Florida’s 44-28 win over Georgia on Saturday pretty much eliminated the Bulldogs from returning to Atlanta for the SEC Championship and knocked them out of contention for the 2020 College Football Playoff.
Frustration about the loss has been felt by the head coach, his players and the fanbase as Georgia was the preseason favorite to win the SEC East for the fourth consecutive year.
The Bulldogs still have a chance to return to Atlanta, but that’s a long shot because Florida will have to lose at least two of their remaining games. The Gators have a fairly easy schedule following the win over the Bulldogs this past weekend.
Georgia’s fifth-year head coach Kirby Smart expressed his feelings after the game during his post-game press conference.
“What good does frustration do right now? I want these young men to grow up and be great husbands and fathers,” Smart said. “If we’re going to live in the past and worry about missed opportunities, you can’t do that. It is what it is. Florida beat us. Florida out-executed us. They did a really good job. I’m not making it about injuries, I’m not making it about anything. I’m making it about they beat us. We’ve got to get better and that starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job and we’re going to do a better job but I’m not frustrated with the plight we’re in. We made our bed.”
Smart is right in saying that the Bulldogs need to get better.
All three parts of Georgia’s team didn’t play in sync on Saturday and there were mishaps all over the field.
The Georgia defense, even with it plagued by injuries, gave up 571 yards of total offense. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. The Bulldogs’ defense surrendered 38 points in the first thirty minutes of play while only giving up six in the second half. Still, in the second half, Florida was able to pretty much do whatever they wanted in the passing game. The Gators’ successful run wheel routes were the death of the Bulldogs all throughout the game.
“Yeah but I’m not going to make that excuse because the guys that had those backs on a lot of them were guys that have played,” Smart said about Georgia’s inability to stop Florida out of the backfield. “We had a couple of times where Monty (Rice) and Nakobe (Dean) had them and didn’t do a good job. One of them I thought we got picked on. They did a good job of picking us, rubbing us. We run the same route and they did a good job of getting them back out on it.”
For the first time this season, Georgia junior punter, Jake Camarda, showed inconsistency. He basically gave Florida ten points on shanked balls that left them Trask and company with great field position. One, in particular, came at the end of the first half when Camarda booted a punt only 23-yards, which gave Florida great field position on the Georgia 48-yard line. A few plays later, Trask found wide receiver Tony Grimes for a touchdown. That score right before the half put the Gators up 38-21 heading into halftime.
“That’s tough. We’re usually the team squeezing in the seven points,” Smart said. “We’ve always managed the half really well. It’s a catch-22 because offensively if you throw the ball, you run the risk of giving them the ability to stop the clock. I wanted to be aggressive on offense and try to go score because we needed a score certainly at the point we were in. We weren’t able to do that.
I’m counting on who I think is the best punter in America to take care of me and hit a bomb down there and he didn’t hit a bomb. Give them credit. They went down there and scored pretty quick with their offense.”
On the other hand, the offense didn’t help themselves at all, either. On the first play from scrimmage, running back Zamir White burst downfield for a 75-yard touchdown. He only received six more carries after that totaling 32 yards. Georgia’s offense picked up 277 yards of total offense with 75 of them coming off one play. So, that means that the Bulldogs only picked up 202 yards in the last 59 minutes of play, which is astounding because Florida’s defense wasn’t dominant.
“I thought we had some shot plays, and to be honest, when the defense plays a certain way,” Smart said. “Like some of the runs Zamir got, one was a draw the opening play of the game was a truck sweep, but in our normal operation, they were playing five big guys and basically they were saying we dare you to throw it. There weren’t a lot of big plays with five guys grinding down on us..
But certainly, we’ve got to find ways to get Zamir the ball. But we’ve got to be able to throw to run when we’re trying to score. Everybody understands that. We can’t go out and throw it every snap because we’re not that type of team. We don’t have the wideouts, we don’t have the players to do that. What we’ve got to do is be who we are and play better on defense.”
On top of all the failed assignments and mishaps, Georgia still had a chance to make a comeback, but a slew of failed opportunities held them back.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett missed several open receivers downfield, including one pass to wide receiver Kearis Jackson that could have easily been a touchdown. Redshirt sophomore tight end John FitzPatrick dropped a ball that hit him in the hands while running wide open downfield. Backup quarterback D’wan Mathis missed several receivers as well. One big play that could have changed the game came late in the fourth quarter when defensive back, Mark Webb, dropped what would have been a for sure pick-six.
Georgia’s receivers can’t really be blamed for those overthrown passes because Bennett and Mathis looked mediocre throwing from the pocket. The two combined completed nine of 29 passes for 112 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. That all falls on their shoulders as well as the coaching staff. It seems to be a reoccurring theme this season because Georgia’s other offensive groups have played consistent, but the quarterback play has been very subpar.
“Don’t ever mistake that I want to win, OK? You can take the narrative of the offense and whatever you want, but I want to win and I want to do what gives us the best chance to win,” Smart said. “Scoring points gives you the best chance to win. But if you don’t feel good about throwing the ball vertically, you better figure out what you can do, you know what I mean?
Like starting the game in a 32 personnel and open the game with a truck sweep. There’s things there that you have to be able to do to compliment who we are right now. I can’t wish myself into an explosive offense. We have to work ourselves into that. We’ve got to execute our offense and complete more passes, be more accurate. We’ve got to get guys open, but when we do we’ve got to hit them. I want to win. I want to win games.”
After a tough loss like that, one would think that the team’s motivation would be crushed after being basically written off of playoff contention.
“No, because we’ve got good kids on the team,” Smart said when asked if was worried about his players. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us next week. We’ve got to play a Missouri team that had the week off. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us, we’ve just got to go play. The leadership on the team, they’ll handle that, they’ll bounce back. We’ll get ready for Missouri and we have to be.”