Georgia report card: Bulldogs can't find enough answers in SEC title game test against Alabama, 41-24

12/4/21 - Atlanta - Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) scrambles for a touchdown after a 32 yard receptions during the 2nd quarter of the SEC Championship football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

ATLANTA — Georgia football got put to the test by determined Alabama on Saturday afternoon, and the results had Bulldogs’ fans that outnumbered Tide followers 3-to-1 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium seeing red.

The Crimson Tide upset Georgia by a 41-24 count on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.

Alabama spotted UGA a 10-0 lead and then exploded for 24 points in the second quarter. The Bulldogs were outgained 319 to 61 and had two three-and-out series in the midst of the meltdown.

The Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs and had two turnovers in the second half, including a costly Pick 6, their relatively conservative play-action style of offense unable to keep pace with the Crimson Tide.

Alabama outgained Georgia 536 yards to 449 and was more effective on third downs, converting 7 of 14 while Georgia was only 3 of 12 on third downs.

The Crimson Tide defense also outplayed the Bulldogs, forcing two turnovers while Georgia couldn’t force any, and recording 6 TFLs to UGA’s 4.

QUARTERBACK (C)

Stetson Bennett was 29-of-48 passing for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he also had 2 interceptions — including a Pick 6 — turned the ball over with a fourth-down incompletion. Bennett had 7 rush attempts for 11 yards, including 3 sacks. Bennett played hard and did all he could, nerves were not the issue as he staked UGA out to a 10-0 lead and made some good throws. A limited scheme was the culprit, as Bennett was put into disadvantageous positions he was not adequately prepared or suited for.

RUNNING BACK (A-)

Kenny McIntosh had the longest run among the backs for a second straight game, breaking off a 12-yarder. James Cook had a team-high 11 carries for 38 yards and 4 catches for 28 yards. Zamir White had 7 carries for 27 yards and 2 catches for 17 yards. A healthy Kendall Milton did not get an opportunity to carry the ball. Georgia’s run game was nowhere to be found on the two three-and-out series in the second quarter.

RECEIVERS (B)

George Pickens made a leaping 37-yard catch early, helping Georgia get off to fast start. Brock Bowers was the main target, though, making 10 catches off 16 targets for 139 yards and a TD. Jermaine Burton made some clutch catches, 3 for 36 yards. Darnell Washington had a 5-yard TD catch. Ladd McConkey showed some serious jets on his 32-yard TD catch. Adonai Mitchell had a third-down drop on a ball thrown into heavy traffic during the second quarter meltdown.

OFFENSIVE LINE (B)

The pass protection was good and run lanes were present, but there were costly penalties. Jamaree Salyer’s false start in the fourth quarter led Kirby Smart to change his call to go for a fourth-and-10 to punting on fourth-and-15. Justin Shaffer also had a false start at the UGA 3-yard line. Salyer and Shaffer are the seniors. Sophomore Broderick Jones had played well at left tackle, but Salyer clearly was not going to lose his position due to injury.

DEFENSIVE LINE (B)

Jordan Davis led the linemen with four tackles, and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt made a tremendous play in pursuit, stripping Bryce Young of the football. Nolan Smith and Travon Walker were in on 2 stops, but did not make the sort of impact plays that change games. The unit did not do much to keep Bryce Young hemmed in.

LINEBACKERS (B-)

Nakobe Dean was all over the field with 5 tackles, 2 pass breaks-ups and 2 quarterback hurries. Dean, however, missed a tackle on Young, who escaped and on third-and-2 hit Jahleel Billingsly for 22-yard gain. The drive ended with a field goal after Dean’s QB pressure. The linebackers were unable to get to the quarterback on blitzes or make game-changing plays.

SECONDARY (D+)

Young passed for an SEC Championship Game-record 421 yards and accumulated an SEC-record 461 yards. The Tide had three pass completions of 40 yards or longer, including Jameson Williams’ 67-yard TD catch and 55-yard TD catch. There were three broken coverages. Lewis Cine had a team-high 7 tackles. Derion Kendrick had 2 pass interference penalties. Kelee Ringo got beat on a 55-yard TD pass.

SPECIAL TEAMS (A)

Jake Camarda boomed an SEC Championship Game-record 68-yard punt. Jack Podlesny hit a 38-yard field goal on his only attempt in the game. Kenny McIntosh had a 25-yard kick return and Zamir White had a 20-yard kick return.

COACHING (C)

The Georgia game plan was conservative and predictable on offense and defense, with Smart playing not to lose instead of taking a more aggressive plan of attack. The halftime adjustments did not seem effective, particularly on offense. Smart said this game could serve as a “wake-up call for his team, but in the post-game press conference, he seemed to put it more on the players talking about broken plays and assignments, more so than publicly re-evaluating his strategy and planning. Smart has veteran coaches at his side who have been in charge of programs in Will Muschamp and Todd Monken, and their feedback should prove critical to the team’s ability to reset before the College Football Playoffs.

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