Georgia football winners and losers following Peach Bowl victory
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Georgia football winners and losers from around DawgNation
Winner: Georgia’s senior class
In the lead-up to Peach Bowl, Georgia made it clear it wanted to go out and play for the senior class one last time. To earn one final victory for the likes of Richard LeCounte, Malik Herring and the many Bulldogs who racked up 43 victories since the start of the 2017 season.
And thanks to a last-second field goal from walk-on Jack Podlesny and safety forced by Azeez Ojulari, the 2020 Georgia team got to celebrate a win for the final times with a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats.
The win tied the school record for wins by a senior class. But Georgia head coach Kirby Smart explained he was going to use some creative accounting to make them the winningest class in program history.
“These seniors, they tied the winningest record of any senior class to come through,” Smart said. “They really got slighted. We’re going to remove the asterisk and erase it. Because with the Vanderbilt game, they would have been able to get that done. I just appreciate the guys never quitting and continuing to fight.”
Perhaps no senior better showed how much the win meant than Richard LeCounte. He missed the previous four games for Georgia due to injuries suffered in a traffic accident. He could’ve opted-out of the bowl game to get ready for the Senior Bowl.
Instead, he suited up for the Bulldogs and led them out of the tunnel one final time in his storied career. He saw just one snap of game-action, the final play of the game.
And based on the reaction by both the senior defensive back and his head coach, you can tell this game, win and team meant a lot to the Georgia football program.
Just wanted to make sure all of #DawgNation saw that Richard LeCounte was begging to get in and help his team win – he got in – the last play of the game – and was also voted a team captain by his teammates. Go Dawgs !! pic.twitter.com/q9MAext1f0
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) January 2, 2021
I Got one Last Play ! That’s all I was wishing for ! GOOOO DAWGGGSSSS!!
— Richard LeCounte III (@LilEasy_35) January 1, 2021
Loser: Situational punting
On Georgia’s next-to-last possession, Smart faced a decision. With just over three minutes remaining, the Bulldogs need three yards to pick up a first down. Georgia was still on its own side of the field, and the defense had been largely excellent against the Cincinnati offense.
Smart took a timeout. Then he decided to punt the ball back to the Bearcats, who would need two first downs to run out the game clock.
After the game Smart knew he made the wrong decision, even if the results ended up working out in favor.
“Felt good we could get it,” Smart said. “I always believe if you have momentum in stopping people, defensively I don’t know how many three-and-outs we had had, felt like we had the momentum back. We have a history here of we call it get the ball back for a minute. We got to stop them to get the ball back. I felt comfortable we could stop them with our timeouts.”
Georgia defensive back Tyrique Stevenson, who got his first career start at cornerback, broke-up a Desmond Ridder pass to get the stop Georgia very much needed.
Still, Smart wasn’t confident he made the right decision afterward.
“If they complete that, we don’t have a chance to win,” Smart said. “Did a heck of a job. Looking back, maybe we should have gone for it there.”
The punt call harkened back nightmares to when Smart infamously ran a fake punt with Justin Fields in the 2018 SEC Championship Game. The decision to not go for it and trust the defense seemed to air on the conservative side. A more aggressive decision would’ve been to put the offense out there, even though Georgia didn’t convert on a fourth and one earlier in the game.
Smart did end up getting the results needed to win the game. But had Georgia lost, Smart would’ve been heavily criticized for the decision.
Winner: George Pickens
No one seems to enjoy putting on a show in bowl games more than George Pickens.
In the 2020 Sugar Bowl, Pickens took home MVP honors after catching 12 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in the win over Baylor.
Against Cincinnati, Pickens took whatever he wanted. He finished with seven catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. His best catch came on a spectacular grab that resulted in a 51-yard completion.
George Pickens is a BAD man. pic.twitter.com/38Bho2Cl0p
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) January 1, 2021
Pickens didn’t quite have the 1,000-yard season many thought he would at the beginning of the season. He missed two games over the course of the season, still had his fair share of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties as well as an incident where he sprayed Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantono in the face with a water bottle.
The sophomore wide receiver’s talents though seemed to be fully unlocked once JT Daniels was inserted into the lineup. In those final four games, Pickens caught 23 passes for 373 yards and four touchdowns. Adjust those numbers over a 12-game season, and it comes out to 69 catches for 1,119 yards and 12 touchdowns.
That would be the best season in Georgia history for a wide receiver. The Peach Bowl was another reminder of how special Pickens can be when it all gets put together. If Daniels returns next season, that might be the best chance to see what a fully-operational Pickens looks like.
