A Georgia Bulldog team that had been good enough to survive its faults against lesser competition finally met its match this afternoon, falling 36-16 to LSU in Baton Rouge.
The Red and Black has survived a rash of injuries, an epidemic of fumbles against Tennessee, and a plague of penalties against Vandy. But Ed Orgeron’s Bayou Bengals proved that all that was really necessary to dethrone Georgia was to play solid fundamental football and let the ‘Dawgs self-destruct. LSU converted an inconceivable 5 of 5 fourth down attempts and used 5 Cole Tracy field goals to keep just enough distance from Kirby Smart’s team for most of the game. Then, when the Athenians needed a couple of big plays to turn the tide late they instead threw a bad interception and fumbled a kickoff return.
This game was frustrating for Georgia fans in much the way the 2017 Auburn game was, as the self-inflicted wounds came from precisely the players the ‘Dawgs needed to come up big. Jake Fromm suffered hands-down his most disappointing game as a Bulldog, missing multiple wide open receivers, failing to spot open receivers, then pressing late to give up both costly turnovers and sacks. Fromm finished 16 of 34 passing for 206 yards, with those 2 uncharacteristic interceptions.
There’s absolutely no reason to believe Justin Fields would have fared better. The freshman did help move the ball at times, but doesn’t have full command of the passing game yet. That won’t stop some from calling for the QB competition to be thrown wide-open in a short-sided overreaction. This Fromm effort was vintage sophomore Aaron Murray, attempting to put the whole team on his back when all he really needed to do was what he’s done regularly through the first six weeks of the season. Hopefully like Murray he learns his lesson.
LSU’s Joe Burrow by contrast looked like a veteran. While only 15 of 30 passing he never turned the ball over. He also made some clutch plays with his legs, including a 59 yard dash in the fourth quarter in which he juked Richard LeCounte clean out of his cleats in the open field.
Mecole Hardman, in addition to that guy-wrenching fumble, had a couple of painful drops on what could have been momentum-shifting plays. Again, it seemed a case of trying to do too much, and while you can’t fault the effort you can 100% bemoan the decision making from a veteran football player.
Defensively the ‘Dawgs gave up 475 yards, but 163 of those came on two fourth quarter drives when the Bulldog D just looked worn down. LSU held a definitive 7 minute time of possession edge, helped by a Bulldog offense that strung together 7 or fewer plays on 11 of their 13 drives.
Georgia now has an open week before taking on a Florida team that’s surged to a 6-1 start of its own in year one under Dan Mullen. Suddenly the SEC East looks a little more open than it did a couple of weeks ago.
In the end the first few weeks of this season likely seduced UGA fans into forgetting some of the gaping holes they knew existed coming into this season. Today Georgia played the kind of inconsistent football one expects from a young, rebuilding football team that needed to see that they’re not as good as their press clippings would indicate. Ed Orgeron’s team appears to have delivered that message loud and clear. Until later….