The sartorial statement Georgia made by breaking out the black jerseys Saturday wasn’t the only change of pace for the Bulldogs.
There was actually daylight found between themselves and their opponent.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a two-touchdown lead on scoring plays from the dynamic Isaiah McKenzie before the midway point of the first quarter and made sure it finished with a relatively stress-free 35-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in Sanford Stadium.
“We haven’t really put a team away this year and it was good to get some of the young guys in so they could gain experience,” said outside linebacker Davin Bellamy, who had three tackles including two for loss and a sack. “It was a pretty good win for us.”
The Rajin’ Cajuns tacked on two late touchdowns when Georgia had its backups in on defense.
Not much has come easy for the Bulldogs this season, which found itself trailing in the second half of nine of its first 10 games this season, including all but one of its previous wins.
McKenzie scored Georgia’s first two touchdowns on a 55-yard run and an 82-yard punt return and tailback Nick Chubb the last two on a 1-yard run and 49-yard touchdown catch to open a 35-7 lead.
“I thought the guys came out with good energy, good juice to start with,” said coach Kirby Smart, who didn’t think the jersey color was the reason why and didn’t want to make a big deal of the blackout. “Just didn’t finish the way we wanted to but it’s behind us now and on to Georgia Tech.”
Georgia (7-4) ensured it will finish with a winning record. It will carry a three-game winning streak into its noon game next Saturday against the rival Yellow Jackets in Athens.
“Continue to finish strong,” Chubb said. “I think we’re doing a good job of that here.”
Smart called having a comfortable lead this season “unique.”
The Bulldogs overcame third-quarter deficits to notch victories against North Carolina, Nicholls, Kentucky and Auburn and trailed in the fourth quarter against Missouri before a 20-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10. The only time it never trailed was at South Carolina, but the Gamecocks were down by only 7 before Terry Godwin returned an onsides kick for a touchdown.
The closest the Rajin’ Cajuns got Saturday was 14 points after a 9-yard Anthony Jennings touchdown run with 2:04 left in the second quarter and after his third touchdown run of the day with 1:34 to go after Georgia had built a 35-7 lead.
“We just gave them a little too much too early,” Rajin’ Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said.
Louisiana-Lafayette (4-6) picked up a $1.2 million guarantee for its trouble, but couldn’t overcome four turnovers, including three first-half interceptions on a windy afternoon.
It was Georgia’s first time wearing the black jerseys since 2008.
“The black jerseys looked good, but we didn’t let it get to our head,” McKenzie said. “We knew we had to play a football game.”
This blackout was bound to go better than the last one because the opponent this time wasn’t eighth-ranked Alabama like in 2008 but a team in a three-way tie for fifth in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Crimson Tide rolled out to a 31-0 halftime lead en route to a 41-30 blowout against No. 3 Georgia under Crimson Tide first-year defensive coordinator Smart.
Now Smart is Georgia’s first-year head coach.
Georgia lost in alternate uniforms against Florida in 2009 (black helmets and pants) and 2011 against Boise State in Atlanta (red on red Nike Combat with silver helmets).
The black jerseys Saturday didn’t keep from there being thousands of empty seats in the game against a team not in a power five conference.
Reggie Davis returned the opening kickoff 45 yards and the Bulldogs needed just one offensive play to get on the scoreboard.
McKenzie, the junior wide receiver, took a toss and raced 55 yards for the touchdown.
He topped that with an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown with 8:30 left in the first quarter.
McKenzie fielded the ball at the and made three would-be tacklers miss as he cut back and ran down the right side and had four Georgia players clearing a path to the end zone.
It was the fifth career punt return for a score for McKenzie, to set a school record. He is now tied for third all-time in career punt return touchdowns after his first of the season.
“He was due to break one,” Chubb said.
Jacob Eason (13 of 19 for 165 yards, two TDs, one INT) saw a string off 144 passes without an interception dating back to Oct. 9 against South Carolina end when his seventh pass of the day deflected off of freshman tight end Isaac Nauta.
The freshmen hooked up later on a 9-yard scoring strike in the middle of the end zone for a 28-7 lead with 4:45 left in the third quarter.
Chubb rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries including a 1-yard touchdown when he dove and stretched on third-and-goal.
He scored again when Eason bought himself some time in the pocket and hit Chubb on a checkdown over the middle on third-and-four. Chubb outraced the Rajin’ Cajuns defense to the end zone for the score with 9:35 to play.
Backup quarterback Greyson Lambert entered with 4:41 to play and the Rajin’ Cajuns put a little pressure on the Bulldogs. Georgia was outgained 465-400,.
Still, this victory was still easier than any other this season.
“You could definitely breathe a little bit,” Bellamy said.