JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Kirby Smart’s message in the aftermath of a 42-20 win over Florida was direct and sobering.
“We have to keep getting better, like, we’re not there,” Smart said from the bowels of TIAA Bank Stadium after Georgia ran its record to 8-0.
“People want to put us there, but we’re not there.”
The Gators scored 17 consecutive points in the third quarter, serving as a reminder that this Bulldogs’ team isn’t as perfect as its record.
Smart is proud of the poise and resiliency his team showed, but those close to the program recognize he makes sure there’s no room for complacency or any sense of arriving in the Georgia locker room or football community.
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The hype train for the first-ever Top 5 showdown between Georgia and Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday started early with ESPN’s College GameDay and SEC Nation announcing they’ll be on the UGA campus.
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Smart’s routine, however, won’t change.
The Bulldogs will first focus on themselves, repairing the mistakes from the Florida game while making note of the good before shifting into game week.
Here are three takeaways from Georgia’s victory over Florida on Saturday:
Line of scrimmage
Georgia won up front against Florida, which is always the most important matchup of them all.
The Bulldogs held a Gators team that entered the game leading the nation in yards per carry (6.36) to 100 yards rushing on 34 carries — just 2.9 yards per attempt.
Georgia also recorded three sacks on the elusive Anthony Richardson, a feat considering Florida had allowed an SEC-low five sacks through its first seven games.
Georgia piled up a series-record 555 yards of offense on what has been a dreadful Florida defense this season, and yet the Gators were within one score in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs were reminded how quickly they can become mortal when turning the ball over, as a third-quarter fumble led to a field goal and an interception led to a Gators touchdown.
Both Kenny McIntosh and Stetson Bennett rallied with strong play after their miscues, but Georgia knows some opponents might not be so forgiving.
Malaki Starks is having a Freshman All-American campaign at safety, but the Bulldogs’ youth showed when there was a communication breakdown on the side Starks was working with sophomore cornerback Kamari Lassiter.
Smart’s defenses don’t often yield explosive plays as a result of a coverage breakdown, but seeing Florida’s Xavier Henderson streaking wide open for a 78-yard touchdown will heighten awareness in meetings this week.
Key defensive injury
Georgia returned one elite defensive lineman with Jalen Carter back in action after missing two games with a sprained MCL and lost another when sacks leader Nolan Smith exited the game.
Smith, who was on his way to yet another dominant performance against Florida through two quarters with a TFL and QB hurry, exited the game with what CBS reported was a shoulder injury in the second quarter.
Smart was uncertain of Smith’s status after the game, but the preliminary report didn’t sound promising for an immediate return.
Offensive line bumps and bruises
Starting right tackle Warren McClendon is playing through a shoulder injury, Smart said, and left guard Xavier Truss saw his snaps limited by a painful toe ailment.
Georgia also saw giant backup offensive tackle Amarius Mims exit the game with a sprained knee, though Smart noted it didn’t appear as serious as the sprained MCL Carter dealt with.
Brock Bowers power
Bowers was once again sensational, reeling in a career-high 154 yards on five catches, including a spectacular juggling catch that led to a 72-yard touchdown.
“That guy, he’s one of the best players in the country now and probably one of the best in how many years, right?” Florida coach Billy Napier said.
“He’s a unique match-up player, and they do a good job, you know they got some other good ones out there too, it’s not like you can just worry about him.”
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