I am so over the loss at LSU. My life is full of spectacular screw-ups and failures of focus, even when, in hindsight, it is difficult to pinpoint the cause of the lapses – they happen. Just like all other humans, teams and coaches, sometimes just don’t get it done and lose – even when they are more talented than an opponent. It may be instructive for Georgia faithful to remember … only one of the 9,243 national championships won by Nick Saban was claimed by an undefeated team.
Georgia has experienced a couple of injuries this year along the offensive line that have tested Kirby’s “next man up” philosophy. Andrew Thomas has been playing with a sore ankle and, of course, Ben Cleveland is still out as a result if a leg fracture suffered against Missouri. The more I think about the offensive struggles in Baton Rouge, the more convinced I become that Cleveland’s absence may have been far more impactful than has been widely recognized.
Ben Cleveland (6’6 – 335 pound) is a very big man who has developed into an excellent run blocker from his guard position. In addition, the football maturity he has accumulated as a third-year player has, I think, been sorely missed during his recovery. Cleveland’s replacement, true freshman Cade Mays, has done remarkably well and is going to be one of Georgia’s best offensive linemen ever, but he is still a true freshman. At LSU, Mays was facing his first test against a premiere SEC defense in a hostile environment. Mays did not fail, but he and the team would have been better served with him subbing for Cleveland rather than shouldering the load, in my opinion. Initial estimates for Cleveland’s recovery was 4 to 6 weeks. By my count, Cocktail Party Saturday will mark five weeks since his injury – cross your fingers for his availability. Veterans matter.
Now comes the annual contest in Jacksonville against the swamp critters. Last week’s game has not dampened my optimism about the Dawgs’ potential. Although Florida beat LSU, I still believe that this group of Bulldogs has what it takes to march into Jacksonville and rout the Gators like they did last year. We have only seen practice once during the bye-week, but spirits were high on that occasion and during post-practice interviews, the mantra was, ”LSU is behind us, on to Florida.” We’ll see if this team can use the LSU loss as last year’s squad rebounded from its trip to Auburn.