ATHENS — As good as it was, Kirby Smart made clear, Georgia’s win over Auburn could have and should have been better.
The No. 4-Bulldogs dominated the No. 7 Tigers in a 27-6 victory on Saturday night at Sanford Stadium, showing as much improvement from Week One to Week Two as any team in the SEC.
The defense, which kept Auburn out of the end zone and allowed the Tigers just 216 yards, was as dominant as projected.
This, despite losing All-American Richard LeCounte, the quarterback of the defense, to a questionable targeting call in the second quarter.
Former walk-on, junior college transfer and spring-time fifth-string quarterback Stetson Bennett continued his irresistible Cinderella story with another efficient performance
Here are three quick takeaways from the game:
‘The guy’ – for now
Bennett was 17-of-28 for 240 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers, sacked once for a loss of 15 yards.
Most importantly Bennett moved the ball, 7-of-10 passing for 109 yards on third downs, leading UGA to scores on its first four drives.
That made for an adequate performance for Bennett, with the rushing game also generating 202 yards on 45 attempts.
“I think he had a little anxiety early, (and) he probably missed a couple of throws,” Smart said. “People around him played well, and that’s important for Stetson. But he did a good job of understanding what we wanted to do in the game plan, and he executed that well.
“We think that right now he’s the guy, and he’s done a good job of preparing.”
Transfer JT Daniels was cleared last week, but Smart had indicated it could take a while for Daniels to get comfortable playing in the protective right knee brace he has been using since suffering a torn ACL in last season’s USC opener against Fresno State.
In the meantime, the Georgia players are happy to see Bennett live up to his “Mailman” nickname, continuing to deliver.
“MAILMAN, MAILMAN” 📨 https://t.co/HxKED5IglP
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) October 4, 2020
As much as the Georgia defense swarmed Auburn QB Bo Nix, Smart left feeling like the Bulldogs left some plays on the field and gave up too much ground.
“I didn’t think we finished well, I thought we had four or five missed sacks, just couldn’t get him on the ground,” Smart said. “I was pleased with the way we finished (statistically); six points and the production.
“But we don’t usually give up a lot of third downs. We’ve been good at getting off the field on third down, and (Auburn was) 7 of 16, we don’t meet our goal.”
Oh, and that 15-play, 54-yard drive that enabled the Tigers to get a field goal and cut the lead to 24-6? The head coach wasn’t happy.
“We know that first drive of the second half was not up to our standard,” said Smart, who has now held Auburn to 14 points or less in five of his six meetings with Malzahn since become the Bulldogs’ head coach.
Goal line package
Georgia fans are already in love with a jumbo package like they have never seen before.
That’s what happened on two occasions, both successful plays in short yardage.
“Monken talked about the inability to travel a lot of guys in the NFL, and how they used defensive players for those packages, and we certainly think that Jordan is a weapon, in terms of his athleticism and size,” Smart said. “And Jalen played a lot of that stuff in high school. He’s a really talented guy that’s played some fullback.
“We’ve had it in for a while and thought we would use it when we needed to.”
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