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Georgia football winners and losers from the final college football weekend
Loser: Georgia special teams
It’s been written about before, and talked about at length by Georgia fans, but the Bulldogs special teams unit was absolutely brutal against Alabama. Punter Jake Camarda struggled kicking the ball all game, as he couldn’t pin Alabama deep in its own territory.
Then there was the normally sure-footed Rodrigo Blankenship missing a chip shot of a 30-yard field goal that entirely changed the momentum of the game. He’s now missed his last two field-goal attempts, and both have been shorter than 50 yards. Blankenship was one of the nation’s best kickers in the country this season, but his short miss on Saturday really started to turn the game in Alabama’s favor.
And finally, there’s the “fake” punt call made by coach Kirby Smart in the fourth quarter. On fourth and 11, Georgia attempted a fake punt with quarterback Justin Fields trying to complete a pass to D’Andre Swift. But Fields couldn’t make the connection, and Georgia handed Alabama the ball with only 52 yards to go for the game-winning score.
I don’t have a problem with Smart going for it on fourth down. Georgia’s defense was pretty clearly gassed on the previous drive, and the Bulldogs were in a position to wind down the clock. But why not put your offense out there? Jake Fromm threw for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns on Saturday. You would think Georgia would have a better shot at picking up those yards with Fromm throwing the football.
For an area that Smart talks about constantly, Georgia’s special teams play let the Bulldogs down on Saturday.
Winner: J.R. Reed, Georgia safety
The Georgia secondary was great on Saturday, and no one exemplified that more than junior safety J.R. Reed. In a game loaded with former 5-star prospects, it was a 3-star safety who transferred to Georgia from Tulsa that made one of the more incredible plays of the game.
In the third quarter, Reed picked off what looked to be a sure touchdown pass from Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovoiloa. It was the second of Georgia’s two interceptions on the day.
JR Reed! 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/UtqdbW6PKP
— WeAreDBnation (@WeAreDBNation1) December 1, 2018
For as much as Alabama’s wide receivers were talked about heading into the game, only Jaylen Waddle had more than 50 yards. Yes, Jerry Jeudy made a great touchdown catch to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but the Georgia secondary covered him well most of the day. The pass rush had to do a better job of keeping Jalen Hurts in the pocket and prevent him from extending plays with his leg. The Georgia secondary did more than enough to put the Bulldogs in a position to win.
Loser: Tua Tagovailoa’s Heisman Trophy chances
For as well as Tagovailoa has played this season, he struggled and hurt Alabama on Saturday. He completed only 10 of his 25 pass attempts and was picked twice. It was his worst game of the season.
Tagovailoa’s main competition for the award, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, had another great day. Murray threw for 379 passing yards and three touchdown,s as the Sooners took home the Big 12 title and the No. 4 spot in the playoffs. After replacing last year’s Heisman Trophy winner in Baker Mayfield, Murray has been every bit as good this season, and he’s led Oklahoma back into the playoff.
A few weeks ago, it would’ve seemed wild to consider anyone but Tagovailoa for the Heisman. But couple Murray’s incredible finish with Tagovailoa’s poor game, which Alabama won thanks to a great performance from backup quarterback Jalen Hurts, and the Georgia defense very well may have prevented Tagovailoa from the Heisman Trophy.
Murray stats: 4,053 passing yards, 40 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 892 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns
Tagovailoa stats: 3,353 passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 190 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns
Winner: Georgia fans looking for an interesting bowl matchup
No one is happy that Georgia isn’t in the College Football Playoff. But UGA fans still have a bowl game and destination that they can look forward to on Jan. 1. The Bulldogs will be playing in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 2008 — a game they won 41-10 against Hawaii.
Georgia will be playing Texas, a team it hasn’t played since the 1984 Cotton Bowl. These are two of the most popular teams in college football, and given the fan bases and the destination — New Orleans — it should be one of the best bowl games of the season.
It’s fair to wonder if Georgia will be up for the bowl game, given that it came so close to playing in the College Football Playoff. But to hear what Smart had to say on the issue, that shouldn’t be a concern for Georgia fans.
“I think the caliber of opponent you’re playing controls a lot of that because I know how our players will see Texas,” Smart said on Sunday. “They’ve got one of the best programs in all of college football, in a great atmosphere. We’re going to kinda meet halfway and get to play in one of the all-time classic bowls.”
There will be some other storylines to watch, such as whether or not Georgia cornerback and projected first-round pick Deandre Baker plays in the game, but this is a game Georgia fans should be excited to see. The Bulldogs figure to be even better next year, and they could use the Sugar Bowl as a springboard to a strong 2019 season. Georgia can and should use this game to make a statement that it was one of the four best teams this season and that it absolutely is going to be in that same category next season.
Best stories from around DawgNation
- UGA football: Despite another harrowing loss, key recruit offers up boundless optimism
- Kirby Smart on Georgia CFB Playoff snub: ‘Every year it’s going to be different’ criteria
- Georgia football opens as double-digit favorite over Texas in Sugar Bowl
- Georgia Bulldogs definitely one of nation’s 4 best teams, but CFP committee got it right
- College Football Playoff Committee: ‘Protocol’ keeps Georgia football out of playoffs
- Georgia to play Texas in 2019 Sugar Bowl
- Georgia drops out of top 4, does not make College Football Playoff
Dawgs on Twitter
— UGA (@universityofga) December 2, 2018
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 3, 2018
Coaches are human too. I could tell you of 125 teams that would trade you their coach for Kirby right now.
Nick Saban is the GOAT, and you’re getting mad that a coach in his 3rd year was 61 seconds away from beating him TWICE?
— blakejmorgan (@blakejmorgann) December 3, 2018
Pretty nice consolation prize if I do say so myself 😎 https://t.co/lHe0ahQqh7
— Abby Jessen (@abbyjessen) December 3, 2018
Good Dawg of the Day
— Abby Jessen (@abbyjessen) December 1, 2018