GRADING THE GAME
OFFENSE: B-. Georgia produced only 14 first-half points against an Appalachian State team that came into Sanford Stadium at 2-7. The Bulldogs recorded only 127 rushing yards – 75 from Todd Gurley – well below their season average of 180. The Bulldogs had the ball for just 12:29 in the first half, which was a big reason they had more than 200 yards in the first two quarters. They turned it on in the second half, putting up 31 points and totaling 568 yards as the second-team offense saw the field while not allowing a sack. Quarterback Aaron Murray set the new record in the Southeastern Conference for touchdown passes in a career (he now has 115, breaking former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel’s record of 114) and Rantavious Wooten had 104 yards receiving and a touchdown catch. But Murray threw an interception in the first half, as backup Hutson Mason did in the second half, and Reggie Davis and Rhett McGowan both recorded drops on catchable balls. Though the offense covered up its first-half struggles with second-half points, the Bulldogs can’t afford a slow start next week against an Auburn team that rolled up 55 points against Tennessee on Saturday.
DEFENSE: B. The Bulldogs had a solid outing on paper. They held the Mountaineers to 32 rushing yards, 253 yards total of offense and two field goals. But the Mountaineers held the ball for nearly 18 minutes in the first half and converted 4 of 9 on third down. A first-half targeting penalty and subsequent ejection on safety Corey Moore happened in the middle of a penalty-laden second quarter defensive series for Georgia that ended with a missed field goal by Appalachian State. But the second-half defense had a different tune. The Bulldogs gave up 69 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes and no points. Linebacker Amarlo Herrera came up with an interception – though he fumbled at the end of the return – and safety Tray Matthews and linebacker Leonard Floyd each forced a fumble. The Bulldogs totaled seven tackles for loss, three sacks and five pass breakups. But the slow start by the Georgia defense and long drives Appalachian State pieced together in the first half is what knocked the grade down to a B.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+. No high snaps. No blocked punts. No mishandled punt returns. The special teams came out pretty clean and even blocked an extra-point attempt. Marshall Morgan hit on a third-quarter 42-yard field goal and Collin Barber’s one punt went 44 yards. But the Bulldogs’ coverage teams gave up 159 total return yards — 121 on kickoffs and 38 on a long punt return by Doug Middleton. The Bulldogs would’ve received an A on special teams had the Mountaineers not gotten loose on a few returns for decent field position.
COACHING: B+. The halftime adjustments are what bumped the grade up. The Bulldogs offense put up 31 points in the final two quarters and the defense kept the Mountaineers off the scoreboard in the second half. The sluggish start resulted in a 14-6 halftime score, though halftime speeches by Murray, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and coach Mark Richt shifted the Bulldogs into the right gear for the remainder of the game. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs should’ve put more points on the board and pitched a shutout against the Mountaineers.
– Rachel G. Bowers, Morris News Service