ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — A lopsided victory over FCS opponent Austin Peay wasn’t enough to convince Georgia coach Kirby Smart his team is ready to defend its Southeastern Conference championship.
Next week’s visit to SEC rival South Carolina will teach Smart much more about his Bulldogs.
Jake Fromm threw two scoring passes while sharing time with freshman Justin Fields and No. 3 Georgia showed off some new firepower in rolling past Austin Peay 45-0 on Saturday.
The Bulldogs, playing their first game since losing to Alabama in last season’s national championship game, compiled a 508-152 advantage in total yards. Smart wasn’t impressed.
“We’ve got to grow up and we’ve got to grow up fast, because the team that’s ahead of us is not easy,” Smart said.
Georgia (1-0) flashed big-play potential, including a 59-yard touchdown pass from Fromm to Mecole Hardman and a 72-yard scoring run by Demetris Robertson, the California transfer. Freshman tailback James Cook had runs of 36 and 26 yards in the second half.
Fromm completed 12 of 16 passes for 157 yards, including a 10-yard scoring pass to Riley Ridley. Fields, one of the headliners in coach Kirby Smart’s top-ranked class of signees, made his debut on the Bulldogs’ first second-quarter possession and started the second half.
Fields completed 7 of 8 passes for 63 yards, including a 12-yard scoring pass to Isaac Nauta. Fields also had three carries for 33 yards in his first opportunity to flash his dual-threat talents.
“I thought both of us put the team in good situations,” Fromm said, adding that sharing playing time didn’t affect his rhythm “too much.”
Smart said he learned in the 2017 opener, when starter Jacob Eason’s injury opened the way for Fromm to claim the job, “the quarterback situation can change with an injury. We want to be prepared.”
Walk-on quarterback Matthew Downing played most of the second half.
Georgia led 38-0 at halftime.
Austin Peay (0-1), No. 22 in the STATS FCS Top 25, was held to seven first downs. Logan Birchfield was wide left on a 37-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, spoiling the Governors’ best chance to dodge the shutout.
Governors coach Will Healy said some of his players didn’t react well to the challenge of facing Georgia.
“We seemed to have a bit of division,” Healy said. “Some guys weren’t quite as coachable when some adversity hit. We’ve got to fix the in-house things much more than we have to fix the schematic things or the ball security things or anything like that.”
The lopsided score and 90-degree heat sent about half of the crowd of 92,746 toward the exits at halftime.
Austin Peay: Quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall was pulled after his fumbled pitch, recovered by Georgia’s D’Andre Walker, on the Governors’ second possession. JaVaughn Craig played most of the remainder of the half and opened the second half, though Oatsvall returned and completed 7 of 10 passes for 25 yards. Craig completed 6 of 11 passes for 36 yards and had four carries for 21 yards.
Georgia: Even though the competition wasn’t on par with what awaits in the SEC, the Bulldogs displayed renewed depth after losing six players to the NFL draft. D’Andre Swift ran for 43 yards with an 8-yard touchdown run and Elijah Holyfield ran for 24 yards with a touchdown as the leaders of a four-man tailback committee that must replace 2017 seniors Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Georgia had little to gain in national respect when opening against the FCS opponent. The Bulldogs dominated and probably showed sufficient promise to protect their spot high in the Top 25.
The fourth quarter was shortened to 10 minutes. NCAA rules provide for that option by mutual agreement of the opposing head coaches and the referee.
Smart said he agreed to Healy’s suggestion for the shorter period.
Cook was called for targeting for his hit on punt returner Deangelo Wilson after Wilson called for a fair catch in the fourth quarter. Cook was ejected and will have to sit out the first half of next week’s game at South Carolina.
Smart said Cook didn’t see Wilson’s fair catch signal.
“Whether it was a fair catch or not, he needs to break down and never lead with the head,” Smart said.
Austin Peay: The Governors play Presbyterian on Saturday night in their home opener.
Georgia: The Bulldogs open their Southeastern Conference schedule when they visit South Carolina on Saturday.