No. 4 Georgia trails Arkansas 7-5 at halftime in the SEC football season opener in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Here are some takeaways from The Red & Black:
After weeks of speculation, redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis started as Georgia’s quarterback after missing 2019 due to brain cyst surgery.
Mathis’ debut didn’t exactly signal a seamless transition from previous quarterback Jake Fromm. Georgia started its day on offense with two consecutive drives ending in punts, unable to establish the run game. 20 out of the 22 rushing yards belonged to Mathis after two drives. Georgia hoped to use tempo with Mathis taking the snaps, but it was a rocky start for the new quarterback and new offensive coordinator.
Mathis did show potential with his arm and ability to run, but was never able to fully get comfortable. An interception late in the first quarter and a mishandled snap on a third down at the beginning of the second quarter took away scoring opportunities for Georgia. Mathis was then relieved by redshirt junior Stetson Bennett.
Field position wasn't Georgia’s issue — capitalizing when being set up was Georgia’s real problem in the first half. With both Mathis and Bennett not settled in yet, Georgia wasn’t able to find its step and missed continuity on the offensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs also didn’t rely on their running game either with only 48 yards on 20 attempts at the end of the first half.
A late first half push from Bennett and the offense set up Jack Podlesny for a 38-yard field goal. His first attempt hit the right upright and was negated by an Arkansas timeout. His second attempt split the uprights and cut the Arkansas lead to two points heading to the locker room.
Penalties and more penalties
Throughout the first half, the Bulldogs were the authors of their own misfortune, finishing the half with 11 total penalties for 98 yards. Georgia had eight penalties for 73 lost yards in the first quarter.
Flags seemed to not stop flying for the Bulldogs. While the offense and defense were struggling, the punting game seemed to be the only thing helping the Bulldogs. Penalties still affected special teams plays. Jake Camarda dropped his punt on the Razorbacks’ 5-yard-line in the first quarter, which was called back due to an illegal formation — luckily for the Bulldogs, he was able to do it again.
Another penalty occurred when Kearis Jackson returned a punt for 19 yards. The positive play was brought back after another holding call on the Bulldogs. Jackson’s return would have set up the Bulldogs inside the Arkansas red zone for ideal field position.
Georgia’s defense came out looking like its elite and energized self, and forced a 3-and-out on the Razorbacks’ first drive.
In the Razorbacks’ second drive, the Bulldogs hurt themselves with penalties and struggled in pass coverage. Arkansas’ deep plays spread Georgia’s defense out, and inevitably caused some problems.
Arkansas was able to get a 28-yard pickup after a pass interference penalty. Quickly after, the Razorbacks posted the first score of the day on a 49-yard touchdown with 8:48 left in the first quarter. The touchdown capped off a seven-play, 91-yard drive for Arkansas.