UGA head coach Kirby Smart discusses Georgia’s 19-13 victory over Texas A&M in the Bulldogs final home game of the 2019 college football season on Saturday.
There is a timestamped index of topics Kirby discusses in the video below. Just click on the time mark to open a new tab and the video will play at that timestamp or you can follow along as you watch the presser in its entirety by clicking on the video below to play it.
00:00 Opening statement:
“Well, I’ll open with the atmosphere. I thought the second half was an incredible atmosphere. Like you would’ve thought the whole game would’ve been if the conditions had been better. They were sloppy earlier, really bad in warmups but they actually got really good for the second half, and most of the first. So I was proud of our fans. I thought they impacted the game, with the communication for Texas A&M. There were some big series that were backed up five yards, 10 yards, for the fans affecting them.”
“I also want to congratulate Rodrigo. That’s a tremendous honor. We certainly have helped him with it. We’ve taken a lot of field goals. What Rodrigo has done, and overcome, is just a story for the ages. To be a walk-on, to not get a scholarship, to continue to work, get a scholarship, and continue to grind, and be as consistent as he has been in some of the toughest conditions this year that could ask a kicker to kick in. He’s just been tremendous. And he’s really become a weapon for us. Thank goodness. He’s really become a weapon for us. He’s done a great job.”
“I thought Jake (Camarda) did a great job of flipping the field a few times with the punting. There was one time where it was probably not a great punt. It was a line drive and not great coverage. But other than that he did a great job kicking it tonight.”
“And our defense was very resilient. I thought we got tired at the end of the game. And we’re going to have to overcome that, because two weeks in a row now we’ve got kind of lost some momentum late, and struggled for a couple of drives.”
“And offensively we’ve got to improve. No bones about it. We’ve got to improve. There were things tonight we missed that were there, and that’s the frustrating thing. Because I’ll get 100 questions about the explosive plays, and about the inability to hit runs, but you get an opportunity on first and 10 to make the plays that we have you’ve gotta make those. Some of that had nothing to do with the calls. Some of that had to do with the execution. So we share in that. I share in that. We’ve got to do a better job. But that’s a good football team. And that’s a team that’s gotten better. Their team has gotten better. And we’ve got to continue to get better.”
“The message this week was the next step is the most important step. We showed the guys some clips of a guy that broke his leg on a mountain in 1989, who was 29,000 feet in the air, and all he talked about was the next step until he got down. So for us, the next step is the most important step, and that was tonight. And now we’ll move on to the next.”
02:33 Can you comment on the similar pattern of having a double-digit lead headed into the fourth quarter, only to lose momentum and not put opponents away?
“It certainly does. It’s an inability to put people away -on both sides of the ball. You feel like you’re controlling the momentum, you feel like you should be ahead further, and you’re not. Then, whether you get tight, whether you lose momentum, whether they hit a couple of plays, you’ve got to take advantage of the plays you had earlier. We had two or three positions that were in field goal range that felt like were out of field goal range before the possession was over. You can’t do that and beat really good football teams. We’ve got to do better at that.”
03:22 What are your thoughts on Texas A&M’s wide receivers?
“They’ve got good wideouts. I knew that before the game. They’ve got exceptional wideouts. We wanted to make them one-dimensional, try to get our hands on them. I think we could have affected Mond better. I don’t know how many sacks we had, but that one drive we couldn’t get to him. We were trying to pressure him, but we looked tired. When you want to have a great defense, you can’t have those kinds of breakdowns.”
04:09 Comment on UGA offensive execution…
“I thought the point to put them away was earlier in the game. We missed a flea-flicker, we missed a wheel-route, we had a couple of misses where a guy needed a couple of protections where if guys do this. They did a good job. They have a third-down package I’ve talked about for a long time that’s really good. That part of the game where we struggled to move the ball, we were excellent on third down. We were not very good on third down tonight and we were struggling to run the ball.”
04:47 How many years has this team taken off your life?
