ATHENS, Ga. -- Jim Donnan knows what a difference a year can make.
"We got any air-conditioning in here?" asked the sweating but smiling Georgia coach in the packed media room after Saturday's football game. "I guarantee you this seat isn't near as hot as it was last year at this time."
There was plenty of that sentiment going around at Sanford Stadium after the Bulldogs exorcised the considerable demons of their loss to Southern Mississippi in Donnan's debut a year ago, with a 38-7 romp over Arkansas State.
After a somewhat shaky first quarter which featured a non-contact fumble by one starting tailback and an injury to the other, Georgia put things together and blew the Indians off the field, outscoring Arkansas State 31-0 from the second quarter on to close out the win.
Afterward, Donnan was quick to note that Arkansas State is far from a Southern Miss-caliber team, but also that he was more interested in how well Georgia had progressed since the close of last year's 5-6 campaign.
"This team's not as good as the one we played last year, obviously y'all know that - Southern Miss ended up winning eight games - but our team's better," he said. "I'm not basing that on the victory today, I'm basing that on how much I've been around them and seen what they do.
"You tell them to be somewhere, they're there. We had pregame meal today, and the latest anybody was there was seven minutes before they were supposed to be there. We've just made a good turnaround. We're improved."
Judging from Saturday's performance, Donnan has a point. Despite losing senior tailback Robert Edwards to an ankle injury on the fourth play of the game, the Bulldogs ran at will on the Indian defense, and Mike Bobo, the first of three Georgia quarterbacks to see action on the day, was impressive.
Georgia's backs, led by Patrick Pass (83 yards) and Olandis Gary (85 yards), went left, right and up the middle for a total of 254 yards. Bobo hit 13-of-18 passes for 196 yards a and a pair of touchdowns - and his only interception came on a Hail Mary pass as time expired in the first half.
The Bulldogs cruised down the field on the opening possession, as Pass broke off a 12-yard run, followed by an 11-yard Edwards sweep to the left and another 16-yarder from Pass. With the Bulldogs running at will, Pass went left on a sweep at the Arkansas State 24-yard line and simply dropped the ball, killing the first drive with 13:09 to go in the first quarter.
Asked if he sensed an impending letdown from his players after the fumble by Pass, Donnan replied, "Nope.
"I told the players that no matter what happened today short of a tornado, I didn't want anybody looking like that," he said. "I just wanted everybody to pick it up and understand that this is this year and we can't worry about what used to happen. Plays are gonna happen like that and we've just gotta overcome them. The difference in our team between, hopefully this year and last year is when we do have some negative things happen, we're just going to hang in there and make it work."
Edwards would not have a hand in making things work, but Pass and Gary did. They teamed with Bobo to drive the Bulldogs down the field on their next possession for a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard dive by Pass. After Arkansas State put together a 10-play, 90-yard drive on their next possession for a score, however, it was all Georgia.
Bobo hit each of his tight ends, Jermaine Wiggins and Larry Brown, on touchdown passes. Bobo scored on a quarterback sneak. Robert Arnaud went in from the 1-yard line. Hap Hines booted a 32-yard field goal and five extra points.
Georgia's defense held the Indians to 24 yards rushing and just 179 total yards, to the Bulldogs' 464. Georgia sacked Indian quarterback Jeremie Watkins four times. Georgia punted once, Arkansas State eight times. Georgia was 11-of-14 on third down conversions and was called for only two penalties.
And finally, one year later, 79,145 fans, one head coach, and Georgia's players went home happy Saturday.
"We didn't really want to come out and do everything, we kind of wanted to stay simple, and I think we did," said Bobo. "For the first game, it's a win, and we played smart football, and I'll take that any day."
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