ATHENS, Ga. --- Isaiah McKenzie’s speed ignited a second-half spark for No. 9 Georgia, as Kirby Smart’s first game back in Sanford Stadium ended in a 26-24 victory against Nicholls.
McKenzie broke away in the third for a 66-yard touchdown, giving Georgia back the lead for good after Nicholls went up 14-13 about eight minutes into the second half. The junior finished the game with 142 all-purpose yards.
“It’s important that we understand that our football team has got to get better,” Smart said. “It’s frustrating. A lot of guys didn’t execute, didn’t play well, and that’s my responsibility. We’ve got to improve because there are good teams down the road. … Other schools work on football, too. I’m disappointed we didn’t go out and execute.
“We’ve got to perform better. We didn’t perform the way we should have. It’s in the books, and we have to move on. They have to understand we need to practice really good to play really good. We need to practice this week with efficiency.”
In his first collegiate start, Jacob Eason went 11-for-20 with 204 yards. His main targets of McKenzie and Terry Godwin combined for 108 of Georgia’s 206 receiving yards. Nick Chubb led the rushing corps with 80 yards, while Brian Herrien followed with 47.
The defense was guided by Trenton Thompson’s 11 tackles, including five solo stops and three tackles for loss. Reggie Carter totaled seven tackles in his first game since the 2013 Missouri contest after sitting out last season with an injury. Interceptions by Dominick Sanders and Juwan Briscoe accounted for two of Nicholls’ three turnovers.
Georgia jumped ahead early, scoring on the game’s opening possession in just under two minutes of play. An Eason 36-yard pass to Godwin moved the Bulldogs downfield, setting up Chubb for a six-yard touchdown run. A William Ham field goal brought it to 10-0 in the second before Nicholls capitalized on a Bulldog fumble for a 10-7 score at the half.
Out of the locker room, the Georgia defense forced a Nicholls punt, getting the offense on the field for another field goal and a 13-7 advantage. The Colonels reversed the lead with 6:48 on the clock, as a Chase Fourcade 20-yard pass to Jarrell Rogers put the visitors ahead 14-13.
After a 55-yard punt return earlier in the half, McKenzie again used his wheels to march down the field with help from a Javon Wims’ block for the go-ahead touchdown. Two plays later, Aaron Davis forced a fumble, as Lorenzo Carter got the scoop-and-score to put the Colonels at a 26-14 distance after three.
The Colonels’ Jeff Hall intercepted an Eason pass at the Nicholls’ two, returning it 91 yards ahead of a field goal with 7:50 left to play in the contest. Nicholls continued to chip away at the Georgia lead, as a muffed punt by the Bulldogs turned into a C.J. Bates score, but crucial runs from Chubb in the final minutes helped Georgia hold on to the win.
The Bulldogs make their SEC debut next Saturday, heading to Columbia, Missouri, to face the Tigers. The teams kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.
Dean Legge/Dawg Post
No. 9 Georgia Downs Nicholls in Home Opener
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