Georgia had breakdowns on offense, defense, special teams and the coaching box and still beat Mississippi State 45-19.
Coach Kirby Smart made it clear the Maroon Bulldogs and the Davis Wade home field environment had something to do with that.
“The environment is tough, and people don’t respect the environment sometimes,” Smart said on his postgame radio show.
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“Our kids understand that it’s not just the team you’re playing, it’s the environment, the energy and the momentum they have,” he said.
“This (Mississippi State) team was undefeated at home and you see why. They wouldn’t go away, they kept coming back. But our kids are resilient, they fight, they do what we ask, and I’m proud fo them.”
Georgia, which clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game with LSU with the win, outgained Mississippi State 468-308, including a decisive 179-47 advantage on the ground.
Smart’s team was firmly in command before a clock management miscue and likely would have put the game away sooner if not for two interceptions.
Here are three takeaways from Smart on key points in the game.
Poor clock management
Smart took the blame for clock management over the final 44 seconds of the first half that enabled Mississippi State to have an opportunity to return a punt 67 yards for a TD and close the lead to 17-12 at the half.
“Really poor, poor clock management by me and our staff included,” Smart said, explaining how UGA planned to run the ball on third down before Stetson Bennett audibled to a pass because of Mississippi State’s defensive alignment.
“Then when we punted we protected too much, we played for them to max block it and we didn’t have enough skill players out there,” Smart said, “and we didn’t have a great punt, and we didn’t cover it great, and they returned, it happens. It’s poor and we learned from it.”
Smart said he knew going into the game third and fourth down execution would be the difference — UGA was 6-of-13 on third downs and 1-of-1 on fourth downs, while State was 3-of-14 and 0-of -3.
“Those were huge stops on fourth down,” Smart said, “and great calls by (co-defensive coordinator) Glenn Schumann.”
Smart added “that was a really good play by Kamari (Lassiter) there,” in reference to a fourth-and-1 open-field stop at the Georgia 9-yard line with the game still in the balance.
Stetson Bennett was 25-of-37 passing for 289 yards and 3 passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions.
Smart didn’t sound too concerned, pointing out that such mistakes are bound to happen at the position.
“The three touchdowns were critical, really good throws,” Smart said. “He had some really good throws to Ladd.
“He made some critical plays today, and some he’d like to have back but that’s part of being a quarterback.”