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Athens, GA

Beck shines in debut, leads No. 1 UGA past UT Martin

87 days ago

ATHENS, Ga. -- - Carson Beck overcame a sluggish first half to throw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Mekhi Mews and No. 1 Georgia, the two-time defending national champion, leaned on its defense to overwhelm Tennessee-Martin 48-7 on Saturday night.

Georgia (1-0) showed it must make progress on offense if it can realize its dream of becoming the first team to win three straight national championships in The Associated Press poll era. The Bulldogs were outgained in the opening quarter and led only 17-0 at halftime against the Football Championship Subdivision Skyhawks (0-1).

Beck, placed in the difficult position of following Stetson Bennett's back-to-back championship seasons at quarterback, gained momentum in the second half. He threw a short completion to his left to Mews, who cut back to the middle of the field, dodged a would-be tackler and used his speed for his first career scoring catch.

It was the longest career completion for Beck, a junior who beat out Brock Vandagriff for the starting job. Beck opened Georgia's next possession with a 47-yard completion to C.J. Smith before adding a 25-yarder to Mews.

Beck, who had a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, completed 21 of 31 passes for 294 yards with one touchdown. Vandagriff entered the game late in the third quarter and completed a 56-yard pass to Rara Thomas in the fourth before adding a 21-yard scoring pass to tight end Oscar Delp.

Georgia's defense, which ranked fifth in the nation last season with its average of 14.3 points allowed, kept UT-Martin off the scoreboard until Trevonte Rucker's 9-yard scoring catch from Kindead Dent in the fourth quarter.

The defense had the last word, scoring on Kyron Jones' 26-yard interception return with less than 2 minutes remaining. Jones caught a deflection of Kody Sparks' first pass for UT-Martin.

The Bulldogs, who were 15-0 in 2022, extended their winning streak to 18 games. They have won 28 consecutive regular-season games are at 30-1 in their last 31 games.

Georgia is making the transition at offensive coordinator, from Todd Monken to Mike Bobo, as well as at quarterback. The immediate impression was it's not easy to follow a two-time national championship tandem on offense.

It appeared Bobo tried to make a statement by lining up five wide receivers and no running backs on the Bulldogs' first play from scrimmage. The result, a loss of 4 yards on Beck's screen pass to Mews, provided the first clue that the Skyhawks would provide more resistance than many expected.

Georgia led 7-0 after one quarter despite being outgained 63-59 yards.

The Bulldogs were at their best when utilizing tight end Brock Bowers, one of four Georgia players on The Associated Press preseason Top 25. Georgia's first sign of offensive momentum came when Bowers ran over a defender on a 23-yard gain. The play set up Bowers' 3-yard scoring run.

Bowers had five catches for 77 yards.

The flag at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium flew at half-mast and there was a moment of silence before the game in honor of Sonny Seiler, owner of the famed line of 11 "Uga" mascots since the 1950s. Seiler died Monday at age 90. His son, Charles Seiler, and other family members were on the sideline with Uga XI, also known as Boom.


UT-Martin: The Skyhawks, who have won back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships, showed impressive defensive strength in the first half, refusing to allow Georgia's offensive line to establish a consistent push on runs up the middle. Dent, a graduate transfer from Mississippi, passed for only 128 yards as the Skyhawks couldn't prevent the Bulldogs from pulling away in the second half.

Georgia: The Bulldogs took advantage of their depth at wide receiver and running back. Mews played a prominent role on offense and returns as WR Ladd McConkey (back) was held out. Running back Daijun Edwards, Georgia's leading returning rusher, did not have a carry while recovering from a knee injury. Kendall Milton (hamstring) started and had nine carries for 53 yards. Freshman Roderick Robinson II gave Georgia a 31-0 lead with his 2-yard touchdown run in the third. Georgia's third quarterback, Gunner Stockton, led a field goal drive late in the game.


UT-Martin: The Skyhawks will play their home opener against Missouri State next Saturday night.

Georgia: The Bulldogs will play their second of four consecutive home games when they face Ball State on Saturday in the first meeting between the schools.