Ten down, five to go.
What else can you say about this undefeated, top-ranked Georgia football team?
Well, we haven’t had much to say about James Cook so far this season. All he did Saturday in the Dawgs’ convincing 41-17 rout of Tennessee was place himself with some very select company.
Cook ran 10 times for 104 yards, scored two rushing touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass. Every score was a dagger, puncturing the Vols’ upset hopes.
His first score came on a 39-yard run to end Georgia’s first possession. As Cook glided through the Tennessee defense, it seemed that he hadn’t even kicked into his highest gear. This score was crucial, coming as it did right after Tennessee had done the unthinkable: marched down the field and scored a touchdown on its first drive against the vaunted Georgia defense.
Cook closed out the first half scoring by catching a 23-yard Stetson Bennett pass. Isolated on linebacker Solon Page, Cook zipped past him with a nifty double move up the right sideline. Bennett looked left, then floated the pass to Cook in the end zone.
The score came with 37 seconds left in the half, culminating a 90-yard, three-minute drive that put Georgia up 24-10 and gave the Dawgs some breathing room. Cook’s third score, a 5-yard scamper near the start of the fourth quarter, effectively ended the contest.
“He’s been due for that kind of game,” Bennett told Georgiadogs.com. “He’s a great player. He comes in and leads this team. He works hard and is explosive. He knows what to do. He’s got a knack for finding space. He was due for it, and I loved seeing him do it.”
And that select company Cook joined Saturday? Over the past 20 seasons, only three other Georgia backs have rushed for 100 yards, scored two rushing touchdowns, and another receiving in a single game: Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel.
That’s some fast company right there. And while many feel that Cook is Georgia’s best back, the fact is he’s second string behind Zamir White. The talent and depth on this team remains breathtaking.
And yet, they remain focused on their goal.
“I can’t say enough about the leaders on this team,” head coach Kirby Smart said in his opening post-game remarks. “After that game against Missouri, to have three guys stand up in the locker room — after we won, 43-6 — they said it wasn’t acceptable the way we approached the game or the way we handled the game.
“I knew right then we were going to be OK this week.
“Now, I still worried a lot, but those guys said, ‘Everybody better be there to lift. Everybody better be on time. It just took over the team and it permeated through them all week.”
Tennessee, with its warp-speed, spread offense, presented a unique challenge.
The Vols put 10 points on the board in the game’s first 13:22. Georgia held them scoreless for the next 43 minutes, or until the score was 41-10.
“I’m proud of the way we prepared for it,” Smart continued. “We’ve got a staff that burned the midnight oil to prepare for this. This is not an easy prep. To give up the first drive, and then come back and really do a good job the rest of the second half; remember, they have four downs the entire second half … I’m proud of the way our guys played.”
Then there’s this: The average score of Georgia’s SEC games this year is 40.1-8.25. They average winning every conference game by 31.85 points.
“10-0, undefeated in the SEC,” said Smart. “That’s where we’ve gotten. It makes no guarantee for what’s going to happen in the future. We’ve got to try and get better and improve.”
And then Smart allowed a glimpse inside the veil, a quick glance at that key, elusive element that may set this Georgia team apart from most of its predecessors.
“You know what I love?” Smart asked. “It’s the men in that locker room beside me. They all know that. Nobody thinks they’ve arrived. There are things we can work on to get better. And they’ll continue to do it. Tonight, they went through a tough gauntlet in our league, and played well.”
Bennett echoed his coach’s sentiments. “We are a real talented team,” he told Georgiadogs.com. “But we respect everybody that we play. We go in every week [and] don’t think we are God’s favorite team. We know that nobody is going to give us anything. We have to earn it.”
Ten down, five to go.