Georgia’s heralded rushing attack went AWOL in loss to LSU

Georgia football-LSU football-2019 SEC championship game
Georgia was gashing LSU with D'Andre Swift and the run game early in Saturday's contest. But the Bulldogs appeared to abandon it after falling behind 16-0 at the half.

BATON ROUGE – It was Georgia’s second offensive possession of the game, and it was a doozie.

The first play saw Elijah Holyfield burst through a huge hole between right guard and tackle for a 28-yard gain. It was called back for a questionable holding call on tackle Isaiah Wilson, but no matter.

Next play: D’Andre Swift 12 yards to the 27. Next play: Swift 18 yards to the 45. Next play: Holyfield for 17 to the LSU 38. Next 6 plays: six more runs, 24 more yards.

And then, the bottom fell out. Swift’s last run went for a yard. Jake Fromm threw back-to-back incompletions trying to connect with Mecole Hardman, then the Bulldogs lined up for a field goal they wouldn’t try.

The dominant run game Georgia displayed on that 11-play, 61-yard drive would not be seen again on Saturday. It was like the subsequent scoring drive that LSU mounted to forge a 10-0 lead had staked them instead to 30-point lead.

The Bulldogs would throw passes on 11 of their next 15 plays to end the first half trailing 16-0. Georgia ended up attempting 34 passes in the game – the most this season – and completed only 16 of them, a season-low 47 percent. Fromm also was intercepted twice.

So what happened?

“During that span, we were gashing them pretty good with the run plays and the tight zone,” said Fromm, who was also sacked three times. “We were just taking advantage of what they were giving to us, and then they started kind of taking that away later in the game and we started slinging the ball around a little bit.”

Georgia coach Kirby Smart concurred. He insisted that the Bulldogs abandoning the run game had more to do with LSU than time and score in the game.

“We actually went right back to it, and it didn’t work,” Smart said. “We were in four-open sets and we were running the ball really well and we drove down there and … we kind of stayed with that the next drive. We went back to it. They changed some things up and it wasn’t working as well.”

Apparently Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney shelved that game plan at that point. On the Bulldogs’ first posssession after halftime, they passed the ball on seven of 11 plays and came away with a field goal. They were three-and-out on three straight pass plays the next time out.

Georgia got 13- and 10-yard plays from Holyfield on the next possession, the last going for a touchdown that, with a two-point conversion, would bring the Bulldogs to within one score. A toss sweep for D’Andre Swift failed, and Georgia’s power run game wouldn’t return again.

At one point, after long Mecole Hardman punt return, Georgia took over at the LSU 38 with a chance again to make it a one-score game. But rather than the power-game that’d been working, the Bulldogs called a jet sweep for Hardman, a zone-read with Justin Fields giving to Brian Herrien and then Fromm got sacked for a nine-yard loss on third down.

For a team that preaches physical play and toughness, it was anything but.

“I’m not sure,” said Holyfield, who had averaged 8 yards on seven carries to that point but never touched the ball again, when asked about Georgia’s offensive strategy. “I don’t call the plays, so I just go out there and try to execute to the best of my ability. I have full trust in my offensive coordinator and whatever he calls. Whatever he calls I’m going to go out there and try to execute it to the best of my ability.”

Swift, who had 72 yards on 12 carries, echoed that sentiment. For the game, Georgia recorded a season-low 322 yards and 16 points.

Said Smart: “We weren’t getting the same movement. They were making the ball bounce out. We didn’t have as much production in it.”

Fromm called Saturday’s entire experience at LSU “humbling.” But he insisted the Bulldogs haven’t lost confidence about what they’re capable of doing on offense.

“Just go to work next week, that’s all we can do,” he said. “We’ll go to work on Florida and ourselves during the bye week. Obviously after any loss you’re going to get humbled. And, we’re going to look ourselves in the mirror and go to work next week and get as good as we possibly can as we get ready for Florida.”

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