Georgia football: Getting knocked down a peg or two might be good in the long run
When Georgia frittered away a chance to win a national championship last year against Alabama, the postgame storylines trended more toward the positive than the negative.
There would be more chances, everyone around the Georgia program said, and the Bulldogs would compete for national titles every year under Kirby Smart.
Well, another 12 months have passed, and now the morning-after conversation comes after a loss to No. 15-ranked Texas in the Sugar Bowl, not a national title game. There was no chance to win a national title Tuesday, just play in one final bowl game.
So what about next year? Is there a chance then? And if so, does it matter that the Bulldogs looked so inept against a 4-loss team that they were 13.5-point favorites against?
Are the Bulldogs regressing, or was Tuesday night’s 28-21 loss that wasn’t really that close just an outlier for the 11-3 Bulldogs?
“Texas outplayed us, outcompeted us,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They out-coached us. They out-physicalled us. They did a lot of things better than us. These guys aren’t happy, nor am I with the performance we had. We did not come out and play the way we are capable of. …
“I want to congratulate Texas. They played more physical than us and it showed to me that they wanted it more, so you have to give them credit for that.”
Smart didn’t hesitate to say that his players weren’t as ready to play this game as Texas was. Here’s to also hoping that his comments applied to the coaching staff as well.
“I hope they learn you better show up to play every game because the teams you’re playing at the end of the year are all capable of topping you,” Smart said of his players. “We’ve got to learn from the fact that when you go to play a game 30 days later, you got to be at your best. We didn’t play our best game tonight, but you got to give Texas a lot of credit because they made it that way.”
After Georgia blew a late lead against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in early December — and that was the second year in a row that they should have beaten the Crimson Tide — the Bulldogs went on and on about how they deserved to be in the College Football Playoff, despite their 2 losses, the SEC title game defeat to Alabama and the midseason 20-point beatdown at LSU in October.
They argued that there was no doubt they were one of the four best teams in the country. The selection committee disagreed.
And after Tuesday night, we all disagreed. This is a 3-loss team that wasn’t among the best teams in the country. Even several players said they weren’t ready to play Tuesday, and that simply can’t happen this time of year for teams with such lofty goals.
“I feel like we had the big head and didn’t come out focused,” Georgia sophomore guard Solomon Kindley said Tuesday. “We took Texas lightly, even though they were a very good team.”
Several players took the loss hard. It was an emotional postgame locker room. Even though there was open criticism about how Georgia prepared for this game, any time a season ends, it’s always hard. Relationships end for several players.
“It’s emotional. You put a lot of time and effort and emotion into it and, you know, you look around the room at all the guys and the seniors and it’s not easy losing like that,” Georgia junior tight end Isaac Nauta. “I don’t know what it was, but they were doing all the right stuff. They were sending some exotic blitzes and shutting us down. But a lot of credit to them for that.”
The blessing in disguise is that this loss might better serve to set the tone for offseason workouts. Let’s be real here. Despite the 3 losses this season, Georgia is still a very good team. They have a ton of talent coming back in 2019, and they will add another incredible recruiting class, ranked No. 2 in the 247Sports composite after the December Early Signing Period.
Georgia will be a preseason top-5 team again next year, and be the likely favorite to win the SEC East. They will likely get another shot at Alabama at the end of the year, and will have another great opportunity to get over the hump against the mighty Crimson Tide. There is no gap, just a failure to execute late in games the past two years.
They will have Heisman Trophy candidates in quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D’Andre Swift. They will have a dozen potential all-conference performers at every level on both sides of the ball. They have gaps to fill, both on the field and with the coaching staff, but they will certainly have the talent to win every game next year.
So let’s hope that bitter taste from Tuesday night lasts all the way through September. Let’s hope the Bulldogs arrive for 2019 prepared to make sure that a 3-loss season never happens again.
Learn from it, and move on.
And get after it again in 2019.