Georgia ... what the heck was that?
Stunned. Baffled. Floored. Astonished. Dumbfounded.
You get the picture.
That was the reaction that Georgia fans had to be feeling after watching Rodrigo Blankenship’s kick sail wide left in double overtime Saturday against South Carolina.
Well, check that.
I’m assuming Bulldog fans felt that throughout Saturday’s showing in Athens, and not just when they’re All-American kicker missed a kick he makes in his sleep. South Carolina walked into Sanford Stadium like it owned the place, despite the fact that Georgia owned a 15-game winning streak against the SEC East. Since the start of 2017, the Dawgs had won every game against the division by at least 14 points.
South Carolina, on the other hand, had lost 9 consecutive games to ranked opponents. The Gamecocks hadn’t beat a top-5 team since 2013. More recently, like in 2019, the Gamecocks lost to 2-win UNC and Mizzou.
So yeah, Georgia was 21.5-point favorite for a reason. And that was before the Gamecocks were down to their 3rd-string quarterback.
For those who were skeptical of the Dawgs entering Saturday, they’ll look at that game and say “yeah, that makes sense.” They’ll point to Georgia’s inexperience at receiver and how they haven’t been consistent throughout the year, which hurt Georgia at key moments of that game.
Jake Fromm’s 2nd and 3rd interceptions of the day — something that’s never happened since he arrived at Georgia — we saw a miscommunication on a back-shoulder throw and an awful bobble in overtime.
But it wasn’t just that. We saw Fromm do another thing he’s never done in his career — throw a pick-6. Fromm, off his back foot, made a throw he never makes:
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 12, 2019
A quarterback with Fromm’s experience simply cannot make that throw. He’d be the first person to tell you that.
The 3 interceptions — all by Israel Mukuamu — were one thing. How about the 3 sacks that South Carolina had on Fromm? Blame the lack of separation for the receivers and blame the protection of the offensive line, which wasn’t at the level it needed to be.
Speaking of that Georgia offensive line, what happened to that unit being the best in the country? It seemed like D’Andre Swift ran into a brick wall every time he touched the ball on an inside carry. Georgia’s longest run of the day was … 14 yards? Woof. At home, as a 3-touchdown favorite, that’s unacceptable.
And look, I’m not trying to take away credit from South Carolina. What Will Muschamp’s defense did to win that game was incredible. That group played out of its mind. Muschamp looked like he knew everything the Georgia offense was about to do. Perhaps that would explain why it was sitting on 10 points until the final couple minutes of regulation.
Muschamp out-coached Kirby Smart. That’s saying a lot considering how much it looked like Muschamp didn’t want to win that game.
(The 57-yard field goal attempt was, um, odd.)
All of those criticisms that Georgia skeptics voiced about Smart’s game-management skills were on full display. He’ll rightfully get attacked for calling a timeout with 1 second on the play clock on 4th-and-1 when it looked like South Carolina was about to get a costly delay of game penalty in double overtime.
And yeah, Blankenship had his first true missed kick of the year on the final play — he had 1 blocked earlier in the game — but why did arguably the top kicker in the nation not get a chance to boom a 60-yard kick at the end of regulation? Was Smart having flashbacks to the Kick 6?
Saturday, I’d argue, was more stunning of a collapse than that. At least in terms of expectations going into the game.
Georgia was supposed to run the table after getting past Notre Dame. Instead, it slept-walked through a pair of first halves against inferior division foes and this time, it proved costly. For whatever reason, Georgia did not show up ready to play a complete game against South Carolina. That’s on Smart. That’s on the staff. That’s on a team that had and still has realistic national championship aspirations.
Ah, speaking of that, let’s discuss that. Because once the “what the heck was that” feeling subsided, UGA fans probably turned their pages to the Playoff odds. As in, do they still have any?
To answer that question, yes, in my opinion. The SEC champion has yet to be left out of the field. Barring something wild, this won’t be the first year that happens.
Oh, and losing at home to an unranked team is by no means a death sentence for Playoff chances:
Don’t count Georgia out quite yet.
In the CFP era (since 2014), there have been 4 AP Top-3 teams to lose to unranked teams at home before the Bulldogs today … and 3 of them still went to the Playoff. pic.twitter.com/qNR40NusgD
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 12, 2019
But here’s perhaps a better reference point. In 2015, Michigan State won a huge nonconference home game against Oregon and it took an undefeated record into lowly 3-6 Nebraska. And lost. The Spartans then ran the table and picked up wins against the unanimous preseason No. 1 Ohio State and then they beat undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten Championship.
That path is still available for Georgia. But after what we just witnessed, the last thing the Dawgs should be doing is looking ahead. Maybe there was some of that in that horrendous showing on Saturday.
For the past 2 years, we’ve all been saying that the Dawgs are following the Alabama model. There’s been a lot of truth in that. They recruited as well as anybody, they kept their foot on the gas on a weekly basis and they’ve been virtually upset-proof. Georgia wants to be the next Alabama.
You know what Alabama hasn’t done since 2010? Lose to a non-top 15 opponent. The last time that happened was, ironically enough, against South Carolina. That was at least a ranked foe and in a hostile atmosphere. And Alabama played 3 ranked opponents in as many weeks.
There was no excuse for what Georgia did Saturday. Sure, maybe there was some questionable officiating that hurt both sides at key points of that game, but that wasn’t why the Dawgs couldn’t win as a 21.5-point favorite at home.
Saturday was a train wreck. It was everything that Georgia avoided since it started this rise in 2017.
Sixty minutes, 2 overtime periods and 1,000 words later, I still don’t have an answer to the question on the minds of everyone in red and black in Sanford Stadium on Saturday.
What the heck was that?