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Behind the Hedges: Georgia-Georgia Tech Recap

UGA 37 – Georgia Tech 14

Georgia Tech had Georgia exactly where they wanted them. Within one score going in to halftime, Tech was able to employ the same strategy that Kentucky used to keep the game close last week. Tech opened the game with a sustained, 11-play drive. They managed chunk plays through the air, while Georgia failed to set the edge on a few runs. Once Tech made it to the red zone, they substituted in back up quarter back Taisun Phommachanh, who ran in a short touchdown. 

The Dawgs responded by going 3 and out after Stetson Bennett threw well behind WR Kearis Jackson on 3rd down. 

Tech had a sustained drive once again, but failed to score. Then, Georgia marched down the field before stalling out in the red zone after 12 plays. Jack Podlesny hit his first of three field goals for the day. 

Georgia’s defense began to wake up, as they got another stop, and finally the offense responded by scoring a touchdown. The scoring drive was sparked by Kenny McIntosh’s 45-yard run. Then Daijun Edwards hit an 18-yard run, and a couple of shorter gains before Stetson Bennett found Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint in the end zone. 

Each team traded punts to end the half. The second half became a different story for Georgia’s offense. Georgia received the ball and used its trio of backs to move the ball down the field. After a personal foul backed up the Dawgs, Bennett went deep to Arian Smith, who bobbled the ball while hauling it in. Ruled incomplete, Georgia settled for a 50-yard field goal. 

Then, the wheels came off for Tech. After a 3 and out, punter David Shanahan fumbled the snap, before running back Kendal Milton hit him while he recovered the ball. Georgia took over at the Tech 17. They needed 7 plays before TE Brock Bowers caught a 1-yard TD pass that grazed the ground. 

Tech fumbled again on the next drive, but was able to hold Georgia to a field goal. After punting again, Tech pinned UGA on the 1-yard line. Stetson found McIntosh on an 83-yard pass on a wheel route down the sideline. The next play, McIntosh punched it in from 2 yards out. 

Then Kendall Milton had another explosive run for a touchdown like last week. This time, he gashed the middle of the field for 44 yards. Tech scored their final touchdown after back up QB Carson Beck fumbled. 

After a slow first half, the Dawgs took advantage of a couple of turnovers from the Jackets to completely dominate the second half of the game. The Jackets mixed things up on the first drive to throw off UGA’s defense with some no huddle. The Dawgs adjusted after that drive and Tech wasn’t able to threaten until the back ups were in. 

Georgia fans won’t be thrilled with this performance for a couple of reasons. One, Stetson only had 140 yards passing, with 83 on the wheel to Kenny Mac. The passing game was sloppy again. Two, Georgia’s slow start for the second straight game can give the impression that the offense is regressing. A 23-point win over a rival isn’t enough for many a UGA fan. Here’s what I saw:

Things I Liked

Georgia has ramped up the running game over the last several weeks. Against Mississippi State, Georgia couldn’t get anything going on the ground. But against UK and now Tech, UGA’s offense has looked like the UGA teams of old. The good news is that Georgia’s ground game has been dominant, with 264 yards on the ground, at a 6.4 YPA clip. Kenny McIntosh improves each week. With a run and a pass of over 80 yards, he showed his versatility. 

RB Kendall Milton is still working his way back form injury. Yet, his two long touchdown runs in the 4th quarter of the last two games is a promising turn of events for his season. He has been injury prone with a disappointing showing for much of the year. He’s finally hitting his stride, and Georgia will need more explosive runs for the remainder of their season. 

Tech’s offense doesn’t pose much of a threat, but Georgia’s defense dominated them for the majority of the game. They held the Jackets to less than 2 yards per carry, notched 4 sacks, and managed 11 tackles for loss. Plus they had 16 QB pressures. Smael Mondon had another strong performance with 1.5 TFL and 6 tackles. As good as Jamon Dumas-Johnson is, Mondon is playing at a different level right now. DE Mykell Williams had a strong performance as well. Plus, despite not playing much until the subs came in, Tykee Smith managed 5 tackles and a sack of his own. He’s still not 100% after tearing his ACL last year, but he continues to improve. 

This was the best special teams showing of the season for the Dawgs. Ladd McConkey had two great punt returns, averaging 26.5 on them. He also tipped a UGA punt headed for a touchback before downing it at the one yard line. Mekhi Mews had a 21 yard punt return in the 4th quarter. The 5’8 freshman hasn’t played much all year, but showed his ability in this game. Jack Podlesny went 3/3 on the game, and improves to 23/25 kicking on the season. Even punter Brett Thorson had a nice game with only 2 punts and a long of 51 yards. Add in the turnover on downs from the muffed snap by Tech, and Georgia consistently turned the tide in their favor through special teams in this game. 

