Georgia football: 3 ways the Bulldogs were exposed against Kent State
Are you entertained, Georgia fans?
Did the first three weeks of blowouts and subsequent accolades bestowed by national media bore you? Were you looking for a game in which you still had interest on each play in the second half?
Be careful what you wish for.
As good as Georgia has looked throughout the season, I think it’s a good idea to put a momentary hold on engraving the national championship trophy for the time being. We should not suddenly question everything we thought we knew about the Bulldogs. This is still a great team. This is still arguably – perhaps likely – the best team in the country. What’s now been learned, though, is that with high standards these days around Athens, Ga., this team is not perfect.
There’s plenty of good news, There’s no reason to drop lower expectations after Saturday’s 39-22 win against Kent State. Yes, it was sloppy. No, for one day, it didn’t look like the top team in America. But this team is fine.
Chances are that a week from today, this 3-turnover mess will be far from everyone’s memories. The Bulldogs ought to be 2-0 in SEC play at the end of next weekend – still a darling of the national media.
For the next 6 days, though? There are a few things to talk about.
A few weaknesses – at least for one day – have been brought into the light. Are they long-term issues? Maybe not. But they can be filed away as Georgia goes forward into Southeastern Conference play.
Too often this season, I’ve felt I was giving quarterback Stetson Bennett too much attention. I called him the best bang-for-your-buck Heisman contender before the season began. I sang his praises after Georgia ran Oregon out of the building. National writers have done the same. Bennett is in the top 5 on most lists of Heisman Trophy favorites.
Or was. His performances on Saturday, statistics notwithstanding, was pedestrian. He completed 27 of 36 passes for 272 yards, but the vast majority of his throws were inside 5 to 7 yards.
Once, on the opening drive, Bennett threw downfield to Ladd McConkey, who couldn’t bring in the pass. Later in the game, the QB looked again for McConkey behind the safeties. but while the first incompletion could be blamed on the receiver, the second was on Bennett.
One thing has become clear: Georgia does not yet have an identity in the downfield passing game.
I’ll be fair: The loss of Adonai Mitchell with an ankle injury for the past few weeks has had an impact. Mitchell, who caught a deep touchdown pass over a defender in the 2021 title game and a touchdown in the opener against Oregon, is one of the better receivers at beating tight coverage for a ball.
Without him, it’s a struggle to find a receiver who go deep consistently. Maybe that impacted Bennett’s throws against the Golden Flashes, now a 1-3 team from the. Maybe Bennett’s throws impacted the receivers. Whatever the case, it was a problem. And it’s something they need to figure out.
It appeared Kent State’s OL controlled Georgia’s defensive front at times
Maybe I’m placing too much emphasis on a handful of plays. It was late in the game when I noticed it. But more than once on second-half scoring drives, the Kent State offensive line seemed to overpower the vaunted Bulldogs defensive line.
Let’s be clear: This wasn’t mop-up time. These weren’t backups. This was Georgia trying to put away a pesky opponent that was still threatening to pull off the biggest upset of an early season that had its share.
In the second half, when you thought Georgia might silence the Golden Flashes, the defense gave up a 13-play, 70-yard drive for a field goal. That was followed by a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
On the latter, Kent State had runs of 7 yards, 22 yards and 9 yards. There was a pass of 14 yards on a fake punt. The holes at the line for the runs were a concern.
Again, it’s nothing for a fan to lose his or her mind about, but it is worth monitoring. If Kent State can push around a defensive front like Georgia’s, what can be expected from some offensive powers coming up on the schedule.
Who does Georgia lean on to run out the clock?
It’s been a quiet discussion in the background for the first three games. The Bulldogs have racked up plenty of rushing yards, but who is the one guy they can rely on for a crucial drive?
For years, Georgia has had at least one back it could trust to carry the ball 7 or 8 times down the stretch, to pick up the yards that keep the clock moving.
It hasn’t been a problem thus far this season, But I began to wonder on Saturday on a the Bulldogs’ late 2nd-half possessions.
The Bulldogs did have one strong drive when they needed it. Daijun Edwards had runs of 9 yards and 17 yards to get into Kent State territory, and Kendall Milton capped things with a 1-yard touchdown.
But answer this: Who is Georgia’s go-to back right now?
There are good options – Milton and Kenny McIntosh are having solid seasons. But if there is not one guy to turn to in crunch time, that remains an open question.