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Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed (20) calls for the audience to cheer. The Georgia Bulldogs faced the Arkansas State Red Wolves in Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. At the end of the half, the Bulldogs led the Red Wolves 34-0. (Photo/Julian Alexander jalexander@randb.com)

Georgia’s defense executed its first shutout of the 2019 season in a 55-0 victory over Arkansas State on Saturday. It marked Georgia's first shutout since it beat Austin Peay 45-0 in the first game of last season. 

The Bulldogs dominated on the defensive side of the ball, holding the Red Wolves to 220 total yards and only 43 yards rushing.

“[Arkansas State] struggled to run the ball in the first half,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “We played more physical up front and were able to play looser coverages.”

Redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Robert Beal Jr. and senior defensive lineman Tyler Clark led the attack for the Bulldogs with five tackles each. Clark accounted for a sack and a half as well as two solo tackles. 

Pressure was heavy and relentless as Arkansas State quarterback Logan Bonner struggled to escape. Georgia’s defense combined for four total sacks and held Bonner to throw for just 124 yards.

“We were more poised and we were able to communicate,” senior defensive back J.R. Reed said. “We were able to give them different looks that kind of frustrated them on their end.”

As Georgia widened its lead, the second-team defense began to see more time on the field. The Bulldogs started to smell a shutout in the middle of the third quarter. Veteran players encouraged the younger players to execute, hold it and fight for it.

“When [younger players] get in, we always preach to them we want to get a shutout we don’t want to have any explosive plays,” Reed said. “We play to a standard here and when those guys get in it’s all about coaching them up.”

Reed and company accomplished their mission. The Georgia defense broke up plays on the perimeter and held Arkansas State to only 14 first downs.

“We just wanted to come out and prove a point, just show the world that we are ready,” senior inside linebacker Tae Crowder said. “This is how we are coming.”

Toward the end of the fourth quarter, only one thing was missing: a turnover.

“We were trying to get turnovers all day,” Crowder said.

Georgia got what it wished for late in the fourth quarter. It was fourth and five. The Red Wolves were lined up deep in Bulldog territory on the 13-yard line. Arkansas State had a chance to ruin Georgia's shut out. 

Instead, freshman defensive back Lewis Cine read the play, intercepted the ball in the end zone and returned it to the Georgia 15-yard line.

Cine’s interception increased Georgia’s havoc on a day that was already pretty successful. The havoc number is hung on a sign in the defensive meeting room.

“We’ve got this number where it goes up every time we create havoc on the play,” Crowder said. “So that’s what we do, just change the number each week.”

Smart said Dan Lanning’s defense saw tremendous improvements this week..

“It’s nice to walk out of there with a shutout and reward the players who got to play that played to the standard that we have to play to,” Smart said.

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