There was a brief moment late in Georgia’s utterly indefensible, two-steps-past pathetic 20-17 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks this afternoon when I experienced a brief moment of existential vertigo.
It occurred to me that I had no idea how I would feel if the Bulldogs actually pulled this game out. Because, by golly, Georgia really deserved to lose this football game. From the coaching staff, to the starting quarterback, into the secondary and on to the special teams, the Athenians worked really hard to play themselves out of the ranks of the undefeated and probably out of the top ten. It would have almost seemed an affront to the moral arc of the universe to not see them pay for their repeated transgressions with an L.
You have to take your hat off to Will Muschamp and his South Carolina Gamecocks. No right-thinking person who knows anything about college football seriously picked the ‘Cocks to win this one. Yet the longer they hung around, the more confident the visitors became.
Even the loss of starting quarterback Ryan Hilinski didn’t slow them down. At least not any slower than they already were. Georgia held a decisive 468 to 297 yard edge in total offense. The ‘Dawgs tallied 30 first downs to South Carolina’s 16. The curse of Gunslingin’ Fromm once again reared its ugly head, as the junior threw the ball 51 times, completing only 28 of them for his lowest completion percentage of the season and the most anemic 295 passing yards I’ve seen since the Cory Phillips era.
This loss isn’t entirely on Jake Fromm. But with 3 interceptions and a fumbled center exchange, it’s not entirely off him, either. His receiving corps didn’t help. One of those interceptions was a ball that hit Tyler Simmons squarely in the numbers, then popped into the defender’s hands when the senior receiver sternly refused to catch it. The loss of Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley, and JJ Holloman was going to really hurt us eventually. Today was the day. Fromm and his receivers were rarely in synch, and the final score downfield was by my count Tough, Critical Catches 14, Bulldog Receivers 2.
After struggling early the Bulldog defense contained the Gamecock offense to the tune of 2 of 11 on third downs in the second half. They didn’t allow a single point in the second half until overtime. In short, the Bulldog defense did enough to win this game. The offense did more than enough to lose it.
Kirby Smart did not help things with a handful of truly inexplicable coaching decisions. None was more Homer Simpson-esque than the decision to run one more play with eight seconds left in regulation rather than allowing Rodrigo Blankenship to line up for a 52 yard field goal. For starters, it’s relatively unlikely Georgia could have completed a pass and gotten lined up in time to spike the ball had it worked. The downside of course was that Fromm could have taken his fourth ill-advised sack of the game. Or another ball could have been tipped in the air and picked off. Or, as actually occurred, an offensive penalty could push you out of field goal range. That sequence was idiocy dressed up with a snazzy visor.
Actually, like Smart, I’d like a mulligan. The dumbest decision was the one to call timeout when South Carolina was about to have to take a delay of game to force 4th and 6 in overtime, allowing the Gamecocks time to regroup and run for a first down. I’m not sure Georgia was 100% dialed in on defense, but the Gamecocks weren’t even going to be lined up when the play clock hit zero. Kirby let his own lizard brain fear of not being in just the right location at the right time blind him to the fact that Will Muschamp wasn’t even in the right city.
kirby vs. will is like putting two three-legged komodo dragons in a laundry basket and flipping it over— Entitled Goose Game (@HollyAnderson) October 12, 2019
Yeah. That sounds about right.
Georgia lost this game before it started. Georgia lost this game before they played Vanderbilt. The Athenians lost this game when they were forced to change offensive coordinators and went with a guy who’s a great recruiter but quite honestly isn’t qualified to hold Mike Bobo’s green notebook. It’s no secret that part of the decision to promote Coley to offensive coordinator was that he’s been an excellent recruiter and has good relationships with a lot of the players. But the disjointed, screen-heavy attack we’ve seen so far in 2019 has been painful to watch at times, and no more painful than it was this afternoon.
Where does Georgia go from here? Well, the Bulldogs will host Kentucky next weekend and then limp toward a bye week before the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The ugly black eye of this loss will deprive the Bulldogs of any margin for error in the playoff raise. A loss to an undefeated Alabama or LSU in the SEC Title Game standing alone would be defensible. This one is just sad. When you manage to out-dumb Will Muschamp and out-implode South Carolina, you just deserve to lose.
And while this Bulldog team has a very high ceiling, today we found out that the floor is actually a good bit lower than any of us wanted to believe. I don’t believe we’ll spend much time down here this season. Because it’s a pretty crummy place.