Monday’s usually aren’t the best day of the week, but the Monday morning after a loss to Florida is easily one of my least favorite days of the year. The floor felt a little colder getting out of bed. My coffee didn’t give me the usually reliable perk today. My body is tired and if I’m being honest my heart is a little hurt this morning.
On the spectrum of problems I could be dealing with a UGA loss is extremely unimportant, but after 3.5 years of the Bulldogs being legitimate playoff contenders, I forgot how much it sucks to see our season over with five games to play.
In talks with UGA fans I have heard a lot of the people asking the same question. What if Kirby Smart isn’t the man to return us to the promised land? What if 2017 was the best team we will see in his tenure? Jason Butt seemed to be feeling the same way on Saturday night, as he opined that the shine faded on Kirby Smart’s star Saturday night.
On top of Saturday’s loss to the Gators, social media and message boards are full of rumors that high-profile players are transferring out of the program. If you take everything folks are writing at face value, you might feel like the sky is falling in on the Georgia Football program.
I get it, things certainly have been better. We didn’t expect to be here. We’ve been spoiled by the last three years of Bulldog football, and we’ve gotten used to winning. Hell, I wrote an article Thursday night guaranteeing a Georgia win, but if you had told me that the Dawgs wouldn’t have George Pickens and that his replacement would get injured on the same play as Stetson Bennett IV I’d have thought better of writing that article.
As the clock wound down on Georgia’s division title hopes on Saturday night I thought about all the injured players that weren’t on the field of play. Four wide-receivers were gone. Kendall Milton and Kenny McIntosh had looked like Georgia’s top two backs a few weeks ago, but they were nowhere to be found on the field. On defense, stalwarts like LeCounte, Cine, Davis and Rochester were nowhere to be found. Cine’s replacement Major Burns even had to leave the field at one point for an injury. As Kyle Pitts used his large frame to catch balls all over the UGA secondary it was hard not to wonder what 5-star freshman defensive back Kelee Ringo might have been able to do if one of the arms that form his massive wingspan wasn’t in a sling recovering from shoulder surgery.
Despite all of that, Georgia was in the game in the fourth quarter. Receiver after receiver broke open behind the Florida secondary, but Georgia didn’t have a quarterback to hit them. Jamie Newman probably could have hit most of those passes. A health JT Daniels likely could as well. An uninjured Stetson Bennett threw some great balls before a shoulder sprain made him erratic on Saturday. Fourth-stringer Dwan Mathis tried his hardest, but the bad moments outweighed the good. Looking forward to Missouri and beyond, that’s the biggest question for the Bulldogs in the immediate future. What happens at the quarterback position now for Georgia? 9/29 passing and 3 turnovers will get Georgia beat by a lot of teams, including Missouri.
The 2020 Georgia Bulldogs have had awful luck. That isn’t Kirby Smart’s fault, but Smart is ultimately the person responsible for the product on the field. By his own admission, the linebackers who were supposed to be covering the endless wheel routes and dump offs that Kyle Trask threw to Florida’s running-backs on Saturday night are veterans. It’s also possible that Georgia’s defensive coaches could have made more adjustments to stop the Florida onslaught that happened in the second quarter if the offense could have kept the defense off the field by gaining a first down.
Eventually injuries and attrition and unfortunate circumstances overwhelm a team and a program. That’s what we saw in Jacksonville on Saturday. Many have said that no team with 16 five-star players should ever get beat in such a fashion. The reality is that if Georgia could have fielded a semi-competent quarterback in the second-half they might have pulled off a comeback for the ages. Therein lies the frustration.
Smart realized last year what folks keep attributing to a Nick Saban quote from a few weeks ago. “Defense doesn’t win championships anymore,” said Saban, and he is correct. You need a baseline of competency on defense, just ask the Oklahoma playoff teams of this era, but you need to be able to score too. Smart realized that and brought in offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Monken’s scheme has resulted in more open receivers than I can ever remember a Georgia Football team having. Unfortunately, there’s nobody to consistently deliver it to them.
When considering how to feel about Smart and this season, it’s fair to ask if there’s any team that could make a serious title run without their best quarterback options and such a severe rash of injuries. If someone had told me in August that all of these roster issues would happen I’d have gladly accepted an 8-2 record in a year with only conference games.
Brock Vandagriff will be on campus in a matter of months, but the jump from Single A high-school ball to the SEC is a large one. No matter what JT Daniels theory you subscribe to, he’s clearly not ready for the field. Perhaps that will change over the course of the next five weeks. If it does, then maybe he can show some of the potential that made so many Dawg fans sure he would be the man to bridge the gap between Newman in 2020 and Vandagriff in 2022.
This week feels different than a Georgia Football game week has in a long time, but there is still plenty for this team to play for, writes Connor Riley. He mentions developing the quarterback position, but also patching up the pass defense. The possibility of a New Years Six Bowl still remains. With it could potentially come a high-profile game against a nationally relevant opponent.
Whether you agree that the rest of the season truly matters or not, Georgia’s recruiting efforts won’t be helped by losing to any of the teams on the rest of their schedule. The Dawgs need to take care of business, and that starts with an upstart Missouri team on Saturday. As of Sunday, the guys in the desert see Georgia as a nine-point favorite against the Tigers.
It’s 2020, so anything is still possible. Maybe Georgia finds a quarterback in the next four games. Perhaps new stars will emerge.
No matter what happens, we have Bulldog football to watch. It seemed unlikely we would get one game this year at certain points of 2020, much less 10. If young men are taking the field in the red and black we are going to support and cover them. It’s always great to be a Georgia Bulldog.
Until later, Go Dawgs!