It was hard not to be happy for everyone on the Georgia sideline early Thursday as it roamed around amongst the confetti after the win over Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
Let’s call last year’s debacle against Texas what it was - embarrassing and unacceptable. Everyone had to live with and carry the burden - not to mention being a catalyst for the once every few years ‘Texas is back’ nonsense.
That scourge was washed away with a team that in many ways played its best overall game of the season.
Here’s a look back at the three keys for the win.
How’s the case of wants?
More times than many of us care to recall, especially in last year’s offseason, Georgia as a program perception needs to win this bowl game. It was very apparent last year against Texas that this team did not want to be there. Kirby Smart’s public front here this time by has been that the focus is on the players who want to and are in New Orleans.
As a program, having to go into another offseason with a bowl loss won’t sit well, and neither may being ranked below Florida. That’ll be a big deal to the fan base and coaching staff. The question is - will the players be motivated enough to force that result.
Georgia does not just need to try to win. It has to win.
This wasn’t known until after the game ended, but not a single player was late to a team meeting or bus in New Orleans. You heard leading into the game from the coaches and players that this team was dialed in, but it was easy to be cynical. It turned out, that sentiment was legitimate. Georgia played physical from the start and it set the tone as the game went on. This game mattered to this team and it showed.
Give Fromm time
You don’t want to discount what James Cook, Zamir White and Kenny McIntosh can do with Brian Herrien out and D’Andre Smith likely limited, At the end of the day, Swift is on another level, and at least from what’s been shown this year, those three guys don’t strike as those who can carry the load and take a game over.
Given that, this could be a game where there’s at least a chance for Jake Fromm to throw it more to Georgia’s patchwork of receivers, tight ends and even backs from the backfield. The challenge will be an offensive line without three starters protecting Fromm in a big moment - think the Florida game.
Fromm can win this game for Georgia, but he’ll need protection up front to do it.
For the most part, Georgia was able to do this. It wasn’t easy at times against Baylor’s defensive ends, and Cade Mays was a liability at times in the late going at tackle on his side of the line. The bottom line was this. Jake Fromm threw the ball a lot against Baylor and Georgia, in fact, won - going 20-of-30 for 250 yards and two TDs.
Time up front was not Fromm’s only ally. The flea flicker downfield seemed to help the offense get into rhythm - that George Pickens guy didn’t hurt matters either.
Shut down Baylor’s receiving backs
If you look at the Bears loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, a key factor was Baylor’s running backs catching passes from the backfield being a non-factor.
Georgia needs to make tackles in space and allow its perimeter play to do something similar, forcing Baylor to win between the tackles instead.
When you shut down a double-digit win team for a half, you are doing a lot of things well. Plus, the 14 points allowed to the Bears was a season-low.
Baylor was able to stretch the field in the second half, but Georgia being able to limit the element of receiving from the backfield helped to funnel the Bears offense into place for the Dawgs to create havoc.