Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching Georgia play smart, disciplined football as much as the next Bulldog fan. And it’s cool to have the game well in hand at the end of the third quarter.
But it’s nice to know we can still play the classics.
The Red and Black stumbled, tripped, limped, and brain-farted their way through an ugly 43-29 win in Columbia, Missouri this afternoon that should erase any doubt about who the best football team in the SEC.
Hint: it’s not the one in Athens. Not yet, at least. Not until they develop the composure necessary to put away a good team on the road in the Jefferson Pilot time slot.
The UGA offense failed to score a touchdown in the first half against a Mizzou defense that gave up 37 to Purdue the week before. Jake Fromm threw an interception to end Georgia’s first drive and never really looked in synch until well into the third quarter. He finished the game 13 of 23 for 260 yards, numbers deceptively impressive because of a series of bombs in the second half. Fromm tossed scoring throws to Riley Ridley (33 yards), Jeremiah Holloman (61 yards), and Mecole Hardman (54 yards) late to help the ‘Dawgs resist a Missouri offense which also put things together with 23 second half points.
Elijah Holyfield again led the team in rushing, churning out 90 yards on 14 carries. D’Andre Swift added 71 yards on 16 attempts. Georgia actually trailed the Tigers in rushing yardage for much of the game, though they held a 185/172 yard advantage when the final whistle blew. It wasn’t the dominant performance on the ground that fans would have liked, but it was enough to open up the downfield chances that put the winning points on the board.
While there were some warts on both special teams (a missed Blankenship field goal, and a blocked attempt in the fourth) and defense (that touchy roughing the passer penalty, some questionable tackling, and way more give in the interior D line than is tolerable), big plays by those units won the day. Tyson Campbell’s strip and score in the first quarter following Fromm’s interception kept Georgia from falling into an early hole it might not have dug out from. Eric Stokes’s blocked punt and score gave the Bulldogs an additional shot of momentum and some breathing room.
And if the various insults to football intelligence weren’t enough, Georgia added injuries to the story. Andrew Thomas limped off early with what looked like an aggravation of the ankle injury that kept him out of action last week. Tyson Campbell left favoring his shoulder after that scoring play. Ben Cleveland went down in the second half and did not return.
We talk about the need to win when you’re not playing your best football, and Georgia did that today. It’s easy to believe that a 2014/2015 Mark Richt team would have been down 7-0 after the early interception and never led again. I repeat: we just won a road game against a 3-0 conference opponent by two touchdowns. Whining about how messy this kind of win was is a definite first world college football problem.
But with Tennessee coming to town next week the ‘Dawgs return to Athens with a lot to work on. One suspects Kirby Smart will have a sense of urgency against his former colleague Jeremy Pruitt, and that will only be heightened by the urge to get the taste of this effort out of his team’s mouth. This Georgia team can play better. But the fact that they can play this badly, and get some poor calls, and suffer some key injuries, and still win by two touchdowns tells you this isn’t your father’s Georgia Bulldogs. Until later . . .