Loser: Dan Mullen
The SEC went 6-2 in bowl games this season. One of those losses was Auburn, which fired head coach Gus Malzahn after the end of the season.
The other loss came from Florida, as the Gators were blown out by Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. The 55-20 loss was the worst defeat for Florida since the 2017 Georgia game.
Making matters worse for Florida was what its head coach had to say after the game.
“I would have loved to have played the season we were supposed to play with the team we were supposed to have this year; but, unfortunately for COVID, we weren’t able to do that,” Mullen said. “I viewed this game that wasn’t the 2020 football team that you saw. I mean, there were about 25 guys missing off the 2020 football team out there tonight.”
Florida wasn’t the only program to be impacted by opt-outs this bowl season. Georgia had its fair share to deal with as well. Yet the Bulldogs came out and wanted to end the season on a winning note. Florida didn’t seem to care.
The difference in the two bowl games show the difference in the current cultures at Georgia and Florida. The Bulldogs played poorly in the 2019 Sugar Bowl against Texas after losing the SEC championship game. Georgia though has learned from those lessons and won its previous two bowl games, even dealing with the disappointment of not playing in the College Football Playoff and the missing players.
This was Florida’s best season in at least a decade. After beating Georgia, the Gators seemed to have real momentum. Instead, they’ve ended the season on a three-game losing streak and will almost certainly finish with a lower final ranking than the Georgia team it beat in early November.
Winner: Justin Fields
Justin Fields was magnificent for Ohio State against Clemson. He out-dueled Trevor Lawrence as he tossed six touchdowns in the win. He looked every bit like how a 5-star quarterback should, even after being involved in a hit that more closely resembled a car crash.
Breaking News! @justnfields has just approached Dollar status with this late Dime to @chrisolave_ for a touchdown.#wherethemdollarsat@OhioStateFB @SugarBowlNola @ESPNCFB #ClemsonVsOhioState pic.twitter.com/AQfoRAZt67
— Alton Crawf (@AltonCrawf) January 2, 2021
Naturally, Georgia fans have a lot of conflicted emotions about this. Some still can’t stand Fields because he made the decision to transfer after his freshman season. Others still want to see him succeed, as many of his former Georgia teammates still in fact do. There’s also the looming possibility of Fields being taken by the Atlanta Falcons with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Keep balling J fields
— Malik Herring (@HerringMalik) January 2, 2021
Fields’ final snap as a Bulldog came on the aforementioned fake punt. Since then he’s become one of the best quarterbacks in the entire sport. He’ll have a massive challenge on his hands in taking down an Alabama that has clearly been the best team in the country this season.
Fields will get a chance to do something that Georgia couldn’t do earlier in the season and beat the Crimson Tide. It’s something Jake Fromm couldn’t do, as he went 0-2 against the Crimson Tide as a starter.
Fromm’s name was trending as Fields shredded Clemson. If Fields is actually able to win a national championship, against the Crimson Tide no less, it will be another tough night for Georgia fans. Much worse than the time Deshaun Watson, another Georgia native, led Clemson to a national title over Alabama.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- Georgia linebacker Nate McBride thanks Dawgnation fans for ‘special ride’
- Jeremiah Alexander: Why the talented 5-star junior LB has UGA in his final 6
- The latest Georgia football roster movement regarding NFL draft, transfer portal and returnees
- Tyrique Stevenson makes ‘play of the game’ when Georgia needed it most to start 2021
- Former 5-star Georgia recruiting target Arik Gilbert enters transfer portal
- The latest Georgia football roster movement regarding NFL draft, transfer portal and returnees
- Georgia football players, coaches continue Peach Bowl celebration on social media
- WATCH: Kirby Smart shares incredible video of Richard LeCounte’s final play as a Georgia Bulldog
- Georgia football: Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell played ‘to win’ in final moments of Peach Bowl
- Georgia QB JT Daniels stayed California cool on Peach Bowl game-winning drive
- Report card: Georgia delivers Grade A comeback victory in Peach Bowl
Dawgs on Twitter
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) January 4, 2021
One love, Dawg Nation 🙏🏿❤️🖤 pic.twitter.com/lgtbFBgqrr
— Azeez (@_Azeez_8) January 2, 2021
Kirby didn't want the Gatorade shower 😂
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) January 1, 2021
Appreciate you more coach!💪🏾 https://t.co/xL4d12Ig6A
— Zamir White (@zeus1_34) January 2, 2021
Good Dawg of the Day
The perfect ending. pic.twitter.com/CvgSelP23e
— Teddy (@MrTeddyTedster) January 3, 2021