“A lot, but I love them. You talk about competitive nature, D’Andre Swift, he wants the ball in his hands and he wants to put the game on his shoulders, he breaks three tackles to get seven yards, makes one of his best career runs. Jake wants the opportunity to throw a strike in there to Dom, they’re pressuring … some of those things were really key and that’s the one thing that has been consistent with this team: your back’s against the wall, you need a first down, and most of the times we’ve been able to get it done. This one, Florida when it was big, we didn’t get it done against Auburn, but the defense stood up. They’ve done a good job of picking each other up.”
05:35 Was there a “dust-up” between Jake Fromm and D’Andre Swift?
“I wouldn’t call it a dust-up. He ( D’Andre Swift) was just frustrated. It was a situation where we don’t run that play into a pressure from that side. They did a good job disguising it. We told Jake to milk the clock; so, when you milk the clock, you can’t change the play. You’ve got to run the play. It wasn’t a great play, but that’s called passion, it’s not a dust-up. It’s love.”
“When you have family, your family doesn’t always get along… Right? But they love each other. These two young men love each other as much as anybody.”
06:07 Are you concerned with Jake Fromm on any level?
“Well, he made some back-shoulder throws that were pretty special… I want to get better. The kids want to get better.
06:50 Update on cornerback Eric Stokes… is he injured?
“He got dinged up. I’m not even sure how bad it is. I don’t even know if he could’ve came back. We rotate three corners, and he wasn’t cleared to come back.”
07:01 Do you have a chance to experience any emotions regarding Senior Day?
“It was tough this one. They’re all emotional but you can’t not be more attached by these kids you’ve been with longer. There were guys that I was only with one or two years. This group really hit home to me. It was unfortunate that it was in those weather conditions and I felt like it was bad but our players went into the locker room out of the rain and I’m trying to share a moment with them. It’s tough because they’re not dying sitting to take a picture of me but I’m dying to see their family and what they’ve given.”
07:37 Comments on walk-ons… offensive lineman Daniel Gothard and others…
“I’ll forget somebody but Daniel Gothard, a walk-on lineman. He comes from Atlanta Georgia. He’s probably taken 2,000 snaps at offensive line. He actually went with the twos last week and went down and worked with the ones and twos because we were down linemen. He got to go on that field. Josh Moran (inaudible)…Kolby Pyrz from Cairo Georgia. There’s so many guys that have given so much. Antonio Poole. Given so much to this program and never once got any part of the limelight. And that’s their opportunity to do that. I like it when you get to honor those guys in front of everybody in the stands. That was tough because the weather wasn’t so great.”
08:16 Update on Lawrence Cager and his injury status (Note: Cager did not play vs. A&M)
“We thought he’d be able to go. He practiced during the week. He was obviously not 100 percent during the week, and we wanted to see him go in warm-ups and cut it loose. We didn’t feel that he could. It’s one of those deals where you say, ‘Why don’t you just shut him down?’ Well, shutting him down doesn’t necessarily get him healthy either. He doesn’t take the hits and pounding during the week. So he’s helping to take a little mileage off the other guys, and also staying fresh in the offense. Sometimes when you step away, you get away. It’s not his legs that are tired; it’s his injury. He just didn’t feel comfortable that he could go, and it was tough conditions. We knew it would be tough conditions. Having a healthy guy out there helps.”
09:03 Thoughts on the progression of cornerback Tyrique Stevenson…
“Yeah he made a huge play, that was a big play in the game, but he was wrong. So he makes mistakes each and every game, missed a tackle, had a couple of busts, my concern with Tyrique is you need to worry about execution and no results. Everybody looks at it and says unbelievable play, true freshman, he’s out there. We’ve got other kids that can make that play, too, and if they are in the correct leverage than I would argue they could play over him. So he has to earn that right in practices, and he has to continue to do that.
