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John Raoux/AP
Georgia lost 44-28 on Saturday against Florida.

Georgia football winners and losers following 44-28 defeat to Florida

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Georgia football winners and losers following loss to Florida

Loser: Kirby Smart

For as great as Georgia has been under Smart, Saturday was one of the worst days since Smart took over prior to the 2016 season. The Alabama losses are bad and the 2019 South Carolina defeat ranks up there as well.

But what made Saturday such a bad day for the Georgia program is largely because of Smart and his decisions both in the game and in the past.

The most glaring problem was and continues to be the quarterback play at Georgia. Saturday was a new rock bottom, as Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis combined to complete 9-of-29 passes. They totaled three interceptions in the loss as well.

When you compare Georgia to the likes of the elite programs in college football, the most glaring thing Georgia is missing is an elite quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa was drafted in the first round of last year’s NFL draft and Mac Jones hasn’t missed a beat. Trevor Lawrence has missed the last two games and his freshman back-up DJ Uiagalelei has thrown for 781 yards in that time.

The quarterback issue has been and will continue to be brought up until Smart can fix it.

But the other part that made Saturday so disappointing for Smart was that his defense was annihilated against an elite opponent once again. Kyle Trask threw for 474 yards as the Gators rolled up 44 points. Some will point out injuries which is certainly fair, but Georgia was getting burnt on wheel routes and passes to running backs out of the backfield.

The result on Saturday will no doubt sting for Georgia. And it should serve as a reminder for Smart that as much as he’s accomplished he’s still got more to do if he’s ultimately to become a national championship-winning coach.

Winner: Dan Mullen

We’ve often called out Mullen in this space over the course of the season, so let’s acknowledge that Saturday was a great day for him. He clearly outcoached Smart and designed a great gameplan from the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively, the Gators made adjustments and there wasn’t much “Third and Grantham” this year as Georgia was 2-of-13 on third down.

Florida fell behind 14-0 and never blinked. Mullen deserves credit for taking down Smart and Georgia on Saturday. It will be worth watching going forward what kind of effect this win has on the Florida program. Does it give them more credibility with recruits? Major Georgia defensive back target Terrion Arnold certainly took notice of the result.

Loser: Georgia skill players

The Georgia skill players were not the problem on Saturday. But the number of injuries at wide receiver and running back is quickly becoming worrisome.

The Bulldogs have been without Dominick Blaylock for the entire year after he tore his ACL in August. George Pickens has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury. Arian Smith traveled with the team to Florida but he’s been battling injuries all season as well. The Bulldogs have also been without Kenny McIntosh since the Alabama game, though like Smith he did travel.

Then two more promising skill players suffered injuries on Saturday. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint suffered a horrific injury as he scored a touchdown in the first quarter, ending his season. Then in the fourth quarter, freshman running back Kendall Milton left the game with an MCL sprain. There’s a chance he might still return this season, but the injuries are starting to really pile up for this group.

Georgia doesn’t have a likely path to getting back to the SEC championship game this season. In an ideal world, the Bulldogs would use these next four games to develop some of these young skill players. At various points this season, they’ve all shown promise.

But you can’t be developed if you’re out due to injury. For a lot of these guys, the best hope will be a strong offseason of recovery so they can be ready to go for the start of the 2021 season.

Winner: Zamir White

We’ll say something nice here about a Georgia player, and we’ll start with White as he topped 100-yard for the second consecutive game. White did most of his damage on a 75-yard touchdown run, which came on the game’s first play.

It was a career-long for White and it’s an explosive run that Georgia has desperately been looking for.

Unfortunately for White, he finished with only six carries after the first one. He ended the game with 107 yards on those touches. Overall running for Georgia became tougher in part because Florida was loading the box.

But if there is a positive from this funk, it’s that White has begun to look like the running back he was billed to be. He seems comfortable in his knee and cuts. He’s scored a touchdown in every game this season and now it looks like he’s got his breakaway speed back.

With all the injuries on the offense, Georgia will likely look more towards White. And he certainly looks capable of shouldering a bigger load.

Loser: Georgia’s championship asperations 

Florida made it perfectly clear that this Georgia team is not championship material. But going beyond this season, until Georgia can figure out the quarterback position, it feels like those dreams of winning a championship are incredibly distant.

Maybe Mathis improves with more game reps. Perhaps Daniels makes the improvements needed to break into the starting lineup. Carson Beck could potentially emerge during this offseason after spending more time in the program.

Georgia also has a commitment from 5-star quarterback Brock Vandagriff. He’s the first 5-star high school quarterback prospect Georgia has landed since landing Justin Fields in 2018. Given the success of Lawrence, Uiagalelei, Sam Howell at North Carolina and the other freshmen quarterbacks have had in recent seasons there will undoubtedly be pressure on Vandagriff to step in contribute right away.

Expectations on Vandagriff will be incredibly high, far high than what should be expected of a freshman quarterback. That’s all due in part to how the quarterback situation has been handled in recent seasons.

The goal for Georgia under Smart has been winning championships. It’s clear now that to achieve that goal, it must get better quarterback play.

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