Moments before Georgia kicked off against Alabama on Saturday, the Atlanta Braves lost once again to the Los Angeles Dodgers to turn what had been a 3-1 series lead into a 3-3 series.
It was clear that the Braves’ loss was another bad omen for Georgia. For the Bulldogs authored yet another second-half disappointment against Alabama and lost to the Crimson Tide for the sixth consecutive time.
This time, the final score was 41-24. At halftime, it was 24-20. It’s the third straight time that the Bulldogs have held a lead at halftime against Alabama and Nick Saban and been unable to finish off the Crimson Tide.
Kirby Smart has been the head coach of all three of those defeats. This was the most lopsided contest between Saban and Smart, with the first two defeats coming by three points and seven points.
When asked after the game why this same movie seems to keep replaying for Georgia, Smart attempted to offer an explanation.
“Don’t really know,” Smart said. “I think it has a lot to do with players, calls, execution. A combination of a lot of things.”
As for the players, Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith once again torched the Georgia secondary as he caught 11 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns. It will likely be a sigh of relief for Georgia fans when he goes on to be taken in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft.
Smart did go into more detail as to why Georgia was specifically undone this time, as the Crimson Tide outscored Georgia 21-0 in the second half.
“If you turn it over three times in the second half and they don’t turn it over any, you’re probably not going to win,” Smart said. “That’s what it boils down to. Putting guys in position to make plays and they made more plays than we did in the second half and I give them credit for it.”
One of the turnovers Smart referred to was a missed Jack Podlesny kick that would’ve trimmed a 17-point lead into a 14-point deficit. The other two turnovers came from the arm of Stetson Bennett IV.
Coming into the night, Bennett had been lauded largely because he hadn’t turned the ball over.
He then came out and threw three interceptions. He also had several balls batted down at the line of scrimmage by Alabama defenders. One of those deflections ricocheted into the hands of an Alabama defender.
Bennett’s second interception was the most costly for Georgia. With 2:49 left in the third quarter, Bennett tried to squeeze a ball into the hands of freshman wide receiver Jermaine Burton. But the ball bounced off the hands of Burton into the arms of Alabama defensive back Malachi Moore. If the ball had just fallen incomplete — if Georgia had gotten one of those lucky bounces that seem to always elude them — the Bulldogs would have a 42-yard field goal attempt to tie the game.
Malachi is a FRESHMAN
— All-American Bowl (@AABonNBC) October 18, 2020
Instead, Moore returned the interception 42 yards. Five plays, Najee Harris scored after a dubious pass interference penalty that what against Georgia. And that was effectively that.
“He’s a work in progress just like our team is,” Smart said of Bennett. “He’s going to grow and develop.”
There is one stark difference in between this Georgia defeat and the previous ones to Alabama. The first two both happened in Atlanta and ended Georgia’s season in one case and its chances of making the College Football Playoff in the other.
The Bulldogs still have at least another six games in the regular season after this. Due to some schedule changes, Georgia actually gets the week off before playing Kentucky on Oct. 31.
If Georgia is able to right some of these wrongs, it will in all likelihood get another shot at Alabama.
“Our destiny is still controlled by us, which is how you want it.,” Bennett said. “If we win out, we will probably see those guys, or somebody else, and we will be in the SEC Championship, so everything we want is still ahead of us.”
Bennett’s teammate Richard LeCounte offered up a similar feeling following the loss. Georgia doesn’t have to hang its head and live with the loss for months before playing another meaningful game.
“It’s not really a demoralizing thing, but we will go back to the drawing board where we are able to fix where we messed up tonight and finish our season out,” LeCounte said. “We’re good. It’s just a little bump in our road.
“We are here to learn from our experience and get better so they next time we’ll be good.”
Saturday night was not a new experience for Georgia sports fans, whether you cheer for the Atlanta Braves or the Bulldogs. Both sides have accomplished a lot in recent seasons. And only at the end of it do things seem to come undone.
But the Braves do have a chance to finish off the Dodgers in game seven, where anything tends to happen.
As for the Bulldogs, the opportunity still exists for them to get a different ending against Alabama. The Bulldogs just have to get through the rest of their SEC schedule, where they’ll be favored in every game.
Then Georgia has to get to the second half against Alabama once again, where it has been so many times before, only to come up short in so many different ways.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart explains loss to Alabama
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