No. 1 Dawgs can’t handle the stage or the Tigers

No. 1 Dawgs can’t handle the stage or the Tigers 

Posted: 9:24 pm Saturday, November 11th, 2017

By Jay Black

AUBURN, Ala – Humility is no longer a week away.

If you’ve heard any of UGA coach Kirby Smart’s press conferences, you’ve no doubt heard that line and that lesson for his players.

It’s a good one. And for the nation’s number one team, the humbling has arrived.

“The lesson was learned that they got a good football team,” Smart told the UGA radio network after Saturday’s stomping in Auburn. “They whipped us up front, they whipped us on the back end, they whipped on us the edges.”

Auburn was letting Nick Chubb run for anything (AJC)

Or more simply.

“It was a total butt whippin’,” said Smart.

Yup. That’s the only appropriate verb for: No. 10 Auburn 40, No. 1 Georgia 17.

The Tigers are a loaded football team that can beat many teams in many ways. There is no dispute they are a contender (but how did these guys lose to LSU?).

But they should not have been 23 points better than Georgia. Not the Georgia team I’ve seen the previous nine weeks of the season.

There’s no true way to know if the stage and the burden of being number one was too big for this team. But if it was, this game is exactly what it looks like.

“We did some dumb things and we helped them,” said Smart. “It was undisciplined and that has not been a characteristic of this team. So I’m really disappointed in that.”

In football and in most aspects of life, when the moment is more than you can handle, you surprise yourself with the dumb things you do.

You have your one shot to impress the pretty girl and your voice cracks like a 13-year-old. You get the big interview for the dream job and you say all the wrong things.

You’re the number one team in the country and drop an easy touchdown pass.

Or fumble your first punt of the year.

Or bump into the guy calling fair catch.

Or jump over the punt protection shield.

Or one of your senior leaders is busted with an unsportsmanlike personal foul penalty on a punt.

Or go from a team that runs for 280 yards a game to one that can’t break 50.

“That’s not us,” senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter said.

No it’s not, but when you aren’t quite ready for the next step, you don’t act like yourself.

There was a lot of yelling by Kirby Smart on this night (AJC)

Kirby Smart has been in plenty of big games before, but not as the head man. These players have played in big games before, but that was high school and Pop Warner ball.

This is only the fifth team in history of the University of Georgia to be ranked number one. It’s been a generation since it happened this late in the season.

News flash. Things change when you’re getting chased.

Today Georgia got caught and eaten.

Or maybe Auburn is that good. Either way, the Dawgs have been exposed.

“It’s life,” said Smart. “Life is going to knock you down and sometimes you’ve got to get up and go fight.”

That will be the true test of this team now. Georgia has not been eliminated. If it does not lose again, it will be National Champions. Either UGA takes down No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship game or it gets revenge against Auburn. Either route puts you in the playoff.

That’s the good news. But there is bad news.

When you lose by 23 points (even though it felt like 40), something broke big time.

All of the pre-season questions about this young offensive line all came rushing back to the surface. All of the worries about Jake Fromm being a freshman have returned. And for some reason there’s always a special teams screw up, no matter who is coaching UGA.

So how do you handle it?

“We are going to come out and use this as a statement,” said guard Solomon Kindley. “We are going to come together even more as a team. We are going to use this game as a learning lesson.”

There are two paths now. One of recovery or one of decline.

The true contenders make changes and fix the holes. Then there’s the pretenders.

Even Nick Saban gets beat every now and then. He just doesn’t make a habit of letting it happen twice.

But for now, humility is no longer a week away for the Dawgs.

If this team is as good as we all thought it was, then humility doesn’t have to hang around very long.