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Georgia Football

Legge's Thoughts: Kirby Will Have to Figure Out QB for UGA to Return to Glory

November 7, 2020

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JACKSONVILLE - Florida knocked out the Dawgs on Saturday in Jacksonville - something we’ve not seen in some time from a UGA program under Kirby Smart. 

Kirby Smart has been the toast of the Cocktail Party. Not any more. Now the questions will start - that’s what happens when you get your face kicked in by your rival. 

Georgia is going to have to address the underlying problems of its offense - it does not currently play a QB that is capable of not turning the ball over, or taking what defenses give him. What is also clear is that Georgia’s defense was unprepared for what was coming - a passing onslaught from the Gators the likes of which it took Alabama nearly a game to amass. 

Georgia got up 14-0. 

Florida took it from there… and how. 

But the problem, as you know, is at quarterback. Georgia’s starter left the game with a shoulder injury. He was eventually pulled in favor of his backup. The duo combined for one of the worst statistical lines in Georgia football history. 

And it won’t get better this season. JT Daniels, who has been the hope of so many, is clearly not beating out either Bennett or Mathis right now. If that were the case he would be playing or starting. Kirby Smart said after the game that he is not injured in a way that would stop him from playing. 

Kirby Smart’s mismanagement of quarterbacks has been his major problem in Athens. When you look across the landscape of college football and see so many functional signal callers it is hard to understand or figure out how a program as good as UGA could be this bad at the most important spot in the program. 

Yes, Georgia has dominated the SEC East from the start of the 2017 season until tonight, but moving forward it will lose games and this division if it does not get signal caller fixed. The receivers are open. The running game has proven itself time after time after time. 

But since the middle part of 2019 on, Georgia has rarely had good quarterback play. Stetson Bennett provided that the first three games of this season. Jake Fromm was good against the Gators and in the Sugar Bowl a year ago. But other than those games it has been from mediocre to bad at that spot. 

And that can’t happen. You have to be good enough in this league at quarterback. Everything else is there. The offensive line. The stable of backs. The tight ends. The receivers. The open opportunities are there. 

That Georgia has not figured that spot out is the reason so many critics take aim at Kirby Smart. And they should. If the honeymoon wasn’t over a season ago it is now. No one wants a divorce, but there are a few things that need to be worked on in the marriage. 

Again, this is not exclusively on the quarterbacks. There’s no excuse for Georgia to get dominated like they did defensively. Georgia has recruited at a level the likes of which very few teams have over time. There were far too many easy, open men for Kyle Trask to throw the ball to. There’s nothing wrong with someone as good as Kyle Pitts making a play. 

There is something outrageously wrong with how open Florida backs were coming out of the backfield Saturday. Dan Mullen called a great game today. He kept going back to what was working with wheel routes and balls to backs out of the backfield. 

Georgia’s defense wasn’t ready, and that’s on Kirby Smart. 

The 5th-year coach has been given a lot of slack that he’s earned. He’s one of the best coaches in college football. But there’s nothing that sharpens criticism like the beating Georgia took Saturday. Kirby is going to have to take his program from being just a defensive juggernaut against average offenses to a full and entire program with a playmaking and mistake-free quarterback (no QB is mistake free, but perhaps not so many turnovers in consecutive games). 

There is no evidence that Georgia’s defense can get them a national title. If that were the case it would have happened in 2017, or perhaps 2018. But with the way Alabama and the Gators are throwing for miles a game, Georgia is going to have to do something to keep up. 

And the problem is that Georgia didn’t have enough firepower to stick with the Gators when they needed do. Even though there were plenty of plays to be made in the passing game, Georgia’s QBs simply missed the throws - sometimes wildly. Georgia’s offense has not been what it needs to be for a few years now. I will add my voice to the chorus that says that Georgia is going to have to score more to win in a major way. 

It is great to play defense. In fact, you are allowed to be great at both. College football has evolved into Nolan Richardson’s Arkansas teams from the 1990s. Run. Jump. Score. 

Grinding out wins when officials are simply not going to throw flags on pick plays is asking too much for defenders. Running the ball down folks’ throats is great, but what happens when you can’t run? I’ve maintained for years - if someone wants to stop you in the run game they will. They just stack the box. 

Kirby has talked about being able to run when the opponent knows you want to run and throwing when your foe knows you have to throw. He’s right, but it’s not happening. Why?

UGA is one demential. They are really, really good at that one thing. But that one thing, exclusively, is not enough to overcome going 9 of 29 with three picks. 

Nine of twenty nine

The structure is in place for Georgia to do what it needs to compete and beat anyone in the nation. That’s what Kirby demanded when he returned to UGA, and he got what he demanded. 

Now it needs to be demanded of him that he does the same with his offense. That Georgia’s defense surrendered 38 points in the first half of the biggest game of the year might be an outlier. But I can assure you it is not an outlier of late for really good offenses to score on this defense - no matter how good it is. 

Georgia’s defense - sans a slew of really good players - is not going to stop folks forever. It needs the offense to help. Then again, nearly everything failed Saturday on the St. Johns. Dropped passes. Blown coverages. Punts off the side of the foot of a very good punter. 

It turns out Georgia wasn’t ready, and that’s not been common under Kirby. 

Make no mistake - Kirby gets the credit for what he’s done over the last four and half years. He also gets the blame for this debauched showing. He will have to live with this loss for the next year and a little. He had a chance to burry Mullen and the Gators probably for a while, but it didn’t happen, and this is an important year for the Gators, as they will look very different a year from now. 

And it didn’t happen because UGA wasn’t ready to take advantage of what was there on Saturday. 

And that’s on Kirby. 

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