Georgia D stifles vaunted Baylor O in Sugar Bowl win
NEW ORLEANS - Powered by stout defense and a career game from freshman wide receiver George Pickens, the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (12-2, 7-1 SEC) closed the 2019 season with a 26-14 victory over the seventh-ranked Baylor Bears (11-3, 8-1 Big 12) in the 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl Wednesday evening before 55,211 spectators at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and an ESPN primetime television audience.
Georgia's victory improved its overall bowl record to 32-21-3, including its fifth victory in the Sugar Bowl. Additionally, the Bulldogs' senior class tied the mark for most wins by a class with 44, matching the record set by the 2005 class.
Junior quarterback Jake Fromm led the Georgia offense, finishing 20-for-30 with 250 yards and two touchdowns. Pickens, named the Sugar Bowl Most Outstanding Player, tallied 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown, with 165 of those coming in the first half. On the ground, redshirt freshman tailback Zamir White amassed 92 yards rushing on 18 carries. For the evening, the Bulldogs offense posted 380 yards and finished 4-for-4 in the red zone.
With his performance, Pickens became the first Bulldog receiver with at least 10 catches since Isaiah McKenzie against Missouri in 2016, while his 175 yards were the most since Tavarres King notched 188 against Kentucky in 2012.
On the defensive front, junior cornerback DJ Daniel led with eight tackles, followed by freshman safety Lewis Cine with six. Junior safety Richard LeCounte added to his team lead with two interceptions, finishing with four for the season. The Bulldogs defense allowed 295 yards with six tackles for loss, in addition to stopping each of Baylor's three fourth-down attempts.
Following a pair of Georgia punts to begin the game, the Bulldogs defense posted the game's first highlight as LeCounte grabbed a deflected Baylor pass at the Georgia 18-yard line with one hand for his first interception of the game. Later in the quarter, a 40-yard flea flicker from Fromm to Pickens led to the evening's first points as senior place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship connected from 24 yards out.
On Georgia's next possession, Fromm efficiently moved the offense on an 8-play, 85-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 27-yard strike to Pickens at the 12:28 mark of the second quarter. After a Bears punt, the Bulldogs once again reached the red zone, capitalizing with a 31-yard Blankenship field goal, the final of his illustrious career.
Nearing the end of the half, Fromm tacked on another score as he found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Matt Landers for his first career touchdown on a 16-yard pass, followed by a failed two-point conversion attempt to set the halftime score at 19-0. The first half shutout was the fifth by the Georgia defense this season.
In the third quarter, Baylor came out energized as three catches from wide receiver Denzel Mims helped put the Bears on the scoreboard with a 12-yard touchdown, following up a 40-yard completion by Mims earlier in the 8-play, 75-yard drive.
The Bears crossed into Georgia territory on their ensuing drive, but on fourth down, redshirt freshman linebacker Azeez Ojulari forced a fumble by quarterback Charlie Brewer that was recovered by freshman defensive lineman Travon Walker at the Baylor 47-yard line. Along with his forced fumble, Ojulari finished with five tackles and one sack.
Setting up with excellent field position, the Bulldogs initially stalled at the Baylor 30-yard line, but a fake field goal allowed sophomore punter Jake Camarda to convert on fourth down with a 6-yard run. On the next play, White found the pylon for a 13-yard touchdown, increasing the margin to 26-7 Georgia at the 7:16 mark of the third quarter.
On the following drive, Baylor turned to junior running back Trestan Ebner, whose 42 yards and recovery of a goal line fumble helped the Bears cap off another 8-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard Brewer touchdown run. After a Georgia 3-and-out, Baylor once again crossed midfield to close the third quarter before electing to punt and strand the Bulldogs at their 1-yard line. Despite reaching Baylor territory, a third-down sack forced Georgia to punt.
With the clock running down for Baylor, an injury to Brewer forced the Bears to enter freshman backup Jacob Zeno, but he was unable to convert on 4th-and-11 with five minutes remaining. On Baylor's final possession, LeCounte notched his second pick, allowing Georgia to kneel out the clock.
Georgia will next take the field on Monday, September 7 for a matchup against Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.