Georgia left Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday with a 37-10 victory over the Razorbacks, but the score doesn’t show the miscues and mishaps that shaped the Bulldogs’ rough first half.
Georgia committed 11 penalties for 98 yards and looked uncharacteristic throughout the first half. Its new offense under new coordinator Todd Monken only had 48 yards on the ground and went 1 for 12 on third downs. Before the two minute drill that quarterback Stetson Bennett said boosted their confidence before the half, panic mode had almost set in.
There was a dramatic difference between the first and second half, but not drastic enough to overlook the work that Georgia still has left to do. Head coach Kirby Smart couldn’t overlook it, either, and admitted to sloppy plays setting the Bulldogs back.
“It starts with the penalties, it starts with the guys busting assignments and guys missing signals and not doing what they’re supposed to do,” Smart said in the postgame press conference. “That’s 100% what I attribute it to.”
Although the game began to turn for the Bulldogs after redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis was traded in for junior Stetson Bennett, Smart said the quarterback position wasn’t the only mishap.
Smart said his team was stagnant and a lack of discipline led to the penalties that kept them from reaching their full potential. Smart noted that every time the Bulldogs drove downfield and stirred a promising drive they’d “shoot themselves in the foot.”
“A really sloppy first half,” Smart said. “Felt like I was in an extra-innings baseball game, it went forever… got a long way to go to get where we need to go, but I want to be positive about the second half and what the guys were able to do.”
Smart said moving forward the Bulldogs need to execute and clean up their play. The penalties that impaired his team’s performance, including several offsides and holding calls, are his number one focus before hosting Auburn on Oct. 3.
After halftime, Georgia’s offense began to find their rhythm. The Bulldogs took a step closer to shaping their new offensive identity when Bennett rose to the occasion. Smart said the former walk-on gave Georgia its energy and that his decisiveness with the ball helped turn the game around.
“It wasn’t like we had to walk Stetson into it,” Smart said. “Stetson takes reps in practice. He functions in practice and scrimmages. He does a good job of leading the offense.”
Despite its inconsistency, Smart is choosing to look at the positives that came out of Georgia’s season opener and continued quarterback dilemma.
“I am proud of the way they were resilient in the second half, I thought our special teams played really well. Give a lot of credit to Arkansas — they gave us some problems, but we’ve got to get better,” Smart said.