game,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “It was disappointing to get the penalties that we got. We shot ourselves in the foot. A couple drives where we had things going, we struggled when we had 2nd-and-15 or 3rd-and-15. We couldn’t convert those. The pick-six, then defensively we just gave up too many big plays. When they throw the ball down the field vertically, you have to make plays on the ball and make those things misses and they hit those.”
After putting on a spectacular passing performance last week at Missouri, Bulldogs’ freshman quarterback Jacob Eason struggled, completing just 16 of 36 passes for 137 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble. Freshman tailback Brian Herrien led Georgia with 78 yards on 11 carries, and scored both of the Bulldogs’ touchdowns. Junior tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel added 57 and 66 yards, respectively, on the ground. Michel notched a team-high 34 receiving yards on two catches, as well.
The Rebels, who have now outscored their opponents 107 to 33 in the first half, were led by Chad Kelly, who passed for 282 yards and two touchdowns. The senior quarterback also rushed for a team-high 53 yards and a touchdown. Senior tight end Evan Engram grabbed a team-high six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown.
“We struggled with that third-and-long,” said Smart. “The penalties backed us up because we ran the ball decent early in the game. We had 93 yards rushing in the first half and that was with a sack. Any time you are playing behind the sticks with a freshman quarterback on the road, it is challenging. But we got to execute and do better on offense.”
The Rebels took their opening possession 69 yards on seven plays, but the Georgia defense halted the Rebels on the UGA seven-yard line to force a Gary Wunderlich 24-yard field goal, giving Ole Miss the early 3-0 advantage.
On the following Bulldog possession, defensive back Derrick Jones of the Rebels intercepted Eason and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the first quarter, Ole Miss tailback D’Vaughn Pennamon punched it into the end zone from one yard out to finish a 10-play, 84-yard drive for a 17-0 lead. Then Ole Miss’ Kelly connected with receiver Demarkus Lodge, folloed by Engram for second quarter touchdowns, giving the Rebels a 31-0 halftime advantage.
In the third quarter, Ole Miss added touchdowns on a 5-yard Jason Pellerin reception from backup Ole Miss quarterback Eugene Brazley, and a 41-yard run by Kelly.
The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the subsequent possession, orchestrating a 75-yard, 7-play drive capped with a touchdown run by Herrien. At the 7:38 mark in the fourth quarter, Herrien reached the end zone again, finishing the Bulldogs’ longest drive of the game (79 yards in 12 plays) with a one-yard touchdown run.
“These men have had setbacks before, we all have setbacks,” said Smart. “But it’s how we respond to it. It is the first setback this year. But we haven’t played a complete game yet and that was kinda how this one was. We need to continue to improve and sell these kids on working to get better and that is what we are going to do.”