Georgia goes up 10-0, then goes down hard to LSU

After a 10-0 lead, the night became difficult for Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

After early success, it was a difficult night for Georgia's Aaron Murray. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

(UPDATED: 9:20 p.m.)

This is when all involved with the Georgia program will tell themselves, “Well, we got here.”

They will cling to the fact an inspired defense allowed LSU only 12 yards and zero first downs in the first half. They will bang their heads against the fiberglass Uga’s throughout downtown Athens over the what-might-have-beens, if two dropped touchdown passes on their first two possessions hadn’t left the team with only a field goal. They will grit their teeth as they mold toy Honey Badgers out of Play-Doh, then crush them with their fists.

But in the end, the Bulldogs’ return to the SEC Championship game after six years resulted in an ugly tilt on the scoreboard. The final: LSU 42, Georgia 10.

That might not tell the whole story. But it reaffirms what we sort of knew: Despite the season’s 10-game winning streak and the remarkable resiliency we witnessed after a 0-2 start, the Bulldogs just aren’t there yet.

“It doesn’t seem real right now that our momentum stopped,” said tight end Aron White, whose first-quarter touchdown gave the Dogs a 10-0 lead. “It really catches you off-guard when all of a sudden the accolades and the wins stop. It’s definitely going to take a while to get over. But at the end of the day, I don’t think a loss to the No. 1 team in America from the best conference in America is going to take away from the season we’ve had. We can’t say we’re the best, but we can say we were pretty damn good.”

Hard to believe, the Dogs led 10-0. They would have rejoiced more if they didn’t believe that it should have been 21-0, the residue of dropped touchdown passes by Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell. They will wonder how a game in which they once held a 134-7 advantage in totals so completely spun out of control.

“Basically we lost the momentum, they gained it and we couldn’t slow it down,” coach Mark Richt said.

Three months ago, the Bulldogs left the Georgia Dome after a 35-21 loss to Boise State, leaving most wondering about their direction, their resilience and, most of all, Richt.

That shouldn’t be the case any more. But the sting of 42-10 losses tend to sting a while.

Following White’s touchdown, the Dogs’ next 10 possessions resulted in seven punts and three turnovers (all leading to LSU touchdowns). The Bulldogs saw a game that they were implausibly dominating get turned around by a gravity-defying punt returner known in the swamplands as the “Honey Badger.” Sophomore Tyrann Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to give LSU what the offense couldn’t: points. Then he brought back another one 47 yards early in third quarter – unofficially breaking seven tackles along the way. That set up a second touchdown and gave the Tigers a 14-10 lead.

Richt on Mathieu: “I’ll be honest: I enjoy watching the guy play football, other than when he plays against us.”

Soon, it was like somebody pulled the stopper out of the bathtub.

A fumble by quarterback Aaron Murray led to another touchdown. The Dogs’ wore down on both lines. LSU then ran them into the ground. The SEC championship was theirs, and the Dogs’ 10-game winning streak was over.

By midway through the fourth quarter, a Dome crowd that was two-thirds Georgia fans was two-thirds empty with a decidedly purple-and-gold tilt.

The Dogs will have a few weeks off before their bowl game. They’ll need it to recover — mentally moreso than physically.

About the what-might-have-beens:  The Bulldogs’ defense forced six straight three-and-outs. But that success didn’t carry over to the offense. King dropped a third-down pass in the end zone on the first drive, forcing the Dogs to settle for a 40-yard field goal by Blair Walsh. Malcolm Mitchell dropped a third-down pass at the LSU 5-yard-line on the second drive, seemingly preoccupied with turning to run into the end zone. This time, Walsh missed from 45 yards.

A 10-0 lead against No. 1 just isn’t good enough when it should be 21-0.

“We wanted to have a better show then we ended up showing for 60 minutes,” Richt said.

It was a good show for a short while.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

1,203 comments Add your comment

JSS

December 3rd, 2011
8:15 pm

Sssssssssssssssssssssssh!!!

Michael

December 3rd, 2011
8:15 pm

First!

Nice showing by the dawgs.

Golden Dawg

December 3rd, 2011
8:20 pm

I LOVE THE DAWGS – WIN OR LOSE!

Dawg48

December 3rd, 2011
8:20 pm

Played great first half lsu took momentum and ran with it

painter

December 3rd, 2011
8:23 pm

I only saw the 2nd half. Man, those dogs stink. And that coach of theirs seems a bit dumb. I saw him interviewed after halftime. They gotta let this guy go. How do you lose such a game after dominating like they did? Is that UGA football?

CltDawg

December 3rd, 2011
8:24 pm

Love the Dawgs. We need a big, powerful tailback with a fullback leading the way. Who on Earth said kick it to #7 twice? Dawgs should have taken a safety in the first half instead of punting to that guy.

TeflonDon

December 3rd, 2011
8:25 pm

In the first half I was wondering if there was someone up There letting the Big Man know that we wanted to see sugar fall from the sky. In the second half, I thought Willie Martinez was back on the sidelines.

dawggum

December 3rd, 2011
8:25 pm

Well at least we got there…..to the Music City Bowl!

