No. 1 Georgia runs past Mississippi State to clinch SEC East title

Published 11:07 pm Saturday, November 12, 2022

STARKVILLE (AP) — No. 1 Georgia is going to the SEC championship game.

Stetson Bennett and company just keep rolling along.

Bennett threw for three touchdowns, and undefeated Georgia beat Mississippi State 45-19 on Saturday night.

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“I’m really proud of our team. When you go on the road in the SEC in an environment like this at night, there’s tremendous adversity and our guys responded again and again,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Our guys kept responding and competing.”

With the victory, the East Division champion Bulldogs secured a spot in the SEC championship. They will take on LSU in Atlanta on Dec. 3.

It was a dominating effort by the visiting Bulldogs (10-0, 7-0, No. 1 CFP), who put up 468 yards of offense. Bennett led the way, going 25-for-37 for 289 yards with two interceptions. Georgia also rushed for 179 yards.

“It was a team win and we made plays when we needed them,” Bennett said.

Mississippi State (6-4, 3-4) struggled to consistently produce against Georgia on the offensive side. Will Rogers went 29-for-51 for 263 yards and a touchdown. Mississippi State rushed for just 47 yards on 15 carries. Rufus Harvey led MSU with six catches for 66 yards and a score.

“They have all five-star players. They’re pretty good on defense and coach Smart does a really good job,” Rogers said. “They had a really good scheme for what we were doing and it’s hard to finish drives on a good team.”

Georgia turned the ball over twice on interceptions by Bennett and had another near turnover in the red zone in the first half when a fumble was nullified after the play was blown dead.

Georgia grabbed control with a big second half. Receiver Ladd McConkey had a 70-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the third quarter and a 17-yard TD reception to help Georgia open a 31-12 lead.

Mississippi State got off to a tough start, but Zavion Thomas’ 63-yard punt return with 3 seconds left in the second quarter trimmed Georgia’s lead to 17-12 at halftime. It was Mississippi State’s first punt return touchdown since 2017.

Mississippi State lost for the third time in four games. It will host East Tennessee State next weekend, and then finish the regular season at Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night.

“I thought early on we did some good things. There was kind of a feel-out process to see what we were capable of doing,” MSU coach Mike Leach said. “I thought we left two obvious scores out there which would not be too tough to have. We did more good things than bad, but I thought that we could have finished drives better.”