AD Mitchell made a brief appearance in the game. He hasn’t seen the field in a couple of months. He came on a 4th down play, but UGA called timeout before the snap and he didn’t actually record playing a snap in the game. Still, this is a promising sign he may be able to contribute next Saturday. 

Things I Did Not Like

Setting the edge. UGA dearly misses OLB Nolan Smith as no one on their defense consistently sets the edge to stop the run. LB Robert Beal had a solid game, but he was beaten twice on the first drive around the edge. LB Chaz Chambliss seems to almost be regressing week over week. He had a horrendous missed tackle for a sack, which led to a first-down run from Tech QB Zach Gibson. Beal and Chambliss do not pressure the QB, nor do they control the run consistently. UGA has young talent in the OLB role, but don’t be shocked if they dip into the portal for an experienced linebacker in the off season. When Georgia plays LSU, setting the edge will be essential, and even more so if they end up facing Michigan in the playoff. Their current performance from the OLB position is well below the Georgia standard. 

There is a concerning offensive trend for the Bulldogs. While UGA has been dominant running the ball the last two weeks, over the last 5 weeks, Georgia’s offense has regressed. Per Brent Rollins, before the bye week 5 weeks ago, UGA passed the ball 54.3% with an explosive pass on 22.3% of 1st and 2nd downs. The last 5 games, that has dropped to just a 41% pass rate with a 16.7% explosive rate. In other words, Georgia’s passing game, and especially their explosive passing is moving the wrong direction rapidly. What happened to the team that threw the ball all over the place against Oregon and South Carolina? Stetson Bennett only had 18 pass attempts this week after 19 attempts last week. These are Jake Fromm numbers, not Stetson Bennett numbers. 

Add a couple more injuries to the list. OLB Marvin Jones Jr. picked up an ankle sprain and DL Zion Logue aggravated an undisclosed injury he got in the Kentucky game. 

I’m going to be that guy. The refs in this game absolutely sucked. I think they missed three consecutive calls on touchdown plays for UGA. Stetson Bennett clearly scored a touchdown on a scramble. Then he appeared to get in on the next play on a run. Then, UGA was wrongly awarded a touchdown as Brock Bowers caught a pass that clearly hit the ground. On Georgia’s first scoring drive, they were flagged for offensive pass interference, when it should have been thrown against Tech. The refs missed a clear horse collar tackle and a punch thrown at a UGA player early in the game. I could go on. Simply put, these refs were awful and while some plays went Georgia’s way, the majority of them went against the Dawgs and some took points off of the board. 

Additional Notes

-Kenny McIntosh’s 45-yard run is the longest from a UGA RB this season. Milton followed it up with a 44-yard run. 

-WR Ladd McConkey had his first game without a target in his career. 

-Georgia finished the season averaging giving up 11.3 points per game. 

-For the third time in school history and the first time in back-to-back years, Georgia finished the year 12–0.

-Tech scored the first 1Q touchdown against Georgia all year. 

-UGA held Tech to 40 yards rushing. 

-On the recruiting side, Georgia flipped speedy receiver Anthony Evans from Oklahoma this week. Expect a couple more big flips to the Dawgs soon. They are about to cash in their sustained success on the field by snagging some big recruits as early signing day approaches. 

Final Thoughts

Once again, I’m torn on this Georgia team. They seem to play to the level of their opponent, and at some point that will bite you. For the biggest games, UGA has its best performances. For the easier ones, cracks begin to show. Georgia needs to return to their passing attack, as the offense isn’t moving the ball as well with the run-first approach they have taken the last several weeks. OLB is a major concern moving forward. Despite their flaws and inconsistencies, UGA manages to win convincingly yet again. Games never feel out of control, even when they are struggling. 

Despite their struggles, I’m optimistic that Georgia will perform at a high level for the remainder of the season for a couple of reasons. First, these games all matter, and as I just said, UGA has looked its best in the biggest games this year. Second, I think if you give Kirby Smart 30 days to prepare for any opponent, they are in trouble. Whoever Georgia plays in the semi-final game, I expect the Dawgs to be well prepared on both sides of the ball. Kirby is 1-3 in the SEC Championship at UGA. He will want to win this next game badly, especially after UGA was throttled by LSU in 2019 in this game. LSU is one of the few SEC teams Kirby has yet to beat. We’ll see if that changes next week.


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