Kicked to the Kirb
Kirby Smart’s seven-game career has already featured the three worst types of losses: 1. home loss to team you should beat, 2. heartbreaker you had won vs rival in big game, 3. total blowout you were unprepared to play. Each sucked for the fans. The hire by AD Greg McGarity has clearly come into question. Was it a bad hire? Bad fire?
Messing up my fall weekend joy with no Saturday UGA wins since Sep 17th (autumn started the 22nd this year). One Sunday win at (2-win) South Carolina was sprinkled in amongst the three scenarios covered in the first paragraph, as UGA alum Will Muschamp simply didn’t have the talent in Columbia last week to capitalize on classmate Smart’s egregious clock mismanagement to end the first half.
After a 3-0 start, Smart’s Dawgs have now equaled the full-season loss total of Mark Richt’s last two football teams, each of which won ten. Entering the bye week before the biggest rivalry game of the year, Georgia has one quality win (2-loss UNC), with a close home escape over Nicholls State (of the FCS) and a one-point, fourth down prayer answered at (0-3 in SEC with two bad blowouts) Mizzou.
We may actually be worse than our 4-3 record indicates, I’m afraid. We trailed at (3-3) Ole Miss by a score of 45-0. Both of our close losses came at home: to sub .500 Vandy and to Tennessee, who were out-rushed by over 400 yards this week in a second consecutive league loss and 10th straight to their historic (formerly real) rival.
Defending SEC East champion Florida (5-1) looked very strong at home this week and has a two-game consecutive blowouts streak going against Georgia, since dropping three straight to the Aaron Murray-quarterbacked Dawgs. We still hold the series mark, but it’s fading.
Blankenship (3-of-3 Saturday) has done fine at kicker, though UGA still has overall grossly underperforming special teams. While our D held Vandy to under 175 yards, the lowest output by any winning team in FCS this season, specialty gaffes to start both halves put us in big holes in front of a pissed off Homecoming crowd.
Nauta is a superb freshman tight end, and young “Franchise” Eason had almost 350 yards passing with no turnovers, after the worst passing game at UGA since my freshman year (1990). He appears to be relatively unflappable, and those two studs coupled with good-sized new wideouts Riley Ridley (freshman) and Javon Wims (junior, from a JUCO) give UGA an outside shot at winning, on paper. Throw in McKenzie (junior) and throw it to Michel (junior) out of the backfield, and Georgia could find some things that work and then actually do them again the rest of this and also next year…maybe.
Florida has the top defensive backs in the country this year, though, so we better be extremely precise and versatile in our passing game.
The Dawgs ran for just 75 yards Saturday in front of my crying eyes, with Chubb getting 40 on 16 carries after gashing Vandy for 189 last year. Michel got a sad 28 on 13 runs. Their Zach Cunningham had 19 tackles. Joystick had a late carry for zero yards. You recall that play.
~”Richt Era” book by Han Vance debuts 11/11 (6:30-7:30p) at Avid Bookshop on Prince Ave in Athens ($17.85).