Short takes: After loss, Georgia is trailing even Kentucky in SEC East

Georgia coach Mark Richt finds his team only 2-2 in SEC play and trailing even Kentucky (2-1) in the East Division. (Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia lost a game to Tennessee 38-31 and they might have lost their best player, running back Nick Chubb, for the season. These things always seem to happen in Knoxville. For my column on the game, click here.  Following are my three “short takes:”

1. ABOUT GEORGIA’S OFFENSE: If tailback Nick Chubb is done for the season, as many suspect, there are obvious reasons to be concerned about the offense. This has less to do with the talents of backup Sony Michel than it does everything else. Don’t be fooled by Georgia’s 31 points. Two touchdowns came from linebacker Leonard Floyd on a 96-yard fumble return and Reggie Davis on a 70-yard punt return. Yes, the Dogs managed 444 yards in total offense, and Davis dropped a certain touchdown pass from quarterback Greyson Lambert in the final minutes. But Tennessee entered the game ranked only 12th in scoring defense in the SEC (24.6), and Lambert finished the game completing 15 of 32 (albeit for 279 yards and two touchdowns). The Dogs struggled to move the ball on too many possessions: zero first downs on their first three drives and seven points on six second-half possessions. This wasn’t just about Reggie Davis dropping a touchdown pass.

2. PRUITT’S STOCK FALLING: Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said after the game, “How did we hold them to three points for the first 27 minutes of the game and how did they score 35 points in the next 33 minutes of the game? That’s the things we’ve got to figure out.” No kidding. One week after Georgia’s defense was shredded by Alabama, Tennessee’s offense accumulated 519 yards and from late in the first half had touchdown drives 53, 25 (after Michel fumbled on a kickoff return), 67, 56 and, worst of all, an eight-play, 78-yard possession with 5:48 left. I understand Pruitt is working with a young secondary, but the defense seems to be get getting worse, not better. Tackling is poor. The pass rush at times is non-existent. The defensive front is getting run over at the most inopportune of times (the Volunteers outrushed the Dogs 207-165). Tennessee converted 8 of 18 third-down situations and was 2-for-2 on fourth down. Pruitt needs to find answers. And fast.

3. WHAT NEXT? How bad is it, Georgia fans? The Bulldogs (2-2) are now trailing Kentucky (2-1) in the SEC East. And who’s to say that’s going to change any time soon? The Wildcats, who were off Saturday, play at home against struggling Auburn next week and have already beaten South Carolina and Missouri. The Dogs play host to Missouri next week and still has conference games against Florida (Jacksonville), Kentucky and Auburn (road). Coaches, players and at least a segment of the fan base are all about optimism and believing the next game can turn things around. But this is shaping up as a problem season for Georgia, especially if Chubb is done for the year. For what it’s worth, Richt’s only non-winning SEC seasons came in 2006 (4-4), 2009 (4-4) and 2010 (3-5).

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