NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Next man up.
Those three little words was all linebacker Juwan Taylor had to say after making his first career start in Saturday’s 45-14 rout of Vanderbilt.
The Florida native received the call after starter Natrez Patrick did not make the trip following his Thursday evening arrest for a misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
“There was a little anxiety, but after that first hit, I was good,” said Taylor, who finished with three tackles, including one for a loss of three yards. “I was the next man up.”
Junior Roquan Smith certainly wasn’t surprised with the job Taylor was able to do.
“We all practice together, we all get reps with each other and that’s how it always has been (next man up),” Smith said. “(Taylor) knows the defense very well, just like any of the linebackers.”
Freshman Monty Rice also received significant time, making two tackles.
“They played OK. I’m not ready to name a permanent starter. We have some competition going on there,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “I think both of those kids had some anxiety. I thought Monty made some plays in the game. He’s such a good kid and wants to play well so bad. He’s playing near his hometown up here. He and Juwan both, I was proud of the way they handled it. But we can do better.”
There’s a good chance Taylor is in line for plenty more playing time over Georgia’s next three games.
Although Smart wouldn’t say what punishment Patrick would receive, Georgia’s student-athlete handbook states a second drug arrest should result in a player missing 30 percent of his team’s games.
In the case of football, that’s four games, meaning Patrick wouldn’t be able to return until the November 11 game at Auburn.
Taylor said he found out he would start Friday morning.
“It was just time to step up and be the next man,” he said. “That’s all I was trying to do.”
After a rough start, Eason settles down
No, Smart isn’t ready to name a permanent starter at quarterback and chastised the media after the game for even bringing up such a notion.
“You guys want to make a great story out of that. You know what the story ought to be? Georgia O-line finished Vanderbilt off. They ran the ball well. Can we talk about that? That’s really positive. But I know y’all need a story. You need a story, need controversy,” Smart said. “That’s not really where this team is going. The men in this locker room, the seniors on that team, they’re controlling that message. Both of those quarterbacks are good players.”
With Georgia up 45-7 in the fourth quarter, Smart finally turned to Eason.
He couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start.
Thanks to a corner blitz, Eason fell victim to a blindside sack by Bryce Lewis, with Nifae Lealo picking up the loose ball before rumbling down to the 1-yard line.
Four plays later, Kyle Shurmur’s 1-yard pass to C.J. Duncan put Vanderbilt on the scoreboard a second time.
Eason did rebound, coming back to complete all three of his passing attempts for 24 yards after Jake Fromm completed 7 of 11 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
“I take blame for what happened to Jacob Eason,” Smart said. “I wanted the kid to be able to come in and throw the ball and I called that play and put him in a bad situation. So that’s on me, not on Jacob Eason.”
Smart was asked if Solomon Kindley rolled his ankle a bit Saturday.
“I don’t know. I think he just wants you guys to ask about him,” Smart said. “I think he was tired of playing so he comes hobbling off and says, ‘it’s my ankle, coach.’ He’s just ready to get on the plane and get a sandwich.”
• Sony Michel appeared to come up a little lame after his 50-yard touchdown run. But not to worry. “I was just tired,” Michel said.
“Respect for the opponent: We try to give a message each week to make it important. We try to be consistent with our message. It’s never about who we play because if we make it about who we play, you go up and down. I respect Missouri. I know you guys don’t, but I respect Missouri because I remember the game from last year. I know what we went through last year to try to win the game. I know what kind of offensive output they’ve got. I know their offensive coordinator. I know their quarterback. Our players will understand that and know that. That’s not something I’m really concerned about.” – Smart on next week’s game against Missouri.
This and that
• Georgia went 4-for-4 (3 touchdowns, 1 field goal) inside the Red Zone to remain perfect on the year now at 23-for-23 including 17 TDs and six field goals. On defense, Georgia came in leading the SEC in the Red Zone, holding opponents to a score 70 percent of the time (7-of-10). Vanderbilt was 2-for-2 with two touchdowns.
• With today’s 45-14 victory, Georgia notched its second straight SEC road win and improved to 6-0 overall, 3-0 in the SEC. This marks the Bulldogs' first 6-0 start since the 2005 season when they began 7-0. Also, this is the first time since the 2012 season that the Bulldogs have posted a six-game winning streak during a season. Georgia now leads the all-time series with the Commodores 56-20-2 dating back to 1893.
• Wide receiver Michael Chigbu did not travel with the team for the second straight week.