Reflecting on the offensive line’s performance against Nicholls State, right tackle Greg Pyke is well aware his group’s performance was well below its standard.
Running back Nick Chubb, a week earlier, shredded North Carolina’s defense for 222 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Against Nicholls State, Chubb could barely find any running room.
Watching the film was tough. But it came with the realization of what needs to improve.
"I think we had to look ourselves in the mirror and say that with the best back in the country that there’s no way he should have been held to 80 yards," Pyke said.
The offensive line didn’t exactly run over North Carolina, although the Bulldogs accumulated 289 total rushing yards. But the line, along with the outside receivers, blocked well enough to spring backs like Chubb and Brian Herrien loose throughout the game.
Chubb doesn’t need much to get going, which is why Pyke and the offensive line were frustrated coming out of last Saturday’s 26-24 win. Another showing like that, where the line loses the line of scrimmage up front, and Georgia probably won’t be as fortunate by the end of Saturday’s game against Missouri.
Head coach Kirby Smart said the offensive line did not play with the intangibles he expects, which was surprising since it features three seniors, two juniors and a third-year sophomore contributing.
"Playing harder with a little more energy and enthusiasm would be the No. 1 challenge," Smart said. "To make sure the temperament is good, and the enthusiasm and energy is good. I think a big part of the offensive and defensive line is toughness and strike, and we did not do that (against Nicholls State)."
Center Brandon Kublanow watched the game tape afterward and, like his teammates, noticed all the mistakes the line put forth.
Missouri defensive end Charles Harris and linebacker Michael Scherer are an upgrade in competition and won’t let Georgia get away with failing to block the Tigers’ front. Kublanow knows the Bulldogs can’t afford to put forth the same kind of effort Saturday.
"There’s just simple stuff we should’ve gotten right we didn’t get right," Kublanow said. "We’ll fix it."
Smart said Georgia will likely stay with the same group that’s worked on the offensive line in the first two games – left tackle Tyler Catalina, left guard Isaiah Wynn, center Kublanow, right guard Lamont Gaillard and right tackle Pyke. Dyshon Sims has been the sixth linemen of the group and has rotated in during both games.
But earlier in the week, Smart said the offensive line is an "open competition," and that he hopes some of the younger players push the veterans. One of those is freshman Solomon Kindley, who saw a handful of first-team reps at right guard during Wednesday’s practice, at least during the portion of practice where reporters were able to watch.
Pyke has been impressed with Kindley, although it’s way too early to tell if he’ll in fact see some playing time at Missouri.
"He’s a freshman and I remember when I was a freshman trying to learn all those plays, the right stance and what coaches are asking," Pyke said. "It’s hard but he’s come a long way. I expect very good things from him."
Georgia will look to at least return to how it looked against North Carolina, with Chubb finding some lanes, bouncing off defenders and churning out yards.
Pyke said the line didn’t practice well last week and it showed on game day. That’s been a focus for Georgia’s offensive line so that it doesn’t repeat what occurred against Nicholls State.
"We didn’t have good practice habits last week so we’re trying to change that," Pyke said. "I know as a leader myself, and Kublanow, we’re trying to lead those guys."