SEC Championship: What Went Wrong for Georgia
GEORGIA LOSES A FOOTBALL GAME – I should have listened to my inner Munson. I was about as confident as I get that UGA would pull this game out against Alabama.
However, had I known that Brock Bowers, Ladd McConkey, and Smael Mondon would be as limited as they were, I may have changed my thoughts.
Regardless, UGA came up just short against Bama, losing the SEC and a chance at the playoffs.
What Went Wrong?
There’s a tendency for fans to want to find a scapegoat when something goes wrong.
In a loss, we need to point blame, and that tends to be singular in focus. Mike Bobo’s play calls cost us the game. Or the refs cost us the game. Or our linebackers cost us the game.
The reality is that a number of factors all combined for this loss, and UGA nearly overcame them. So let’s take a look.
Yeah, probably his worst game of the year in certain aspects.
UGA sat on the ball far too much in the second quarter. His third and short play calls were suspect, but also not entirely his fault. Twice Bobo called a toss into the boundary and twice Bama ate it up. The first time, it was an execution issue. The second time, it was a bad call.
Georgia came out hot and was aggressive in the pass game. Bama’s defense adjusted, but UGA wasn’t able to figure it out.
At the end of the day, I don’t think Bobo called an aggressive enough game plan. Unfortunately, he’ll also likely shoulder too much of the blame. If Beck doesn’t botch that handoff to Dillon Bell, that pay becomes a huge gain. Bobo will get killed for the call because of the location on the field, but the execution was really the bigger issue.
Georgia had its worst performances of the season when Amarius Mims, Brock Bowers, Ladd McConkey, etc. were hurt.
Welp, they all got hurt again and the offense stunk. We shouldn’t be surprised. Losing Mims 11 snaps into the game was devastating to the offensive scheme and execution.
Xavier Truss is not that guy, and he had to play RT. For 11 snaps, Mims was dominant.
Ladd McConkey was a shell of himself after the first quarter.
Bowers was clearly not himself, and lacked explosivity.
RaRa Thomas didn’t play at all.
Smael Mondon had limited snaps.
Again, just add it up. UGA was down two offensive starters and had two others severely limited. Against Bama, that won’t fly. Already missing one starting linebacker, UGA saw Mondon get dinged.
They were forced to play two true freshmen and one reserve linebacker who hadn’t seen action in weeks. Ain’t going to cut it.
UGA did okay in the trenches.
Some will say UGA got whipped up front, and I get when Nazir Stackhouse gets pancaked on the first drive, it can certainly feel that way.
Honestly, both the offensive line and defensive lines did good. Not bad. Not great. They won reps and lost reps. But unfortunately, they didn’t do enough to positively impact the game either way.
The key call that changed the game was the fourth and four completion to Isaiah Bond.
The ball hit the ground and then moved, which should have been ruled incomplete. Bama went on the score rather than turn it over.
The refs also missed a facemask on Kendall Milton, which would have put UGA into first and goal and the Dawgs settled for a field goal.
UGA also shot itself in the foot, with a false start penalty on a field goal, which contributed to a missed kick. UGA’s five penalties were all crucial. They also didn’t get a few calls to go their way. Yet, you can’t leave the game in the refs hands. Georgia just needed to perform better.
We highlighted Bobo, but this was a subpar coaching performance overall. UGA just didn’t make the right adjustments to win the game.
Should the refs have stopped the play to check the catch on fourth and four? Sure. But when the Dawgs take a timeout into halftime that Kirby could have used to force a review, that’s on him.
Someone in that coaching staff should have alerted Kirby to check it. They failed. Bama made adjustments after one offensive drive from UGA.
Georgia was not so quick to adjust to Bama’s game plan and the drives right before halftime and the end of the game showed Bama could just about do what they wanted offensively when it mattered most.
Too Many Mistakes
All these combined to be too much to overcome. And when you don’t assign singular blame and look at the whole picture, it’s a wonder UGA kept it close.
I’d love to see these teams face off again with a healthy squad of Dawgs. I still think UGA would win that game after what I saw Saturday.
Statistically, these teams were very even, with Bama gaining 306 yards and UGA 321. The Dawgs turnover was a crucial mistake, giving 3 points to Bama, and that final mistake was the nail in the coffin.
I’m as frustrated as any UGA fan out there. I think UGA should have won that game, and I’ll continue to wonder what would have happened if the Dawgs were healthy and the refs reviewed that catch. But that’s football.
There were a number of close, crucial plays and they all went Bama’s way. It was just enough to push them over the edge.
Does Saban get in Kirby’s head? I’m not so sure. Yes, I’m aware Kirby’s only beaten him once.
At the top level, the margins are so thin and UGA just didn’t do enough on Saturday. They weren’t the better team that day, but I’d be careful to go back to the old UGA doom and gloom attitude that Kirby can’t do it.
One question that remains is can Mike Bobo win a championship. UGA has done it with Monken, but can Bobo call games against top competition that will win. Make no mistake, Bobo was excellent this year. He was not Saturday and still has to answer the question if he can do it when it’s most difficult. Monken did. Can Mike?
Also, be on the lookout for multiple UGA coaches to depart. Fran Brown has already taken the Syracuse job, but there are several who spent time this past week interviewing for jobs rather than preparing for the game.
Expect more departures. Todd Hartley might be on his way out, which would be awful, but not unexpected.
The committee penalized FSU for not having a healthy QB, but didn’t recognize that UGA has shown they are on a different level when they’re healthy.
They weren’t this weekend, but would be for the playoff. Georgia is one of the best four teams in the nation, but they won’t get the chance to prove it in the playoff.
Georgia will not be the same in ‘24. Here’s what I mean: Georgia won 29 straight games.
They will lose multiple regular season games next season. Doesn’t mean they can’t win it all, but next year is a true rebuilding year. Four offensive linemen gone and four defensive linemen.
Possibly your two inside linebackers. One outside linebacker.
Three DBs. Your top two RBs. At least three of your four top receivers. Possibly all five top receivers. Look for a dozen or so players to transfer out as well, and coaching turnover to boot. This program is about to experience massive turnover.
UGA will be forced to rely on the transfer portal far, far more heavily than they ever have. Kirby has built a winning program because of a culture, but will have to build a winning team that relies on players and coaches from other programs next year.
It may just be his biggest challenge yet. Don’t get me wrong, almost everyone would want to be in UGA’s position next year. But the road ahead is turbulent in ‘24.