Report Card: A good day for a nothing-to-lose game
ATHENS — Kirby Smart said earlier this week that he just hoped for a tight competitive G-Day Game. Well, he got his wish as the Red Team edged the Black 25-22 on a field goal with a minute to play.
It’s not easy to grade a team that’s playing itself. If the offense has a big play, then the defense had some kind of breakdown, and so on. But they choose sides and thousands show up for the Georgia G-Day Game, so we’re going to attempt to arrive at some conclusions about how the Bulldogs did as an overall team.
So for what’s worth, here it is:
There will probably be some fans who immediately will grouse at this grade seeing how the two offenses combined to score 47 points and pass for more than 600 yards. But the reality is those numbers were a product of both emphasis and scheme. You have to knock the unit down a notch because neither team could run the football, which is still what Georgia wants to do first. Then again, they didn’t really try to run it much. They combined for 45 rushing attempts to 65 passes and none of those were by Nick Chubb and only a few by Sony Michel. But while they set out to throw the ball all over the place Saturday, the Bulldogs did so with great aplomb. They had 10 catches of 10 yards or more, including touchdown throws of 70, 42, 36 and 33 yards, a several other big gains. Pretty good. The two quarterbacks were sacked seven times — including Jacob Eason’s five — and there were too many incompletions. So it was imperfect, but entertaining.
If you base it on rushing yards allowed, the defenses did a great job. Neither offense tried to run it much but they had very little success when they did. The Black Team averaged 0.1-yard per rush and the Red Team 2.7. Brian Herrien, the primary ball-carrier for the day, had only 18 yards on 11 carries. The defense also put a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks, recording seven sacks and at least as many hurries, though that stat wasn’t kept. This game might’ve looked a lot different had contact been allowed on the quarterbacks, but it’s hard to get past the 607 yards passing the defense allowed. That came at a rate of 18.4 yards per completion. But that was the general game plan was to come out slinging it and take some chances deep and the defense was victimized by it.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
There will be a lot of people who think this grade isn’t a harsh enough, what with Rodrigo Blankenship missing an extra point and two field goals of reasonable range (49 and 40 yards). But this category encompasses so much more than that, including, punting, returns, kickoffs, etc., and there were actually some encouraging signs on some of those fronts. Returns were a wash because there wasn’t really live tackling, but Jayson Stanley, Terry Godwin, Tyler Simmons and Mecole Hardman all looked good before the whistle. And Cameron Nizialek was solid punting the ball, averaging 38.5 yards and a net of 36 on four punts for the two teams. As for Blankenship, he was probably over-extended as one person kicking for both sides. He attempted six field goals (making four on a very windy day), had eight kickoffs (with 3 touchbacks) and we’re told he had a backup holder on the extra point that hit the upright. But all that just underscores the Bulldogs desire to bring in more kickers to compete.
According to Smart, the objective Saturday was throw the ball a lot, create a tight, competitive contest and to not get anybody hurt. Georgia appears to have come through on all three of those fronts. You also have to tip your cap for how well the young players were prepared and performed. Early enrollees such as quarterback Jake Fromm (277 yards passing, 2 TDs), receiver J.J. Holloman (3 catches, 77 yards, 1 TD) and safety Richard LeCounte (leading tackler with 9) played well.
The Bulldogs came up short on their goal of packing out Sanford Stadium again. A year after “93K Day,” they announced Saturday’s attendance as 66,133. Not sure exactly how they arrived at that figure, with no tickets or turnstiles to reference and a lot of empty seats, but it didn’t appear to be quite that many. Nevertheless, the weather was good, the atmosphere was lively and entertaining and the competition was good. Overall a successful day.