ATLANTA — Georgia football ran out of gas early in the SEC Championship Game and was run out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium by LSU on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers (13-0), already the SEC’s all-time leading scoring team with single-season passing record holder Joe Burrow, were dominant en route to a 37-10 win.
Burrow exited in the fourth quarter to LSU cheers of “Joe For Heisman.”
Most of the Georgia fans, who had made up approximately three-fourths of the crowd, had already left the stadium.
Things started bad for the Bulldogs (11-2), who were down 17-3 at halftime, and they grew worse.
Georgia soldiered through an embattled season filled with close wins and injuries just to get to its third straight SEC Championship Game.
It didn’t appear there was much left in the tank.
The Bulldogs entered missing their top two receivers in the first half. Lawrence Cager underwent surgery on Nov. 29, and George Pickens suspended.
It was immediately obvious their absences would be a factor.
Quarterback Jake Fromm had a deep ball dropped by senior Tyler Simmons on the first play from scrimmage.
Later, on the same drive, Matt Landers ran out of bounds early, negating a completion, and then timing appeared off on a shallow post to Demetris Robertson.
Instead of gaining momentum, three missed strikes cost Georgia an early opportunity to set the tone.
The Bulldogs punted, LSU scored on its opening drive, and the Tigers never looked back.
Here are three quick takeaways from Georgia’s loss to LSU on Saturday.
No Run Game
A common and accurate pregame narrative was that Georgia would need to establish a run game to have any chance at a victory.
From the onset, when D’Andre Swift didn’t start, the odds didn’t look good.
Swift, apparently still ailing from the shoulder injury he suffered last Saturday against Georgia Tech, was used sparingly.
UGA mostly used their most dynamic skill position player on pass routes. Swift had one carry in the first half that failed to gain any yardage.
Brian Herrien, James Cook and Zamir White all had first-half carries, rotating in the backfield. All ran hard, but none could match the rare blend of power and speed Swift brings at his best.
Georgia was unable to chip wood, much less chop wood, against a determined LSU defense.
Pass defense shredded
It would be too easy, and in fact inaccurate, to place all the blame on the secondary.
Burrow’s ability to scramble and buy time, dodging sacks, tucking and running for first downs on would-be negative plays, factored throughout.
Still, there were opportunities for UGA’s talented defensive backs to make plays and win one-on-one matchups, and they fell short.
Safeties J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte appeared in position on most occasions, but they were unable to make the sort of game-changing plays Georgia desperately needed against the Tigers’ vaunted offense.
Fromm was often stuck holding the ball with no one open, and there were several dropped passes from the onset that could have — likely would have, with the partisan crowd — provided essential momentum.
The lack of development in the receiving corps among the returning players has been startling and likely worthy of review by coach Kirby Smart.
Pickens will likely never forget how much damage his emotional outburst at Georgia Tech did to his team’s chances of winning. Pickens’ third quarter fight in a 52-7 win over Georgia Tech led to his first-half suspension.
The UGA receiving corps, already missing Lawrence Cager, grew shallow quickly when Dominick Blaylock suffered a serious knee injury and Kearis Jackson left the game with an ankle injury.
If there’s one area to address in recruiting and in the coach’s office before the next game and in the offseason, it will be the receiving corps.