Report Card: Bewildered Bulldogs still seeking identity after loss to Gators

Georga sophomore Terry Godwin (5) tries to console fellow receiver Isaiah McKenzie at the after Florida closed out a 24-10 win over the Bulldogs Saturday night in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Eventually it becomes almost masochistic. I mean, how many ways can you say that Georgia is just not very good team? But that’s where we’re at with the Bulldogs. They aren’t very good and, at this point, it doesn’t appear they are getting better. We might have to start grading on a curve.

Georgia (4-4, 2-4 SEC) lost for the fourth time in the last five tries Saturday against Florida. The final score was 24-10 but it didn’t feel that close. The Bulldogs led 10-7 early in the second quarter, then gave up 17 unanswered points.

Now the goal is just to become bowl-eligible. To do that, UGA will have to win two of its last four games. That starts this Saturday on the road at Kentucky (5-3, 4-2), which likely will be favored coming off a 35-21 road win over Missouri.

As for the Florida game, here’s how the Dogs did:

OFFENSE: F

Georgia, which sort of prides itself on running the football, was held to 21 yards on 19 carries. That’s 1.1 yards per attempt. Tailback Nick Chubb had 20 yards on nine carries, and he was the Bulldogs’ leading rusher both in total yards and yards per carry (2.2). It was the first time since 2009 against LSU that the Bulldogs had fewer than 50 yards on the ground.  They managed only 164 yards overall and 8 first downs and went three-and-out or four-and-out on nine of 13 possessions and failed to score on the last 10. The majority of the play scripts went like this: run, run, pass, punt.

DEFENSE: D

Florida’s offense managed only 231 total yards Saturday, but the stat that matters is what the Gators did when they had the opportunity to score. The Gators were 4-of-6 in the red zone, scoring touchdowns three of the four times it got inside the Georgia 20 and converting field goals one of the two time. That did not represent a statistical oddity for the Bulldogs Saturday, it’s a trend. UGA entered the game last in the SEC in red zone defense at 95.5 percent. It led the league in that category a year ago. Meanwhile, Florida was 9-of-18 on third-down conversions. That’s what allowed the Gators to win the time of possession battle 37:27 to 22:33.

SPECIAL TEAMS:  D

In a season in which it has been one thing or another every week, this time it was punting that represented Georgia’s undoing on special teams. The Bulldogs averaged 32 yards on five punts. That’s poor in and of itself. But when countered by the Gators 287 yards on six punts (47.8-yard average) that represented 127 “hidden” yards Georgia lost in field position. The Bulldogs went back and forth between freshman Marshall Long, who has struggled all season, and Brice Ramsey. Oddly, though, Ramsey went from his traditional punting style to a rugby style, something he said he only recently tried. Place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship made another field goal (25 yards) and had a touchback on one of his three kickoffs and Isaiah McKenzie averaged 14.5 yards on two punt returns, so it wasn’t a complete failure. But therein lay all of Georgia’s special teams highlights.

COACHING: F

Georgia’s unwillingness or inability to show anything resembling ingenuity on the offensive side of the ball is becoming quite bewildering. Despite clearly being overmatched against defenses on the line of scrimmage, the Bulldogs nevertheless have done little in the way of trying outfox opponents. The play-calling predictability under offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has become almost mind-numbing. Georgia failed to gain a first down on nine of  13 offensive possessions Saturday. The sequence on those possessions was run-run-pass-punt four times and all passes four times, three in the second half after Georgia had fallen behind 14-10. At some point, the Bulldogs have to try something different.

OVERALL: F

Georgia has now lost to Florida three years in a row after winning in the previous three years, so it lost whatever foothold it had regained in that rivalry. The Gators now trail in the all-time series just 50-43-2, or 49-43-1 by their own count. The loss is not surprising given opposing statistical and poll rankings. But it has become increasingly evident that this is a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs, whether that’s due to a lack of competitive personnel or the sweeping “culture change” initiated by Smart. Ultimately, UGA fans always judge their teams by how well they do against their longtime tradition rivals. This one’s gone against the Gators. Auburn and Georgia Tech await.

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