ATHENS — In a season of disappointments, Georgia saved its biggest one for last. Add the Bulldogs’ 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech to the scrap-heap of games that they should have won this season.
Georgia blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead by allowing two touchdowns in the final 6:28. According to ESPN’s probability graphic, the Bulldogs had a 98 percent chance of winning when Tech’s J.J. Green was thrown for a two-yard loss at the Jackets’ 4-yard line with just over nine minutes to play. Georgia led 27-14 at the time.
Instead, the visitors would cover 96 yards in the next six plays to make it a one-score game, then get the turnover it had to have to set up a dramatic, go-ahead score with 30 seconds to play. It was the third fourth-quarter lead the Bulldogs blew this season. UGA also lost to Tennessee and Vanderbilt after leading late.
As it is, Georgia ends its first regular season under rookie head coach Kirby Smart at 7-5. It represents the program’s fewest wins since 2010 (6-7) and only the second time in 20 seasons Georgia has won fewer than eight games.
Here’s how the Bulldogs graded out on Saturday:
It was actually a fairly productive day for the Georgia offense before stalling out in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs finished with 420 total yards, ran 70 plays to Tech’s 52 and possessed the football for 34:33, or nearly 60 percent of the game. At one point Georgia had converted six of nine third downs and finished eight of 15. Tailbacks Sony Michel (170) and Nick Chubb (88) combined for 258 of the Bulldogs’ 263 yards rushing. So that was all good. But Georgia’s offense failed miserably when its team needed it the most. The Bulldogs were 0-for-3 on their three fourth-quarter possessions, which ended in a punt and two interceptions. Jacob Eason’s inaccuracy passing the football (14-of-27) continued to hurt the Bulldogs, not just with the game-turning interception with 3:39 to play, but also when missing open receivers or failing to hit them in stride.
If this grade was based on the second and third quarters, the Bulldogs might’ve come away with an A or B. But in football like in most other sports, it’s about how you finish, and Georgia finished poorly. Not only did it allow the two scores, but it gave up 168 yards — or 43 percent of Tech’s total — in the fourth quarter alone. The Jackets got their yards in chunks, averaging 7.5 yards per play. They recorded passes of 64 and 39 yards, averaged 27.3 yards per completion and had runs of 42 and 32 yards. Tech didn’t get many red-zone chances, but they were perfect when they did, going 3-for-3 with three touchdowns.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Rodrigo Blankenship improved to 13 for 16 on field goals for the season with two more makes of 32 and 27 yards. But his line-drive pull left of a 42-yard attempt in the first quarter proved extremely costly in the one-point loss. The Bulldogs went with William Ham on kickoffs and he recorded four touchbacks on six kicks. Brice Ramsey averaged a season-best 41 yards on two punts and downed Tech at the 6 on one. Georgia did not have a punt return, and Reggie Davis unwisely brought out one kickoff from two-yards deep and was stopped at the 16. Just average overall.
There’s an old coaches’ axiom that goes, “if you could have won, you should have won.” That doesn’t say much for how it went for the Bulldogs this season. Georgia executed late comebacks against North Carolina and Missouri, but it failed to hold on against Tech, Tennessee and Vandy, barely held on against South Carolina and had no shot against two other opponents. Smart brought in Jim Chaney to run the offense and develop his 5-star freshman quarterback. The Bulldogs scored their fewest points ever in a 12-game regular season with 288 and averaged the least as well (24.0). Georgia came out of a timeout with 3:44 with the play call that resulted in the game-turning interception.
Georgia proved over the first 50 minutes of play that it had the superior talent. Tech proved over the final 10 it had the superior team. Whatever good will and positive momentum the Bulldogs had mustered during the three-game winning streak before Saturday has been wiped out. There’s no way to sugarcoat a home loss a Yellow Jackets’ team not in the championship picture.