AT:LANTA — Georgia safety Tykee Smith stared straight ahead is the lower bowels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium late Saturday afternoon, a blank look on his sweat-stained face.
“Definitely,” Smith said, “this is shock.”
The No. 1-ranked, two-time defending Bulldogs (12-1) hadn’t lost a game in two years before coming undone against Alabama (12-1).
The loss brings an end to an SEC-record 29-game win streak that dated back to a 41-24 loss to the Tide in this same building in the 2021 SEC Championship Game.
Georgia played its hardest, but it didn’t play its best.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over inside their 20-yard line leading to a Tide field goal, missed a field goal of their own and failed to stop the Crimson Tide on two pivotal fourth-down plays that led to second-quarter touchdowns.
Finally, after cutting the lead to 27-24 with 2:52 remaining, the defense could not stop Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe from moving his team downfield and running out the clock.
Kirby Smart expressed great appreciation for his players’ efforts, but the eighth-year head coach was blunt as ever when asked the difference in the game.
“Short-yardage conversions and gifting 10 points away,” Smart said.
Indeed, Alabama won the line of scrimmage on offense and defense, and the Bulldogs’ defense blew a coverage on a first-and-20 at the UGA 28 in the second quarter that led to the Tide’s first touchdown.
“It was not being able to put the fire out when that was needed,” said Smith, who had five stops for Georgia including one of the Bulldogs’ eight tackles-for-loss.
Beck, who was 21-of-29 passing for 243 yards but was not able to deliver a TD pass, had no explanation for the other 3 points UGA “gifted” Alabama — which came after a fumble in the Georgia backfield on a botched end around.
“We practice that play a ton, it’s a simple flip back,” said Beck, who was unable to get the ball to Dillon Bell cleanly on the play, leading to the Tide taking possession at the UGA 11-yard line. “I’m not sure what happened.”
Georgia will have plenty of time to sort it out, starting tomorrow morning when Smart said the coaching staff will be in the office to watch film leading up to the noon show when the four-team CFP field is revealed.
The Bulldogs got a mulligan the last time it lost a football game — back in 2021 in the SEC Championship Game — still making the four-team CFP Playoff and ultimately winning the national championship with a 33-18 victory over the Tide in a rematch.
It doesn’t seem nearly as likely this year, and now the Bulldogs must wait to learn which postseason game then end up in, if not the CFP, the Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl seem most likely at the time of this publication.