Posted: 6:01 pm Saturday, November 26th, 2016
By Jay Black
Few things make a Georgia fan feel worse than seeing this.
ATHENS — Didn’t somebody around here used to command his players to “Finish the Drill?”
Seems that lesson has been forgotten. Now Tech gets to taste the hedges again.
For the third time this season Georgia led in the fourth quarter and lost. The Tennessee game was a miracle. The Vanderbilt game was just weird. The Georgia Tech game, well this was a collapse of painful proportions.
In 6:30 of football time, Georgia’s season went from fair, decent and maybe even good, to bad, aggravating and utterly disappointing.
“I’m sick,” were the first words out UGA head coach Kirby Smart’s mouth in his post-game interview on WSB and the Georgia radio network.
There’s a lot of people in Bulldog Nation who will go to bed with an upset stomach tonight.
“I’ll say to the Bulldog Nation, I’m just as sick as you are,” said Smart. “I’m just as upset as you are. I’m just as disappointed as you are.”
Georgia Tech won 28-27. This is the same Georgia Tech team that scored on its first drive and did nothing for two more quarters besides complete a 64-yard bomb to set up its second TD.
The same Georgia Tech team that turned the ball over on downs at midfield, down 13 points, with 11:58 left to play.
The same Georgia Tech team that had second down and 12 from its own four with a little more than nine minutes to go.
That Georgia Tech team won. 28-27. Georgia let them off the hook.
“It sucks,” said UGA running back Sony Michel, who ran for a career high 170.
“It really did come down to the last few plays,” said LB Lorenzo Carter. “It’s tough to lose like that.”
When David Marshall stuffed Qua Searcy for a seven yard loss on that fourth down play early in the fourth quarter, I thought the game was over. I even said so out loud to my colleagues in the UGA radio booth.
I’ll take the heat for a jinx, but I have a feeling, there’s a few people wearing red and black (or even blue and gold) that felt the same way.
It was over. It should have been over.
Georgia had Tech’s triple option offense figured out. The Jackets ran for 87 yards in the first quarter, 28 in the second and 21 in the third. That’s what the kids call, trending.
In the final frame, with the Governor’s Cup on the line, Georgia surrenders 86 yards on the ground and 82 in the air.
“They loosened us up with the pass,” said Smart. “We gave up the big plays defensively that you can’t do with this team.”
It’s all that mess with the pass that will really haunt Smart tonight. Justin Thomas’ first bomb, ok fine. Georgia kept looking for the run and got burnt on a play fake. It happens. But those final two passes that Thomas completed should have been no surprise.
Throwing from his own end zone, down 13, Thomas completes a 23 yarder and a 39 yarder. From there it was chaos.
Jackets score to get it down to six points. Jacob Eason throws an interception and Georgia Tech runs down to steal the state championship with 30 seconds left.
“To go out there and finish like that,” said Smart. “Just not a very good job. We had a big lead and didn’t finish it.”
It’s been Georgia’s issue all season. It led Tennessee by 17 and lost. It had Vanderbilt by six in that fourth quarter and let the Commodores off the hook. UGA tried to blow it late against Nicholls and the second stringers were gashed last week by Louisiana-Lafayette.
This is also a trend.
Georgia won nearly every stat in this game but the big one. It out gained Tech (402-390), it out rushed the ninth best rushing team in America (263-226) and was better on third down. The Dawgs had fewer punts, more 3-and-outs, more sacks and more TFLs. Michel broke the 100 yard mark in the first half and Nick Chubb added 88 more. UGA even ran more plays and held the ball nine minutes longer than Tech.
Why? The three things that have burnt this team all season. Big plays allowed by the defense (see above), not getting points off turnovers and not scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
Georgia scored on all five of its trips in the red zone, but only had three touchdowns. Rodrigo Blankenship also missed a 42 yard field goal to start the game.
As for the turnovers, Georgia forced two and scored three points. This doesn’t count the turnover on downs at midfield that I thought ended the game.
The Dawgs went 3-and-out and gave Tech the ball back. They never stopped the Jackets again.
For Bulldog Nation, this will be seen as a fitting end to a letdown of a season.
The expectations could not have been higher when we all gathered here for 93K day in April. Now the feelings about the season won’t be much worse.
Kirby Smart has a lot to fix before the mediocre bowl game in December (Memphis here we come?) and even more to work on before we are summoned to Sanford Stadium next September.
“We’ve got to do a better job. We recognize that and we will,” he said.
The good news is, everyone knows what the issues are.
Georgia must “Finish the Drill” if it wants to “Win the Day.”