Is there such a thing as half a moral victory?
If so, you could probably chalk up Georgia’s first-half showing in the SEC title game as something along those lines.
Of course, the cold, hard truth is that moral victories are just losses in which you can find something to make it hurt just a little less. And that’s where UGA fans are left after running into the Honey Badger and Co.
Yes, the Dogs were soundly beaten by LSU in the Georgia Dome in what turned into a very ugly rout in the second half. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Georgia defense played a remarkable first half, holding the No. 1 team in the country to a mere dozen yards of offense and absolutely no first downs.
I can’t remember ever seeing that before in a game against a major opponent.
Unfortunately, while Georgia came out initially with an aggressive game plan that included a flawlessly executed onside kick at one point, the rest of the offensive execution left much to be desired, thanks to several dropped passes (including two sure touchdowns) and continued special teams miscues. And playcaller Mike Bobo suddenly reverted to a conservative approach that took all the wind out of Georgia’s sails.
In the second quarter, neither team could move the ball, as Georgia continued to stuff LSU’s running game but the Tigers defense adjusted to the fact that the Dogs had no running game and they could turn loose and just go after the quarterback.
So instead of leading LSU 21-0 at halftime as they should have, the Dogs had a mere 10-7 advantage.
And then the wheels came off.
I had the feeling it wasn’t going to be a good half for Georgia when Bobo opened it up trying in vain to run little Carlton Thomas up the middle twice, putting his quarterback in just the sort of third-and-long situation you don’t want to face against the ferocious Tiger defense. Aaron Murray’s resulting fumble as he scrambled gave LSU a short field — and one of their patented scoring spurts was off and running.
At that point, you pretty much knew it was over.
Murray had a pretty lousy night, completing just 16 of 40 passes with two interceptions on top of that fumble, but some of the blame for that should go to Bobo, who put his QB in bad situations. Admittedly, though, Bobo was hampered by not having a running game.
You had a gimpy Isaiah Crowell, the anti-Lattimore, who was ineffective running the ball, averaging just 1.5 yards per carry, but who managed to draw a penalty running his mouth. Then there was Thomas, who wasn’t well used by Bobo before leaving the game with an injury. And Ken Malcome, who had some tough runs late in the game when it was already decided and who probably should have been the starter, as he was against Georgia Tech. A curious decision on the part of Bobo and Mark Richt.
No wonder a testy Richt didn’t want to talk about the tailbacks this week. LSU had four pretty interchangeable backs and Georgia couldn’t come up with one consistent threat, which is the difference between pretty good and great.
Keith Marshall, come on down!
Still, Georgia fans shouldn’t get so down in the dumps over our Dogs being throttled by what may well turn out to be one of college football’s greatest teams ever that we lose sight of the 10 wins in a row that secured UGA the SEC East title and a trip to a January bowl game.
Richt’s program isn’t yet back in the SEC elite with LSU and Alabama, at least not for a full 60 minutes.
But Saturday’s first half showed the Dogs aren’t all that far away.
Feel free to share your own views of the game against LSU and what Georgia needs to pull even with Les Miles’ program.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg