Originally created 09/06/98

Bulldogs rout outmanned Kent



ATHENS, Ga. -- It took one minute, 43 seconds Saturday for Quincy Carter to do what everyone expected him to do.

On first-and-10 from the Kent State 40-yard line, the freshman quarterback drifted back in the pocket and waited and waited and waited. Tony Small cut across the field, wide open, heading to the left sideline, but Carter waited some more.

Finally, he saw Champ Bailey break by his defender and streak open by 10 yards, down the center of the field. It was just what Carter had been waiting for. Perfect pass, perfect catch, perfect way to start a career.

That 40-yard strike to Bailey electrified a Sanford Stadium crowd of 86,003 that roared at the top of its collective lungs for Carter's pregame introduction, and set the tone for one of No. 18 Georgia's most lopsided season openers ever, a 56-3 romp over Kent State.

"It was all I worked for," Carter said of the first of his three scoring passes in limited playing time. "Just to throw that first touchdown pass was a relief. This game got my feet wet -- I had some great reads, and things clicked. It was a great way to start off."

For the Bulldogs, it really couldn't have gone much better. The focus was on Carter, the first true freshman to start a season opener at Georgia since 1945, and he performed beyond anyone's expectations by completing 12 of 16 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

"There's no question, you couldn't have scripted it any better for him to come out here, in front of his own fans -- he was very impressive to me," said Georgia coach Jim Donnan.

Donnan spent the preseason emphasizing the important role Georgia's running backs would play this fall, but they didn't really have much to do Saturday. The play calling, especially early, leaned toward one thing -- giving Carter confidence. Georgia did rush 38 times for 289 yards, but the Bulldogs only threw two passes in the last quarter-and-a-half.

Eleven players ran the ball for Georgia, including Carter and fellow quarterbacks Mike Usry and Jon England, but the load was distributed evenly. Robert Arnaud led Georgia's attack with six carries for 90 yards, including a blazing 78-yard touchdown run down the right sideline late in the third quarter.

Nick Callaway, making his college debut, had six carries for 64 yards and scored the final points of the game on a nine-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Olandis Gary carried 10 times for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Ronnie Bradley and wide receiver LaBrone Mitchell also carried twice for 25 and 24 yards, respectively.

"We can run the football," Donnan said. "We wanted to work on our passing game because we haven't had a quarterback throw the ball in game conditions much with any experience."

Asked afterward if he felt the running backs had anything specific to work on before next week's game against South Carolina, Gary laughed and offered: "Just try to get coach to call some more running plays."

Not that it mattered what the Bulldogs called, because everything worked.

The Bulldogs shredded the Golden Flashes' defense, which didn't look much improved from the unit that gave up an average of 44.5 points per game a year ago. Georgia's 56 points were the most in a season opener since 1971. The final score was the Bulldogs' largest margin of victory since a 70-6 demolition of Northeast Louisiana in 1994.

The Bulldogs rolled up 566 yards of total offense -- surpassing last year's top total of 530 yards against Georgia Tech -- and averaged 9.6 yards every time they snapped the ball. Georgia also converted eight-of-11 third-down opportunities and punted just twice.

"It's fun when you're clicking like that offensively, and getting some yardage under your belt," tackle Matt Stinchcomb said. "That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to have a good time and win the ballgame, and we were able to do both."

After the game, there were questions of whether the game was, in fact, too easy, as the Bulldogs prepare for a tough road trip to South Carolina next week for their Southeastern Conference opener. But the players said they won't lose any sleep about blowing out their first opponent, especially if doing so helped answer some lingering questions about how well Carter would handle the pressure.

"It helped the offense, to execute some plays, and it helped the defense to work on a few things also," safety Kirby Smart said. "It was a game we had to play, and it was good for us, it was good to get prepared, and get warmed up for the season coming ahead."

Added Bailey: "We felt like Kent was a good game, considering our quarterback situation, we didn't know what we were going to have as far as what (Carter) could do with his experience. But he came in and showed us he could play."

And when he didn't play, the throngs of red-clad fans that showed up for the opener essentially sat on their hands. When Donnan pulled Carter and the first-team offense after the first two possessions with the Bulldogs leading 14-0 midway through the first quarter, the crowd seemed surprised.

England came in to put together a quick touchdown drive, but neither he nor Usry, who had his shot at the start of the second quarter, seemed to add much excitement to what was mostly an anti-climatic game.

So it was no surprise that, when Carter led the first team back out with 7:39 left in the second quarter, the crowd responded with cheers of encouragement. Carter didn't disappoint, lofting a 40-yard touchdown pass to Michael Greer down the right sideline on the fourth play of the drive.

After the game, Donnan shrugged at some media members' tone of amazement in asking questions about Carter's poise and confidence in his college debut. Donnan responded that he expected nothing less from the 20-year-old.

"All I've tried to do since Wednesday is just reinforce in him that we were going to go out there and run our stuff, and that he was going to do it, and that we weren't going to hold back," Donnan said.

Mission accomplished.