Sep 9, 2023; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart reacts to the game against the Ball State Cardinals during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Smart, No. 1 Georgia ‘not panicking’

No. 1 Georgia pocketed its first conference win of the season without many style points.

Good enough to win, the Bulldogs outlasted a keep-away approach from South Carolina to notch a 24-14 victory and extend its winning streak to 20 games.

But the message from head coach Kirby Smart to players was blunt: good enough to win isn’t good enough.

“I’m not panicking in any sort of way,” Smart said Monday. “South Carolina is a good team. I’m very happy with where we are. You learn more about the truth, too. The truth is this is who we are, a 3-0 team who won three imperfect games. I’m still looking for the perfect one.”

Some September stress was expected for Smart and Georgia transitioning from offensive coordinator Todd Monken to Mike Bobo, and readying Carson Beck — who replaced two-time national champion quarterback Stetson Bennett — for the rigors of the SEC.

“Carson has done a good job. He makes good decisions with the ball,” Smart said, noting he’d like to see Beck step up in the pocket in the face of pressure. “Very pleased with what he’s done. We’ve got to get better results.”

“We challenge him with different things. What I’ve been most proud of is his composure, which I never doubted,” Smart said Monday. “He handles positive and negative almost the same.”

One of the strains for the Bulldogs has been injuries. Remarkably healthy the past two seasons, Smart said the current injury list is longer than it has been in his tenure.

“That becomes a hurdle,” Smart said.

Right tackle Amarius Mims will be sidelined by an ankle injury that requires tightrope surgery, Smart said. He’s expected to return this season.

Freshman running back Roderick Robinson (high ankle sprain) and wide receiver Ladd McConkey (back) are among other injuries of note. McConkey will not play this week, Smart said.

To get right, Georgia has to resolve red-zone woes. The Bulldogs ranked among the best in the country in red zone defense the past two seasons. Collecting yards isn’t the problem, but scoring points has been.

“You have to be able to run the ball in the red area and you have to be able to stop the run. We’ve got to have positive plays both ways,” Smart said.

The Bulldogs are 25th in total offense, averaging 467.7 yards per game.

Georgia has 13 offensive touchdowns, but 37 FBS teams have more. Notre Dame leads the country with 24. Auburn (15), which hosts the Bulldogs in two weeks, and Georgia State each have 15.

Georgia plays a fourth consecutive home game Saturday when UAB visits in the final tuneup before the Bulldogs flip to all SEC programming the rest of the regular season. After the Blazers swing by, Georgia plays three of its next four games on the road.

“I haven’t even thought about Tennessee and Ole Miss, and I haven’t even thought about traveling,” Smart said. “I’m worried about UAB.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide running back Roydell Williams (5) is tackled by South Florida Bulls safety Logan Berryhill (37) in the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama falls to No. 13, Texas jumps to No. 3 in poll

Alabama fell out of the top 10 of the Associated Press Top 25 poll on Sunday for the first time since Sept. 27, 2015.

The Crimson Tide (2-1) dropped three spots to No. 13 after posting a lackluster 17-3 victory over South Florida.

Georgia (3-0) remained the nation’s No. 1 team and received 57 of the 63 first-place votes. Michigan (3-0) was still second and received two first-place votes.

No. 3 Texas (3-0) pocketed three first-place votes and flipped spots with Florida State (3-0), which fell one spot to No. 4 following its 31-29 victory over Boston College. The Seminoles received the other first-place vote.

Southern California (3-0) remained at No. 5, while fellow unbeatens Ohio State (3-0), Penn State (3-0), Washington (3-0) and Notre Dame (4-0) stayed at their respective positions from Nos. 6-9. Oregon (3-0) moved up three spots to round out the top 10.

Utah (3-0) ascended one spot to No. 11 while LSU (2-1) jumped up two slots to No. 12 following its 41-14 rout of Mississippi State.

Oregon State (3-0) moved up two slots to No. 14 after posting a 26-9 win over San Diego State, and Ole Miss (3-0) also ascended two spots with a 48-23 victory over Georgia Tech.

Oklahoma (3-0), North Carolina (3-0) and Duke (3-0) each moved up three spots to clock in respectively at Nos. 16-18, followed by Colorado (3-0).

Miami (3-0), Washington State (3-0) and UCLA (3-0) were ranked Nos. 20-22, respectively.

Tennessee (2-1) dropped 12 spots to No. 23 following its 29-16 loss to Florida.

Iowa (3-0) was listed at No. 24, followed by the Gators.

