KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia coach Kirby Smart said he felt about as good about his team’s preparation as ever entering into Saturday’s game at Tennessee.
“First time that I’ve really felt comfortable that we were ready to play,” the Bulldogs’ second-year coach said after Georgia dismantled the Vols, 41-0. “Our team is starting to buy into the (idea) that if you form good habits, good habits start to form you.”
The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (5-0) imposed their will on the Vols (3-2) through four quarters on a day Tennessee was honoring quarterback legend Peyton Manning.
Instead, it was the Georgia players honoring their current teammate, tailback Nick Chubb.
Chubb rushed 16 times for 109 yards in his return to Neyland Stadium — site of his 2015 season-ending injury.
The senior tailback spoke to the Georgia team on Friday night before the game, and the Bulldogs responded.
“ His message to the team was just, ‘Hey, man, this game means something to me. It’s important to me,’ “ Smart told DawgNation.com.
“He didn’t get to play against them really last year, (and) he knew this was his last shot, (and) he didn’t have great memories against them last year,” Smart said. “I think that wore on the team because the team wants to do well for Nick. Nobody on the team roots against Nick Chubb. Everybody wanted to do well for him. It shows how important he is to the team.”
Chubb told Dawgnation.com: “The last time, when I was carted off the field I told myself that I’m never coming back here. Just for other reasons, but to come back here and walk off on my own is definitely a blessing.”
From the standpoint of game-planning, Smart likely knew Georgia had the advantage on Tennessee’s young offense and banged-up defense, so he challenged his team in another area.
“ I’m really proud of the special teams, which we challenged over and over this week because I have immense respect for Tennessee’s special teams,” Smart said. “They really won that battle last year, and I thought we dominated that today, which was big.”
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