Lisa

December 3rd, 2011
8:25 pm

Can we please stop hearing how great Aaron Murray is now? Please? He wasn’t so great when he played a decent defense.

Lazer

December 3rd, 2011
8:25 pm

What’s the difference between a bag of poop and UGA football? The bag…seriously, the team should walk back to Athens…what kind of garbage was that? F7c9ing losers.

Say What??

December 3rd, 2011
8:25 pm

Congrats on a great season. That is why LSU is Number 1! I was wrong… I called us staying within a touchdown. Looked that way at halftime…

Good luck in the in NC game, Tigers!

The truth

December 3rd, 2011
8:25 pm

Bobo got to go. After the first quarter, hevkilled georgia with the same predictable playcalling. No way they was gonnavrun on LSU, so they shouldve ran rollouts, screens and mix in just a run here and there to setup playaction. You could see the defense not being able to hold up after the offense kept giving the ball back. Lastly, i dont even blame georgia’s punt coverage. When you are punting from inside your your 10 yard line, the punter most likely gonna kick it low and to the punt returner, which happened both times….

Just curious

December 3rd, 2011
8:26 pm

You are still a jerk to change your headlines from “leads” or “reaffirms” to “mauls.” You never have been or will be a UGA fan.

Lazer

December 3rd, 2011
8:26 pm

Prayed for a win…guess God doesn’t answer prayers.

tgraa

December 3rd, 2011
8:26 pm

you mean that it is okay for UGA to lose once again to a good opponent. I would have thought that you guys would be all about the firing of your coach. I guess it is a good thing that your school is so good at agriculture we can all use your normal fertilizer

Georgia Dome Staff

December 3rd, 2011
8:27 pm

What a mess…after them Cajun boys stomped the Puppies, there is blood and gravy everywhere! It will take us forever to get this place clean. Also the UGA fans left Budweiser cans and red Solo cups strewn all over the parking lot!

jaglaw

December 3rd, 2011
8:27 pm

Once we had 3 points instead of 21….it was over.Defense did great. Offense still very young.Overall a great year dogs. Very proud of you.

Just curious

December 3rd, 2011
8:27 pm

Also, that first runback by LSU was officially declared a non-touchdown. Refs weren’t on the ball, for sure.

Dawg's True Colors

December 3rd, 2011
8:27 pm

We all knew their real colors would show. UGA was really lucky to be in the SEC east this year.

Phil

December 3rd, 2011
8:27 pm

Played great. Too many dropped passes and special teams killed us. Great effort though.

GT fan in SC

December 3rd, 2011
8:28 pm

Watched game. Not here to rag UGA. They played a good 1st half, but got out played in the 2nd half. LSU has boat loads of talent. Not a bad year. fans should be proud. Good luck in your bowl game.

Proud of the Dawgs regardless

December 3rd, 2011
8:28 pm

To think that we had a chance in this game without a healthy (or with a healthy Crowell for that matter) and no Samuel was just not being realistic. Too much talent, too much depth…LSU is a great football team. I thought the coaches did a hell of a job throwing them off in the 1st half with a great game plan but the smoke and mirrors were only going to work for so long. The minute they knew we didn’t have a running game, it was over. If I were an elite running back, I would be looking long and hard at UGA as you can step in and play immediately. We need several good backs in this signing class. Proud of the Dawgs for coming out strong but knew it was only temporary. Still proud oft the turnaround from last year. We’re not there yet but we’re moving in that direction. Sign Grantham to whatever he wants. He’s a hell of a coach.

Lazer

December 3rd, 2011
8:29 pm

So UGA is a 20th-ish ranked team. How proud the players must be…to be 20th best… f8cking thugs and losers… no heart punks and criminals… glad I only go to games when i get free tix…

NEXT #14

December 3rd, 2011
8:29 pm

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Grandmaster JeJe

December 3rd, 2011
8:30 pm

No extension. This team will NEVER lose less than 2 games in a season with that guy as coach.

Just curious

December 3rd, 2011
8:30 pm

Lord, please find these Alabama, Auburn, and GA Tech fans something else to do other than criticize UGA.

Georgia Dome Staff

December 3rd, 2011
8:30 pm

Still can’t get seem to get the Honey Badger tracks to come out of the turf…or the backs of the UGA player’s jerseys.

ty webb

December 3rd, 2011
8:30 pm

soemeone give “lazer” some attention…he’s trying real hard.

ATLCock

December 3rd, 2011
8:30 pm

Georgia’s record against ranked teams: 0-3.

Objective fan

December 3rd, 2011
8:30 pm

Great start to the game on defense… but the same 3 themes that plagued Georgia throughout the season killed them in the end:

1. Lack of discipline/focus.
2. Bad special teams.
3. Conservative (or just confusing) playcalling.

jaglaw

December 3rd, 2011
8:31 pm

Could be worse…..we could be tech fans. Yeah, like that will ever happen.