–Field Level Media

Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) moves the ball during the first half of a NCAA college football game against South Carolina in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

No. 1 Georgia rallies to beat South Carolina, 24-14

Daijun Edwards ran for 118 yards and a touchdown, and the defense pitched a second-half shutout as No. 1 Georgia kept alive a pair of impressive streaks Saturday afternoon with a 24-14 win over South Carolina in Athens, Georgia.

Dillon Bell scored a go-ahead 3-yard rushing touchdown a little over seven minutes into the third quarter, capping a Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) rally from a 14-3 halftime deficit. The win preserved Georgia’s 21-game home winning streak and 20-game streak overall, both the longest marks in the nation.

Cash Jones rambled for a 13-yard touchdown run with 9:10 to play to give the Bulldogs their final winning margin.

South Carolina (1-2, 0-1) quarterback Spencer Rattler led two touchdown drives in the first half, finishing 22 of 42 for 256 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

The Georgia offense and quarterback Carson Beck struggled to make big plays in the first half, missing wide receiver Ladd McConkey.

The Bulldogs found the big play on their first drive of the second half, as Beck hit Rara Thomas for a 36-yard completion to set up a 7-yard Edwards scoring run, cutting the deficit to 14-10.

Beck finished with 269 yards on 27-of-35 passing.

The Gamecocks’ Antwane Wells Jr. wove his way into the end zone through the Georgia defense from 17 yards out after a short completion from Rattler, capping a 10-play, 65-yard drive to open the scoring 5:04 into the game.

Peyton Woodring knocked in a 31-yard field goal with 2:02 left in the first to cap a 15-play, 62-yard Georgia drive.

But Woodring, who also missed from 43 yards out early in the fourth, hooked a 28-yard attempt with 3:27 to play in the half, leaving the score at 7-3.

Rattler went to work right away. He sandwiched a pair of scrambles around a 35-yard completion to Xavier Legette, then Dakereon Joyner powered in a 2-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation to give South Carolina a 14-3 lead at the break.

Rattler was 16 of 18 for 152 yards in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA;  LSU Tigers tight end Arik Gilbert (2) runs against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska TE Arik Gilbert arrested for second time in three weeks

Nebraska tight end Arik Gilbert was arrested for a second time in a three-week span on Friday, this time in Lumpkin County, Ga.

According to records from the sheriff’s office there, the Georgia native faces charges of obstruction of officers and smash-and-grab burglary.

On Aug. 29, Gilbert was taken into custody on suspicion of burglary in Lincoln, Neb. In that case, officers responded to a burglary report about 2 a.m. local time and found the glass door to a liquor and vape store shattered.

They found Gilbert, 21, holding a bag containing more than $1,600 worth of stolen items, police said. Damage to the store was estimated at $650.

The former five-star recruit is a two-time transfer currently awaiting an NCAA eligibility ruling after previous stops at LSU (2020) and Georgia (2021-22).

Gilbert was ranked by the 247Sports composite as the No. 1 tight end in the 2020 class, the No. 10 player overall.

He caught 35 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman at LSU. He then transferred to his home-state Georgia and appeared in just three games for the Bulldogs, catching two passes for 16 yards and one touchdown last season.

While Nebraska officials have not commented on Friday’s arrest, coach Matt Rhule had this to say after the August arrest:

“Really disappointed, really sad for him,” Rhule said. “When we took Arik, we knew we had a good group of people who could help him through some of the issues he’s dealing with in his life. Had been really proud of the job he had done in the spring and summer. To be honest, during camp he’s had some struggles. He’s been working to overcome them.”

–Field Level Media

Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of a NCAA college football game against Tennessee Martin in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

No. 1 Georgia, QB Carson Beck seek ‘A’ game vs. Ball State

Georgia knows a great running back and the Bulldogs rolled into Week 2 raving about a familiar ballcarrier on the scouting report.

Marquez Cooper rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown for Kent State at Georgia last season, and returns to Athens on Saturday as the leading offensive threat for Ball State when the Cardinals visit the top-ranked Bulldogs.

“Really physical, downhill, power runner, good back,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Our guys were talking about him just this morning of how powerful he was and how ironic it is you’re playing against him again at a different school in the same conference. We have a lot of respect for him.”

Georgia opened the season Saturday with a 48-7 victory over Tennessee-Martin in the starting debut of Carson Beck. While national media reviews of Beck were not glimmering as he fills the shoes of two-time national champion Stetson Bennett, Smart said the game film told another story.

