If it were a lost cause, maybe Joe Cox could sleep easier.
If there weren’t any talent on the field, maybe it would make more sense.
If Cox hadn’t seen, felt and celebrated the high points, maybe the lows wouldn’t be so frustrating.
The truth, however, is that Georgia’s offense has loads of potential, Cox said. The truth is, the Bulldogs have proven they can play at a high level. But the problem remains: They aren’t doing it often enough.
“That’s the most frustrating part is when you know you can do better than what you’re doing, and you just can’t get it right, no matter what you try to do,” Cox said.
If fans are baffled by Georgia’s schizophrenic production this season — 52 points one week, 20 the next; three quarters of struggles, then two touchdowns in the fourth quarter — Cox and his teammates are stunned.
There are moments when the wheels click into place, even against Florida’s vaunted defense last week. At times, Georgia moved the ball better against the Gators than any team had this season. And then there are moments when success seems to be at their fingertips, only to be snatched away by foolish penalties, costly turnovers and a stack of mental errors.
“With the team we have this year, we’re always a couple of plays away from the performances we’ve prepared for,” tight end Aron White said. “We could come out and put any team away, but we self-destruct sometimes.”
The problems have been numerous, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has tried nearly everything he can think of to solve them.
Branden Smith, Logan Gray and Rantavious Wooten have been in gadget plays in hopes of breaking a big run. They’ve had limited success.
Caleb King is slated to start at tailback this week against Tennessee Tech, the third starter this season. The long-term solution remains hazy, and the ground game continues to slog along at less than 4 yards per carry.
Against Florida, the Bulldogs sent out their fifth alignment on the offensive line in eight games. While the running game looked improved, the pass protection broke down. Plug one hole, another bursts open.
Against Vanderbilt three weeks ago, Bobo resorted to the coaching equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. He left his usual spot in the press box during the game to call plays from the sidelines. At that point, anything was worth a shot. In the end, it has been a mixed bag of small steps forward and dizzying, demoralizing steps back.
“There’s not a whole lot you can do other than work hard day in and day out in practice and hope we come out on Saturday and perform the way we’ve been practicing,” White said. “These are things we don’t do in practice, but, for whatever reason, in a game we’ll throw the ball wrong here, have a fumble there or jump offsides. We’ve just been killing ourselves.”
The Bulldogs have scored first just twice this season. They’ve trailed by at least 10 points in the first half in five games. They’ve trailed at some point in seven of eight games. In Georgia’s four losses, it has scored just seven points in the first quarter and has been outscored 61-29 in the first half.
“That’s kind of been our thing this year,” White said. “We’ve been the team that’s fought back, even though we weren’t able to seal the deal in a lot of them.”
Last week’s loss to Florida is a perfect example.
The Gators jumped out to a 14-0 lead after two impressive drives for touchdowns in the first quarter. Meanwhile, a personal-foul penalty killed a promising first drive for Georgia and left Bobo and company to crawl out of an early hole.
“Some plans do change, depending on what’s happening throughout a game, but you have what-ifs going into any game,” Bobo said. “Just last week, we got down, but we stuck with what we were going to do, and I thought we were successful, except for the turnovers, which have been an Achilles’ heel all year long.”
Indeed, the turnovers have been troubling — 21 of them in all. But two of last week’s four interceptions show how adverse situations have dictated costly results.
In the third quarter, Georgia was driving into Florida territory trailing by 14. On a third-and-1, Cox was flushed out of the pocket under immense pressure. Rather than take a sack or throw the ball away, Cox forced a throw to a receiver near the sideline, hoping to keep a much-needed drive alive. Instead, the throw was picked off.
When backup quarterback Logan Gray entered the game in the fourth quarter, his mandate was simple: see what he could do to try to rally the team. Instead, Florida knew what was coming, and linebacker Brandon Spikes stepped in front, intercepted the pass and waltzed into the end zone.
“It’s something we’ve been used to, but it It does make you feel like you have to have more of a sense of urgency and make plays,” Cox said.