Georgia suffers total offensive failure in loss to Florida
For much of the season, special teams have been Georgia’s biggest problem. That is no longer the case, however, as the offense turned in another uninspired performance Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, Fla.
Georgia’s offense has seemingly regressed as the season has worn on but hit a new low in the 24-10 loss to Florida. Against a talented Gators defense, the Bulldogs gained only 164 yards and 10 points while looking completely out of sync.
Make no mistake, though, this wasn’t solely the result of the Gators shutting down the Bulldogs’ offense. Georgia has some very real problems that are cause for concern.
Entering Saturday’s matchup, the consensus was that Georgia’s best chance for success was to unleash its pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The Bulldogs never looked confident in their offensive plan, however, and that was most evident in the ground game.
Georgia ran only 19 times for a measly 21 yards while averaging 1.1 yards per carry.
Those numbers alone are more than troubling, but the context surrounding them only makes things worse. The Bulldogs ran the ball eight times on first down and the remaining 11 rush attempts came on second down. Georgia started four drives with runs on first and second down and each of those drives ended in three-and-outs.
Play calling was certainly a major problem Saturday. Very rarely was there a mixture of run and pass plays to keep Florida’s defense off balance. Georgia would either run the ball on early downs at the beginning of the drive or put it exclusively in Jacob Eason’s hands.
This predictability made it easy for Florida defenders to load the box and made life hard for an overmatched offensive line. Georgia’s line seemed to be finally moving in the right direction, but that is no longer the case after this loss.
Too many times linemen were knocked off their blocks and left to watch as a Georgia running back struggled to move an orange-and-blue pile. Of the Bulldogs’ 15 designed run plays, 10 resulted in a gain of less than 2 yards or a loss of yards. That indicates a failure to win at the line of scrimmage.
Kirby Smart has not been shy about expressing his desire to play a physical brand of football. His team was not physical Saturday.
It’s unclear why Nick Chubb, a former All-American with 15 100-yard rushing games on his resume, was given the ball only nine times. He did not receive a carry in the second half until the first play of the fourth quarter. Perhaps Chubb is still having problems with injuries, but there has been no indication that is the case.
Instead of using their best offensive weapon, Georgia’s coaches put the ball in the hands of a true freshman quarterback playing in his first Cocktail Party.
Eason fared as well as anyone might have hoped against a secondary that thrives on turnovers. He threw for 143 yards and a touchdown, despite facing consistent pressure from the Gators’ defense.
As poor as Georgia’s line performed in the run game, it was only slightly better in pass protection. Eason was forced out of the pocket seemingly every time he dropped back, which is not something the Bulldogs want to see happen.
Although he looks more comfortable from the pocket, many of Georgia’s biggest plays came when Eason was forced to improvise. The freshman directed Terry Godwin downfield while rolling out of the pocket and hit him with a 38-yard pass. Three plays later, Eason once again was flushed to the perimeter but took advantage of the defense’s confusion and found Riley Ridley for a 14-yard touchdown strike.
Once again, Eason wasn’t the problem for Georgia’s offense.
The Bulldogs would have sustained a few more drives but for some untimely drops, which have plagued them all season. Ridley looked poised to make another big play down the field, but failed to adjust to an underthrown pass and dropped the ball; he was injured in the process and never returned.
On the following play, a third down, Eason hit Jayson Stanley in the hands on a crossing route that would have given Georgia a first down and then some. How much more, though, remains a mystery, because Stanley dropped the pass and the Bulldogs’ punt unit once again trotted onto the field.
Florida’s defense has certainly earned its impressive reputation, but many of Georgia’s offensive struggles were self-inflicted.
Very rarely was the ball put into the hands of the Bulldogs’ best weapons. Tight end Isaac Nauta, who was believed to be a great matchup for Georgia in this game, caught the first pass of the game for the Bulldogs but was then targeted only two more times. Isaiah McKenzie was only targeted once and did not have a carry in the game, and Georgia failed to find creative ways to get the ball to its running backs.
There were problems across the board. But the lack of a clear offensive identity continues to plague the Bulldogs.
In a neutral-site rivalry game, Georgia chose to put the ball in the hands of its freshman quarterback 37 times while only giving it to its established All-SEC running back nine times. That is a clear sign that execution and talent aren’t the only issues for the Bulldogs’ offense.
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.