Saturday, September 2, 2017

Dawgs Win Season Opener 31-10

UGA Sports Communications

The 15th ranked Dawgs posted a 31-10 win to open its 124th year of football. The Dawgs are now 94-27-3 in season openers including winning 18 of their past 21 and 2-0 in openers under Kirby Smart.

“That was a long time coming for our kids,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “They’ve worked really hard. We have a lot of respect for Appalachian State. Our team played really hard in the second half. Our kids were persistent. We talked about chopping wood and keeping it going.”

Senior tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 183 yards and three touchdowns to pace Georgia’s attack. Chubb had 15 rushes for 96 yards and two TDs while Michel had 16 rushes for 87 yards and 1 TD. Chubb scored the game’s first touchdown to give Georgia a 7-0 lead at the 0:39 mark in the first quarter and then ran into the end zone in the third quarter to make it 31-0. He now has 31 career rushing touchdowns, which is sixth on the school’s all-time list. 
Michel’s performance included a 44-yard run that set up Georgia’s second touchdown of the game. He also scored his 18th career rushing touchdown to give UGA a 21-0 edge in the second quarter. One play after Michel’s 44-yard run, true freshman QB Jake Fromm connected with senior WR Javon Wims for a 34-yard touchdown catch. Wims finished with three catches for 81 yards and a score. This was Fromm’s first career touchdown pass and second TD catch for Wims after he recorded a 4-yard score in the 2016 Liberty Bowl.

The veteran defense held the Mountaineers scoreless and without a trip to the Red Zone in the first three quarters. The last time Georgia held an opponent without a point in the first half was at South Carolina last year. The Dawgs led 14-0 and went on to win 28-14 against USC. App State’s lone TD came after an INT that resulted in only a 21-yard drive. Georgia junior DT Trenton Thompson and junior LB Roquan Smith led Georgia in tackles with six apiece. Redshirt sophomore DB J.R. Reed had a sack, a forced fumble and five tackles.  Reed redshirted last season after playing his freshman year in 2015 for Tulsa.

Following a first quarter injury to starting QB Jacob Eason, true freshman Jake Fromm got his first action at the 6:30 mark in the opening period. He completed his first career pass, an 8 yarder to sophomore tightend Isaac Nauta. Fromm finished 10-for-15 for 143 yards and one TD.

“We didn’t have to make a lot of adjusting,” Smart added. “Jacob and Jake have similar qualities. Jake’s a good player and we’re excited about what he can do. Jake managed the game well. We’ll keep working to get him better.”

Another first was sophomore Mecole Hardman grabbing his first career pass, also an 8 yarder. Hardman switched from defense to offense in the offseason. He also added a 23-yard kickoff return versus App State. Freshman D’Andre Swift caught a 5-yard pass from Fromm for his first career catch as well in the first quarter and finished with three catches for 18 yards and six carries for 31 yards.
On special teams, junior Nick Moore handled all snaps on punts in the first two quarters. Senior long snapper Trent Frix snapped on the extra points for the Dawgs. Frix snapped for redshirt sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship who hit a 23-yard field goal and was 4-for-4 on PATs.
A total of 16 true freshmen made their Dawg debut tonight. Last year, a dozen true freshmen played in the season opener.

Georgia featured a new punter versus the Mountaineers. Graduate transfer Cameron Nizialek punted five times for an average of 43.8 (long of 53) with Moore snapping. Nizialek also handled holding duties for the Dawgs on field goals and PATs. Nizialek punted for three years at Columbia University before transferring after earning a degree in economics.

True freshman Andrew Thomas started at right tackle. He is the first true freshman to start on the offensive line for Georgia since John Theus in 2012.  Sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Clark, sophomore defensive back J.R. Reed and redshirt sophomore left guard Pat Allen also started for the first time in their careers.

App State converted two interceptions into 10 points. The first INT thrown by graduate Brice Ramsey turned into a TD with 5:41 left in the contest to avoid a shutout. QB Taylor Lamb scampered in 20 yards to cap a 3-play, 21-yard drive to make it 31-7. ASU notched another INT off Ramsey with 1:49 left in the game and managed a field goal to make it 31-10 with 26 seconds left. Georgia did not force any turnovers.

Injury Report: Sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason left the game at the 6:30 mark in the opening period. He sustained a knee injury on an Appalachian State sideline hit that was ruled a personal foul. Eason finished 1-for-3 for 4 yards. Head coach Kirby Smart reported that he didn't think the injury was too serious, he described it as a "mild knee sprain" as he left the field at halftime.

Up Next: #15 Georgia (1-0) faces Notre Dame (1-0) next Saturday in South Bend, Ind.  The Irish knocked off Temple 49-16 earlier in the day. NBC will televise the game at 7:30 p.m.

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