Georgia Tops State To Clinch SEC Championship Game Berth
STARKVILLE, Miss. --- Top-ranked Georgia clinched another berth in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game with a 45-19 victory over Mississippi State in front of 60,352 fans at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field on Saturday.
The Bulldogs will face LSU in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 3, following games at Kentucky and at home against Georgia Tech. Georgia will represent the East for the second straight year, the fifth time in six seasons, and for the 10th time overall.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett went 25-of-37 for 289 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a score to spark Georgia on Saturday. He connected with tight ends Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington and receiver Ladd McConkey on the passing touchdowns. McConkey added a rushing touchdown and finished as the Bulldogs’ leader in receiving (71) and rushing (70) yards. Tailback Kendall Milton sealed the game with a late touchdown run. Kicker Jack Podlesny went 6-for-6 on PATs and drilled a field goal. Georgia finished with 468 total yards and went 5-for-5 in the red zone.
Linebacker Smael Mondon and defensive back Malaki Starks each had eight tackles for Georgia, while defensive lineman Jalen Carter added a career-best seven stops, including a sack. Mississippi State registered 308 total yards but was a combined 3-of-17 on third and fourth down.
“Our team was resilient and fought and did what we asked of them,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I am so proud of them. This is a tough environment, but our kids respected the environment and the momentum and the rhythm. I appreciate how we prepared in the right way, a very mature way. We never take winning the East for granted and that’s where we are now, but we’re playing for more than the East. We’ve got some things to clean up, so it’s one day at a time.”
Georgia opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 2-yard pass from Bennett to Bowers. Bennett was 5-for-5 for 64 yards on the 9-play, 73-yard drive. Georgia pushed its advantage to 10-0 in the second quarter with a 28-yard field goal by Podlesny. Following a Mississippi State field goal that cut it to 10-3, Bennett engineered an 8-play, 75-yard drive -- highlighted by two passes to receiver Kearis Jackson covering 38 yards -- and capped it with a 4-yard scoring run for a 17-3 lead. After the home-standing Bulldogs tacked on another field goal for a 17-6 score, Mississippi State’s Zavion Thomas returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-12 at intermission.
McConkey took over in the third quarter as he scored two touchdowns in a 5-minute span, then caught a 28-yard pass to set up another touchdown on the first play of the final stanza. McConkey raced 70 yards on an end-around rush for a score, then hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Bennett. After McConkey’s 28-yard catch got the Bulldogs into scoring position, Bennett opened the fourth quarter with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Washington. Milton put the game on ice as he darted 34 yards for the final score.
The Bulldogs will return to action next Saturday at Kentucky. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by CBS.