Campfire Talk: Dawgs Lose but Things Are Not Bleak
Cover Photo: Kevin Cox
By: Joshua Grosh
My fellow Dawgs, I feel your pain as I typed this report – I even held off for a few hours to avoid writing this because of how dreadful that game was. Make no mistake, Georgia for a second year in a row, had Alabama dead to rights. Alabama just simply was able to outlast Georgia and able to surge back to a victory. Near a complete copy and print of last year – Georgia simply seemed to just be missing all the pieces to slay the college football goliath that is Alabama. Yet, this game has brought forth a narrative among some of the fringe halves of our fan base that Kirby simply cannot get it done, we underperformed, choked and more. This and more I want to primarily tackle in this game and then touch on the game more.
First things first, what Georgia did against Alabama was nothing to scoff at. It is nothing to hang your head low about. Georgia was expected to be blown out. In fact, very few in the media believed that Georgia even stood a chance against Alabama, let alone even keep it close. Then, the Vegas betting lines even had Georgia as a 13.5 point underdog. Everyone believed Georgia simply could not compete – but Georgia gave Alabama everything that it could possibly ever want. Yet, let us add on to this. In 2016, when Kirby was hired, we argued that Georgia likely wouldn’t have much until the 2019 year because the depth chart was so depleted. Going into 2017, the expectation was the SEC Championship game and a nice new year’s bowl game – but Georgia made it to the national championship game. Then, coming into this season, we had lost the best tandem of running backs in UGA history, the best linebacker in UGA history, and incredible seniors all across defense – yet we still gave Alabama the scare of its life. Understand this, my fellow Dawgs, Georgia didn’t underachieve our expectations. Georgia exceeded its expectations last year and met expectations fairly well this year given the loss of so many senior leaders. Georgia is on track to becoming the truly dominant program that we have all dreamed it to be – just have patience.
Next, the loss to Alabama needs to be conceptualized. This Alabama team is the best Alabama team to probably ever be fielded by Nick Saban – the best college football coach in history with no buts. Alabama finally found a dangerous QB who was every bit the Heisman contender one could hope for. They have the most talented depth that one could ask for with seven straight seasons with the #1 recruiting class until Georgia broke through in 2018. They have all the NFL talent once could even dream of – and Georgia went toe to toe with them while fielded one of the youngest of teams in the SEC and country. Then, to make the youth even more stressed are the injuries at key positions for UGA – from linebackers to three different linemen who were starters at one point or another. Georgia held its own despite these deficits and even held the Heisman contender Tua to his worst game of his college career with an ESPN QBR of 15.1 – only for it to be salvaged by a previous SEC offensive player of the year in Jalen Hurts. Yet please keep it in perspective – Alabama also has incredible receivers like Waddle, Ruggs, Irv Smith, and Jeudy. All four of these players had over 600 yards this season and one (Jeudy) has had over 1000 receiving yards. These are highly talented wide receivers that Georgia had to fight and contend with despite a young defense. The reason I am going so in depth here is to inform every one of just how great Georgia performed – holding such an explosive passing offense to 50% on total completions and at 246 passing yards combined (with 51 coming in just one play) despite so much youth and poor pass rush on top of that against a team that is far more talented than Georgia. Then, just to pile on, the underclassmen heavy offensive line (with 3 major injuries) had to combat the extremely deep and talent-rich defensive line of Alabama who many are complete NFL studs and over 40 sacks on the season – Georgia only surrendered 2 and Fromm was able to pick on Bama’s secondary for a good part of the game. In fact, Fromm had an 82.6 QBR against Alabama which is only behind TAMU’s Starkle (85.4) and Tennessee’s Chryst (94.2), both of which did not start and play through their whole game against the Tide. Fromm was incredible against such a dominant defense and flashed how lethal he can be if protected – and the bright future of UGA’s passing game. However, with this plus come the negatives that I must cover.
After this game, it is painfully apparent that Georgia cannot and should not play Fields unless the game is in hand. I am not saying this to belittle Fields but rather to question why we had to throw of the incredible rhythm that Fromm had. He was simply incredible for much of the game, making great decisions and great throws despite having to heave it away many times from pressure during the second half. While it is abundantly apparent that Fields has talent and all the keys to be dangerous, he needs to be held out until necessary. While Fields must be showing some incredible things in practice, he is simply not executing on the field – though one play simply was not his fault. This play of course is the black eye of the game – the 4th and 11 fake punt attempt in the fourth quarter. Upon rewatching the play, it was likely the play was a pass play with the punter being a possible target and an in route from one of the gunners, but was blown up when the blockers did not exactly help protect Fields. While I love the idea of going for it on fourth down, I simply cannot excuse away a 4th and 11 attempt when tied at the mid-field. I understand it may have been practiced but I rather see Fromm in a normal formation have another chance than Fields in a weird punt formation. This poor play call falls directly on Kirby. No way around it, but it doesn’t all around ruin Georgia’s game overall – Bama was simply just deeper at every position than Georgia. Yet, this advantage can and will likely change in the near future as Georgia tries to complete yet another highly ranked recruiting class – the next major focus of the year.
Jake Fromm – 25/39 for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The regular season and championship week has passed and by the time you’re reading this article, the playoffs teams and bowls may likely be announced. Despite the outside chatter, I do not see UGA making the playoff but rather the Sugar Bowl. The more important aspect is early signing day. Georgia needs to reel in its class with minimal loss and some key pickups in the likes of Hazelwood, Dean, and Stevenson. Perhaps a flip or just a major pass rush addition to really help this team in the future. While we may not currently know the future, we know the simple truth that Georgia is far better than how the bad taste of this game is making many of us feel.