ATLANTA — Former Florida Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow said Georgia is going to need something “special” to bounce back from the SEC Championship Game loss.
“I think it’s going to take a special performance, it will take elite playmakers, or elite quarterback play to get over the hump,” Tebow said on the SEC Network after Alabama beat Georgia 41-24 last Saturday.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (12-1) play No. 2 Michigan (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 in the Orange Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Georgia enters the CFP coming off a loss, the Tide going on a 38-7 run to take control of the SEC title game after the Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-0 lead.
Tebow said the Bulldogs’ pass game — which saw quarterback Stetson Bennett throw two interceptions, get sacked three times and turn the ball over on downs twice — was out of sorts.
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“I think Nick Saban and his staff outcoached Kirby; (Bennett) and his receivers just weren’t on the same page all day long,” Tebow said. “Those two red zone opportunities in the third quarter (an interception and turnover on downs), that’s the game right there.”
Tebow said reading Bennett’s body language when he looked at his intended passing targets with arms out and palms up, told the story.
“How many times Stetson looks at them like this,” Tebow said, his palms facing up. “He did it to (James) Cook one time, he did it to Brock (Bowers) a couple of times.”
The first occasion was in the second quarter, when Bennett missed Adonai Mitchell on a third-down throw, and was shown waving his hands wildly toward the sideline to indicate something had gone awry.
CBS commentator Gary Danielson took note.
“You can see right there Alabama has got double coverage,” Danielson said. “You could see they just weren’t connected on that throw.”
Bennett’s body language was picked up by the camera after the Bulldogs went three-and-out a second straight series, a pass thrown behind an open Cook on the perimeter.
It could be why Bennett seemed to lock in on Bowers most of the game.
Bowers, a freshman tight end, led Georgia with 10 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. Bennett targeted Bowers 16 times and Cook was the second-most targeted player with 6 throws in his direction.
The concentration of short throws to the tight ends and backs (32) nearly doubled the 17 times Bennett looked to a receiving corps that features George Pickens, Jermaine Burton, Kearis Jackson and rising star Ladd McConkey.
In 9 SEC games Bennett has two completions of 40 yards or more, McConkey (60 yards vs. Auburn) and Burton (47, vs. Missouri).
To put that into perspective, Alabama had three completions of 40 yards or more against Georgia in 60 minutes last Saturday night.
“It goes back to leadership, and it goes back to coaching,” Tebow said. “How many times can you have one of these (games)?”
Bennett threw three interceptions and had five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage against Alabama in a 41-24 loss during the 2020 season.
“You practiced all year for this moment,” Tebow said. “If I’m a Georgia fan, that’s what I’m a little disappointed in. I think that’s going to be something that really bothers Kirby.”
Tebow said Georgia has a chance to hit the reset button, but it will need the coaches and leaders to step up.
“Its disappointing, but you have the most important prize in front of you,” Tebow said on the SEC Network.
“Now, we’re going to see the coaching and the leadership. Will the real leaders come to the forefront? It’s easy to lead when you are undefeated, it’s hard when you’re devastated.”
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, who is focused on recruiting this week while his players go through final exams, said the loss was “an eye-opening experience,” and there were “brutal truths” exposed.
Smart said he has confidence in Bennett and JT Daniels, who started the final four games of the 2020 season and was the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy before being limited and sidelined by upper body core injuries six of the first seven games of this season.