Let’s get this out of the way right from the get-go. Kirby Smart and his football team were outcoached and outplayed by Tom Herman and his team tonight in the Sugar Bowl. There’s no way around that. The Longhorns were more physical and better prepared. They made plays when they needed them, and didn’t fold when Georgia tried to get back in it. Hats off to the Longhorns.
That being said, this one is disappointing largely because it was the least prepared we’ve seen a Kirby Smart team play since 2016. Admittedly it was likely a hard sell to get players up for a game against the #15 Longhorns when players thought they belonged in the College Football Playoff. Many of those players voiced their frustration with the snub on social media on Saturday as they watched Notre Dame and Oklahoma fail to justify their selection.
They then failed to back up any of that jawing.
The final score wasn’t an accurate reflection of the night’s events: Georgia got the stuffing kicked out of themselves. Texas outgained Georgia 355 yards to 284, but 130 of Georgia’s yards came in the final twelve minutes with the Longhorns squarely in clock management mode. Make no mistake, this was the worst Bulldog offensive effort of the season. And Deandre Baker, Jordan Davis, and D’Andre Walker have nothing to do with that.
Jake Fromm, however, did. Fromm was basically one click off from dialed in all night. As we’ve said repeatedly this season, when he strays outside the Fromm Comfort Fit Waistband (15 to 24 throws), it’s a bad omen for the UGA offense.
Tonight was no exception. Fromm completed 20 of 34 passes for 212 yards. A couple of late touchdown drives tidied that up considerably.
But no matter what point in time you choose to look at the UGA rushing offense, the numbers were terrible. Georgia finished with 72 rushing yards, its lowest output of the season and less than a third of its 251 ypg season average. The Bulldogs were manhandled up front by a smaller Texas front that played with speed and aggression the Athenians just didn’t match.
Defensively, the Bulldogs never found an answer for Longhorn QB Sam Ehlinger, who finished a solidly Fromm-like 19 of 27 passing for 169 yards, More brutally the sophomore QB scored three rushing touchdowns on 21 rushing attempts. It was as if Jalen Hurts ran over, around, and through the Bulldog defense, and no one expected the Burnt Orange to notice. Sadly, they did.
Sure, we can talk about motivation or a lack thereof. But if, like me, you chastised Auburn for not showing up in the 2018 Liberty Bowl against a better-than-expected Central Florida team, you cannot simultaneously disown this one. A Georgia team that we expected to be a little too green to make a run at the title was also too green to deal with the aftermath of falling short of the title chase. Some of that is on the coaching staff, who likely saw it coming but never found the formula to counteract it.
If you’re looking for positives, I can offer this. The 2014 Sugar Bowl was contested between a 10 win Big XII contender (Oklahoma) and #3 Alabama, fresh off a wrenching 34-28 loss to Auburn that bumped them from the national title game. If you didn’t stay up to watch it, you missed a listless, checked-out Crimson Tide team drop an embarrassing 45-31 decision. This game felt so much like that one that it’s eerie.
That game marked the last time Alabama’s season ended outside the College Football Playoff. I’m not saying this Georgia team is guaranteed to be great in 2019 and beyond.
I am saying this is the kind of setup even the greatest coach of all time would struggle with. The Red and Black should return as many as 7 starters on defense and 8 on offense in 2019. Especially on the lines of scrimmage, this team returns mostly intact. One would hope this game will stick with them through the offseason as they hear about the re-emergence of the Texas football dynasty.
Because if there aren’t any lessons learned from this shenanigan, I feel like they owe me one crummy night back.
Y’all be nice to each other, keep it civil, and...