3 keys for a Georgia football win over upset-minded Texas A&M
ATHENS — Georgia has seemingly been playing a football game of survival.
The approach is to score as many points as possible without taking risks or putting a championship level defense on a short field. Percentage football, field position football, conservative — call it what you want.
The Bulldogs’ players are the first to admit it can be ugly, but they’re all about winning, and if the head coach says that’s the plan, they are all in.
That’s because the plan has worked, for the most part.
The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs only loss coming on a day they:
• Turned the ball over four times
• Missed two fields goals
• Forced no turnovers
It took all of those things to go wrong, and Georgia still found itself with the opportunity to win in two overtimes before falling in the 20-17 home loss to South Carolina on Oct. 12.
No team has lined up and flat-out “beat” the Bulldogs all season, so much as they beat themselves against the Gamecocks.
First-year offensive coordinator James Coley surely has certain parameters to work within, in terms of the latitude allowed by the head coach.
Coley had an effective Red Zone package against Auburn, and it’s a good bet he’ll have more twists and tricks to use in special moments against Texas A&M.
But not at the expense of exposing QB Jake Fromm to more hits, and not in a manner that carries greater than necessary risk.
Coley’s play-calling as been effective enough that Georgia hasn’t trailed in a game since that loss to South Carolina.
Of course, No. 24-ranked Texas A&M is a threat to change that script when the teams meet at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
Aggies’ Kellen Mond represents only the second truly experienced QB to start against the Bulldogs, so the defense could find itself more challenged than usual.
Here are three keys for Georgia to beat Texas A&M:
This has certainly become a thing, particularly for Fromm, whose three interceptions this season all came in one game. It’s worth noting Fromm hasn’t been forced to throw much, as the Bulldogs have only been behind in three contests all season — the biggest deficit, a touchdown.
It’s also worth mentioning that Texas A&M leads the SEC and ranks sixth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, the Aggies recording at least one interception in five of their past six games.
Georgia hasn’t turned the ball over since the loss to the Gamecocks, and avoiding turnovers has proved important for a team that has had issues establishing consistency in the pass game.
The Bulldogs caught a break against Auburn when D’Andre Swift’s fumble went out of bounds before it could be recovered.
The surest way for Georgia to find itself in a bind is to turn the ball over and fall behind.
Squash the split backs
That will be easier said than done as the Aggies’ offense brings a twist with its throwback, split-back offensive backfield.
“Can it create problems for you? Yes. It can create a lot of problems for you with a running quarterback because a quarterback creates almost a wishbone back there when you’ve got two split back and the quarterback and a tight end that’s blocking and can go anywhere,” Smart said. “They do a great job with that. They’ve really hurt some teams with that and it’s something we’re working on because we know they’ll be able to use it.”
It’s also something UGA offensive coordinator James Coley is familiar with. Coley worked under Fisher at Florida State from 2008-12, the final three seasons as offensive coordinator, so if anyone knows the ins and outs of a Jimbo offense, it should be Coley.
Handle the moment
It’s Senior Day, an emotional time, and for a few juniors it will also likely be their final game in Sanford Stadium. But they’d better not get too choked up.
Texas A&M is coming to Athens with something to prove, their 2019 season resume currently void of any big-game wins. None of the Aggies’ wins have come against a team with a winning record.
Texas A&M does have the momentum of four straight wins, and the current weather forecast calls for rain at kickoff. Rain has a tendency to act as an equalizer, and Fromm had issues holding the football the last time he was forced to play in wet weather.