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Georgia 24, Cincinnati 21: Hot Pod and the Comeback Kids.

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NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Georgia vs Cincinnati Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was disappointing.

IS WHAT I WAS GONNA SAY BEFORE OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JACK PODLESNY DELIVERED US FROM EVIL!!!!!

Georgia scored 14 late points to make up a frustrating deficit and claim a 24-21 win over Luke Fickell’s plucky Bearcats.

Cincinnati came into the Peach Bowl with something to prove. Georgia, rusty from a long lay-off and depleted by opt outs, struggled for most of three quarters to hang with the juiced up Bearcats.

The Bulldog defense gave up yards on several clutch plays in the first half. They then got gashed for a chunk early in the second by way of a 79 yard Jerome Ford touchdown dash on Cincy’s first drive of the second half.

After that the Bulldog defense settled down nicely. And by nicely, I mean completely. Following that Ford touchdown the Bearcats’ last six possessions ended in five punts and a fumble. The Bulldogs’ deep bench of elite pass rushers took over, hounding Cincy QB Desmond Ridder to the tune of 8 sacks, 6 of them in the second half.

The UGA offense by contrast never seemed to really get on track. Todd Monken’s unit made three trips inside the Cincinnati 25 that ended without points, and frankly that was the biggest reason a comeback was necessary in the first place. Some of that was undoubtedly down to the absence of Trey Hill’s steady influence and Ben Cleveland’s road grading. All in all, some of the young linemen who’ll likely move into the starting rotation next season got some good reps against one of the most statistically dominant defenses in the country.

JT Daniels three for 392 yards despite somehow spending most of the game scrambling or seeming just a touch out of synch. That’s a tantalizing thing for 2021. If this is JT Daniels throwing to Pickens, Burton, Jackson, Smith, (pauses to catch breath), Washington, FitzPatrick, and McIntosh without spring or fall practice, imagine what he’ll look like after both.

The defense managed to right the ship. The offense did just enough to keep it close. Then Jack Podlesny did something I honestly should have expected, but didn’t. The walk-on kicker nailed a career long 54 yarder that put the Dawgs in front and brought a jubilant Kirby Smart all the way out to midfield. No one should ever expect a college kicker to absolutely nail a 54 yard field goal. Anyone who’s ever actually kicked in a football game knows that at that distance the uprights look like two toothpicks at the edge of the horizon.

But given Hot Pod’s performance in 2020 it shouldn’t have been that surprising. The sophomore from St. Simon’s took on the unenviable task of replacing one of the most beloved and successful kickers in Georgia history. He’s responded by hitting all 37 of his extra point attempts, and 4 of 6 field goal kicks from beyond 40 yards, including both attempts of over 50 yards. He’ll go into 2021 as one of the strengths of the team.

We don’t really know a whole lot more about this Georgia team’s future after this 24-21 win than we would have following a 21-19 loss. But it’s certainly a lot more fun to talk about the future with an 8-2 record than with, say, a 7-4 record (hello, Gator fans!). Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!