OXFORD, Miss.—–The 12th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 in Southeastern Conference) were handed their first loss of the season against the No. 21 Ole Miss Rebels 45-14 on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in front of 65,43 attendees, second biggest in Ole Miss history.
The Rebels (2-2, 1-1 in SEC) came out firing by putting up 31 points in the first half and the deficit proved to be too large for the Bulldogs to mount another second-half comeback. Ole Miss accumulated 510 total yards (330 through the air and 180 on the ground), while UGA managed 396 total yards with 230 rushing and 166 passing.
“They came out and dominated from the start of the game,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “It was disappointing to get the penalties that we got. We shot ourselves in the foot. A couple drives where we had things going, we struggled when we had 2nd-and-15 or 3rd-and-15. We couldn’t convert those. The pick-six then defensively we just gave up too many big plays. When they throw the ball down the field vertically, you have to make plays on the ball and make those things misses and they hit those.”
Bulldogs’ freshman quarterback Jacob Eason went 16-for-36 for 137 yards with an interception and a fumble. Freshman tailback Brian Herrien led Georgia with career-highs 78 yards on 11 touches and two touchdowns. Junior tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel added 57 and 66 yards, respectively, on the ground. Michel notched a team-high 34 receiving yards on two catches.
Senior quarterback Chad Kelly led Ole Miss with 282 yards passing on two touchdowns, and he had a team-high 53 yards rushing with one touchdown. Senior tight end Evan Engram grabbed team-high six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown.
“We struggled with that third-and-long,” said Smart. “The penalties backed us up because we ran the ball decent early in the game. We had 93 yards rushing in the first half and that was with a sack. Any time you are playing behind the sticks with a freshman quarterback on the road, it is challenging. But we got to execute and do better on offense.”
The Rebels took their opening possession 69 yards on seven plays but the Georgia defense halted the Rebels on the UGA seven-yard line to force a Gary Wunderlich 24-yard field goal that gave Ole Miss the early 3-0 advantage.
On the following Bulldog possession, defensive back Derrick Jones of the Rebels intercepted Eason and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the first quarter, Ole Miss tailback D’Vaughn Pennamon punched it into the end zone from one yard out to finish a 10-play, 84-yard drive for a 17-0 lead. Then Ole Miss’ Kelly connected with receiver Demarkus Lodge and Engram for second quarter touchdowns.
At the half, the Rebels had 323 total yards (53 rushing and 270 passing), while the Bulldogs managed a total of 186 yards (93 rushing and passing, each). Eason went 7-for-21 for 64 yards and an interception. Kelly of the Rebels amassed 233 yards and two touchdowns.
The Rebels added two touchdowns in the third quarter on a 5-yard Jason Pellerin reception from backup Ole Miss quarterback Eugene Brazley and a 41-yard run by Kelly.
The Bulldogs got on the board in the subsequent possession as they orchestrated a 75-yard, 7-play drive capped with a touchdown. Herrien had 43 yards on the drive with 10-yard scurry to make it a 45-7 game.
At the 7:38 mark in the fourth quarter, Georgia and Herrien reached the end zone again as the tailback finished the Bulldogs’ longest drive of the game (79 yards in 12 plays) with a one-yard touchdown run. Eason amassed 45 yards on 5-for-6 passing, while he added 8 yards on the ground.
Junior safety Dominick Sanders notched team-high seven tackles and added a sack. Georgia cornerback Aaron Davis picked off Pelerin’s pass in the third quarter and returned it for eight yards.
“These men have had setbacks before, we all have setbacks,” said Smart. “But it’s how we respond to it. It is the first setback this year. But we haven’t played a complete game yet and that was kinda how this one was. We need to continue to improve and sell these kids on working to get better and that is what we are going to do.”
Georgia returns home next Saturday to face #14 Tennessee. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 and will be televised on CBS.
*Falling Behind By Double Digits Again: Ole Miss led 31-0 at the half, which marked Georgia’s largest deficit after two quarters since the same score to #8 Alabama in 2008 (Final UA 41-30). With 8:34 in the 3rd quarter today, Georgia trailed 45-0, and it lost 45-14. Georgia saw its 10-game series winning streak versus the Rebels end. UGA holds a 32-13-1 edge in the series that dates back to 1940, but today’s loss was the largest margin of defeat against Ole Miss, the previous mark was 16 (28-12 in 1990).
