ATHENS — It was an ugly loss for Georgia that will not soon go away, a page of football history that Jake Fromm and the 2019 Bulldogs will have to live with for life.
But the final chapter has not yet been written. The same players who lost 20-17 in double overtime to South Caroline still control the ending.
Fact is, six of the last eight college football national champions had a loss. The two the didn’t (Florida State 2013, Clemson 2018) emerged from the watered-down ACC.
There’s a lot of work to be done before the No. 10-ranked Bulldogs (5-1, 2-1 SEC) are discussed among the frontrunners again. That’s just as well, because this team doesn’t handle favored status adequately.
Georgia now has something to prove after getting taken down by a third-team quarterback on a 2-3 team in their home stadium on national television.
Next up for UGA is Kentucky at 6 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN).
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Here are three takeaways from the South Carolina loss:
Nowhere to hide
The game plan is out: teams will continue to stack the box against the Georgia run game and make Jake Fromm beat them with his arm or his legs. Saturday, he did neither, but only part of that was on Fromm.
The Bulldogs receivers struggled against press coverage, and top target Lawrence Cager has been playing with a separated shoulder.
Talented freshmen George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock must grow quickly, Demetris Robertson must continue his ascension in the ranks and UGA needs Kearis Jackson to return to opening game form.
Players, not plays, will be the keys to solving the problems.
The new O.C.
Offensive coordinator James Coley has the toughest job on the team working for a defensive-minded head coach while sitting in the most second-guessed seat in every college stadium.
And he can’t even talk to the media to explain himself.
Coley did speak in August and said “players not plays” were the focus. Now, it’s time for some position coaches to put their egos on the shelf and play the best players.
It’s clear some players are more explosive than others with the ball in their hands — James Cook, for one — and six games into the season they should all be coached up well enough to execute the playbook.
Georgia is not going to flip the script and turn into a different offense midseason. Too much work has been put into building the core plays and schemes.
But an occasional twist — a misdirection (counter) run, a halfback pass — could bring some fun and unpredictability back into an offense that has become painful to watch.
One of the most impressive things about the 2018 team was how Smart and his defensive staff developed young players and improved the defense as the season progressed.
That’s what needs to happen by the start of November, and Smart said as much in his press conference.
For all the talk of “Havoc Rate,” UGA has been relatively cautious, perhaps not wanting to give up big plays.
But with “star” position players getting beat for at least two long TD passes this season, one wonders just how much being careful is paying off .
Remember, it’s Smart who said, “If it ain’t broke, try to make it better.” That might apply to a secondary that has been short on producing big plays and has young talent awaiting opportunity in reserve.
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