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Bob Andres / AJC
Georgia tailback D'Andre Swift scored on this play, but the Bulldogs' talented back has had trouble converting in other short-yardage situations.

Georgia football short-yardage struggles ‘unacceptable’

ATHENS — Kirby Smart and his Georgia football staff have searched inside and out for answers to the Bulldogs’ short-yardage struggles.

Five games into the season, there’s still more work to be done.

Georgia plays host to South Carolina at noon Saturday in Sanford Stadium (TV: ESPN), and it’s a safe bet  short-yardage situations have been drilled.

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Georgia is 10-for-21 this season against Power 5 level competition in down-and-distance situations where 2 yards or less are needed for a first down or a touchdown..

We say that third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 we want to be 100 percent,” Smart said following practice on Tuesday. “We have some pretty lofty goals here, so it’s the same way that we want to give up zero explosive plays every game, and we want to give up zero turnovers.”

Not converting on fourth-and-1 — which Georgia has failed on in both instances this season — is like a turnover.

“It’s unacceptable, with the personnel they have, it should rarely happen,” ESPN analyst and Joe Moore Team Blocking Trophy voter Cole Cubelic said. “Get in a 4-point stance, get under center and go. Heck, put number 74 (Ben Cleveland) at fullback.

“I’d anticipate it will be a focal point in practice in the coming weeks.”

The first fourth down fail of 2019 came in the opener at Vanderbilt. Jake Fromm was under center when he handed off to D’Andre Swift on a fourth-and-1 at the Commodores’ 17, and Swift was dropped for a 3-yard loss.

Georgia faced a fourth-and-1 against Notre Dame in the fourth quarter of its 23-17 win, but Smart opted for a field goal.

Smart said after the game he wanted to go for it, and that his team needed to be able to pick up a yard when needed.

Saturday at Tennessee, Georgia still couldn’t get all the tough yards.

Fromm took a shotgun snap at the Vols’ 39 and handed off to Swift, who was stopped for no gain.

Smart explained why the Bulldogs went to a shotgun formation. It made sense, even if the play failed.

“I know defensively it eliminates a lot of plays once you’re under center, (so) it allows the defense to be a little more aggressive and they don’t have to defend as much area,” Smart said. “And, there’s a lot of teams that teach submarine-cut techniques, where they go down low and they try to submarine you and it doesn’t allow you to use your advantage, which is your size.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to do a better job as coaches. We’re not getting it done in those areas and we’ve got to improve.”

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Brian Herrien has been the most effective runner in the situations against Power 5 level competition this season where Georgia has needed 2 yards or less for a first down or a touchdown.

Herrien has converted 6 of 8 on those situations, Swift just 2 of 7. Fromm has passed five times, and twice his passes have netted a first down or touchdown. Tyler Simmons was stopped once.

Short-yardage was an issue last season, most notably against Florida when the Bulldogs were stopped six times at the Gators’ 1.

Three carries up the gut for Elijah Holyfield netted nothing, two QB sneaks for Fromm failed to gain and a Swift outside run lost a yard.

“We have to be physical to get a yard when we have to and we did not do that today,” Smart said at the time. “It’s absolutely uncalled for and we are going to correct that.”

Georgia won the game 36-17, but UGA was limited to three field goals on three trips inside the Gators’ 10-yard line.

Smart took note and it was a point of emphasis during the offseason.

“We’ve done a lot of offseason work on it, and we look in the season at every team in the country that are converting those,” Smart said. “But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what other people are doing, it’s what you’re able to execute and what your players can handle.

“Our guys have done a good job in a lot of situations, and the ones that stick out are the ones that stuck out last week that we didn’t convert.”

Here’s a look at the situations where Georgia has needed 2 yards or less to convert for a first down or a touchdown

(conversions in bold)

VANDERBILT

Third-and-1 at VU 6…. Brian Herrien PLUS 3 

First-and-goal at VU 2…. D’Andre Swift PLUS 1

Second-and-Goal at VU 1….Brian Herrien PLUS 1 / TD 

Second-and-2 at VU 18…..Brian Herrien PLUS 1

Third-and-1 at VU 17…..Fromm Inc. for Demetris Robertson

Fourth-and-1 at VU 17…..D’Andre Swift MINUS 3

Second-and-2 at VU 20… Fromm complete Charlie Woerner PLUS 1

Third-and-1 at VU 19….Brian Herrien ZERO

MURRAY STATE

First-and-goal at MSU 2….Brian Herrien PLUS 2 / TOUCHDOWN

Second-and-2 at UGA 20…. Zamir White PLUS 4 

Second-and-1 at UGA 33….James Cook PLUS 3

Second-and-2 at UGA 33…Zamir White PLUS 29 

Third-and-1 at UGA 34……Kenny McIntosh PLUS 6 

Third-and-1 at MSU 39…. Stetson Bennettt complete Dominick Blaylock PLUS 11 

Second-and-goal at MSU 1 … Bennett PLUS 1 /TD

Third-and-2 at UGA 35…Sevaughn Clark PLUS 6 

ARKANSAS STATE

Second-and-1 at UGA 44…..Tyler Simmons PLUS 7 

Second-and-1 at ASU 40….Fromm complete Simmons PLUS 12 

Third-and-2 at UGA 40….Fromm complete Blaylock PLUS 60 yards / TD

Fourth-and-2 at ASU 40…Fromm run PLUS 3  

Third-and-1 at ASU 43…Zamir White PLUS 1

First-and-goal at ASU 1…Zamir White PLUS 1 / TD

NOTRE DAME

(Second-and-1 at ND 44… Fromm to Swift PLUS 1 was negated by penalty)

TENNESSEE

Second-and-1 at UT 3,….. Swift PLUS 1 

First-and-goal at UT 1 ….Swift PLUS 1 / TD

Second-and-2 at UGA 33 …. Simmons MINUS 2

Third-and-1 at UGA 43… Fromm complete Eli Wolf PLUS 10 

Second-and-1 at UT 3…Fromm complete Lawrence Cager PLUS 3 / TD

Second-and-1 at UGA 34 ….Swift MINUS 4

Second-and-2 at UT 45….Herrien PLUS 5 

Second-and-2 at UT 40…Fromm Inc. Blaylock

Third-and-2 at UT 40…Swift PLUS 1

Fourth-and-1 at UT 39….Swift ZERO

Second-and-2 at UT 29…Herrien PLUS 5 

Third-and-1 at UT 3….Herrien PLUS 2 

First-and-goal at UT 1…Herrien PLUS 1 / TD

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