LakeDawg

December 3rd, 2011
8:31 pm

The Dawgs are not ready for prime time, yet. It was more mental than physical. Punt return…TD. Fumble….. TD. The D didn’t have time to get tired, yet LSU started running it down our throats. It was a mental letdown. I hope the Dawgs come back next year with lessons learned. They lost for the same reason other schools always lose the BCSCG to the SEC. They weren’t battle tested and LSU was. UGA has the talent (need an immediate upgrade at RB). Now they take the next step. GO DAWGS!

UGA fraud

December 3rd, 2011
8:31 pm

Love the fact that Helen err um Richt will get a contract extension…

Lazer

December 3rd, 2011
8:31 pm

Great effort?!? Jessssussss! Did you guys actually watch the game? Dropped passes. Missed tackles. Fumbles. Interceptions. Poor coverage. Penalties… that’s not great effort. That’s standard UGA garbage effort… this team is full of quitters and losers… hate this team.

Peadawg

December 3rd, 2011
8:32 pm

First off – LSU shouldn’t have to play anyone else after the season they’ve had. The officials should have given them the SEC Championship AND the BCS Championship tonight. Wow…what a team.

Second – Go Dawgs!! Congrats on winning 10 straight and making it to Atlanta.

Swamp Man

December 3rd, 2011
8:32 pm

Whats the over and under on arrests in Athens tonight?

Grandmaster JeJe

December 3rd, 2011
8:32 pm

UGA beat 10 average/weak teams and lost to 3 good teams. Great job, Richt! You sure deserve that extension! The guy said UGA was unprepared vs BSU. Yeah their team was so different from last year’s.

lewisbuzzard

December 3rd, 2011
8:32 pm

Gosh sure not much traffic tonight. Wuz up with that? Cats have your tongues?

Lazer

December 3rd, 2011
8:32 pm

Can someone just sell Crowell some more weed so we can just kick him off the team.

Peadawg

December 3rd, 2011
8:32 pm

LSU could probably beat a few teams in the NFL (Indy and St Louis come to mind).

ty webb

December 3rd, 2011
8:32 pm

lsu is a great team. They shouldn’t have to play another game. let bama and ok state play for runner up.

Chris

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

A couple of points: I KNEW UGA couldn’t win this game. I also very accurately predicted how the game would go: UGA would play very well at first, then slowly die as the superior team took control and moved on out, which is exactly what happened. (Although the first half was much better for UGA than I would’ve imagined.) I’ve seen it a hundred times. The underdog comes our in hype mode at the start of the game and does well, but soon the adrenaline dies off and reality sets in. The underdog seems to always forget that the games goes for FOUR quarters, and all that matters is what the scoreboard says at 0:00 at the end of the last quarter.

Chillahill

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

Lets see after Shultz said how Ga can beat LSU and after those quitters laid down after comimg down off of that 1st half Red Bull High. We see the true GA football team . Losers of 3 to ranked teams. A farce ! A joke and the real CMR recruits. 5 star players in highschool somehow lose their luster when they get to Athens!!! Same old same old! Calling
It like it is Leg Humpers 2011 song of the year – Oh yes they are the great pretenders!!!

Lardawg

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

LSU is a better team but the dawgs looked like they were playing to keep from getting hurt as they lost the lead. I think it’s time for some heavy running back recruiting and tell Crowell to start drinking the tea of go back to Columbus. Athens is no place for the primadona. We need hearts like Samuels on this team next year. We can win a bowl game without him.

Sopwith Camel

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

Can’t win in the SEC without a running game. And UGA doesn’t even have a running back……much less a running game. LSU had a stable of running backs. UGA had none. At the start of every game, the coaches look around to see who showed up that can run the ball. Pretty bad when the QB is the best/only running back and essentially the entire offense is comprised of him. I felt sorry for Murray.

The defense played a heck of a first half. But as was predicted on ESPN, UGA would play a close first half and get blown out in the second half.

flanker

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

Competition against a team that oversigns 5-10 more players every year, then smokes out the hurt and/or underperforming kids (who were promised a four-year scholarship together with a moon just a year ago) is not fair.

College football is a joke in scores of ways, but the ugliest side story has to be the oversigning and the brutal, ruthless, unethical way SEC West teams treat their players. Sure, its much easier to win when your training camp starts with 120 talented players, when the ethical teams are limited to 80.

blazer

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

beast of weak sec east gets mauled!

Lazer

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

lewisbuzzard…classy… hitting someone while they’re down…you pick on handicapped kids too?

Peadawg

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

“Can someone just sell Crowell some more weed so we can just kick him off the team.”

Yeah no kidding…the kid has absolutely no heart. None.

NEXT #14

December 3rd, 2011
8:33 pm

THAT BAAAADDDDDD TASTE IN YOUR MOUTH DAWG FANS IS THE TASTE OF YOU’RE AZZ!!! woof,woof,woof BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!