09:41 Comments on the defense holding the Aggies to minus one rushing yards…
“It probably makes you more vulnerable in the pass. We thought that they have an excellent receiving corps and a quarterback that can scramble. That was my biggest concern in the game, was being able to cover them and then him take off. I don’t know how many he rushed for, but he certainly had some positive scrambles. That was the dynamic. We’ve played some other really good wideouts, but they didn’t have a quarterback that would take off running like him. I thought our defensive staff, once again, did an excellent job having our group prepared. Those crucial third-and-ones. People talk about third-and-1 when you stop the quarterback sneak, that team was like 12 for 12 on the year on sneaks. They are the best sneak team I’ve ever seen. I took it to our offense and said he’s how you run a sneak, they haven’t been stopped, and then our guys go out there and stop them. I think we stopped them and brought the fourth down after that, and then they got a penalty, so I don’t know the exact chain of events, but I know they didn’t get a sneak and that was a lot of credit to our staff and the preparation.”
10:52 Talk about the onside kick in the third quarter…
“I didn’t know that I was going to run it, but we were prepared for it, meaning we’d worked on it and thought it was there, and it was. Rod had a perfect kick, we didn’t execute it. It’s frustrating because we worked really hard on that, and I’m one of those people that says, if it’s there, you do it, and that’s what you do.”
11:16 Where did you learn that “risk appetite?”
“I don’t know that you learn that. I think it’s important to always make people defend you. So if you just take the causal position that I’m not going to try to get every advantage in a game then you don’ t take advantage of the game. And we have a big staff, so we’re constantly looking at what opportunities we have to gain a possession. I’m big on how do you gain one possession in a half, timeouts, two-minute drives, and that was an opportunity to gain a possession that we thought was there, and it was.”
“They could, but every call could. I’m probably the world’s worst. Our offensive staff probably hates me because every call is not a good call until it works. When you say, what do you want to do? Second and 12, run it? That’s what they expect us to do. I thought Coley did a tremendous job. They’re second-guessing because you’re sitting there going, is that the right call? Is that the right decision? When somebody has got everybody in the box to stop the run, that’s a pretty good call. I don’t think they were expecting it and then the third-down call, coach Pittman helped out with. They had to sell out to stop it and you give it to your best player with a couple of good players out there with him. It’s a great job. I was worried about the last third down, the third and one, but the offensive line did a good job. They prepared, they executed and they made the call.”
13:23 What was said about Rodrigo Blankenship in the locker room?
“You know everybody loves Rod. It sounded like our student section. Our players went nuts and Rod took a bow. And Rod didn’t say much. He just smiles and does his job. That’s all he does. ‘Yes sir, coach.’
13:46 Has Jordan Davis improved the most this year?
“You know I don’t know that. Jordan Davis played better last year a lot of times than he has played this year. I’ve talked to him about it a lot. If Jordan’s going to be the player he can be, he’s got to make a commitment to excellence. I love him as a kid. He’s a great personality and so much fun to be around. He hasn’t scratched the surface of what he can be. He’s got to make a commitment to excellence that I just don’t know if he’s made yet. He did some good things tonight and he’s had some injuries, too. To his credit, he’s had an ankle injury and he missed two practices this week. He wasn’t able to practice. He had some achilles issues and we didn’t know if he was going to be able to play and he did some good things in the game.”
14:32 Is this the best defense you’ve had?
“Yeah, I don’t know. I keep hearing how we don’t play any quarterbacks. We don’t play anybody that’s any good. They’re just trying to do their job and the staff deserves the credit. The players probably deserve the most credit. The buy-in, those guys just… You’ve gotta see the way they practice and the energy they come to meetings with and the embracing of the packages. Dan does a tremendous job, Schumann, all those guys. Charlton and Tray, do a great job. We’ve got some young players in that unit so I’m very proud of the way they’ve worked. The best thing is they’ve supported the offense through some of the struggles and they compete hard at practice. They respect each other.”
15:27 Are you “happy” to not have to go up against Tech’s triple-option anymore?
“I’d say yeah but watching them the other night, they had some elements. They’ve got an athletic quarterback. They can run some of the same things from different looks. So it’ll be a different preparation for us, but I know our guys are looking forward to it.”
15:45 D’Andre Swift keeps turning out 100-yard rushing games, how impressive is that?