According to Georgia center Brandon Kublanow, an offense needs to convert on third down 60 percent of the time. The Bulldogs missed that mark by about 33 percent against Mississippi.
The Bulldogs were dreadful on third-down plays in Saturday’s 45-14 loss, converting only four times on 15 attempts. As poor as those numbers were, they were an improvement from the first three quarters of action, as at one point the team stood 1-of-11 in that category.
“You've always got to convert on third down,” Kublanow said. “We didn't get it done. Ole Miss played a great game, and hats off to them.”
The third down issues were a killer in the first quarter, as Georgia’s missed chances allowed Ole Miss to open up a double-digit lead. In the opening 15 minutes alone, the Bulldogs failed to achieve a first down on third down twice in four drives. Ole Miss, meanwhile, scored 17 points in its first four drives to put the Bulldogs in a significant hole.
Despite the Rebels’ propensity to lose comfortable leads in 2016, Georgia’s inability to move the chains on these crucial plays instead set up a blowout loss for the Bulldogs.
“It set us back a lot,” receiver Isaiah McKenzie said. “We have to make those plays on third down and come up big on third down. That's what we work on every week.”
A major part of the issue for Georgia came from a failure to execute. For the third straight week, the Bulldogs have had several drops that were major setbacks, especially when it determined if Georgia’s drive lived or died. In the first half alone, the receivers had five drops to their names.
The receivers weren’t the only ones to blame for inconsistency in the passing game, but it was clear they had chances that were not taken advantage of.
“(We have to) focus on catching the ball and doing our job and getting our offense in good position,” McKenzie said.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart pointed at the lack of execution among the skill players as something that was detrimental to the team. He also pointed out the mental errors made by the team that drew flags, which made an already tough task of sustaining drives against the Rebels even tougher.
“There were two or three drives where, even if you rushed it 4 or 5 yards, you're third-and-7 or third-and-8 because you were first-and-15 or second-and-15,” Smart said. “Penalties put us behind the sticks. We really never got a rhythm in the first half.”
From here, the Bulldogs have little time to sulk in the defeat. Georgia has a pivotal matchup with Tennessee in Athens that’s one week away, one that could have major implications for both squads going forward.
If Georgia is going to gather itself to make a run at the SEC East divisional title, they’ll have to do a much better job on third down against the Volunteers than they did against the Rebels.
“We've got to look at ourselves,” Kublanow said. “We shot ourselves in the foot early and often, and that didn't help us.”