Sometimes there’s a man . . .I won’t say a “hero”, ‘cause what’s a “hero”? But sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. —-The Stranger, The Big Lebowski
“We’ve got a damn good field goal kicker.” —-Kirby Smart
“It’s my job to kick every field goal I possibly can.” —-Rodrigo Blankenship
If I’d told you at the beginning of this season that Georgia would need Rodrigo Blankenship to nail four field goals (including a 49 yarder) against Kentucky, including a game winner as time expired, in order for the Bulldogs to keep their bowl hopes alive you would have had two immediate thoughts:
- “HOW DID WE GET HERE? WERE EASON, CHUBB, MICHEL, AND MCKENZIE ALL KIDNAPPED BY AUBURN SEPARATISTS?!?!?!”
- “Oh my God. We’re going to lose to Kentucky.”
But he did. And they did. And I’ve never been so happy about a 3 point win in Lexington in all my life. There was a time when Georgia fans moaned about close wins in the Bluegrass State. Not this season. Not with the Wildcats on a sudden and somewhat unexpected upswing. Not with Georgia struggling for life behind a freshman QB and an offensive line composed principally of baling wire and cheesecloth.
With injuries scattered across the roster following a tough loss to Florida, Georgia came out of the gate to take the lead, ceded control of the game to Kentucky, trailed 21-13 late in the third quarter, and nearly let it slip away because they couldn’t defend the Wildcat . . .being run by the Wildcats. There were dumb turnovers. Dumber penalties. Dropped passes, missed reads, and missed tackles. So, so many missed tackles.
If you ever wanted to know what it would look like for two blind men to try really, really hard to kill each other with toothpicks and masking tape, it would look sort of like this game. Fits of vigor interspersed with a numbing torpor that made me wonder if anyone really wanted to win this damn thing.
But in the end this Georgia team did just enough to do just that. No more. No less.
With Jim Chaney taking to the press box the UGA offense recommitted to the run and showed some signs of life. The Red and Black churned out 460 yards of offense, 215 of them on the ground. Sony Michel led all Bulldog rushers with 127 yards on 19 carries, including a diving 26 yard touchdown that put the Bulldogs ahead in the fourth. Nick Chubb tallied a workmanlike 87 yards on 21 carries, gaining some tough yards that have been missing thus far in 2016.
Jacob Eason continued to look about as brilliantly inconsistent as the top freshman QB in the country should. He continues to under throw deep balls and overthrow others. He continues to look a little indecisive and gets a case of happy feet when he knows the rush is coming. But every so often he stands in and throws one of those strikes that tells you that one day this thing is going to come together. Like a stock chart that zigs and zags wildly before settling on a tidy 10% gain for the year, Eason was 17 of 31 for 245 yards and no interceptions, a Gentleman’s B of a stat line that belied the gyrations beneath.
A brief word on Chaney’s move to the press box: I’m a fan. I’ve always thought it was easier to call plays in the clinical environment of the press box rather than down on the field. For one, you can see the whole field. And that’s important. For another, you aren’t misdirected by all the chaos around you.
Sure it would be nice to be down on the field to settle Eason’s nerves when necessary, to be able to look him in the eyes. But Jacob Eason’s not a rookie anymore. He’sa started eight college football games and played in nine. It’s time to take the long view. Most of the most effective play callers I can name did so from the skies. It’s the thing to do. It should continue.
The UGA defense surrendered 185 yards rushing, 39 of them on a final stupefying series in which the Red and Black defense just couldn’t stop Kentucky back Benny Snell, Jr. in the Wildcat. It’s not a package Kentucky hasn’t run this season. It wasn’t as if Georgia was really losing at the point of attack. Snell just ran hard and squirmed for just enough yardage to keep the chains moving. All in all it was a solid effort against a rushing attack that’s strong, but frankly not as strong as the one they’ll face next week in Sanford Stadium.
Georgia will now take on #9 ranked Auburn with, I don’t want to call it “momentum”, but a sense that they can pull together and make the plays that have to be made when they need them the most. And that’s important. I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. The ‘Specs abide.