Georgia football: Looking back at the 2017 matchup with Mississippi State

Sep 23, 2017; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm (11) passes against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2017; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm (11) passes against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

After a statement victory over the Tennessee Volunteers at home, Georgia football will head to Starkville, MS, to take on the SEC’s other Bulldogs. This matchup will be Georgia’s first trip to Mississippi State since 2010.

Mississippi State enters this game with a 6-3 record after holding off Auburn 39-33 in overtime last week. The Bulldogs are 5-0 at home this season, with their biggest win coming against Texas A&M, who ranked No. 17 coming into that game.

Head coach Mike Leach and his famous air raid offense will be another challenge for this Georgia defense, who held the high-powered Tennessee offense to just 13 points last week.

These two teams have only played each other 25 times, with Georgia winning 12 of the last 13 meetings. The biggest meeting between these schools happened in Athens in September 2017 when the Dawgs won 31-3.

Let’s take a dive into the lopsided victory over Mississippi State that Georgia football delivered in 2017.

Year 2 of the Kirby Smart era began with some early drama at the quarterback position. In the season opener against Appalachian State, sophomore Jacob Eason injured his knee after an awkward landing out of bounds. Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney had to hand the reigns to true freshman Jake Fromm, who passed for 143 yards and a touchdown to win 31-10 over App. State.

In Week 2, Fromm made his first career start on the road against Notre Dame. Georgia would come out on top 20-19 in a classic game thanks to the defense and kicker Rodrigo Blankenship’s late fourth-quarter field goal. Fromm would start at quarterback for the remainder of the season.

By Week 4 of the 2017 season, Georgia was undefeated and ranked No. 11. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were proving to be the best one-two running back combination in the country, and the defense was arguably the best in the SEC. They were about to face their first big conference test of the season, as No. 17 Mississippi State would be paying a visit to Athens.

Led by head coach Dan Mullen, the Bulldogs were undefeated and coming off a 37-7 blowout win over No. 12 LSU. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who accounted for 37 touchdowns and rushed for 1,375 yards in 2016, looked just as impressive in 2017. Their defense had also given up an average of nine points per game coming into this matchup, and many believed they would walk out of Athens with a victory.

Any hopes of an “upset” quickly faded after Georgia’s first offensive play of the game. Fromm handed the ball off to Chubb, but Chubb tossed it back to Fromm for a flea flicker. He would connect with Terry Godwin down the field for an early touchdown.

The momentum was with Georgia for the rest of the game. Chubb would score on the next offensive possession to give the Dawgs a 14-0 lead. A field goal by Mississippi State would be the only score by either team in the second quarter.

Like they did in the first half, Georgia scored on its first possession of the second half, with Chubb taking the ball out of the famous “wild dawg” formation 28 yards for a touchdown.

Back-to-back interceptions by the defense led to 10 more points for Georgia. Tight end Isaac Nauta made a nice catch and dragged a defender to the endzone to put the Dawgs up 28-3. Blankenship would connect on a 49-yard field goal on the next possession to seal Georgia’s 31-3 victory.

The Dawgs’ defense limited Fitzgerald to 83 yards passing and 47 yards rushing. JR Reed led the team with 10 tackles, and both Deandre Baker and Dominick Sanders had interceptions. The defense ended the game by stuffing Mississippi State at the goal line to prevent a touchdown.

Georgia rushed for 203 yards, with Chubb scoring two twice. Freshman D’Andre Swift enjoyed a breakout game, as he rushed for 69 yards on just 10 carries. Jake Fromm completed nine of his twelve passing attempts for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

Georgia would move into the top 10 after this game and continued their momentum for the rest of the season. They finished the year with a 13-2 record and won their first SEC Championship since 2005. They also won a classic Rose Bowl game against Oklahoma before ultimately losing a heartbreaking National Championship game against Alabama.

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Despite how the 2017 season would end, this game showed the college football world that Smart was building something special in Athens. A new Top Dawg in college football was about to emerge.