The idea was to go to the Sugar Bowl and make a statement. Georgia was dead-set on pounding Texas Tuesday night in New Orleans, and then pointing at the College Football Playoff selection committee to remind them that they made a mistake by leaving the Bulldogs out of the four-team playoff.
Instead, Georgia’s night was all about mistakes. The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs struggled from start to finish and got pounded by No. 15 Texas, losing 28-21.
Hey, selection committee: Never mind.
With the loss, Georgia finished 10-3 and left little doubt that the selection committee probably did get it right. This loss was very similar to their first, that 36-16 beatdown at LSU where the Bulldogs got pushed around all day by the Tigers on both sides of the ball.
It happened again against Texas, which was physical and overpowering all night. It started before the game even, when their mascot Bevo, all 1,100 pounds of him, broke out of his cage to chase after 62-pound bulldog Uga X, Georgia’s mascot. It was that kind of a night.
That was a bad start, but then the game itself was even worse.
It was, without question, the ugliest first quarter in the three years of Kirby Smart football at Georgia. Everything that could go wrong did. Offense, defense, special teams, it didn’t matter. Everyone was making mistakes. It all added up to a 17-0 Texas lead after the Longhorns scored again on the first play of the second quarter.
The worst offender was true freshman punter Jake Camarda. On his first punt attempt, the snap was low and he went down on one knee to grab it. He was considered down at that spot. He was clearly shaken and shanked his next punt, which went only 11 yards.
The Bulldogs offense did literally nothing. On their 12 first-quarter plays, they gained 8 total yards. There were dropped passes and even a fumble from the usually sure-handed D’Andre Swift.
The defense wasn’t much better, missing tackles left and right. On Texas’ opening drive to start the game, they marched 75 yards for a touchdown and Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger completed all five of his passes on the drive. The group really couldn’t be faulted for the other 10 points because of the Camarda blunder and Swift’s fumble, but still, it was a start that had everyone frustrated. Ehlinger’s touchdown run to make it 17-0 came thanks to several missed tackles by the Bulldogs.
Outside of the debacle at LSU, when Georgia lost by 20 during the regular season, this was quarterback Jake Fromm’s worst game. He missed a lot of open receivers, made some bad decisions, and threw a bad interception. He also didn’t get much help from his offensive line, which struggled against the Texas pass rush. One sack took them out of field goal range just before halftime.
Through 50 minutes, Georgia had only 7 points and just 175 total yards. The team rallied late to get within 28-21 but a touchdown with 20 seconds to go was not enough. Fromm was 20 of 34 for 212 yards and three touchdowns.
Last season, Texas lost four games it led in the fourth quarter. That didn’t happen this time. The Longhorns kept moving the ball successfully, both on the ground and through the air. Texas sealed the deal with quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s touchdown run 3 minutes and change into the fourth quarter, giving the Longhorns a 28-7 lead after a two-point conversion.
Georgia answered with its first impressive drive of the game, going 67 yards in six plays and just 1:24 to make it 28-14. Fromm threw on every down on the drive, completing 5 of 6 passes and hitting Mecole Hardman for a 3-yard score.
Texas was forced to punt with 7:30 left, and the Bulldogs got another chance, but went three-and-out. Texas, which hadn’t played in a major bowl game since 2009, outrushed Georgia 180 yards to 72, a rarity for Georgia. The Bulldogs led the SEC in rushing, and only got outrushed three times all year — in all three of their losses. Swift, Georgia’s leading rusher, had only 12 yards on 8 carries.