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15 Thoughts Hunkered When it Mattered the Most

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Georgia’s defense bowed up when the chips were down. Now, onto the most important off-season in the Kirby Smart era.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Georgia vs Cincinnati
Azeez Ojulari is a manimal.

What we witnessed yesterday is the state of non-CFB Playoff bowl games. And not just our game. Opt-outs (everyone not in the playoffs) and complacency (Auburn and Florida, the poster children) certainly even the playing field at best; foster an “I don’t give a crap attitude” at worst.

Georgia had its share of opt-outs, too, but chose to play a hard, if imperfect game. I’m proud of this team.

Let’s put a wrap on it.

1. Let’s give credit to Cincinnati. These guys got every ounce out of their talent and were more than a worthy opponent.

1A. The most shocking aspect of yesterday’s Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl? It wasn’t our lack of a run game. It was the lack of any wheel routes from Cincinnati at all. (I’m being half serious here). Upon further review, I do not think Luke Fickell attempted a single one of these all afternoon. I was having nightmare flashbacks all week long to a certain game earlier in the year. I can now come off my meds.

2. We left a few points off the board early and I was convinced this would come back to bite us. After we wasted George Pickens unbelievable diving catch in the first quarter...

...J.T. Daniels threw a bad pick in the end zone with Pickens as the intended target. He threw to the inside shoulder when Pickens probably wins a jump ball or outside shoulder battle. The team had to knock off quite a bit of rust (thanks, Vandy), whereas the Bearcats were primed and motivated and not suffering from their AAC Championship game a week ago. Pickens ended up with 135 yards on 7 catches. We missed on some deep balls that were there for the taking. Arian Smith is a burner and I can’t wait to watch this kid go off next season.

3. Not being able to run the ball should have opened up more opportunities for mid-range passing and for a time we were feeding our tight ends to great effect. Although Daniels wasn’t having his best game, he still accounted for nearly 400 passing yards.

3A. Gawd we had a lot of penalties. Fortunately for us, Cincinnati’s replacement false-start machine left tackle evened all of this out, and then some. Thank you.

4. The upcoming off-season with a full spring practice (fingers crossed) and G-Day game with a stable (fingers crossed x 100) coaching staff is vital to fully implementing what should be a prolific offense next season. This team can now get into a rhythm, continue to develop chemistry and practice with (we hope) a QB that can achieve great things.

5. Defense still matters and, in the end, won the game despite some head-scratching decisions by Kirby late in the game, particularly facing the 4th down “to punt or not to punt that’s okay we’ll just burn a timeout.” Outside of the long 79-yard touchdown run by Cincinnati’s Jerome Ford on the 2nd play after the half, the Bearcats were absolutely shut down:

Second quarter Bearcap Offensive Recap:

TD
Punt
Punt
Fumble
Punt
Punt
Punt
Safety (end of game).

“It’s one of those looking back, we still got the timeouts, still got an opportunity to stop them. Felt good we could get it. We called for some fourth downs earlier that were probably longer than that even.I always believe if you have momentum in stopping people, defensively I don’t know how many three-and-outs we had had, felt like we had the momentum back.” - Kirby Smart on the timeout and decision to punt at the 3:07 4th quarter mark.

6. How much of a hit will our defense take next season? The secondary really concerns me and some young guys are going to have to step it up. Tyrique Stevenson made a helluva play that saved us when Desmond Ridder nearly connected with Michael Young on 3rd and 2 (1:34 left in game) that would’ve iced the game. This was a great recovery by #7 after he struggled during the first half. Azeez Ojulari won’t be around (go get paid, young man) and we all hold our collective breath as Jordan Davis weighs his options.

Gonna miss you, Dawg.

7. Take a bow, Latavious Brini. He played very, very well. Christopher Smith acquitted himself nicely, too. Tyson Campbell would really do himself a favor by returning next season and honing his skills.

8. Nakobe Dean is probably the key to everything in 2021. He’s a leader, has great instincts and flies to the ball.

9. Back to the offense and J.T. Daniels: This is a tough, tough kid. He got blasted more than a few times but bounced back. He was able to scramble (he had to) a few times and saved some sack yardage all on his own.

10. The kicking game giveth; the kicking game almost taketh away. Jake Camarda had some great kicks, but his 4-yard stinker that led directly to a short field and touchdown crops up a bit too frequently (last seen during the Florida game). I was fully expecting a fake punt that Cincinnati executed when Georgia dropped out of “punt safe” and attempted to set up a return. There’s a bit of “fake punt” history that has bitten us in the post-season a few times now.

11. Jack Podlesny. Hot Pod. Ice water in his veins and a very confident kicker. He has become a weapon and his kick would’ve been good from 60 yards. He consistently put the ball through the back of the end zone all afternoon. Credit Jake Camarda on perfect execution from the snap, ball rotation and hold.

12. Adam Anderson is a difference maker off the edge. He tallied 2 sacks along with Ojulari’s 3 (Georgia had 8 in the game). The knock on him is in run support. Fix this and he’ll be a 3-down difference maker next season.

13. With a better running game we surely would have looked a lot more like Ohio State did last night in their thrashing of Clemson. Cincinnati’s defense was very good. Those guys have a ton of experience on that side of the ball and are well coached. Hats off.

14. Georgia did not ever quit in this game, and there was a point when the ESPN camera showed our bench, which seemed disconsolate. At that moment, nothing seemed to be working. Georgia had just missed a 4th and 5 play intended for Kearis Jackson who was temporarily shaken up as he was stripped and knocked out of bounds. But unlike Florida a few nights ago and Auburn who got waxed by Northwestern, we hung in there and played as a team until the end. Some of our most hated rivals have a culture problem. Georgia does not. Sure, this season didn’t end as we all would have hoped, but it certainly wasn’t a failure. Perhaps with a healthy J.T. Daniels to begin things and fewer injuries to key defensive piece, we’re still playing. We should get nearly the entire offense back next year. We are still waiting on J.T.’s decision which is key, but we think he returns. Zamir White could make the jump and no one would blame him at all.

Georgia’s offense should be incredibly productive in 2021. It could be a monster.

15. Thanks, Richie. Go be great.

BONUS THOUGHTS:

  • Arik Gilbert is in the Portal, y’all. Imagine the possibilities? I’m thinking 3-wide tight-end sets. (is this even legal?)
  • Tom Herman is out at Texas. Looks like Steve Sarkisian is the man in Austin. At least we think so...
  • In a perfect universe, Dabo Swinney and Dan Mullen would meet in the Huggies Crybaby Bowl in Nogales, Texas next year.
  • And this putz would be the Waterboy:
  • So, are we pulling for Alabama a week from Monday or Justin Fields and his Buckeyes?
  • It’s great to go out on top. This is my last 15 Thoughts for a while. It’s been a difficult year for everyone. Here’s hoping for a better 2021 for all and a prosperous New Year for all. Thanks for reading the blog and keep the faith.

As Always, GO DAWGS!