McKenzie has record day for Bulldogs, Smart praises his 'courage'

VIDEO: Chubb, McKenzie talk about offense stepping-up against ULL

ATHENS, Ga. -- It was a record day for Isaiah McKenzie.

Not only did he score on the Georgia Bulldogs' first play of the game on 55-yard run to get the offense's first touchdown in two weeks, but just a few minutes later he returned a punt 82 yards for a score. It was his fifth punt-return for a touchdown in his career, a new Georgia record.

Big day, so how does the junior receiver celebrate?

"You know, just a normal Saturday. I'll probably go home, hang with my girlfriend and just relax," McKenzie said after the Bulldogs' 35-21 win over UL-Lafayette at Sanford Stadium to improve to 7-4 this season.

"The human joystick," as McKenzie is colloquially know, said he's been telling his teammates for awhile that he was going to break the record. Admittedly, it took much longer this season than he thought it would.

"Today just happened to be the day," McKenzie said. 

"They never measure the heart by the height. They don't measure it by weight, either, " head coach Kirby Smart said on his lanky 5-foot-8, 175-pound receiver. "He's got courage now. He's tough. He's not afraid to stick it up in there and I think that's how you measure somebody, by how much courage they have. And [McKenzie] has great courage and we trust him a lot." 

Smart noted how some have criticized McKenzie's decision making when considering whether or not to return punts or let them go. But Smart believes a lot of his struggle this season has had to do with the tough punts he has seen. He poses a big threat to coverage teams when he breaks open. Smart said teams do not want to punt to McKenzie.

McKenzie's two scores gave the Bulldogs breathing room early, which was significant, considering the defense gave up two touchdown runs in the final five minutes. The defense did force four turnovers, so to say they did not play well would be unfair. But unlike in the upset against Auburn a week earlier, the offense found its rhythm.

Nick Chubb rushed for 112 yards, and even had a touchdown catch, his first this season. In the second quarter, Chubb dove into the end zone for his first touchdown since Oct. 9 against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

"Me personally not been able to get into the end zone for awhile, getting in carries a little momentum on," the junior running back said. 

As for the touchdown catch: "It was great, it kind of sealed the deal."

Chubb said the running backs have been asking freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to check the running backs when going through his progressions because they have been getting a lot of open looks, according to Chubb.

"This week, we kind of stressed it to him," Chubb said. "He finally did it, and that's what happened."

Eason completed 13 passes on 19 attempts for 165 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown pass was a 9-yard throw to tight end Isaac Nauta. McKenzie said he's seen improvement from the young gunslinger.

"I wouldn't say he's perfect. He has his downs and his ups. From the beginning of the season to now, he's been the same person: calm, keeps his composure in the huddle. He does his job. He does it well."

PHOTOS | UGA vs. ULL


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