ATHENS - Now Georgia’s football team can fully turn its attention to more pressing matters, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The Bulldogs wasted no time dispensing with Saturday’s obligation, scoring on their third offensive play and building a 42-13 halftime lead on the way to a 66-27 rout of overmatched Massachusetts at Sanford Stadium.
The game provided considerable playing time for Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields, who made the most of the opportunity. He threw or ran for three second-quarter touchdowns, the last of them on a beautiful 57-yard pass to Mecole Hardman.
Fields, who also played extensively in the third quarter, finished the game with 100 yards rushing on seven carries and 121 yards passing on five completions in eight attempts. Georgia’s starting quarterback, Jake Fromm, completed five of five passes for 106 yards.
By game’s end, the Bulldogs had piled up 701 yards of offense (426 rushing and 275 passing) and had not punted.
Massachusetts had a statistical highlight, too: Wide receiver Andy Isabella caught 15 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns as the Minutemen scored the third most points of any opponent against Georgia this season.
The game concluded UMass’ season with a 4-8 record and lifted Georgia’s record in a far-from-over season to 10-1.
The Bulldogs move on to two games of considerable importance for different reasons the next two Saturdays: first the regular-season finale for bragging rights against in-state rival Georgia Tech and then the SEC Championship game against No. 1-ranked Alabama.
Saturday’s game was UMass’ ninth against an SEC opponent, all since 2012, many of them more competitive than this one. But the Minutemen, who play as an FBS independent, are now 0-9 in those games.
Georgia scored a touchdown on its third offensive play of the game when wide receiver Tyler Simmons took the ball on an end-around and ran 49 yards to the end zone.
That signaled, not that there was any doubt, what type of game it would be.
Georgia’s offense scored touchdowns all six times it had the ball in the first half, a stretch of proficiency interrupted only by a special-teams breakdown when Terry Godwin fumbled a punt at the Georgia 16-yard line to set up a UMass touchdown late in the first quarter.
After Jake Fromm led touchdown drives on Georgia’s first two possessions, Fields entered the game on the third with UGA leading 14-7. Fields made his presence felt with a 47-yard run to the UMass 20-yard line on the final play of the first quarter and then threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Riley Ridley on the third play of the second quarter.
Georgia’s scoring avalanche continued the rest of the quarter.
Fromm connected with Simmons on a 71-yard touchdown pass. Fields ran three yards for a touchdown, one play after connecting with tight end Isaac Nauta on a 54-yard pass play. And with just over two minutes left in the half, Fields threw the dazzling 57-yard touchdown strike to Hardman to stretch Georgia’s lead to 42-10.
With Fromm back at quarterback, Georgia scored again on its first series of the third quarter, the drive capped by a 26-yard James Cook run.
Fields was back on the field later in the third quarter when a Georgia score made it a 59-13 game. Fields’ 30-yard run set up the score, which came on a 6-yard run by tailback Brian Herrien.
Massachusetts’ biggest play of the day came on the final play of the third quarter: a nifty double-pass touchdown to Isabella from 75 yards out against Georgia’s second-unit defense.
Walk-on Matthew Downing took over at quarterback for Georgia in the fourth quarter with the Bulldogs leading 59-20. He immediately led another touchdown drive, completed by a 27-yard Cook run.
Before Saturday, Massachusetts had lost its previous eight games against SEC opponents by an average score of 32.9-18.9. Last season, the Minutemen lost 34-23 to Mississippi State and 17-13 to Tennessee.
The mismatch was Georgia’s third home game this season against an opponent from far outside the Power 5 conferences. Against Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee and Massachusetts, the Bulldogs won by a cumulative score of 160-34, signaling a need, which Georgia seems to be heeding in future schedules, of tougher non-conference opponents.
The win didn’t come cheaply for UGA, which paid UMass $1.5 million to make the trip to Athens – slightly less than the $1.7 million paid to Middle Tennessee earlier this season. A home-and-home basketball series also was included in the UGA-UMass deal.
This story was written by Tim Tucker for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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