The victory streak continues for the Georgia Bulldogs as they defeated Louisiana-Lafayette University 35-21 last Saturday in Athens. The Red & Black continued the trend of addressing a different aspect of improvement each week. This time it was special teams. They faced a decent Ragin’ Cajun team that presented some challenges. Those challenges will help the Dawgs heading into the regular season-ending game next week against in-state rival, Georgia Tech.
Kirby Smart, following the game, told the SEC Network, “I didn’t think we dominated the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively. We finally got some backups in there and they did not play well…I didn’t enjoy the way that game ended.”
BACKSLIDING ON DEFENSE
In fact, Georgia gave up 465 yards to the Ragin’ Cajuns. Georgia also lost their early lead of 28-7 by allowing 14 fourth quarter points to the Cajuns. The wind forced a heavy dose of the running game. Georgia’s defense wasn’t as prepared and as strong as they looked in the last two games against the run. Specifically, Georgia allowed several successful UL-L runs to the outside. Granted, Georgia is playing with a number of true freshman on the defensive line, but there were multiple outside or edge runs that were more than 20 yards.
Georgia is going to have to be aware of that deficiency when it goes up against Georgia Tech next week. The Yellow Jackets, a triple-option offense, ran in their own game Saturday against Virginia more than UL-L did against Georgia. Everyone knows how difficult a triple option offense can be against a weakened run defense. Georgia Tech averages 260 rushing yards per game.
Defense clearly needs more work. But they’ve proven they can do the job, so it’ll be interesting to see which team shows up. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has great confidence in Deandre Baker, who had an interception in Saturday’s game, telling the SEC Network’s production crew that Baker is “a playmaker.”
FORWARD PROGRESSION ON OFFENSE
On the offensive side of the ball, however, things are improving, even with Georgia QB Jacob Eason logging his first interception in 5 games. Georgia looked much more comfortable on the run, even going up the middle and trusting the driving power of Nick Chubb to get those few extra feet. But the highlight of the game offensively was Eason’s on-the-run play action pass over the middle to find Chubb for a touchdown. It was a play that showed the offense is finally finding a rhythm. That should make fans feel better about the direction offense is going.
SPECIAL TEAMS FOR THE WIN
The winner of this week’s Back to the Drawing Board Award is Special Teams. Special Teams has been a frustration for coaches and fans alike, but Isaiah McKenzie‘s 82-yard punt return touchdown finally made fans smile. McKenzie was surrounded Cajuns, even enveloped by one at one point, but managed to bounce off the defender and take the ball to the house (with an assist from some great Georgia blocking all the way down). So special teams were clearly refined and they were given the opportunity to let it shine Saturday.
CLEAN, OLD-FASHIONED HATE
And they’ll need to keep shining as they gear up for what is affectionately known in the State of Georgia as “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” when the Bulldogs get the chance to beat the “nerds” from Georgia Tech. But it’s important to remember: those nerds have a triple option that many of the young Georgia players have never seen in a real game. If Georgia manages to win, it won’t be as easy a ride. But it’ll be good SEC/ACC rivalry football.
Both teams enter the match-up at 7-4, and an eighth win propels the victor to a much better bowl game. Georgia Tech has rebounded nicely from a dismal 2015 campaign, while Georgia has experienced some stumbles in head coach Kirby Smart’s first year. For both teams, this game will be an important stepping stone going into the off-season.