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UGA Survives Nichols State: News and Notes

ATHENS - News and notes from No. 9 UGA's 26-24 win over Nichols State.

*Home Opener: Ninth-ranked Georgia posted a 26-24 win over Nicholls in the first-ever meeting. Today marked the home debut of coach Kirby Smart, and the Bulldogs are now 2-0 in non-conference action this year with the SEC opener at Missouri next Saturday night.

*Defense Responds: Nicholls scored 24 points and 17 of those came following Bulldog turnovers.  Overall, the Colonels had one sustained TD drive (11 plays, 75 yards) with the others two TD drives covered just 9 and 30 yards plus their field goal drive was minus one yard. They tallied 236 yards of total offense on 61 plays. Georgia was led on defense by a career-high 11 tackles by sophomore Trenton Thompson and 7 by junior Reggie Carter.

*Eason Wins First Career Start: In his first career start, freshman QB Jacob Eason (11-for-20, 204 yards, 1 TD ,1 INT) directed a 67-yard scoring drive in 2:06 to give Georgia an early 7-0 edge.  He then connected with sophomore Isaiah McKenzie for a 66-yard touchdown in the third quarter to retake the lead 20-14.  The 66-yard score was the longest receiving touchdown for the Bulldogs since Aaron Murray connected for an 83-yard score with Todd Gurley versus Florida in 2013.  After having career highs of six catches for 122 versus #22 North Carolina last week, McKenzie finished with 2 catches for 61 yards and 142 All-Purpose yards (48-Punt Ret., 33-Rush, 61-Rec) on Saturday. Graduate QB Greyson Lambert (2-for-3, 2 yards) came in during the 4th quarter and finished the game as the Bulldogs ran out the clock after the Colonels had made it a two-point contest and had pinned the Bulldogs down at their own 7.

Sophomore TB Nick Chubb (20 carries, 80 yards, 1 TD) scampered in for the team’s first score from six yards out for his 24th rushing touchdown of his career.  Freshman Brian Herrien had eight carries for 47 yards in his second collegiate game. Redshirt sophomore PK William Ham also scored eight points on two field goals and two extra points.  He hit a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter and then missed a 52-yard field goal in the first half.  Ham connected on another 26 yarder in the third quarter following a 55-yard punt return from sophomore Isaiah McKenzie.  Ham is 3-for-5 on the year.

*For Starters: Sophomore receiver Jayson Stanley and Eason got their first career starts. Eason became the sixth true freshman QB in school history to start a game, and the first since Matthew Stafford in 2006.  The Bulldogs have now had a combined eight first-time starters on both sides of the ball in 2016, including six on offense. Junior Glenn Welch snapped for the first time on PATs and punts.  Junior ILB Reggie Carter started his first game since the 2013 Missouri contest after sitting out last season with an injury.  This was his second career start.  Senior Charlie Hegedus played for the first time in his Georgia career, lining up on a punt return.  Hegedus played in 20 games and started one for N.C. State in 2012-13 before transferring to UGA.  Also of note, junior TB Sony Michel returned to action for the first time this year after coming from an arm injury and had one catch for 12 yards and three carries for three yards.

*Points Off Turnovers: The Bulldogs recovered two turnovers in the first half and a third in the third quarter and gave up two fumbles and an interception. Nicholls scored 17 points off its recoveries while Georgia scored six points. Sophomore DB Juwuan Briscoe snagged the first interception of his career on the Colonels’ opening drive.  The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their next possession.  This marked the first turnover forced for Georgia this season.  

Junior SS Dominick Sanders grabbed his 10th career pick and first of the season at the 6:23 mark in the second quarter.  However, Georgia could not put any points on the scoreboard.  At the 2:46 mark, Chubb caught a pass from Eason and then fumbled the ball at the UGA 30.  The Colonels scored on the following possession.  Junior CB Aaron Davis hit the Nicholls’ QB and forced a fumble deep in the Colonels’ territory.  Junior OLB Lorenzo Carter scooped the fumble and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.  This marked Georgia’s first returned fumble for a score since Leonard Floyd took off for 96 yards at Tennessee last year.  Eason’s first career interception came in the fourth quarter off a tipped ball and the Colonels returned it 91 yards to the UGA 7. Nicholls turned the turnover into a field goal after going -1 yard on its drive. A fumble by Isaiah McKenzie trying to field a punt late in the 4th quarter was recovered by the Colonels at the Bulldog 10 and two plays later, it led to a TD as Nichols closed the gap to 26-24 with 3:42 left.

The Bulldogs are currently minus one in turnover ratio.  Georgia has given up 17 points on its turnovers and scored six on its collected miscues in 2016 (failed two-point conversion after Carter’s touchdown).

*Up Next: The Bulldogs (2-0) travel to Columbia, Mo., next weekend to face Missouri in the SEC opener for both squads.  The SEC Network will televise the game at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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