Georgia has trailed in all four of its games this year including three by at least 10 points. In the season opener versus #22 North Carolina in Atlanta, the Bulldogs trailed 24-14 at the 6:34 mark in the 3rd quarter and rallied for a 33-24 win. Georgia fell behind 10-0 in the first half at Missouri last week and came back for a 28-27 victory.
*4th Down Conversions Includes Fake Punt: Georgia is 3-for-4 on 4th downs this season including 2-for-3 today. On 4th and 1 in the 2nd quarter, junior Nick Chubb scampered 16 yards to the Ole Miss 23. On the play, defensive linemen Julian Rochester and John Atkins were in to block. The drive ended with a missed field goal. At that point, Georgia was 2-for-2 on 4th down this year, the other conversion, a 20-yard game-winning TD pass against Missouri last week on 4th-and-10 from Jacob Eason to Isaiah McKenzie. Later in today’s contest, Georgia executed a successful fake punt on 4th-and-8 from its own 40 as freshman punter Marshall Long completed his first career pass, a 29-yarder to Sony Michel. The drive stalled on 4th and 8 at the Ole Miss 30 as Georgia failed to convert as Eason’s pass to the endzone was incomplete to McKenzie.
It was Georgia’s first fake punt attempt since the 2015 Florida game, and the first successful one since the 2013 Clemson game when punter Collin Barber had a five-yard run for a first down.
*Career-High For Herrien After Chubb Plays Only First Half: At the half, junior tailback Nick Chubb provided 57 rushing yards on 12 carries for a 4.8 average, and then did not return due to an ankle injury. For his career, Chubb has 2,716 yards and that ranks sixth in school history. With 5:00 left in the 3rd quarter, freshman Brian Herrien (11 rushes for 78 yards, 2 TD, all career-highs) capped a seven play, 75-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, the second of his career. Herrien scored another TD on a one-yard plunge with 7:38 left.
*Points Off Turnovers: Georgia scored 7 points off an interception while Ole Miss scored 7 points off two turnovers. The first turnover was an interception by Ole Miss as it took a 10-0 lead on a 52-yard pick six by Derrick Jones. It marked the first INT return for a score by an opponent since the 2015 Alabama game (Eddie Jackson for 50 yards). The second came on a fumble by Jacob Eason when he was sacked at the Bulldog 32. It led to an interception by Aaron Davis on a QB-hurry by D’Andre Walker and an eventual 79-yard TD drive that made it 45-14. Opponents this season have scored 31 points off seven Bulldog miscues while Georgia has converted nine turnovers into only 13 points.
*Eason Airs It Out Again: Freshman QB Jacob Eason finished 16-for-36 for 137 yards and one interception as Georgia ran 81 plays for 396 yards. Last week in a road win over Missouri, he finished 29-for-55 for 308 yards, 3 TDs, all career-highs.
*For Starters: Freshman David Marshall (DE) made his first career start. A couple of Bulldogs extended their team-leading starting streaks with center Brandon Kublanow at 29 consecutive games for the offense and cornerback Malkom Parrish at 17 in a row for the defense.
*Field Goal Woes: Georgia is now 3-for-8 in field goal attempts this season. Redshirt sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship had his first career attempt today, missing a 36-yarder. He did make his first two career PATs and handled kickoffs again. Redshirt sophomore William Ham entered the game 3-for-7 on the year.
*Captains: Georgia’s captains were junior John Atkins (NT), junior Malkom Parrish (DB) and junior Jeb Blazevich (TE).
*Up Next: Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) returns home to Sanford Stadium next Saturday against Tennessee at 3:30 ET on CBS.