“Carson played really well — composed,” Smart said of Beck’s 21-of-31 performance. “There will be looks that maybe they fool you with, you didn’t see in the scouting report. But his run check game, his carrying out his fakes, his decision in the pocket, him throwing the ball away, I thought the guy for a first start, played really well.”

While Smart was testy with media appraisals of Beck’s showing, the Georgia coach did say he expects massive collective improvement in Week 2 after failing to dominate any one area of the game last week.

Beck is surrounded by playmakers including projected top-10 draft pick Brock Bowers, who scored on a rare tight end sweep. He helicoptered over the goal line for a 3-yard TD, the fifth rushing touchdown of his career.

“Brock is just a freak. He can do everything,” Georgia running back Kendall Milton said. “The stuff people see on game day, that’s nothing compared to what we see in practice. It’s definitely a blessing to have a teammate like Brock.”

Smart said wide receiver Ladd McConkey was a game-time decision but was held out of the opener with back discomfort. He’ll likely suit up Saturday.

Never threatened by Tennessee-Martin, Georgia expects a bit more resistance from Ball State.

The Cardinals led Kentucky 7-3 in the second quarter last week and have multiple players on the radar of NFL scouts, including the diminutive but powerful Cooper. Kentucky took control in a 44-14 win for the Wildcats.

Cooper led the Mid-American Conference in rushing (1,326 yards) at Kent State last season. He is critical to the keepaway plan for Ball State, which had the ball for 38 minutes against Kentucky. Layne Hatcher started at quarterback but Ball State played freshman Kadin Semonza and plans to keep both in the game plan this week. Semonza was more effective moving the ball, and could be in line to start, head coach Mike Neu said.

“He’s earned it,” Neu said of Semonza, who was 15-for-21 passing for 165 yards and one touchdown.

“To be thrown into the situation he is, I thought he handled himself quite well, very poised, did a good job of distributing the ball and getting the ball in the hands of our playmakers.”

Kentucky scored on a fumble return and kickoff return, reaching the red zone just twice.

The Ball State defense took a hit in the opener, losing fifth-year linebacker Clayton Coll in the first half to a serious lower-leg injury.

This is the first meeting between the programs. Ball State lost its only previous game against a No. 1-ranked team (coaches poll), 62-6 at Oklahoma in 2011. The Cardinals have never faced the No. 1 team in the AP poll.

–Field Level Media

Sep 2, 2023; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Travis Hunter (12) runs after catching a ball in the first half against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado cracks AP poll at No. 22, Georgia still No. 1

Deion Sanders’ first season at Colorado was forecast to be one very long campaign with very few wins.

But after just one game in his tenure, “Coach Prime” is the leader of a nationally ranked program.

Colorado sits at No. 22 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, released Tuesday, after its opening 45-42 victory over then-No. 17 TCU, which lost in last season’s championship game.

The unexpected and scintillating victory turned quarterback Shedeur Sanders (son of Deion) and two-way player Travis Hunter into household names. Both players were standouts last year in virtual anonymity at Jackson State under Deion Sanders before the latter took the Colorado job.

The Buffaloes also have just 10 scholarship players back from last season’s 1-11 campaign.

Colorado hosts Nebraska this Saturday. A Buffaloes’ victory would double last season’s win total.

Georgia remained the nation’s No. 1 team and received 58 of the 63 first-place votes. Michigan is still second and received two first-place votes.

Alabama moved up one spot to No. 3, while Florida State jumped four spots to No. 4 after routing LSU 45-24, dropping the Tigers nine spots to No. 14. The Seminoles received the other three first-place votes.

Ohio State defeated Indiana 23-3 but dropped two spots to No. 5.

Southern California, Penn State, Washington, Tennessee and Notre Dame round out the Top 10.

Texas is 11th entering Saturday’s marquee game against Alabama. The Crimson Tide squeezed out a 20-19 win when the teams met last season.

Three Pac-12 programs are part of the next five spots — Utah is 12th, Oregon is 13th and Oregon State is No. 16.

Kansas State is No. 15.

North Carolina is 17th. Rounding out the Top 20 are Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ole Miss.

Duke cracked the polls at No. 21 after an impressive 28-7 victory over Clemson. The Tigers fell from No. 9 to No. 25.

Texas A&M is No. 23 and Tulane is 24th.

TCU and Iowa fell out of the rankings.

