Georgia football: Bulldogs exposed in loss to South Carolina with no one but themselves to blame
Well, it happened.
If you’re reading this, it wasn’t a bad dream. That was indeed an interception Jake Fromm threw. Three, as a matter of fact, one being a pick-6. Hot Rod did miss that field goal in double overtime. Georgia did lose to South Carolina 20-17, that same team the Dawgs beat 41-17 last year in Columbia.
That 15-game winning streak against SEC East opponents? Gone. That 16-game winning streak at Sanford Stadium? No more. And that perfect, unblemished record still has that number 5 under the win column, with a rather ugly-looking 1 now in the loss column.
There’s probably a lot to take from the game regarding what exactly went wrong, but there were just a few key elements that I personally wanted to focus on as Bulldogs fans are still digesting the events of the past day.
Jake Fromm’s bad day
I wrote earlier last week leading up to the game that the matchup between the Gamecocks’ defensive front and the Bulldogs’ offensive line would be a key one. Well, the Gamecocks passed with flying colors.
Fromm, facing as much pressure as he’s faced all season, was forced into several poor decisions, leading to him throwing his first 3 interceptions of the season — all 3 to Israel Mukuamu. He was also sacked 3 times (after just 1 sack allowed by the offensive line leading into the game). His accuracy, normally a strong suit, suffered as he was good on just under 55 percent of his attempts. Entering the day, he was passing at a 77.5 percent clip.
That probably lends itself to another question, though: Was it the right call to have Fromm throw the ball 51 times? The most times he’d passed in his career was against Alabama in the 2018 SEC Championship Game (39), a game that saw the Bulldogs run it 39 times as well. Georgia is 0-5 when Fromm throws it 30 times or more.
Another note: Fromm’s longest completion was a 33-yard pass to George Pickens, who finished with 7 catches for 98 yards. Why didn’t offensive coordinator James Coley test the secondary and call for more deep passes?
Missing Brian Herrien
D’Andre Swift ended the game with 23 carries (a career-high), 113 yards and 1 touchdown, a good day but far from the best we’ve seen from him thanks in part to the Gamecocks’ defense. Brian Herrien was hurt, so Zamir White took his spot in the lineup and finished with 44 yards on 12 carries.
In a sense, I wonder if the Bulldogs could have leaned on Swift a little more. For example, Georgia’s first full drive in the 2nd quarter started with 3 consecutive runs for White and 1 carry for Swift. On Georgia’s first drive of the 3rd, Swift carried the ball once but didn’t touch it again as White received 3 carries. It felt as if the offensive staff tried to compensate for the loss of Herrien by using White in the same exact way, but — no knock on White — it didn’t quite work out as well as they’d hoped as Herrien’s style better complements that of Swift’s.
An up-and-very much down day for the offensive line
The good news: the Bulldogs ran for 173 yards on 43 carries, a strong day despite being below their average on the season. The bad news: those 3 sacks and 3 interceptions I mentioned in my first point. After watching this game, everyone else playing Georgia now has a blueprint to beat them. Top of the list: exploit weaknesses in the offensive line, make life miserable for Fromm and force him to make throws he shouldn’t be making. South Carolina, led by an elite lineman in Javon Kinlaw, did just that. The problem is that this isn’t even the best defensive front the Dawgs will face this season.
Kirby on his O Line 💬 I wanna talk about them. I wanna talk about them being the best in the country. But they gotta go out there and do it. pic.twitter.com/tX56vJb1gN
— 960 The Ref (@960theref) October 12, 2019
The message that the offensive line, as talented as it’s been all season, wasn’t good enough against South Carolina is sure to echo on the practice fields and inside the film room all week long as Kentucky is next on the schedule.
Letting teams hang around
Georgia was simply unable to generate points on a sustained basis, and it cost the Bulldogs against a hungry Gamecocks defense with nothing to lose. Rodrigo Blankenship made a field goal on the Dawgs’ 1st time with the ball and Fromm led them to the end zone on their 3rd possession, but between that and their game-tying touchdown drive in the 4th quarter, here was the result of their drives:
- Turnover on downs
- Blocked field goal to end 1st half
Part of that was credit to a great defensive performance by South Carolina, but Georgia needed to be more ruthless when it had the ball and make the most of its drives. Case in point: with the Dawgs at the South Carolina 30-yard line to open the 4th quarter, a botched handoff between Fromm and his center Tray Scott was recovered by the Gamecocks to halt what could have been a game-tying drive and could have turned the momentum back in favor of the home team. If it is to bounce back and find its path back to the College Football Playoff race, it has to remain aggressive offensively.
Meanwhile, South Carolina had to have gained confidence as the 1st half went on as it realized it was well within striking distance; in fact, it took a lead to the locker room, just the 2nd time this season the Bulldogs have trailed.
This will be one of those instances for the Bulldogs where you just want to turn the page and move on to the next game. Up next for Georgia: a Kentucky team that is well off the pace it enjoyed last year with Benny Snell and Josh Allen running the show but showed some moxie in beating Arkansas with Lynn Bowden as an emergency QB. After that comes the 2nd open week of the season, followed by a trip to Jacksonville to take on a Florida team that could go a long way in deciding the SEC East.
But Georgia does not have the luxury of looking ahead as its margin of error is now razor-thin if it is to return to the Playoff. And how the Dawgs respond to this loss — not just this coming Saturday, but throughout the rest of the season — is the big question.