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart
“Well obviously I am very disappointed in our performance. I am in charge of the organization, the entire team and the coaching staff. We did not do very good job today. You’ve got to give Ole Miss credit first. They came out ready to play. I thought their quarterback did really well. He had some big plays, hit some big throws and we didn’t make some plays early and it snowballed from there after the pick six. It was tough sledding. I thought the kids competed. Once we got behind we didn’t do a good job of trying to get back in it. That is the most disappointed thing. What a tremendous atmosphere to play in and we did not respond the right way, but we will move forward. This team will come back and fight. I can promise you they will show up and give an ‘A’ effort next week. It is frustrating because this is the opportunity we had been looking for. This is obviously the best team we have played and we didn’t perform well.”
On being encouraging after tough loses to the players…
“I believe in consistency and I believe in a 24-hour rule. Whether you win or lose. Good or bad. 24-hours. I want the kids to see the same me. 24-hours from now we have to move on. Unfortunately, in the SEC you get no breaks. You get no weeks off. You’ve got to come back and fight another day. That is the demeanor I have with the kids. There’s a lot of mistakes being made out there. Lot of young guys making bad mistakes. They will have to grow up. That’s the difference in the game, you go out there and make blunders, jump off sides and you are playing 2nd-and-15 instead of 3rd-and-7. That’s a big difference on the signal caller. It makes it tough. I will be honest with you, that has been some of the fear from the first games. There were some big plays from the North Carolina game they didn’t hit. They hit those today.”
On Nick Chubb and the run game…
“Nick has an ankle sprain, don’t know the severity yet. Could not come back in the game. If he could have come back, I know he wanted to, but he could not come back. We will see how that goes the next couple of days. As far as the run game, you know, I felt like the fist half we had 93 yards rushing, but like I said there were 2 or 3 drives that even when you have 4 or 5 yard rushing then you have 3rd-and- 7 or 3rd-and-8 because you are 1st-and-15 or 2nd –and-15. The penalties really put us behind the sticks. We really never got a rhythm in the first half. And we had some jump balls. At the end of the day they did a really good job defensively. Ole Miss really affected Jacob (Eason). They pressured him, they covered him and they did some good things defensively. We dropped some balls. Maybe some balls that give us momentum. Even after the fake punt, that is the toughest thing. We have got to take advantage of our opportunities when we get them. We had a couple opportunities to get back in it in a two score game and did not make the plays. We’ve got to make those.”
On if he believed they could beat Ole Miss…
“I expected our team to come out and fight and play well. You never believe you are going to play like that. I think that we did not respond well when they had success. Yet every other game so far we have responded. We did not get away with somethings defensively that we had in the past. They made the plays down the field when they had to. Let’s give their quarterback credit. We got two sacks. He breaks off of them. One for a touchdown, the other I think he threw for a first down or ran the ball for a first down. They made plays when we did not. As far as the culture of the team or expecting it be like that, I don’t even think about that because I don’t think about the past . I am thinking about the future and how we can get this team now ready for the next game. It is disappointing to be in a big game like this and have a let down. We’ve got to put our lids in a better situation to be successful. That is offensive coaches, defensive coaches and me, the head coach. How can our team be successful? We got to figure that out.”
#46, Glenn Welch, FB
On Kirby Smart’s attitude…
“He’s always positive, he’s doing his job the best way he can, we just have to do our job the best way we can.”
On the play after the fake punt…
“It was a focus deal, there were passes that I should have caught.”
On Ole Miss scoring 45 points…
“When it was heading that way, I thought this is going to be a long game, we just have to do our job the best we can.”
#54, Brandon Kublanow, C
On the Ole Miss football team…
“Ole Miss played a great game and hats off to them. We have to look at ourselves, we shot ourselves in the foot early and often, and it didn’t help us.”
On playing Tennessee next weekend…
“We need to prepare better during the week. We need to look at different things and see what’s going to happen.”
#1, Sony Michel, TB
On Kirby Smart’s attitude…
“He’s positive, you just have to keep moving forward. You lose some, you win some. You have to move on to the next week, we have Tennessee. We have to get in and watch film.”
On playing Tennessee next weekend…
“You need to learn how to let things go. You have a 24-hour rule, whether you win or lose. You have to move on like that game never happened.”
On not scoring in the first half…
“That’s playing the game. Things don’t always go your way when you play in the SEC.”