5 things Georgia can learn from devastating title game loss
As devastating losses go, Georgia’s National Championship Game defeat at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday night is an all-timer.
After the Bulldogs led 13-0 at halftime, the Tide came back to force overtime. Then, after a sack in the overtime period, freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to send Alabama home with yet another national title.
However, all was not lost for Georgia, as there are still some positives coach Kirby Smart’s crew can take away from Monday’s disappointment.
The Bulldogs look poised to return to the big stage in the very near future, and they’ll do so having learned these five very important lessons:
1. Second-half adjustments are critical
The Bulldogs led 13-0 at halftime Monday night and had to be feeling pretty good about themselves, especially after wide receiver Mecole Hardman scored on a direct snap just before the intermission.
However, Nick Saban’s Alabama squads are masters at making second-half adjustments, and we saw that in a big way. Taking out starting QB Jalen Hurts and replacing him with true freshman Tagovailoa was a bold move, but it clearly paid off.
The Bulldogs have been good at making halftime adjustments under Smart, too, but the second-year coach still has a lot he can learn from his former boss about making in-game changes.
2. The secondary needs some work
When a freshman backup comes in and throws for 166 yards and three touchdowns in one half plus OT, the opposing team has issues in its secondary.
Yes, Tagovailoa is a special player, but there’s no excuse for the breakdowns the Bulldogs had on defense on Monday night.
Georgia’s inability to stop Tagovailoa, especially on a couple of key third downs, changed the game and let Alabama climb back into contention, and the Tide took advantage.
3. Special-teams penalties are killers
In terms of penalties, the Tide and the Bulldogs were pretty similar on Monday night, with Alabama committing six infractions for 41 yards and the Dawgs getting flagged six times for 65 yards.
However, the Bulldogs had the more costly mistakes, as a couple of decent punt returns were negated by penalties.
If not for a couple of those infractions, the Dawgs might have scored more often. If they had done that, the game might not have gone to overtime in the first place.
4. Touchdowns, not field goals
A second-quarter drive was a deciding factor in the game, as the Bulldogs got inside Alabama’s 10-yard line and only came away with a field goal, making the score 6-0.
Against a defense like the Tide’s, you need to take advantage of every red-zone opportunity you get, because you aren’t going to get that many.
Going up 10-0 in that situation would have been a much bigger deal for the Dawgs, but they simply couldn’t punch it into the end zone. As we saw, every point counts, so it’s no surprise that failed opportunity came to bite the Bulldogs at the end.
5. Play to your strengths
On Georgia’s first two possessions, which resulted in an interception and a punt, the Bulldogs ran seven pass plays and zero running plays.
That was simply offensive coordinator Jim Chaney getting a little too cute with his game plan, trying to catch the Crimson Tide defense off-guard.
That might work against lesser opponents, but Saban had his team ready for everything, and it showed on those two drives. What would have happened if Chaney had played to the Bulldogs’ strengths instead of airing it out? We’ll never know, but it’ll be questioned for a full offseason.