ATHENS -- Perhaps this was the best type of game for Georgia to play as a warm-up for LSU this week. Maybe a blowout of North Texas would not have been in this team’s best interest.
It would have been less stressful, perhaps. But if the Bulldogs learned from the mistakes made in the season opener against Clemson as they took the field the next week against South Carolina, there will be plenty of things to learn from in Saturday’s win over North Texas.
Sure, it was a win. The score was not close. And yet there’s still plenty to improve on before the big conference game with LSU this week.
Take away the two special teams blunders for Georgia, and this would have indeed been a blowout. North Texas scored one touchdown on a 99-yard kickoff return in the second quarter and then blocked a Georgia punt and pounced on the ball in the end zone for six more points in the third quarter.
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Maybe the special teams coach can help nip those mistakes in the bud. Oh, wait. Georgia doesn’t have a special teams coach. That’s more fodder for the talk shows and message boards, but those are the types of mistakes that can cost a team in a game against a better opponent, especially against a team like LSU.
There’s still a lot of positive in between the seven minutes or so Georgia fans spent worrying while the game was tied at 21 in the third quarter. The Bulldogs’ offense racked up 641 yards. The defense gave up only 7 net rushing yards.
It just wasn’t easy and wasn’t without some scary moments.
“We knew they were a better team than people gave them credit for,” tight end Arthur Lynch said. “I thought we came to play. I don’t think we were lacking emotion or physical toughness. We didn’t look past them. Subtract a couple of mistakes, it’s a far different game.”
“North Texas played a great game and definitely took advantage of their opportunities,” safety Connor Norman said. “We were in a fight. We were in a dogfight.”
The fans might remember the third quarter more than the final score. It had to be tough to see 21 points next to North Texas on the scoreboard, knowing the Bulldogs had the same number.
The Georgia players, however, didn’t panic.
Quarterback Aaron Murray said, “We looked at each other, and every single guy was like, ‘Hey calm down. Let’s relax and have fun. We’re going to be fine. Let’s just go out and make plays.’ No one was stressing or panicking. We did that the rest of the game and put some points on the board.”
Many spent the week wondering when Murray would come out so backup Hutson Mason could get some playing time. That’s what happens usually in these types of games. Instead, Murray had to stay in the game until almost the very end, after he helped put up 24 unanswered points on North Texas after the game was tied at 21.
North Texas was just not a very good football team. We’re talking about a program that has won 22 games in the past eight seasons. The Mean Green dropped passes that could have been first downs. They couldn’t stop Georgia when they needed to in the second half.
LSU will be different in a game that will mean a lot for both teams in the SEC’s top group. So this type of rehearsal might have been just what Georgia needed, knowing next week will be a tougher challenge.
The Bulldogs know how they beat South Carolina two weeks ago. They didn’t make many mistakes, unlike the game against Clemson. They must use the same formula this week, and the win over North Texas might have given them the blueprint.
“It’s always good to have a dogfight to see what our team is made of, and we definitely showed some resilience fighting through some adverse times and finishing it strong,” Murray said.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at email@example.com.