Oh, ye of little faith … including me.
It may not have been a start-to-finish blowout like 2017 but the Cocktail Party ended just as it should have. Georgia bounced back from its poor performance in Baton Rouge and smacked the Gators, the same Gators that beat LSU earlier in the season, squarely in the mouth – repeatedly. By the fourth quarter, the Kirby Smart strategy of wearing down an opponent’s defense had prevailed and the reptiles slipped meekly back into their swamp.
From my perspective along the sidelines, this game was vintage Kirby Smart. A hard-fought, physically demanding game that Georgia won by simply beating up and wearing down the Florida defense. Of course, several big plays by the Dawgs’ defense went a long way toward keeping the good guys’ spirits up early, while the process of applying a classic Kirby pounding to the Florida defense proceeded to work on Florida’s depth.
This team believes in Kirby’s strategy. At no point in the contest did I get the sense that their confidence in the plan was shaken by events. Even as the game see-sawed in the first half, the players seemed confident that Florida’s successes were transitory. These Dawgs are growing up before our eyes, and just in time. They will face a strong Kentucky team next week on the road, then, a week later, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry in Athens.
Coach Smart will not allow the team to look ahead, so we’ll do it for them. There are two more SEC games to win to earn a second straight SEC East title and a spot in the league championship game. The loss to LSU still stings, but as Kirby has said, “Our goals are in front of us.” If the Dawgs bring the same focus and confidence to the Kentucky and Auburn games, the Dome, and an opportunity to play themselves into the College Football Playoff awaits.