–Field Level Media

Jan 14, 2023; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs fan and assistant coach Jarvis Jones hold belts at the national championship celebration at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia coach arrested for speeding, reckless driving

Georgia assistant coach and former Bulldogs standout Jarvis Jones was arrested over the weekend for speeding and reckless driving, multiple outlets reported Monday, citing Athens-Clarke County jail records.

Jones, the program’s Player Connection Coordinator, was arrested late Friday night and released on $2,400 bond. One of the charges, speeding/maximum limits, typically means driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit, according to one report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jones, 33, has been a Georgia staffer since 2016.

Georgia has had 14 players or staffers within the program arrested on driving charges since the fatal crash that killed a player and staffer in January, per the AJC.

As of June, ESPN reported that Georgia players were involved in at least 60 moving violations since the beginning of the 2021 academic year.

Jones was a two-time All-America pass rusher and the 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the Bulldogs. He had 28 sacks for Georgia in his two seasons (2011-12) after starting his career at Southern California in 2009.

Jones was selected No. 17 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2013 draft. He played in 50 games (35 starts) for the Steelers.

–Field Level Media

Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) looks to throw a pass during the first half of a NCAA college football game against Tennessee Martin in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

Carson Beck, No. 1 Georgia cruise past UT Martin

Carson Beck threw for a touchdown and ran for another in his debut as starting quarterback as No. 1 Georgia overcame a sluggish start to roll past Tennessee-Martin, 48-7, in Athens, Ga., on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

Beck completed 21 of 31 passes for 294 yards, without an interception. Mekhi Mews sprinted to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown off a Beck swing pass in the third quarter.

All-American Brock Bowers caught five passes for 77 yards, all in the first half, and put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with a 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.

Roderick Robinson II finished with 50 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Kendall Milton added 53 yards on nine touches as the Bulldogs won their 18th straight game.

Georgia limited FCS UT-Martin to 260 yards of total offense and 15 first downs.

Kinkead Dent completed 18 of 32 passes for 128 yards. His 9-yard touchdown pass to Trevonte Rucker came in the fourth quarter.

The Skyhawks, coming off two straight Ohio Valley Conference titles and a 7-4 record last year, punted on nine of their first 10 possessions.

Trying to become the first school in the 87-year history of the AP Poll era to win three straight national championships, Georgia punted on three of its first four possessions and scored just seven points in the first 25 minutes.

But the Bulldogs surged late in the first half to take control of the game. Beck scrambled for a 4-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead with 4:29 remaining before the break.

Then in the final 2:17 of the half, Beck completed five straight passes, including a 25-yard strike to Dominic Lovett to set up a 23-yard field goal by Peyton Woodring, his first of two field goals in his collegiate debut.

Also in his first college game, Georgia’s Kyron Jones picked off a pass and ran 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:59 left in the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Georgia’s Brock Vandagriff made the first completion of his college career, a 56-yard strike to Rara Thomas. Vandagriff followed with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Oscar Delp.

–Field Level Media

Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) throws the ball during the UGA G-Day spring football game at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday.

News Joshua L Jones

New-look No. 1 Georgia eager to extend winning identity

Carson Beck debuts as Georgia’s starting quarterback on Saturday when the No. 1 Bulldogs open defense of their latest national championship on their home field in Athens against Tennessee-Martin.

Beck, officially named the starter by coach Kirby Smart on Aug. 19, handled every test the coaching staff put in front of him since Stetson Bennett’s storybook stay at Georgia ended with the second of the program’s back-to-back national titles in January.

“Carson is very knowledgeable, very intelligent,” Smart said of the promotion. “One of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve been around.

“He did the best job.”

Beck said last month he “was just not ready” to be the No. 1 quarterback when Bennett jumped him on the depth chart just before the opener in 2021. Smart asked Beck to share with the entire locker room his experience, which the coach described as a “missed opportunity.” But Smart said the end result to date is that Beck learned how to prepare, and he is ready for the moment this time around. The junior threw for 310 yards with four TD passes in 2022.

“He’s different, the players really enjoy him, they rally around him,” Smart said. “He has a way with the skill players, calm, cool and collected, and poised in the pocket. People point to the fact he hasn’t done it in a game, but around here we value practice, and a lot of times the practice is more valuable than the game in terms of who you are going against.”

Smart doesn’t want most of the roster to revisit the past, or put any weight into the narrative of being a team chasing a three-peat as back-to-back defending champs without a loss in the Southeastern Conference regular season over the past two years.

