ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart understands that great teams play to their own standard, regardless of the opponent. He also must know that the Bulldogs aren’t remotely close to being at that point yet — and in fact are moving in the opposite direction.
The Dogs lost to Vanderbilt 17-16 Saturday, their first home loss to the Commodores since 2006 and the first SEC road win ever for SEC coach Derek Mason (who was 0-9 before this game and 2-17 overall in the conference in two and a half seasons).
Georgia? It looks like Liberty Bowl material.
Part of the reason for the decline is the Dogs have played to the level of their competition all season, rather than with any consistency in any part of their game.
• Game 1, North Carolina: They appeared relatively evenly matched with the Tar Heels and pulled out a 33-24 win in the Georgia Dome, a result that seemed to be a good omen for the rest of the season.
• Game 2, Nicholls State: Favored to win by anywhere from 47 to 55.5 points, the Dogs had to rally and barely hung on to win 26-24.
• Game 3, at Missouri: Stinging from that performance and favored by a touchdown over a weak conference opponent, many expected the Dogs to roll. Instead, they needed a late touchdown pass from Jacob Eason to pull out a 28-27 win.
• Game 4, at Ole Miss: Actually, this is the one time Georgia fans would’ve liked for their team to play to the level of their competition. But the Dogs didn’t come close. The Rebels jumped out to a 45-0 lead and won 45-14.
• Game 5, vs. Tennessee: The Volunteers were favored by about a field goal and won by a field goal, 34-31, so in that sense it wasn’t a great disappointment. But this was a winnable game. The Dogs committed undisciplined penalties and allowed Tennessee to pull it out on a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass.
• Game 6, at South Carolina: The final score of the win (28-14) suggests Georgia blew away the Gamecocks. But while it’s true Georgia ran the ball for 326 yards, it blew scoring opportunities and allowed South Carolina, a wounded team, to hang around the entire game.
Game 7, vs. Vanderbilt: Favored to win by two touchdowns, Georgia allowed a 95-yard kickoff return to open the game, fiddled on offense, committed penalties, never established the run, never had a lead until the third quarter and lost 17-16. The offense converted just one of three red zone opportunities into a touchdown.
When asked about his offensive line Saturday, Smart held out his hand and moved it up and down, up and down, up and down. That’s just like his team. That’s just what he was trying to avoid.
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