Georgia 45, Buffalo 23
For Georgia, the highlight was freshman Todd Gurley’s performance (100 yards rushing on eight carries, a 100-yard kickoff return, three touchdowns). The lowlight was the defense in the first half, when Buffalo gained 243 yards.
What we learned
1. Suspensions and injuries are a problem. Georgia previously announced that two of the four defensive players suspended from the Buffalo game, cornerback Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser, also will miss this week’s game at Missouri but has refused to say whether the other two, safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, will remain benched. The suspensions are compounded by injuries. Cornerback/wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell missed the opening game with a sprained ankle and seems doubtful this week. Also up in the air: the status of offensive tackle John Theus and tailback Ken Malcome, who suffered a sprained ankle and injured hand, respectively, against Buffalo. Wide receiver Marlon Brown sat out the opener with a strained hamstring but indicated he expects to play this week.
2. Coaches aren’t reluctant to play this year’s freshmen. Thirteen true freshmen played against Buffalo, the most to see action in a season opener in Mark Richt’s 12 years as UGA coach. (Previous high: 11 in 2008.) This speaks well of the 2012 signing class, which came aboard without a much-publicized nickname like the 2011 group’s “Dream Team” label. “I really do like this freshman class,” Richt said. “We’ve been impressed with them athletically, and they’re very coachable, teachable. A lot of it has been from a special teams point of view, but we want them to get scrimmage-down reps, too.”
3. Georgia has a designated “pooch” punter. While strong-legged freshman Collin Barber is Georgia’s primary punter, redshirt sophomore Adam Erickson has the job of short-range punter — that is, punting in or near the opponent’s territory when the objective is to pin the team close to the end zone. “He’s got a really good knack for it,” Richt said of Erickson, a walk-on from Athens. Erickson had three such opportunities against Buffalo, averaging 30 yards per punt and downing each inside the 20-yard line. Barber punted twice, averaging 51 yards.
“I’m, like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
— Richt, recalling his initial reaction to Mitchell’s injury in Thursday’s walk-through practice
Freshman placekicker Marshall Morgan had a busy debut: two field-goal attempts (making one, missing one), six extra-point attempts (making all) and seven kickoffs (five for touchbacks). “Marshall kicked off extremely well,” Richt said. “I will say he kicked offf better than he has in practices.” … Former Georgia tailback Isaiah Crowell directed a message to Gurley via Twitter: “Good job lil bra!! I see u!!!!!! be better than me.”
Georgia plays at new SEC member Missouri (8-5, 5-4 Big 12 last season) at 7:45 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2, the first time since 1991 the Bulldogs open their conference schedule against anyone other than South Carolina. Missouri began this sason with a 62-10 win over FCS team Southeastern Louisiana.
– Tim Tucker, AJC
THE AJC’s COMPLETE COVERAGE OF GEORGIA’S SEASON OPENER: