Georgia’s 35-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette may have been most notable for making the Dawgs being “Back in Black” pretty much a nonevent.
Of course, considering all the handwringing over black jerseys that the more superstitious element of Bulldog Nation has engaged in since 2008, that’s probably not a bad thing.
Still, the return of special jerseys on the Dawgs for the first time since the infamous Alabama loss didn’t have much in common with that thrilling day in 2007 when the black tops were first unveiled for a big win over Auburn.
First, of course, was the opponent. Louisiana, as they like to be called, is a decent Sun Belt Conference team that the previous week had beaten Georgia Southern, a school that took the Dawgs into overtime a year ago. But, despite having a quarterback who used to start for LSU, they were never going to be confused with a Power 5 opponent.
Then, there was the timing. Thanksgiving break had already begun at UGA, so the student sections were maybe two-thirds full for the game. Plus, there were several thousand other empty seats scattered throughout the rest of the stadium, somewhat spoiling the intended effect of UGA calling for fans to “blackout” Sanford by wearing black and raising the black shakers that were provided.
However, considering the way Georgia barely dispatched Nicholls State earlier this season, and that the Dawgs were coming off an upset win over a Top 10 Auburn team, the way Kirby Smart’s team came out energized and sharp, rather than flat from an emotional letdown, as might have been expected, was significant.
Player opinion on whether the black jerseys should be credited with having the Dawgs pumped was mixed after the game, but Nick Chubb, at least, thought they perhaps were a factor.
So, yes, scheduling the long-awaited and much-debated return of the black jerseys for a late-season game against a lightly regarded nonconference opponent might not have resulted in one of the more memorable moments in UGA football history, but it does seem to have served a purpose.
As for the game itself, an ebb and flow in the Dawgs’ focus (not really surprising when you jump out to an early 21-0 lead and, later, a 35-7 lead), plus a blustery day that caused QB Jacob Eason to wildly overshoot a couple of wide-open receivers and Smart’s decision to jump on his first opportunity this season to empty the bench, kept it from turning into the blowout it should have been.
Bulldog heroes for the day were topped by Isaiah McKenzie, who finally had the day we’ve been waiting for, scoring long touchdowns the first two times he touched the ball, nearly scoring on a pass reception and managing not to make receiving punts into a game of Russian roulette.
Also, Chubb looked sharp, topping 100 yards rushing again and showing his speed is undiminished when he took a simple check-down pass from Eason and raced 49 yards. And freshman tight end Isaac Nauta continued to justify his emerging status as roommate Eason’s favorite target.
On the defensive side, four takeaways certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, and two garbage-time touchdowns scored by the Ragin’ Cajuns came largely against second- and third-teamers, but former LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings had enough success keeping the ball against the Georgia starters to no doubt draw lots of attention during film sessions this coming week on North Avenue. And the Dawgs failed most of the day to secure the corners, unlike the masterful job they did a week earlier against Auburn. Playing with more discipline on the outside will be key to controlling Georgia Tech’s triple option.
Georgia’s defenders also seemed to check out of the game early in the first half, resulting in Louisiana moving quickly downfield in less than a minute for its first score, with Jennings practically walking untouched into the end zone on a play where Dawgs defenders appeared to be taking the mannequin challenge that’s currently sweeping social media.
With backup Greyson Lambert in at QB, Georgia’s offense (and Jim Chaney’s play-calling) also looked blah late in the game, failing to kill the clock when they got the ball back after the Cajuns’ next to last score and having to punt it back to Louisiana with 2:51 left in the game. The ensuing drive resulted in the third touchdown for the visiting team.
Maybe you can’t blame this Georgia team for not knowing how to put away an opponent, since they haven’t had much experience this season playing with a comfortable lead.
The game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate, but the play of Georgia’s subs was alarming. Still, it was a win, and this is a season where anything in that column is to be treasured.
As for the black jerseys, perhaps this low-key return will put an end to the wailing of those who seem to think the color of the shirt the players are wearing has something to do with whether they win or lose.
If the black jersey and fan blackout work as anything, it’s as a treat for the players and the students, who’ve been lobbying for a game in black for several seasons. It makes the game feel a bit more special.
I’ve always liked the black jerseys; they look sharp with the red helmets, though I must say I preferred the 2007-2008 version. The red collar on the new ones is a bit too wide, I think.
Was the Blackout somewhat wasted on Louisiana? Maybe. But, I’d like to see more of the black jerseys.
Looking ahead, l think designating one game a year to wear black hopefully would put an end to the should-they-or-shouldn’t-they debate. I like the idea of simply saying the Dawgs will wear the black jerseys every year for the final home game — or the next to last home game in years when Tech plays in Athens. Against the Jackets, Georgia should always be in red.
And, no, that’s not a superstition. That’s tradition.
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