November 19, 2022 Lexington, KY - Georgia's head coach Kirby Smart shouts instructions during the second half in an NCAA football game at Kroger Field in Lexington, KY on Saturday, November 19, 2022. Georgia won 16-6 over Kentucky. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Kirby Smart gets testy in defense of Georgia situational execution: ‘That’s my decision to make’

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Georgia was not great with how it executed in specific situations on Saturday. The Bulldogs struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone and were stuffed in three key short-yardage situations.

Kirby Smart will admit to that much. Where the Georgia coach might squabble with people is over the questioning of his decisions.

“That’s my decision,” Smart said. “That’s really relative to us. We talk about things on the headphones every play. That (timeout) just gave us more time to talk about it. I don’t have to share with you, do I? What’s said on the headphones stays on the headphones, I’m sorry you’re not privy to those.”

Making matters worse was that Kentucky then drove the length of the field to get its only points of the afternoon. The 99-yard drive was the longest drive given up by the Bulldogs since 2014.

Georgia had already settled for three field goals in the red zone on Saturday, an issue that popped up earlier in the season in a narrow win over Missouri.

The end of quarter and field change gave Smart more time to think. But his decision on whether his team could get a yard was made long ago.

“That was a decision that was made by me, and I wanted to show confidence in our players,” Smart said. “If I had a chance to go out there and do it again, I’d say let’s go out there and do it again, because that’s what I believe in. That decision was made 15 years ago, my philosophy.”

Related: Georgia football-Kentucky instant observations following win that leaves many cold

Kicker Jack Podlesny made all three of his field goals, which was not a given due to the windy conditions on Saturday. Kentucky’s kicker missed a late field goal that would’ve cut Georgia’s lead to seven. Smart noted that the wind gusts got up to 25 miles per hour on

A touchdown by Georgia would’ve salted the game away against a Kentucky offense that had gone three-and-out on its three prior possessions. As for why the Bulldogs got stuffed, Smart did offer a more nuanced answer.

“We didn’t get much movement,” Smart said. “The first time we got blew up at guard when we down at the end where we come out. And then the quarter change over, we came back out and didn’t get much movement. It’s a play that’s a statement play, it’s an identity play. You got to be more physical than them and they were more physical than us.”

Later in the game, Georgia was facing a third-and-one on its penultimate possession. A first down literally would’ve ended all hope for Kentucky. This time, instead of trying to run behind defensive tackle Jalen Carter, quarterback Stetson Bennett tried to sneak it for a yard. He was unsuccessful and Georgia had to punt for just the second time all day.

For an offense that still ran for 247 yards on Saturday, it’s hard to call it a poor performance from the offense. But Bennett — who threw for just 113 yards on 19 passing attempts — bluntly said Georgia has to be better.

“Red zone, gotta be better at that,” Bennett said. “Gotta be better at third and one, fourth and one, goal to go for the one. Gotta be better at all those things. Just in general, whatever that specific play needed to be better at, we needed to be better at it.

Smart credited Kentucky’s physical nature. The Wildcats also shortened the game with long drives that ultimately didn’t end in points. Georgia meanwhile scored on four of its first five possessions, with the only stop coming after a Bennett interception that got hung up in the wind.

Georgia still came away with a 10-point road in SEC play. It came at the end of a four-game stretch against what Smart called a gauntlet. In total, this performance isn’t one to overly focus on, especially with fellow playoff teams like Ohio State, Michigan and TCU all struggling on Saturday.

The Bulldogs have to be better, especially in those crucial situations. Because eventually, Georgia will face a team that can make it pay for not executing. Smart and Bennett both know that.

“We haven’t been winning those matchups on third down and one,” Bennett said. ”We gotta win those matchups and we got to start going back to that.

Kirby Smart gets testy with fourth down questioning

NextLadd McConkey shouldn’t surprise anyone after Mississippi State …
Leave a Comment