ATHENS — Georgia lost to South Carolina 38-35 in its SEC opener on the road this past Saturday. The No. 13-ranked Bulldogs are now 1-1 overall, 0-1 SEC heading into Saturday’s noon game against Troy (0-3) at Sanford Stadium. Or right about where everybody expected them to be at this point.
Now for The Rewind …
1. Georgia’s decision to call a bootleg pass on first-and-goal in the fourth quarter Saturday night at South Carolina has been roundly criticized. Even coach Mark Richt said that, in retrospect, the Bulldogs probably should have “hammered it” with a Todd Gurley run and not risked the resident pitfalls that can come with attempting a pass.
Of course, if the play works, everybody is talking today about the brilliant and gutsy call by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo made with the game on the line. In fact, our Mark Bradley made some good points this morning about why there was little wrong with the call itself. Play-action passes have a long history of success in the red zone, including earlier in the fourth quarter when Hutson Mason used it to set up a TD pass to Jay Rome. It was just the execution on that last series that left a lot to be desired.
Never minding that call, Georgia’s loss on Saturday had very little to do with the offense. Think about it: The Bulldogs scored 35 points and gained 408 yards in an SEC game on the road in a driving rain storm. Taking into consideration two missed field goals and a nullified 54-yard touchdown run by Gurley that apparently shouldn’t have been, you’re talking about potentially scoring 48 points on the road against a Top 25 opponent.
That should be enough to win.
2. No, Georgia lost this game because of the play of its defense. The Bulldogs gave up 447 yards and 38 points to South Carolina and looked particularly vulnerable to the pass. The Gamecocks threw for 240 of their 271 yards in the first half. Playing conservatively with a lead, they actually attempted just four passes in the second half and one of those was intercepted.
In my opinion, Georgia’s issues in the first half had more to do with Jeremy Pruitt’s confidence level in the secondary than any kind of strategic miscalculation. The Bulldogs played a very deep, two-deep zone most of the time and rarely manned up on the outside. Where the miscalculation came in that respect was Pruitt surely thought Georgia would be able to create more pressure with its front seven.
The Bulldogs ended up with just one sack in the game and that came on a blitz by inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera. Georgia’s defensive linemen and outside linebackers generated almost no pressure at all, which makes for easy pickings against zone coverage. The Bulldogs continually tried to get pressure by blitzing defensive backs — mainly freshman Dominick Sanders at the “Star” position from one side or the other — but he never got there and finished with only one quarterback hurry.
I would look for some shakeups in Georgia’s secondary this week. You can start with sophomore J.J. Green, who did not play at all against the Gamecocks. He was all the rage this spring and early in preseason camp after switching from running back to defensive back. At the least, look for him to get more opportunities.
3. It doesn’t look like a very competitive Troy team that will be visiting Sanford Stadium on Saturday. The Trojans on Saturday lost 38-35 to the same Abilene Christian team that fell to Georgia State 38-37 earlier this season to break the Panthers’ 16-game losing streak.
To that end, coach Richt said he didn’t have an injury update on sidelined receivers Malcolm Mitchell (knee) or Justin Scott-Wesley (ankle). My guess is that neither will try to play this weekend.
4. The Year of the Bulldog on the PGA Tour came to a close Sunday with the conclusion of the Tour Championship. When it was all said and done, two UGA alums finished in the top five of the FedEx Cup standings.
Chris Kirk, who shot a final-round 68 for a 7-under and second-place finish in the tournament, finished second in the final overall standings. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson was fifth overall. Russell Henley and Brendon Todd, finished 19th and 27th, respectively, in the FedEx Cup race.
At the end of the day, it was a former Florida Gator who took home the big prize. Billy Horschel, a 2009 UF alum, took home the FedEx Cup along with $11.4 million by claiming both the tournament win at East Lake and the $10 million bonus as FedEx points champion.
5. Georgia’s No. 25-ranked soccer team got its third straight shutout, won its fourth straight game and improved to 5-1-1 overall on the season with a 4-0 road win over Furman on Sunday. Friday night’s contest against Mercer was cancelled due to dangerous weather conditions.
The Bulldogs got two first-half goals from sophomore forward Marion Crowder to wrap up the non-conference slate on a winning note. They will open SEC play at home Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. against Vanderbilt at the UGA Soccer Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Other UGA results over the weekend, Georgia freshman Wayne Montgomery downed the nation’s No. 3-ranked player and the top seed in the Southern Intercollegiate tennis tournament Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex to advance to the tournament final. Montgomery beat Oklahoma’s Axel Alvarez Llamas, 1-6, 6-0, 6-3 on Sunday, then defeated Llamas’ Oklahoma teammate Alex Ghilea on Monday 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, to claim the singles championship. Also, the women’s tennis team won 6-0 over UNC-Wilmington; and the volleyball team dropped two of three at home (beat UNC-Asheville, lost to Harvard and N.C. State) in the Benson Hospitality Invitational.