ATHENS –For a free link to my Georgia game column on Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech, click here. Below are my three “short takes” on the game:
1. The problem wasn’t emotion, it was everything else: Georgia lost two fumbles on certain touchdown drives. It had a field goal blocked. It failed to cover a pooch kick by Tech. The defense got steam-rolled in the second half. But the Bulldogs’ biggest mistake was committed by coach Mark Richt, and he knew it. After Georgia took a 24-21 lead, Richt directed kicker Marshall Morgan to squib kick it to the Jackets instead of kicking it deep, which diminished the chance of a long return but increased the likelihood of the Jackets getting into field goal range to tie it. Richt called it “as sick as I’ve ever been about a decision.” It backfired. The Jackets returned the kick 16 yards to the Dogs’ 43, then Justin Thomas scrambled 21 yards to the Georgia 36, setting up a game-tying 53-yard field goal to sendn the game into overtime. There would be one more mistake: an interception by Hutson Mason. But if not for Richt’s decision, the game doesn’t get into overtime.
2. Nice play by Swann, but Georgia caught a break: Yes, Georgia twice fumbled away certain touchdowns in the first, with Nick Chubb losing the ball at the Tech one after a hit by Isaiah Johnson and Sony Michel losing it in the end zone (forced by Quayshawn Nealy). But the Bulldogs caught a huge break when they took a 14-7 lead in the third quarter. The Jackets were driving toward an apparent go-ahead touchdown when Thomas hit the pile inside the Georgia one. One replay showed Thomas may have been in the end zone. The clearer issue that that Thomas’s forward progress had been stopped but officials never blew the whistle. Damian Swann made a great play to pull the ball out and ran 99 yards in the other direction for a touchdown. That play was reviewed on replay but it could only be overturned if Thomas was ruled to have scored or was down. Neither ruling occurred. The replay can’t assume a whistle. Regardless, there will be conspiracy theories for years by Tech fans because, of course, the officiating crew was from the SEC.
3. Florida game on replay: Remember the Florida game when Georgia’s defensive front got pounded for 418 yards rushing? This wasn’t quite that but close. Tech finished with 399 yards rushing, including 280 in the second half. The Jackets’ offensive line wore down down the Dogs defensive front and took over the game physically. As many mistakes as the Dogs made, they also lost this game physically. So there’s a concern that needs to be addressed going into the bowl game and, more importantly, next season.