Beck throws and runs for TDs to launch new era as No. 1 Georgia rolls past UT-Martin 48-7


ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Carson Beck said “of course” he battled nerves in his first start for No. 1 Georgia.

Coach Kirby Smart insisted he saw no sign Beck lacked the composure that has become his trademark even while having to patiently wait behind Stetson Bennett for his opportunity to play.

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.

“I never thought he wasn't comfortable,” Smart said, adding, “Carson has got a calm about him.”

Beck said, “I felt good. I was excited to be out there.” He said he felt nervous early “because it's been a while since I've been out there.”

Georgia 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.

Beck, placed in the difficult position of following 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.

“I was excited to see Carson's first start,” said defensive tackle Nazir Stackhouse. “He has played in games, but to actually play that role, to be the guy that can lead us to another national championship. ... We're expecting a lot from Carson but we won't pressure him. We're just going to love him. ... I feel like Carson is going to take us all the way.”

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.

It appeared new offensive coordinator Mike 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.