STARKVILLE, Miss. – Was this convincing enough? Georgia just made Mississippi State look like a major force in the SEC. It’s seldom a force even within state borders.
Last week the Bulldogs lost to Arkansas for the first time in 17 years. This time they lost to another conference opponent for the first time in 36 years.
Doesn’t that suggest this isn’t some aberration?
The Bulldogs are 0-3 in the SEC. They stand alone in the conference in that regard. Behind Mississippi State, behind Vanderbilt, behind the schools you used to joke about. They are no longer the team that can beat everybody except Alabama and Florida. They are the team that can lose to every team well below Alabama and Florida.
After a 24-12 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday night, Georgia is 2-7 in its past nine SEC games. That’s not trivial, and it’s certainly not an aberration. The opponents in those seven losses are LSU, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State.
Such widespread failure screams this isn’t about missing one suspended player, no matter how good A.J. Green is.
“We’ve got to fix a lot of things,” said the maligned offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo. “It’s not just A.J. Green. We got beat on the field. You’ve got to go earn it.”
Turn back the clock. Cover your faces. The Dogs just lost to Mississippi State for the first time since 1974 and the first time in Starkville since 1951. Their humiliation becomes more historical by the week.
“It’s one of those things where you’re not embarrassed to be a Georgia Bulldog,” wide receiver Kris Durham said, “but we’re embarrassed at the way we’re playing.
“Our season could turn into a catastrophe if we don’t stay together.”
Georgia was coming off losses to South Carolina and Arkansas. Mark Richt remained optimistic (of course). He didn’t believe his team would come into Starkville in a funk. But in the first three minutes of the game, the Dogs went three-and-out on offense and allowed Mississippi to drive 53 yards to a touchdown in four plays.
If that’s not a funk, it’s the early stages of rigor mortis.
Offensive-line play remains mediocre, particularly in the running game. The offense had three red-zone possessions in the first half, resulting in a net of six points (two field goals, one fumble). Georgia’s only touchdown came with less than two minutes left.
At least give Bobo credit for throwing himself under the bus: “You can’t turn the ball over, and you can’t have penalties. That’s coaching. It’s our fault.”
Starkville is cowbell central. Think vuvuzelas, only slightly less obnoxious, thanks to an SEC rule that allows fans to ring their bell only during the pregame, timeouts and following Mississippi State touchdowns and field goals. The video board at Davis Wade Stadium even carries the message, “Respect the bell.”
Regardless, coach Dan Mullen implored Mississippi State fans to make life as miserable for Georgia as possible. Just 15 minutes before kickoff, he stood in the end zone with a microphone and yelled: “Our team is ready to go, and I know our students are ready to go!”
Glad somebody was.
Many of Georgia’s early problems were self-inflicted. Washaun Ealey fumbled at the Mississippi State 1 following a 20-yard run after he was clocked by safety Nickoe Whitley. The Dogs also fumbled when a Mississippi State punt inadvertently was touched by Bacarri Rambo, then quickly recovered by the home team.
The offense has gone from a mild concern to a five-alarm blaze. Bobo has replaced Willie Martinez, the departed defensive coordinator, as fans’ primary punching bag.
But this is about more than one assistant coach or one suspended player. Once again, Richt did not have his team ready to play. The Dogs should have played desperate. They didn’t. They certainly didn’t play smart or play well.
They are 0-3, having lost three in a row under Richt for the first time. They are somewhere south of ordinary. And it’s not a blip.