Playing in the rain on a chopped up field before a half-empty stadium, Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs looked during Wednesday’s game against Nebraska like a rusty team that hadn’t played in a month, and whose players didn’t seem too enthused about facing the same bowl opponent as last year.
What resulted was a smorgasbord of recurring problems that have plagued the Dogs all season — clueless pass coverage by the secondary, another catastrophic mistake on special teams (fumbled punt!), turnovers that gave the opponent a short field and quickly resulted in touchdowns, and spotty pass protection from an inconsistent offensive line that allowed Nebraska to put strong pressure on struggling former backup quarterback Hutson Mason much of the day.
That dismal mix of circumstances was exacerbated by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s worst playcalling since the Vandy game. When you get only one touchdown out of six trips inside the red zone and completely whiff on two of them with the game on the line, it doesn’t matter that your offense racked up 416 yards and 22 first downs.
The most puzzling aspect of the game that Bobo called was again reminiscent of the loss in Nashville — where was the vertical passing game before the fourth quarter? For much of the day, Georgia rarely tried to challenge the Cornhuskers deep. It says a lot that tailback Todd Gurley finished as Georgia’s leading receiver for the day, catching mostly screen passes.
Gurley played hard in spite of obviously not feeling great Wednesday. Despite looking gimpy at times, he still made an obvious difference whenever he was in the game and provided most of Georgia’s offensive spark.
But in general it was one of the Dogs’ most lackluster days moving the ball.
On top of all that, a new new wrinkle appeared to bedevil Bobo’s offense that hadn’t really been much of a problem this year: dropped passes. Despite trailing for the entire game, the fourth quarter found the Dogs in a position to win the game, down by only 5 points, only to see a receiving corps that had made numerous clutch catches this year fall short. Tight end Artie Lynch, who otherwise had a fine day, dropped two crucial balls that he should have caught, and Rantavious Wooten, mostly a nonpresence in the game, dropped two more (one of which admittedly resulted from a hard hit).
While the offense had a subpar day, Todd Grantham’s defense, aside from the secondary, actually played well enough to win. Nebraska’s All-America back, Ameer Abdullah, did manage to run for 122 yards, but Georgia’s rushing defense was solid most of the day.
Unfortunately, as had happened a couple of times before this season, an opponent not known for its passing game feasted on blown assignments and missed tackles by Georgia’s defensive backs, who were spectacularly bad, giving up an NCAA-record touchdown pass from the Huskers’ own 6-inch line.
It all proved too much for the Bulldogs, who appeared to be the more talented — but less motivated — team in Wednesday’s Gator Bowl.
Sorry to say, it was that kind of season, though.
Feel free to share your own thoughts on Georgia’s season-ending loss.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg