No. 3 Georgia eyes improvement vs. Murray State

Field Level Media

September 04, 2019 at 12:33 am.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart remains steadfast in his intent to never let the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs overlook any opponent — even if that foe is FCS member Murray State on Saturday in Athens, Ga.

“We are 100 percent concerned with the improvements we have to make,” said Smart, whose team opened the season with a 30-6 victory at SEC rival Vanderbilt. “We’ve got so much work to do from a discipline standpoint, timing in the passing game — a lot of things to work on — that our focus is us and our opponent, Murray State.”

On paper, the game certainly is a mismatch.

The Racers (1-0) faced Kentucky last season and Louisville in 2017, dropping both games by scores of 48-10 and 55-10, respectively.

Murray State coach Mitch Stewart understands the challenge that awaits.

“Counting offense and defense there will be about 22 challenges — 11 on offense and 11 on defense,” Stewart said.

“I sound like I’m joking, but I’m really not. They’re a tremendous team. It’s one thing to play an FBS opponent, it’s another animal when you’re playing an FBS opponent that has a legitimate shot at a national championship and believes that they have that type of talent. They do; they’re really talented at every position.”

Stewart and Smart are no strangers to each other.

It was Smart — then the defensive coordinator at Division II Valdosta State — who recruited Stewart to play quarterback for the Blazers in the early 2000s.

But Stewart isn’t counting on any niceties for old times’ sake.

“At all 11 positions they put out on the field they’re very talented, but obviously anybody that knows Kirby, knows they’re going to be very, very well-coached and play tremendously hard,” Stewart said. “When you combine those two things, it makes for an incredible opponent. They’re just about freaky on film now.”

Georgia rushed for 330 yards in its rout of the Commodores on Saturday. D’Andre Swift carried 16 times for 149 yards. Brian Herrien added 65 rushing yards, and Zamir White had 51 yards on five carries.

White, a redshirt freshman and former five-star recruit, missed last season because of an ACL injury.

“I think he was anxious to get out there and go run the ball the other night,” Smart said. “I thought he did a good job with opportunity. … I think the sky’s the limit because he continues to improve.”

Quarterback Jake Fromm merely needed to play a complementary role in Week 1, and could again this week if the score gets lopsided early.

“I am banking on habits. I really believe the fundamentals of football is what’s important,” Smart said. “We have to go out and get this team better. We’ve got to get our 70th guy better all the way to our first guy better, and keep improving.”

Murray State opened with a 59-20 victory against Pikeville on Aug. 29. Sophomore quarterback Preston Rice completed 20 of 31 passes for 170 yards in his starting debut.

Georgia played an FCS foe last season — Austin Peay — and won 45-0.