Georgia Saturday’s matchup between the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (2-0) and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (1-1) will be the second-ever between the two schools. The first clash came in 2003 in Athens with then eighth-ranked Georgia posting a 29-10 victory despite incurring a school record 18 penalties for 129 yards.
In the first meeting with the Blue Raiders, the Bulldogs only led 10-3 at the half. Michael Cooper scored a pair of rushing touchdowns and Billy Bennett kicked three field goals to pace the Georgia offense.
Back Between The Hedges
The Bulldogs passed their first SEC road test last Saturday against No. 24 South Carolina, registering a 41-17 victory over the Gamecocks. It marked the most points the Bulldogs have ever scored in Columbia in the series that dates back to 1894. Also, the 24-point margin of victory was the most in Columbia since 1971. Georgia now has opened the season with two straight games of 40+ points for the first time since 2012. That year, Georgia scored at least 40 points in its first five games before falling to South Carolina in Columbia to drop to 5-1. The 2012 squad would go 12-2 overall, win the SEC Eastern Division and the Capital One Bowl over Nebraska.
A Glance At The Blue Raiders
Middle Tennessee, which is located in Murfreesboro, Tenn., is a member of Conference USA. They are coached by Rick Stockstill who is in his 13th season. Stockstill’s son, Brent, is the team’s starting quarterback. This is one of seven active sons playing for their father who is their head coach, and the only head coach/starting QB combo in Division I-A. Last year, they went 7-6 including defeating Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl.
MTSU opened the season with a 35-7 loss at Vanderbilt, however it was only 14-7 early in the third quarter before the Commodores exploded for the game’s final 21 points. This past Saturday, MTSU defeated Tennessee-Martin 61-37 at Floyd Stadium in its home opener. UT-Martin managed 460 total yards and recovered an onside kick to pull within 10 with nine and a half minutes left, but MTSU came away with a victory. The Blue Raiders’ 61 points was the most since tallying 77 against Florida Atlantic in 2014.
New Look At Tailback
Sophomore QB Jake Fromm returns to direct the Bulldog offense. Georgia is replacing tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. They completed their Bulldog career in 2017 as the top tandem in college football history, amassing 8,407 rushing yards and 77 rushing touchdowns. With the duo now playing in the NFL, Georgia is looking to its next wave of talented tailbacks including sophomore D’Andre Swift and juniors Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien. Swift started the first two games and is leading the corps with 20 carries for 107 yards two touchdowns. In the most recent contest at #24 South Carolina, Holyfield had career highs with nine carries for 79 yards and a score. In fact, all three backs scored against the Gameocks and against Austin Peay and Swift finished with 12 carries for 64 yards and Herrien had seven for 45 in the matchup at USC.
Georgia has three players on this year’s roster who have already earned their undergraduate degrees. The players who received their undergraduate degrees include: DL Jay Hayes (Notre Dame-Film, Television, Theater), P Landon Stratton (Murray State-Occupational and Health Safety) and OL Sean Fogarty (UGA-History). Hayes is pursuing a Master’s degree in Financial Planning while Stratton is enrolled in the Master’s program for Learning, Leadership and Organizational Development. Fogarty is taking a full load of undergraduate courses.
All of the SEC players who have achieved an undergraduate degree will be sporting the SEC Graduate patch on their uniforms.
Head Coach Kirby Smart
Full Name: Kirby Paul Smart
Birthdate: December 23, 1975
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama
Family: Wife: Mary Beth; Children: twins Weston and Julia (Feb. 8, 2008), and Andrew (May 25, 2012)
High School: Bainbridge (Ga.)
College: BBA Georgia ’98; MS Florida State ’03
1999 Georgia Admin. Asst.
2000 Valdosta State Defensive Backs
2001 Valdosta State Def. Coord.
2002-03 FSU Grad. Assistant
2004 LSU Defensive Backs
2005 Georgia Running Backs
2006 Miami Dolphins Safeties
2007 Alabama Asst. HC/DBs
2008-13, ’15 Alabama Def. Coord./ILBs
2014 Alabama Asst. HC/Safeties
2016-current Georgia Head Coach
Georgia (1995-98): Four-year letterman as defensive back. First team All-SEC in ’98; 13 career interceptions; four-time member of SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Bainbridge H.S. (1991-93): Three-year letterman in football, basketball, and baseball; first team Class AAAA All-State as a senior; 16 career interceptions.
High School Coach: Sonny Smart (father)
Coach Smart’s Record
Year W L Pct. SEC
2016 8 5 .615 4-4
2017 13 2 .866 7-1
2018 2 0 1.000 1-0
Total 23 7 .767 13-6 When Georgia looked for a new head coach after the 2015 season, the arrows pointed to Kirby Smart, longtime Alabama defensive coordinator and former UGA player and assistant. The 2017 Associated Press SEC Coach of the Year has not disappointed.
In his first year leading the Bulldogs in 2016, Georgia extended its school record to 20 consecutive bowl appearances and posted five fourth-quarter comebacks including wins over No. 8 Auburn and No. 22 North Carolina. He led UGA to an 8-5 final record, which included a victory over TCU in the Liberty Bowl.
In 2017, Smart directed UGA to a 13-2 record, an SEC title, a win at The Rose Bowl Game during the CFP semifinal and a spot in the National Championship. He was named the Maxwell Football Club’s George Munger National Coach of the Year. Before 2017, the Bulldogs last SEC title was 2005.
