JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Kirby Smart didn’t wait to see the game film before taking a critical look at his Georgia football program.
The Bulldogs won decisively (36-17) and out-gained Florida 429 yards to 275.
But Smart wasn’t kidding himself over how much room Georgia has for improvement.
“We are most undoubtedly a work in progress because we still have a lot of areas to improve in,” said Smart, who improved to 2-1 in the Florida rivalry as Georgia won for the fifth time in the past eight meetings.
“We’ve got to continue to play better on defense …. We’ve got to cash the ball in on offense, especially when it counts, and not kick field goals.”
The Bulldogs’ offense bogged down inside the Florida 10-yard line three times leading to field goals.
Georgia had a first-and-goal at the Florida 7 on its opening drive but Elijah Holyfield was stopped for no gain on first down, Jake Fromm was sacked for a 5-yard loss on second down and D’Andre Swift’s third down draw netted 8 yards to the 4.
The second empty red zone trip was as much a matter of clock management as anything, the Bulldogs electing to kick a field goal on second-and-goal from the 5 with six seconds left after Fromm directed a 7-play, 75-yard drive in 44 seconds.
The third empty trip inside the 10 was the most embarrassing and could have cost Georgia the game.
The Bulldogs had six run plays stopped inside the Florida 1-yard line, unable to get a TD even with an offsides call and pass interference providing extra opportunities.
Smart took the blame and said it’s an area that will be worked on immediately in the days leading up to next Saturday’s 3:30 showdown at Kentucky.
The Bulldogs meet the Wildcats with the SEC East Division title and a trip to the SEC Championship Game on the line.
“You’ve got to get the ball in from inside the one, give them credit, they had a great defensive stand, but to have that many snaps and not get in falls right here with me,” Smart said.
Holyfield was stopped three times from the 1, Fromm was kept out twice and Swift lost a yard on his carry.
“We’ve got to practice goal line more, we’ve got to do things that are maybe a little loser to help them out, but we certainly didn’t want to have to run the ball outside all the time and we did that once down there and it didn’t work,” Smart said, referring to Swift’s 1-yard loss. “We couldn’t punch it. So give them credit and we’ll definitely have to get it fixed. It was definitely frustrating.”
Smart said his biggest concern moving forward was “run defense,” which lies at the heart of his defensive philosophy.
“We played better tonight, and that’s a good team, but rushing defense concerns me and tackling,” Smart said. “I get frustrated, and I probably should reserve judgement until I watch tape, but there’s so many times we have two people in the right position, with one blocker and two people, and the guy with the ball in his hands beats the guy to the leverage he shouldn’t get beat.
“If we have two on one we should win that battle.”
Georgia football stories vs. Florida