For the first 40 minutes, the No. 7 Bulldogs did -- and it all stunk. Instead of all phases of Georgia’s game coming together for a dominant performance, they all pitched in for three of the ugliest quarters in the Richt era.
By the time the Bulldogs gathered themselves to put the Indians away 44-7, many from the announced Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746 had gone, presumably unable to watch anymore.
“Golly, I’m glad that one is over,” Coach Mark Richt said. “I’m trying to decide whether to be happy or sad right now, but we’ve got to be pleased when we win a ball game and I am that.”
Georgia (3-0) returns to SEC action this Saturday, when it plays Mississippi State at 9 p.m. ET at Scott Field.
“If we play the way we played today, we’re not going to beat Tennesee or Florida,” senior center Russ Tanner said, “or Mississippi State for that matter.”
The fans who hung around for the end were rewarded by seeing the expected blowout, plus the third-longest field goal in school history, a 58-yarder by Brandon Coutu.
The Bulldogs were playing without three starters on offense -- suspended tight end Leonard Pope, injured tailback Thomas Brown and injured wide receiver Sean Bailey -- and two key linebackers. Still, they had the Indians (0-3) outclassed by miles and didn’t start to show it until late in the third quarter.
On offense, Georgia committed most of the team’s 11 penalties for 99 yards and turned the ball over twice. On defense, the Bulldogs allowed the Indians 16 first downs and 36:49 in time of possession. The special teams did their part by allowing Louisiana-Monroe to recover with ease an onside kick to begin the second half.
“We’re way better than that,” offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles said. “We’re trying to be a championship team, and we just lost focus out there today.”
The Bulldogs didn’t get their focus back until after a controversial instant replay, the first in school history, awarded receiver Kenneth Harris a 31-yard catch deep in Louisiana-Monroe territory. Georgia led just 20-7 with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter when Harris and Indians’ cornerback Eddie Webb fought for a ball in the air.
Webb came away with the ball, but the Bulldogs were given possession and scored on the next play, an 18-yard run by Kregg Lumpkin.
The Bulldogs ran away from that point on, scoring a defensive touchdown and only allowing the Indians’ 72 yards the rest of the game. Louisiana-Monroe finished with 211 yards of offense despite its overwhelming advantage in time of possession.
Richt said he didn’t like “how well they controlled the ball the whole day,” but defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said he was pleased with the way his group handled the Indians’ let-it-all-hang-out offense. Louisiana-Monroe ran lots of option, two flea flickers and one hidden-ball play.
“We had to be patient,” Martinez said. “You have to play sound football or you’re just guessing. I mean, we got every trick play imaginable today. I’ve never seen that many trick plays in one game. Our guys did a good job of handling it. I’m not disappointed at all.”
By the end of the game, Richt had gotten the offensive balance he wanted, with 543 yards, 280 on the ground and 263 through the air. Tailback Danny Ware, starting in place of Brown, posted the fourth 100-plus-yard rushing game of his career and first since last year’s Vanderbilt game with 109 yards on 13 carries.
“We had, I guess, a great day offensively,” Ware said. More than 500 yards “is a great day in my book, just too sloppy and too many penalties.”
Quarterback D.J. Shockley -- who admitted “it was kind of shocking” Georgia led by just 13 late in the game -- finished with respectable numbers, 13 of 20 passing for 246 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
“I think a good team always knows how to regroup and get itself together,” he said. “That’s what we were able to do in the second half.”