In addition to Bennett, the Bulldogs have a bevy of key players now playing their craft professionally. Among the All-SEC honorees Smart had to replace on the depth chart are top-10 pick Jalen Carter (Philadelphia Eagles) and two other first-round picks in offensive tackle Broderick Jones (Steelers) and linebacker Nolan Smith (Eagles).

UT-Martin (0-0) went to Tennessee last season and lost 65-24 but the FCS power has “the football character to compete,” said coach Jason Simpson, whose son, Ty, spent the summer competing to be the starting quarterback for Alabama.

“I’m waiting for these guys to say something about being picked third,” Simpson said of his team in the preseason Ohio Valley Conference poll, which now includes the Big South.

The Skyhawks have won consecutive OVC titles. Like Smart, Simpson spent the summer reminding his team that 2021 and 2022 hardware means noting in 2023.

Simpson doesn’t have the benefit of the top-ranked recruiting class in the country to lean on when attempting to replace 14 All-OVC players from the 2022 roster. He does have a defense that is expected to rate near the top of the OVC-Big South, led by defensive end Daylan Dotson, defensive tackles Giovanni Davis and Jay Rogers, safety Carson Evans and linebacker Tevin Shipp.

Kinkead Dent, an Ole Miss transfer, takes over at quarterback in a backfield that returns 2022 OVC Freshman of the Year Sam Franklin.

“The biggest challenge is getting the new players caught up to speed to play winning football,” Simpson said. “It all hits at different spots and it will all come together at some point, but you just wish you could speed it up.”

–Field Level Media

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart talks with tight end Brock Bowers (19) during the second half in the CFP national championship game against the TCU Horned Frogs at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 again: Georgia dons blinders, begins chase for historic three-peat

Kirby Smart left January travel itineraries and references to the Southeastern Conference championship game out of his motivational material as Georgia pursues history in 2023.

National champions in 2021 and 2022, the Bulldogs are No. 1 in preseason polls and ready for the gates to open on the 2023 season surrounded by expectations rooted in trophies.

While Smart is largely responsible for the results driving the public to view Georgia as a standing favorite yet again, he’s asking players to forget 29 wins in the past 30 games, ignore the fact no SEC team has a win over the Bulldogs in the regular season since 2020 and close your eyes when passing those twin College Football Playoff national titles permanently displayed.

Smart’s approach is to call on players and coaches to think beyond results and embrace selflessness. Previous accolades allow enthusiasm and ego to focus only on wins and accomplishments.

“That’s not what we do at Georgia. That’s not what we bring into our place. That’s not what we bring into the culture we want to have. We want selfless people who love football, and that’s what we build around,” Smart said.

He’s gone to significant lengths to gain team-wide buy-in to focus forward, lock in on what’s next and never mind the many mirrors. Smart introduced players — scores of them having never seen Michael Jordan play — to the 1990s Chicago Bulls to brand the concept of sustained focus. He went a step further with an expansive six-week lesson on the New Zealand All-Blacks, recognized for longevity and success.

Winning is a secondary goal for now to beating complacency.

“We’ve tried to change it up. This year we studied the New Zealand All-Blacks, most successful sports team in the history of really teams, over 100 years they’ve had the highest winning percentage,” Smart said. “We took a deep dive. We took a six weeks. We took a title and a mantra from them and studied those things for six weeks because we don’t want complacency. They’ve done it better than anybody else, and we use that.”

Rankings might draw an eye roll from Smart, but recruiting analysts concur Georgia again has the prime incoming class in college football. And the Bulldogs might need it.

They need to replace quarterback Stetson Bennett, defensive tackle Jalen Carter, offensive tackle Broderick Jones, linebacker Nolan Smith, cornerback Kelee Ringo, running back Kenny McIntosh, tight end Darnell Washington and eight others who were drafted after winning the national title in January.

But opponents should be cautioned against a victory lap. The 2021 national championship team got there only after Georgia swiftly replaced 15 draft picks including five 2020 first-rounders.

There are 14 players on the coaches’ All-SEC preseason team and four, including Heisman Trophy candidate tight end Brock Bowers, were named AP Preseason All-Americans.

Smart loves recognition for his players. But with a locker room that includes juniors and seniors that won at least one national championship, he’s not pausing for any preseason ovations.

“I hope they all wanna eat off the floor,” Smart said, “or we are going to be in trouble.

“We had somebody speak to the team, and they said, ‘There’s two times you eat off the floor. Either the floor is really clean, or you’re really hungry,’ and we’re hoping were hungry as hell.”

–Field Level Media