The Georgia Bulldogs football team shocked many doubters on Saturday night in Athens, coming out with a dominant 31-3 win over then No. 17-ranked Mississippi State.
The matchup was expected to be a close one, with two ranked SEC opponents facing off, both looking to extend their unbeaten streaks. Mississippi State had just beaten a No. 12-ranked Louisiana State team at home and entered into the AP top 25 rankings as a result. The Bulldogs were coming off their third straight victory in week three, having just beaten Notre Dame in a close game during week two.
Both team’s had strong quarterbacks going into the game: Nick Fitzgerald, a dual-threat quarterback for Mississippi State, and Jake Fromm, the true freshman who has started every game since sophomore Jacob Eason sprained his knee in the season opener.
In recent years, Georgia has had very little success in high-leverage in-conference games like this one. Last year against Tennessee, Georgia nearly won a thriller but lost on a long touchdown pass by Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs with four seconds remaining.When facing Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. last season, Georgia faltered early and suffered its first loss of the season 45-14. The year before, Alabama throttled Georgia 38-10 in Athens in a highly-anticipated matchup.
Georgia’s lack of success in similar in-conference matchups certainly made Georgia fans nervous going into Saturday’s game. But the Bulldogs quickly calmed those nerves early on, scoring a touchdown on their first offensive play of the game, a flea flicker play that involved a 59-yard pass from Fromm to wide receiver Terry Godwin, who found his way to the end zone on the same play.
After the first touchdown of the night on Georgia’s first offensive play, the team never surrendered the lead for the remainder of the game. Georgia quickly showed that this team was different than the teams of years past. Georgia remained dominant throughout the game and its stifling defense held Mississippi State to a single field goal.
The quarterback play by Jake Fromm in the win was excellent. Fromm seems to have grown in each game he has started, becoming more mature and throwing the ball away more often rather than throwing it where he should not. He collected 201 yards and completed nine of 12 passing attempts for his highest completion percentage of the season at 75 percent. This game showed that Fromm is ready to play in big games in the SEC. While many may have dismissed any possibility of a quarterback competition upon the return of Jacob Eason, this game could alter that discussion. After all, Fromm has done nothing but lead the Bulldogs to wins since he has become the team’s starting quarterback.
The Georgia defense was stifling yet again in the win, shutting down Nick Fitzgerald and the Mississippi State offense and allowing only one field goal. The defensive line was excellent yet again after impressing in Georgia’s win over Notre Dame. More importantly, the secondary that had been questioneda earlier in the season was very successful, keeping the Mississippi State offense at bay and collecting two interceptions by Dominick Sanders and Deandre Baker.
The win over Mississippi State was a huge one for the Georgia Bulldogs, who seem to have now separated themselves from the rest of the SEC East as the only undefeated team. Georgia moved up to No. 7 in the AP rankings following the win and will move on to face rival Tennessee next week in Knoxville.
The win may have represented a change in the culture of the Georgia team that found itself losing in high leverage SEC games so often. Finally, the Bulldogs found themselves on the other side of the losses they had so often suffered, with a shot to become one of the best college football teams in the nation by the end of this season.