Jake Camarda was in a situation where all he could do was react.
After Georgia was forced to punt on its first drive of a 28-21 loss to Texas, it looked as if the freshman punter had one of the best kicks of his young career in regard to field position. Camarda was about to record a 49-yard punt that was downed by Jayson Stanley to give poor field position to the Longhorns.
Then, a whistle blew and the play was suddenly under review for something few noticed but had significant consequence. Camarda went to field the exchange from long-snapper Nick Moore and lowered to a knee as the Bulldogs’ punter tried to scoop it from the ground.
Nope, can’t do that.
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“It was a snap that wasn’t exactly where you want it,” Camarda said in a brief interview with The Telegraph at his locker. “I’ve never had them on the ground before, and I’ve never had that happen. It’s unfortunate that it did, I’m not happy that I did. There’s nothing I can really do about it at that point.”
Texas took possession at the Georgia 25-yard-line and eventually scored a field goal on a 37-yard conversion by Longhorns’ place-kicker Cameron Dicker.
On the next possession, Camarda was sent back out. And by the way, Georgia’s offense had little-to-no traction, so Camarda saw a fairly-heavy volume of work against Texas. But this one was nearly as woeful as the first.
Camarda shanked it toward the Texas sideline and it traveled 11 yards. Consequently, the Longhorns took over at midfield. He received support from head coach Kirby Smart as he tapped Camarda on the helmet and whispered “keep your head up” into the freshman’s ear.
Camarda claims it wasn’t a result of pondering on the first miscue, and even said he’s already let the poor performances escape his mind. He went on to average 37.6 yards per punt on five attempts — long of 54.
“It happens sometimes, and once it happens, it happens,” Camarda said. “It’s not like that was my intent, but I can’t take it back.”
Of the two punts gone awry, Texas’ only points came on Dicker’s field goal, however it gave momentum to the Longhorns throughout the game. A pro-Texas crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome would only get louder, and a perfect recipe was designed for an upset.
Georgia’s slow start in all three phases — stagnant offense, struggling to contain Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger and the aforementioned shakiness by the special teams’ units — became too much to recover.
“We didn’t have a start of a game similar to like that really all year,” Smart said. “We’ve got to do a better job preparing our players for that and go out and execute.”
Added running back Brian Herrien, who recorded a receiving touchdown: “I don’t think the punting game got us behind, because one play doesn’t determine the game.”
Rather than those two plays, Camarda’s reaction was mimicked teamwide in the loss to Texas. Georgia had plenty of opportunity to execute, but repeatedly fell short.
“Nobody is going to be perfect,” wide receiver Terry Godwin said. “You make mistakes and it’s about how you bounce back, but (the punts) set us back.”