A young team learns the most painful of lessons 

Posted: 9:43 pm Saturday, October 1st, 2016

By Jay Black

Jacob Eason deserved better, but walks off the field after Georgia’s sole-crushing loss to Tennessee

ATHENS — If you’re looking in your “UGA fan crisis management instructional manual” for help dealing with this one, just flip to the “Georgia Tech 2014” chapter.

You’ll find everything you need right there.

If that’s not enough, flip back to “Auburn 2013” and you should have  enough solutions to cope with another round of the heartache that seemingly makes an annual appearance to Bulldog Nation.

But no matter how many times you watch it, every painful loss finds a different form.

This time, it’s a double Hail Mary with a side of yellow hanky.

Jacob Eason recovers from the worst moment of his career to write the best one. Only to see some brain burp moments set up a Tennessee legend.

It will forever be written on Rocky Top (and played on their video board every year) Joshua Dobbs to Jauan Jennings, 43 yards. Touchdown.

The Hail Marry that will live on forever at Tennessee

Georgia fans could say “they stepped on our face with a hob-nailed boot and broke our nose. They just crushed our face.”

I guess it’s all even.

“I’m just sick for the leadership of our team that’s commanded so much respect,” said Kirby Smart afterwards, sounding like a guy who just witnessed someone running over his dog. “I was proud of the way they fought. They kept coming back, but they made too many mistakes.”

And those mistakes are what will eat at Smart and everyone who cares about his football team for quite a while.

His young football team lost their nerve in the final moments and there was nothing this young coach could do to stop it.

Georgia committed one penalty in the first three quarters. That’s great. They were flagged seven times in the final 15 minutes. Here’s some brilliant analysis — that’s bad.

There’s a few of those that really hurt, even though they are forgotten about now.

Jeb Blazevich getting busted for a false start midway through a drive that ended on a failed fourth down conversion at the UT 25. UGA overcame that penalty to get the first down, but they have no confidence in their kicker. Maybe another five yards gives Rodrigo Blankenship a shot.

Sony Michel is busted for illegal touching to start the next to last drive and  Brandon Kublanow gets caught for a false start to create 3-and-15. Both of those killed whatever Georgia was trying to do and Tennessee pinned back its ears. Jacob Eason throws a pick on the next play.

The Dawgs defense did an outstanding job to get the ball back and set up the final drive.

Those are the sidebars to this sole crushers. The two flags that arrived after the touchdown will lead the discussion this week.

You have Rico McGraw getting called out for leaving the bench without his helmet after the Eason to Riley Ridley miracle. If it was in fact McGraw (I didn’t see it and everything was so chaotic, I’m not totally confident who it was. That’s the number the ref gave), he will get ripped. But as Eric Zeier said on our broadcast “Georgia is going to get called for unsportsmanlike conduct, but who cares.”

Every team in every conference in the world illegally celebrates on that play. It’s almost a cliché, because it happens every time.

Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) is carried by teammates after the game-winning TD.

Yet the flag was thrown and Blankenship’s kick came 15 yards further back. No chance to kick it in the end zone and one of the best return men in the country picks up 20 yards (which is another issue)  and crosses midfield. Oh and Tyrique McGhee gets busted for offsides.

All of a sudden it’s in range.

“When you have an undisciplined penalty or an undisciplined team it will bite you in the a– when you least expected,” said Smart.

Did it ever.

Frankly with the mistakes made in the fourth quarter, Georgia didn’t deserve this win. Eason and Ridley erased a bunch of issues with their bomb. One of those issues was Eason’s on doing. That freshman folly, holding onto the ball in the end zone that lead to what appeared to be the back-breaking fumble for a score.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, this kid’s recovery is it.

“That’s the kid he is,” said Smart. “He’s levelheaded and composed. He can’t be affected by good or bad plays.”

This should have been Riley Ridley and Jacob Eason’s moment. But there were 10 seconds left.

It’s truly a pity that Eason’s moment will forever be forgotten. Just like Hutson Mason two years ago, or Aaron Murray’s comeback on the Plains the  year before.

A young football team learned a lot about itself today. It showed it could move on after an embarrassing blowout. It proved it still can run the ball. It can also play a little defense and make slowdown a great quarterback (Tennessee had its yards of the season before the heave).

But it also learned a painful lesson about composure.

“We don’t have to learn a lesson by losing a game,” said Smart. “You should learn a lesson because it’s the right thing to do.”

Georgia lost a game with 10 seconds left.

Just like it did with 18 seconds left against Tech. Just like it did on fourth and a gazillon against Auburn.

Please consult your handbook and good luck.