ATHENS — Georgia arrived at 5-0 at the most unexpected place: Smack at the intersection of the Sun Belt Conference and a Marx Brothers movie.
This is where it’s important to point out that it’s only September, and style points don’t yet matter, and it’s not like Georgia did not do some pretty spectacular things Saturday (two freshmen running backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, combining for 294 yards and five touchdowns), and this is the SEC, and a win is a win, and (add whatever cliché that comforts you).
But there was a point in Saturday’s game against Tennessee when you found yourself thinking, “OK, who’s going to pull out the seltzer bottle?”
When two teams combine for 95 points, 13 touchdowns, 46 first downs, 1,038 yards, three fumbles, four interceptions, two botched extra points, one blocked extra point, one blocked punt and one dropped kickoff return out of bounds at the 1-yard line, the last thing that comes to mind is that one of these teams supposedly is an SEC and BCS title contender.
“I was about to have a heart attack,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
“We definitely can’t do that kind of stuff if we want to be champions,” quarterback Aaron Murray said.
“I think this will ground us a little bit,” cornerback Sanders Commings said.
Georgia defeated Tennessee 51-44. We think. Maybe something else will happen on the replay.
The Dogs led 27-10 three minutes into the second quarter. They committed two turnovers and allowed three touchdowns in a span of 4:11 to fall behind. They scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half. Then they seemingly tried to blow it again, managing only one first down on their next four drives (Translation: “Take it. We don’t want it”), until Commings intercepted a Tyler Bray pass … with seven seconds remaining.
Well. That was easy.
Next week’s game against South Carolina should be a snap.
“This makes us stay humble,” Commings said. “Just because we’re undefeated doesn’t mean we’re unbeatable.”
And there it is.
Maybe something good will come out of this. The Bulldogs can do great things this season. They’re 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since 2005, which is the last season that they won the conference title.
But instead of receiving affirmation of Georgia’s lofty status in the rankings Saturday, we viewed highlights surrounded by slapstick.
Coach Mark Richt called the game’s PAT mishaps “a little bit of a comedy of errors.” But he could have been referring to almost anything.
If the Dogs had felt a little bit heady after their first four victories, this should bring them back down to Earth.
“We made mistakes, but it says something about this team that we came back,” Gurley said.
That would be the positive way to look at it. The negative will be on tape this week.
In the first half, Georgia seemed to morph from top-5, BCS contender to Compass Bowl bottom-feeder material in what seemed like 37 seconds. It was like watching somebody having this great day, hitting the lottery, finding the spouse of their dreams and taking a celebration stroll on the beach, only to suddenly have a mutant octopus from one of those Japanese monster movies reach out and grab them by the ankle.
It went from 27-10 Georgia to 30-27 Tennessee in 4 minutes, 11 seconds. Touchdown, Tennessee. Sack/fumble by Murray. Touchdown, Tennessee. Dropped kickoff return out of bounds at the 1 by Gurley. Fumble by Marshall. Touchdown, Tennessee.
If it was put to music on Broadway, there would’ve been a lot of cymbals and maybe a gong.
Georgia turnovers set up three easy Tennessee touchdowns (one interception return and two short drives off fumbles). But with the Dogs’ defense getting suspended players Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree back in the lineup, you expected far better than Tennessee amassing 478 yards of offense.
Ogletree on he and Rambo: “We just had a little rust, some missed assignments. You can’t really simulate game speed.”
If anybody was looking ahead to the South Carolina game with supreme confidence, this should temper things a little. We’ll soon find out if a little grounding helps.
– Jeff Schultz