ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — A shutout win wasn’t enough for a No. 2 Georgia coming off its impressive opener when it scored touchdowns on its first seven offensive possessions.
The reigning national champions fell short of that lofty standard against FCS Samford.
Stetson Bennett still passed for 300 yards while throwing and running for touchdowns and No. 2 Georgia’s rebuilt defense delivered another dominant performance in the Bulldogs’ 33-0 win on Saturday.
One week after giving up only a field goal in a 49-3 rout of then-No. 11 Oregon, Georgia (2-0) held Samford (1-1) to 128 yards and three first downs.
The offense, however, settled for four field goals — including on its first two possessions after moving the ball inside Samford’s 10.
“We didn’t score touchdowns,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. ”… You come off a week like Oregon where every opportunity to score a touchdown, we score a touchdown. And then we take a huge step back and have to kick field goals. Good teams, you can’t do that. You have to be able to execute well. … We have to do a better job.”
Bennett completed 24 of 34 passes, including a 3-yard scoring pass to freshman Dillon Bell. Even so, he wasn’t satisfied.
“I think we’re all upset we didn’t execute as well as we could have in the first half,” Bennett said, adding “Too many field goals.”
There were no complaints on defense, where Georgia has reloaded after losing eight players in this year’s NFL draft, including five in the first round. Overall, Georgia had a record 15 players taken in the draft.
One year ago, Samford gave another SEC East team a scare, leading Florida 42-28 in the first half before the Gators rallied for a 70-52 win. Samford couldn’t repeat that offensive showing against Georgia.
Tight ends Darnell Washington and Brock Bowers had big gains, each leaping while making catches for 28 and 26 yards, respectively.
Georgia gave up only one first down in the first half and led 30-0 at the break. Late in the third quarter, Carson Beck replaced Bennett and Georgia’s third quarterback, Brock Vandagriff, completed the game.
Samford’s second possession ended with Georgia safety Dan Jackson forcing a fumble by quarterback Michael Hiers. Xavian Sorey’s recovery set up the second of four field goals by Jack Podlesny.
Another defensive highlight was freshman defensive end Mykel Williams’ first sack.
Samford’s Michael Hiers completed 13 of 21 passes for 62 yards.
Samford coach Chris Hatcher was upbeat despite the lopsided loss.
“I thought defensively there were times we just shut them down,” Hatcher said. “We get back into playing our level of competition, I expect us to come back better and faster and meaner and tougher than ever on Monday.”
Samford: Hiers, who was impressive in a season-opening win over FCS Kennesaw State was unable to establish consistent offense. The visiting Bulldogs were held to 59 yards in the first half. Backup Quincy Crittendon’s 36-yard pass to Ty King in the fourth quarter was the biggest gain of the day.
Georgia: There was no evidence of Georgia looking ahead to next week’s Southeastern Conference opener at South Carolina — or looking back at its rout of Oregon. The only disappointment was the Bulldogs’ inability to reach the end zone when they moved inside Samford’s 10 on their first two possessions. The only bad news came when receiver Adonai Mitchell limped off the field during the Bulldogs’ opening drive and was ruled out with a left ankle injury.
RUNNING AWAY FROM RAIN
Kendall Milton led Georgia with 85 yards rushing on 10 carries. Kenny McIntosh had a 1-yard scoring run and caught five passes for 61 yards.
Georgia prepared to emphasize its ground game, especially with expectations for rain.
“Going through this week, we knew we were going to have to run the ball,” Milton said. “We actually were expecting it to be a rainy day so we were kind of already expecting for it to be a big running day.”
Georgia ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns, but Milton’s 19-yard gain was the only big play on the ground.
“The backs did a nice job of running downhill, we just didn’t have a big home-run hitter,” Smart said.
Georgia should hold its No. 2 spot in the AP Top 25 and could receive more support for the top spot following No. 1 Alabama’s 20-19 win over unranked Texas.
There were few visual reminders of Georgia’s 2021 national championship in its first home game. A “2021” was added to the “1942” and “1980” on Georgia’s national championship signage on a Sanford Stadium facade. Also, a 2021 championship flag was raised atop the east end zone stands.
Players were awarded their championship rings in the spring, and Smart said it’s time to move on.
“It’s really not fair for this team to celebrate that because this year’s team didn’t do that,” Smart said. “Last year’s team did that.”
Samford: Plays at Tennessee Tech, a member of the FCS Ohio Valley conference, next Saturday.
Georgia: Opens SEC schedule at South Carolina next Saturday. The Bulldogs have won the last two games in the series, including a 40-13 home win last season.