He has also made an immediate impact in recruiting, posting the nation’s top-ranked class in 2018 and the third-ranked class in 2017. In addition to coaching, Smart oversees the Kirby Smart Family Foundation, which is focused on being champions in the community by supporting and giving back to needy children and families.
Smart officially came home to Georgia on Dec. 6, 2015. But he still had unfinished business at Alabama, which was chasing a national title. He juggled two jobs for a month until January 11, 2016, when the Tide won its fourth national championship in a seven-year span. Twelve hours later, he was at work in Athens.
Did You Know?
Kirby Smart is one of nine head coaches at schools from Power 5 conferences that are coaching at their alma maters.
The complete list:
Paul Chryst (Wisconsin)
Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern)
Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State)
Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)
Cliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech)
Barry Odom (Missouri)
Mark Richt (Miami)
David Shaw (Stanford)
Kirby Smart (GEORGIA)
Top Ind. Single-Game Performances Under Smart
Rushing Yards: 222, Nick Chubb vs. #22 UNC (9/3/16)
Rushing TDs: 3, Sony Michel vs. UK (11/18/17); vs. #2 Oklahoma (1/1/18)
Longest Rush: 75-TD, Michel vs. #2 Oklahoma (1/1/18)
Passing Yards: 346, Jacob Eason vs. VU (10/15/16)
Passing TDs: 3, Eason @ Missouri (9/17/16); Jake Fromm vs. Samford (9/16/17)
Receiving TDs: 2, Isaiah McKenzie @ Missouri (9/17/16); Terry Godwin vs. Samford (9/16/17)
Longest TD Pass: 80-TD, Fromm to Mecole Hardman vs. BAMA (1/8/18)
Longest Pass: 80-TD, Fromm to Hardman vs. BAMA (1/8/18)
Tackles: 13, Roquan Smith vs. GT (11/26/16); SECCG (12/2/17); CFPNC (1/1/18)
Sacks: 3, Trenton Thompson vs. TCU (12/30/16)
TFL: 3, Thompson vs. Nicholls (9/10/16)
2017 Georgia Munger National Coach of the Year finalist, leading UGA to a 13-2 record, a Rose Bowl Game victory and an appearance the CFP National Championship Game.
The Bulldogs’ No. 2 AP ranking in 2017 was the team’s top AP ranking since week three of the 2008 season when Georgia was No. 2.
Bulldogs captured the SEC Eastern Division by going 7-1 in 2017, including a perfect 6-0 in the division for the first time since the league split into divisions in 1992.
Seven fourth-quarter comebacks, including wins over #8 AU (2016), #22 UNC in Atlanta (2016), @ #24 Notre Dame (2017), vs. #2 Oklahoma in 2018 Rose Bowl Game.
Led UGA to its first win over a ranked team in a season opener away from Sanford Stadium in school history, posting a 33-24 win over #22 UNC during the 2016 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic.
Defense/Special Teams Scores
2016: Safety vs. #22 UNC; Lorenzo Carter 24-yd fumble recovery for TD vs. Nicholls; Terry Godwin 43-yd KOR for TD @ SC; Maurice Smith 34-yd INT return for TD vs. #8 Auburn; Isaiah McKenzie 82-yd PR for TD
2017: J.R. Reed 3-yd fumble recover for TD vs. Florida
7 Victories When Tied Or Trailing Late
Year Opponent Start of 4th Qtr. Final
2016 %#22 UNC Trailed 24-23 33-24
2016 @ Missouri Trailed 27-21 28-27
2016 @ Middle Tennessee Trailed 21-16 27-24
2016 #8 Auburn Tied 7-7 13-7
2016 ^TCU Trailed 23-21 31-23
2017 #24 Notre Dame 17-16, trailed 19-17 with 10:21 left 20-19
2018 $ #2 Oklahoma 31-31 trailed 45-38 with 0:55 left 54-48 2ot
%Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic; ^Liberty Bowl; $Rose Bowl Game
Dogs Aiming To Have Another Explosive Offense
This marks the first time since 2012 that the Bulldogs have opened up with a pair of 40-plus point performances, highlighted by their 41-17 win at #24 South Carolina.
Georgia averaged 35.4 points/game in 2017. Currently, the Bulldogs are averaging 43.0 points/game.
The 2017 Bulldogs ranked fourth nationally in Red Zone Offense, going 53-for-55, including 39 touchdowns, last year. This season, Georgia is 8-for-9 with seven touchdowns and a field goal and ran out the clock to end the rout of the Gamecocks.
QB Jake Fromm, the 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year, is 14-2 as a starter, including 5-2 versus Top 25 teams.
Georgia also has true freshman QB Justin Fields, who was one of the nation’s top recruits. After enrolling in January, he has seen action in the first two games and is 8-for-9 for 71 yards and a touchdown. Fields is averaging 9.0 yards/carry with 36 yards on four carries.
In his career, Fromm has led his team to two comebacks when trailing at the half. One of Georgia’s signature wins came with his 2018 Rose Bowl Game performance after the Bulldogs trailed 31-17 at the half and rallied to a 54-48 win in double overtime. Georgia trailed 45-38 with 3:22 remaining in the game before Fromm directed a game-tying drive.
Fromm’s first career start came last year at #24 Notre Dame. Trailing 19-17 with 6:47 left in the contest, Fromm directed a nine play, 63-yard drive to set up the go-ahead field goal. He was 3-for-4 for 45 yards during the drive.