Top-Ranked Bulldogs Hold Off Flashes, 39-22
ATHENS, Ga. — Brock Bowers scored on a 75-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage to get the No. 1-ranked Georgia football team up and running Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium. But the Bulldogs had to work all the way to the end to take down Kent State, beating the Golden Flashes 39-22.
Georgia (4-0) has now was 14 in a row on Dooley Field. This one started out like it might be a runaway thanks to Bowers’ big burst, but Bulldog miscues (three turnovers, multiple dropped passes and a successful Kent State fake punt) combined with a gritty performance by the Golden Flashes (1-3), kept the score close all the way through.
A Kendall Milton 1-yard run with 5:30 left in the game made it 39-22, and a Christopher Smith interception soon after finally sealed the victory. The Bulldogs finished with 529 yards of offense, while Kent State (1-3) had 281. The Golden Flashes were playing their third ranked opponent in four weeks, having already played at No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 18 Washington.
On Georgia’s first offensive play, quarterback Stetson Bennett tried to hit Ladd McConkey on a home-run ball up the right side. The deep pass fell incomplete. On the next play, Bowers, the All-American tight end with wide-receiver speed, ran the ball around the right side and went 75 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 19 seconds into the game.
Georgia’s defense quickly stuffed the Golden Flashes on their next drive, but then McConkey fumbled on the punt return, giving Kent State the ball at the Georgia 26-yard line. The Bulldogs got the stop, including a sack back Nolan Smith on third-and-long, and Kent State kicked a 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
It’s the earliest an opponent has scored against Georgia all season, the first first-quarter points the Bulldogs have allowed, and the Golden Flashes actually got the ball back with the chance to take the lead following an interception of a deep Bennett pass down the middle.
The Golden Flashes started the ensuing drive at their 5-yard line. And went nowhere. Punting from their end zone on fourth-and-10, a pack of Bulldogs stormed through the line and it was Jalon Walker that blocked Josh Smith’s punt. The ball went out of the end zone, giving the Bulldogs a safety and a 9-3 lead with 6:51 to play in the quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Georgia drove down the KSU 12 but a couple of dropped passes and a sack of Bennett on third down forced the Bulldogs to settle for a 39-yard Jack Podlesny field goal and a 12-3 lead with 1:07 to play in the quarter.
Kent State took advantage of another Georgia miscue, a McConkey fumble after a reception, and beat the Bulldog defense with a 56-yard touchdown up the left side, cutting the Bulldog lead to 12-10 with 11:30 to play in the first half. The Flashes didn’t have a first down before that drive, which began with a 12-yard completion from Collin Schlee to Dante Cephas, followed by Schlee to Devontez Walker for the score.
Georgia, in its closest half of the season, answered with a dominating drive that featured a 23-yard completion to tight end Darnell Washington and a 27-yard run by Milton. It ended with another Bowers rushing touchdown, this one a 2-yard end around to the right, putting Georgia up 19-10 with 8:15 to play in the half.
Kent State didn’t wilt after the Bulldogs quickly scored. The Golden Flashes put together a couple of plays and then connected on a 45-yard field goal to make it 19-13 with 3:39 left in the half.
Georgia put together a strong drive to close out the half, utilizing a variety of receivers and runners to march down the field. With 8 seconds left, Bennett scored from the 1, reaching the ball across the goal line as he fell, putting Georgia up 26-13 at the half.
The second half began with the Bulldog defense quickly forcing a Kent State three-and-out. The offense then moved into the red zone before having to settle for a 31-yard Podlesny field goal, pushing the lead to 29-13 with 10:41 left in the quarter.
Kent State answered with a drive that got as close as the Bulldog 1-yard line before the Flashes had to settle for a 22-yard field goal, cutting the Georgia lead to 29-16 with 5:12 remaining in the third. The Bulldogs followed that with another drive into the red zone that ended with a Podlesny field goal, this one from 32 yards, that gave Georgia a 32-16 lead with 1:44 left in the period.
Georgia looked to have the Flashes stopped on the ensuing drive, but Kent State pulled off a fake point on fourth-and-1 on their 34 on the final play of the third quarter. Kent State eventually cut Georgia’s lead to 32-22 on Marquez Cooper’s 1-yard touchdown run with 12:13 to play in the game. The Flashes’ 2-point attempt failed.
Georgia, suddenly only up 10, 32-22, in the fourth quarter, had to do something it hadn’t all season: make the game-winning plays down the stretch. That included converting a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 5:30 remaining. With big Bear Alexander (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) in as a blocker, Milton ran the ball in to cap the 12-play drive and push Georgia’s lead to 39-22.
Shortly after Milton’s score, Smith was all alone deep when a pass came his way. He nabbed his second interception of the season and helped preserve the Bulldogs’ win.
This was Georgia’s second all-time matchup against Kent State. The first came in 1998, when the Bulldogs on the field for the season opener included future College Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb, future first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey, who started on offense, defense and special teams that day, and a safety that would one day lead the Bulldogs to their next national championship, Kirby Smart.
The Bulldogs are back in action next Saturday at Missouri, and return to Sanford Stadium on Oct. 8, against Auburn.