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Legge: Can UGA Learn From Dull Trip to Mizzou?

September 23, 2018

ATHENS - When you witness something you are no longer accustomed to, perhaps it is best to digest a result after an entire day of football.

Hello Oklahoma and Virginia Tech.

Watching UGA play on Saturday was, at least to me, a throwback to the era of Mark Richt football… the better team winning the game by about what Las Vegas expected them to, but not by as much as it should have been. 

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Also, it was one of the strangest football games I have seen in some time. Blocked punt for a TD. A blocked FG. A Strip and scoop or a TD. No throwing TD from a prospect many consider the top signal caller in this year’s NFL Draft. A TD that nearly wasn’t a TD. Multiple 2-point conversion attempts. 

Just an odd game. 

And when it comes down to it this Georgia team did not at all play to the level, or “the standard” as Jake Fromm put it after the game, we have grown used to. Missouri was able to run the ball; UGA seemed sluggish compared to what we’ve seen. Georgia was able to get a 20-point lead, but was never able to fully put the Tigers away. 

Multiple times during the game Georgia was not sharp or just plain played dumb. 

It was odd to me, speaking of sharp, that Fromm didn’t run the play clock all the way to two seconds during the drive where UGA was trying to kill the game off about midway through the 4th quarter. Missouri’s comeback wasn’t impossible, and it was given a sliver of life by the Dawgs snapping the ball with about 12 seconds left on the play clock rather than two. Georgia ran the ball non-stop seven plays in that series and had the chance to shave off another minute or two of the clock, but didn’t. 

The drive resulted in Missouri blocking a 36-yard FG attempt, but playing smarter would have left the Tigers “about” three minutes time to pull off a miracle rather than 4:39. Maybe that’s being picky - I don’t know. 

Then there was the dumb. 

J.J. Holloman’s spectacular 61-yard TD was nearly spectacularly game-changing for the wrong reasons when he narrowly, and I mean narrowly, held on to the ball just enough to graze the front part of the end zone to put UGA up 33-14.

That play should have ended the game. It did not. 

Later in the game, Cade Mays got a personal foul called on him as the Bulldogs tried to ice the Tigers out late in the fourth quarter - adding 15 yards a Rodrigo Blankenship FG attempt. 

I’ve grown to expect a little not sharp from Georgia. I got a lot of dull in Columbia. 

Last year UGA got hit with several Drew Lock bombs, which led many to think Missouri was a quick-strike offense exclusively - making it easy to dismiss the Tigers’ chance to beat Georgia up. But no, Georgia simply did not dominate on the line of scrimmage the way we have grown accustomed to. 

This year it was Georgia with the big plays - two non-offensive TDs and offensive strikes from 61, 54 and 33 yards out. In some ways Missouri played better than the Dawgs… they just didn’t have enough of what you needed to win. 

To its credit, Georgia had the larger margin of error. This game used that window to push on by. The difference between this win in Missouri, and say the 9-6 turdfest in Athens in 2015 is that Georgia’s second-level players and special teams players are really that much better than what Missouri had on the field, and it showed (more on that in a moment). 

But that window will close against the likes of LSU, Auburn and Alabama (and even Ohio State and Clemson). Those teams have more of the bodies needed to stack up against this Georgia team. Losing Zamir White for the season suddenly hurt on Saturday. Instead of three backs spreading out ten carries each, two split 31 carries. Possibly losing Ben Cleveland or Andrew Thomas for much longer will hurt even more. 

There are three ways to look at what happened on Saturday. 

1. Georgia didn’t play well and won a game by 14 points on the road in the SEC. It pretty well did what it was supposed to do, but didn’t (at all) look good doing it. 

2. Oklahoma, Mississippi State, LSU, Virginia Tech, Boston College - a lot of ranked teams looked bad winning or lost looking bad… winning > losing. 

3. “I don’t care what everyone else did. Georgia needs to play better.”

All three of those things can and probably are true at the same time. 

Still, there are now slow-blinking yellow caution lights after the win at Missouri. Yes, you do have to survive these moments. But you are surviving them because a defense that set up or scored a slew of points on Saturday gave up way, way too much in the run game. You survived because the offense didn’t look very much like itself. You survived because dumb plays didn’t turn out to be catastrophic plays. 

When you come within a breath of winning the national title the only thing is the national title. And in order to win the national title this year, these Bulldogs are going to have to improve. The defensive line needs to be more stout than it was Saturday. Maybe Lock had Georgia in a different look that allowed more of a run game - that’s totally possible. You still have to be more efficient stopping the run. 

Whatever Kirby has done to prevent players from dropping the ball before the end zone has not worked and needs to be changed. UGA was called for seven penalties… far more than we are used to seeing. 

It was as sloppy as we have seen this program in some time. A sloppy doesn’t always get cleaned up real quick. 

The thing that looms is Alabama. Georgia is not ready to beat the Tide right now. And before we get into the hyperbole writers are accustomed to churning out - yes, Alabama is beatable. However, as you know, Georgia can’t do it the way it played Saturday. It might not escape the Commonwealth playing as it did Saturday. The new-fangled Cayuts have proven they belong. 

Georgia won on Saturday with the one thing folks probably didn’t notice - return yards. Between Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell and Mecole Hardman, UGA racked up two TDs and 205 yards. 

In other words they pretty well were even or outperformed Lock. 

If the Dawgs can take that and combine it with what we are used to there isn’t a team they can’t beat and only one they would be certain underdogs to. If they play like they did Saturday without what happened in the return game I can think of three teams they very well could lose to. 

And no, none of those three include Tennessee or Tech.  

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