Kirby Smart, No. 1 Georgia ‘not panicking’

Field Level Media

September 18, 2023 at 4:34 pm.

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.”

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