The first half of the first game of Georgia’s 2020 season went about as poorly as it could have from an offensive perspective but the Bulldogs grabbed the momentum in the third quarter and never let go in a 37-10 win at Arkansas. Redshirt freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis got the first start of his career and struggled mightily but he was relieved by former walk-on Stetson Bennett IV who got the offense going.
The Bulldogs scored 28 unanswered points in the second half as Bennett completed 20 of 29 passes for 211 yards and two scores. Zamir White toted the football 13 times for 71 yards and a score and Kearis Jackson led the way among the receivers with six grabs for 62 yards.
The Razorbacks, aided by a third-down defensive pass interference penalty on Eric Stokes, drew first blood with a 49-yard pass from Feleipe Franks to Treylon Burks, who beat Richard LeCounte III in coverage. The PAT from AJ Reed gave Arkansas a 7-0 lead.
UGA was unable to get things going on the offensive side but LeCounte came up with a big defensive play when he intercepted an overthrown pass from Franks and returned it to the Razorback 15-yard line. The Bulldogs were unable to cash in, however, as Mathis tossed an interception on third down, giving the ball back to Arkansas at its own five-yard line.
The Georgia defense stood tall for the rest of the half, scoring the team’s first points of the game on a safety in the second quarter. Mark Webb and Azeez Ojulari teamed up to throw TJ Hammonds for a 14-yard loss when the Razorbacks attempted a double-reverse. Ojulari forced a fumble that went out of the back of the end zone to make the score 7-2.
Bennett engineered a scoring drive at the end of the first half, completing a pass Darnell Washington and three to Demetris Robertson to give Jack Podlesny a shot from 38 yards out. He connected and set the game into halftime with Arkansas leading 7-5.
The second half saw Arkansas score for the second time on the day after a James Cook fumble at the Razorback 49-yard line. Arkansas used 11 plays to go 48 yards and Reed connected on a 28-yard field goal to make the score 10-5. That’s when the Bulldogs woke up.
Bennett, with the help of a 20-yard run from Zamir White, would find George Pickens for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the day. Bennett would keep it around right end and knock the pylon down with the football for the two-point conversion to put Georgia up 13-10.
On the Razorbacks’ next series, Tyson Campbell knifed in to get a hand on a punt and set UGA up at the Razorback 24-yard line. Bennett got into the end zone three plays later with a touchdown toss to John FitzPatrick from seven yards out.
Georgia scored again in the third quarter when Eric Stokes stepped in front of Franks’ pass and raced 30-yards for the touchdown. It was the first interception of Stokes’ career and it led to a 27-10 lead. LeCounte struck again on the ensuing possession when the Razorbacks attempted a double pass with Burks. LeCounte made a one-handed interception at the UGA 19-yard line, his second of the day and fourth in his past two games.
Smart’s crew took the football and used 13 plays to march 81 yards and put up their fourth touchdown of the second half. Bennett converted a pair of third-and-long situations with passes to Matt Landers and Kearis Jackson before White punched it in from six yards out to give the Bulldogs a 34-10 lead.
Mathis reentered the game in the fourth quarter and had a promising drive thwarted by a holding penalty. Penalties in general were a big issue as the Bulldogs had 11 for 98 yards in the first half. They ended the game with 12 for 108 yards.
Next up is the Bulldogs’ home opener against Auburn. Kickoff is set for 7:45 p.m. ET on ESPN.