After wearing down yet another overmatched opponent Saturday night, this time Vanderbilt to the tune of 41-13, the Georgia Bulldogs once again found themselves in a familiar position – having to explain why this beat down was so filled with mistakes.
Two weeks earlier at Missouri, the issue was substandard run defense. The following week against Tennessee it was inconsistent pass protection.
The problem Saturday was even more self-inflicted. The Bulldogs committed 14 penalties (13 accepted, one declined). They were a wide variety of miscues, from four personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct to two illegal formation calls. The sum damage was 115 yards, which undermined the 560 yards produced by the offense
“You get 20, give up 15. You get 10, give up five,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart. “We’re at a constant war with ourselves to overcome things, which, good football teams don’t beat themselves. I’ll be honest with you. We tried to do all we could to beat ourselves tonight with stupid, undisciplined penalties which we’ve got to grow out of.”
For a team that sits at the halfway mark of the season with a perfect record – 6-0 overall, 4-0 in the SEC – the chase for perfection remains elusive. The Bulldogs won this game simply because they’re so much deeper and more talented.
Eight different Bulldogs caught passes, including – get ready for this – three tight ends.
“I know that makes y’all happy,” Smart said, tired of having to address Georgia’s habit of ignoring its tight ends.
No running back had more than seven carries.
The defense, which surrendered 230 yards in the first half, held Vandy to 44 yards in the second half before the Commodores mustered their lone touchdown drive against what essentially was Georgia’s scout team defense.
Yes, this was Vanderbilt. But Vanderbilt also took Notre Dame down to the wire.
That’s what frustrates fans and even the coaches. The potential for greatness is overshadowed by the penchant for self-destruction.
“We’ve yet to put a complete game together,” Smart said. “This coaching staff has got to look ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘What are we doing to not reach this team from a discipline standpoint.’”
It’s lost on no one in the Georgia locker room that the back end of the schedule figures to be more challenging. That begins Saturday at LSU, which lost to Florida, then resumes after a much needed week off against the Gators. Then there’s the trip to Kentucky, followed by home games against Auburn and suddenly resurgent Georgia Tech.
“Well, to be honest, we don’t look at that,” said receiver Terry Godwin, whose 75-yard touchdown catch on Georgia’s second possession sparked the offense. “We just go out and play ball. Whoever’s next, they’re going to get Georgia football and nothing else. Tonight wasn’t our cleanest ball game, or the previous week, so we just have to go back and clean it up and keep getting better.”
“I don’t necessarily look at who we play,” said defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter. “I look at our schedule at the beginning of the year and I see what’s on there. But every game, I still see Georgia vs. Georgia because we have just established that type of dominance and that type of football team. If we play how we’re supposed to play, I don’t think anybody can beat us.”
Well, there’s that one team to contend with in the SEC Championship Game. But the Bulldogs have to get there first.
It wasn’t just the penalties that bothered Smart. There were other mental lapses, such as having to burn all three of their first-half timeouts because players were confused about where to line up. There was the failure to get out of bounds and stop the clock during a two-minute drive.
“These are little things,” Smart said, “that are going to come back to haunt us if we don’t get better.”
Imagine, though, if the Bulldogs do learn to get out of their own way. If that happens, there’s nobody they couldn’t beat. Yeah, that even includes the red elephant in the room