THE DEBACLE AT LSU BEHIND THEM, BULLDOGS SHOULD CHEW ON GATORS AND KEEP SEC TITLE HOPES ALIVE

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THE DEBACLE AT LSU BEHIND THEM, BULLDOGS SHOULD CHEW ON GATORS AND KEEP SEC TITLE HOPES ALIVE

Elijah Holyfield - Georgia vs. LSU 2018
Elijah Holyfield – Georgia vs. LSU 2018

 
 
I don’t know why Elijah Holyfield only got the ball seven times and D’Andre Swift got it only 12 times in Georgia’s stunning 36-16 loss to LSU two weeks ago in Baton Rouge … when both tailbacks were gashing the Tigers’ defensive front in the early going.

I don’t know why Jake Fromm experienced his worst passing game of the 2018 season in the Bulldogs’ biggest game to date.

I don’t know why we didn’t see freshman quarterback Justin Fields more in the second half when it was apparent the Georgia offense needed an instant spark.
 
 

Justin Fields (1)
Justin Fields (1)

 
 
I don’t know why the UGA coaching staff called for a fake field goal in the opening quarter that blew up in their face when a chip-shot three-pointer by Rodrigo Blankenship would have deadlocked the game at 3-3. And Blankenship himself trying to run for the first down??

I don’t know why the usually stingy Bulldog defense was riddled for explosive runs of 47 and 59 yards by Tiger tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire and QB Joe Burrow, respectively, and passes of 37, 50 and 37 yards by Burrow.

And I don’t know why Georgia special teams’ play was so shaky at Tiger Stadium on the afternoon of Oct. 13. In addition to the fake field goal attempt backfiring, Mecole Hardman in his only attempt of bringing an LSU kickoff out of the end zone fumbled the ball away at his own 14-yard line, and then there were the continuing troubles of freshman punter Jake Camarda, who could average only 35.5 yards on six kicks, which is a poor figure even for a high school punter. And remember, Camarda was regarded as arguably the top prep punter in the country coming out of Norcross High School.

But, you know what? We’re crying about spilled milk here. As far as the Bulldogs and their fan base are concerned, that LSU game is in the rearview mirror. It has to be considered ancient history because the Florida Gators are standing in the road dead ahead.

Yes, the annual “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” to be contested on the banks of the St. Johns River at Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field, is looming right on top of these 2018 Bulldogs. After the agonizing loss in Baton Rouge, Kirby Smart’s team moves against the Gators Saturday with a 6-1 season worksheet and 4-1 SEC chart.

So the Bulldogs are assuredly still on track to win the SEC East Division title and thereby make their second consecutive trip to the SEC Championship Game Dec. 1 in Atlanta

But you know who else is 6-1 and 4-1 and tied with Georgia at the top of the East division? Why, it’s a surprising Florida team, a football team that wasn’t expected to be in this position at the start of this season. After all, the Gators were coming off last year’s dismal 4-7 record and figured to be in a huge rebuilding mode under first-year head coach Dan Mullen.

Well, ever since the Gators were shocked  27-16 on Sept. 8 in the Swamp by an improved Kentucky team, Mullen has sprinkled some of the magic he displayed at times at Mississippi State on the Orange and Blue. Florida has reeled off five consecutive wins, including a 27-19 spanking of that same LSU team that ran Georgia out of the stadium two weekends ago.

Prior to the 2018 kickoff, even many Florida fans looked for the Bulldogs to rout their team once again, in the same manner as Georgia’s 42-7 thumping of the Gators in 2017. Not any more … after the Florida performance in the seven games to date, the Gator faithful not only believe their guys can go toe-to-toe with the University of Georgia but also feel Florida will win the football game Saturday and thus have the inside track to Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the West Division champ (who else but ‘Bama?) on the first day of December.

So, get ready, DawgNation! From all signs, your team is going to be in quite the football game come Saturday afternoon in the river city … a game that resembles some of the great Georgia-Florida battles of yesteryear when the winner isn’t determined until the final few minutes.

Question for Georgia is can this team bounce back from a crushing defeat in a similar manner as last year’s Bulldog edition did, when Georgia was hammered on the plains of Auburn by 40-17 but rebounded to run the table, beat Auburn in the SEC championship game, outscore Oklahoma in a Rose Bowl game for the ages and then lead Alabama the entire national championship game before suffering the gut-wrenching 26-23 loss in overtime.

This 2018 Georgia team is not the 2017 team. Whereas these Bulldogs may have as much talent, or more, from top to bottom, it’s very young talent with 68 percent of the team being comprised of freshmen and sophomores. And certainly, right now, there’s nobody as good as Roquan Smith, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel — players who took over when the game was on the line — on the present roster.

That said, while I can’t see this young Georgia team achieving the heights of the magnificent ‘017 Dawgs, I am looking for these Bulldogs to snap back with a vengeance Saturday and resemble the team that soared to a No. 2 national ranking before making the trip to Louisiana. And Georgia will do this by providing both Holyfield and Swift with plenty of carries against Florida’s tough defensive front. It will do this by Fromm, with a good complement from Fields, being on target with his passes once again and, it will do this by the Bulldog defense bringing the pressure on Gator quarterback Feleipe Franks all afternoon long, as well as limiting Florida running backs Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and freshman Dameon Pierce, who hails from Kirby Smart’s hometown of Bainbridge, Ga.

Yes, knowing their backs are right against the proverbial wall with a loss all but knocking Georgia out of both the SEC title race and national playoff picture, Smart will have the Bulldogs ready to chew up on some Gators and thus walk out of Jax Saturday night with a 27-17 win over Florida.
 
 
 
 

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.