NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Remember all that talk about how brutal Georgia’s schedule was for the first month of the season?
Top-10 opponents didn’t wreck Georgia’s season like this October stretch of Tennessee, Missouri and Vanderbilt damaged it.
The next game for Georgia is Nov. 2 against Florida in Jacksonville in a battle of three-loss teams.
Who could have figured teams that finished four through sixth in the SEC East last year would push Georgia to overtime and deal the Bulldogs back-to-back SEC losses.
The Bulldogs’ offense was crippled with injuries against Tennessee that helped contribute to Missouri’s first road win against a top-10 opponent since 1981 and Vanderbilt’s first win at home against Georgia since 1991.
“The game of football is a tough game, it’s a very physical game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said after the No. 15 Bulldogs’ 31-27 loss to Vanderbilt Saturday. “Guys get banged up and then you’ve got to go figure out how to play football the next game, the next down all that kind of thing. A lot of teams are going through that. It seems maybe more this year than I can ever remember. You hear about guys that are not able to play. When that happens, your margin for error is even smaller. You’ve got to play better, you’ve got to basically play smarter. We’re going through it right now in a tough way. We’ve got a good group of guys, we’ve got a good group of coaches. We’re going to stick together.”
Georgia’s blowups on special teams continue, which you can read about here.
The targeting penalties to Ray Drew and Ramik Wilson were obstacles Georgia had to confront, which you can read about here.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t say anything horrendous about the officiating today so I’m not going to do that,” Richt said.
He said that when asked about Wilson’s targeting penalty, which came after a fourth down incompletion and gave Vanderbilt a first down on a drive that it scored a touchdown.
Richt gave the same answer pretty much when he was asked about a long pass play—a 41-yard completion in the fourth quarter on Damian Swann–the he was upset about.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t say anything horrendous about the officiating in the game,” coach Mark Richt said.
Here’s some of what Richt said about targeting that I didn’t get in my notebook.
“You can’t hit a guy above the shoulders,” Richt said. “We all know that. It’s a rule and you’ve got to be wise enough not to do that.”
He added: “We work on drills to make sure that we’re not hitting above the shoulder. We’re making our guys very conscious of that. The games being played real fast. Offensive players, they may catch the ball at a certain height and then by the time you get to them they go a little lower. They drop their heads some. It’s very difficult to know exactly where the guys going to be by the time you strike him. It’s hard for defenders to really do it within the rules. Even if they have the right spirit about it, which I know our guys do. Then on the other hand, if you get the coaching that you have to go low then you’re putting the offensive player at risk as well. I don’t think the defender who tackled Keith Marshall was trying to hurt him at all. I think he was trying to make a good clean tackle and it was a good clean tackle. When you go low on a guy if you’re concerned about going too high then you may get an ACL out of the thing. It’s a tough rule for the officials, too. It’s tough for everybody.”
Some other tidbits:
— As if Georgia’s injury situation at receiver couldn’t get any worse, Chris Conley, it’s best remaining healthy receiver, isn’t so healthy anymore.
He was on crutches as he went across the field of Vanderbilt Stadium some 45 minutes or so after the game ended.
“Chris needed help getting off the field at the end of the game,” Richt said. “That’s never a good sign.”
Conley has what Richt said is an ankle sprain.
— Georgia had walk-on receiver Kenneth Towns on the field at one point with the game on the line after Rantavious Wooten was shaken up.
“They did a great job in their scheme and we just didn’t make plays,” quarterback Aaron Murray said.
“They’re a heavy blitz team,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We did a nice job a couple of times of recognizing the blitz and then other times we just didn’t execute the plays called. We didn’t do our part today, that was for sure.”
— After rolling up 567 total yards of offense in a 48-3 win against Vanderbilt last year, Georgia managed just 221 yards of total offense, including 80 yards in the second half.
“We were searching for something to get it going and we weren’t able to do that,” Bobo said. “We were close a couple of times and they did a good job tackling.”
Said Richt: “A lot of bang-bang plays. They played good zone coverage and when we were put the ball on our receivers they did a nice job of hitting us as the ball was coming. They defended the well. We didn’t give up a sack … but there were times they put some pressure on us and forced the ball to come out.”
— Murray went without a touchdown pass after throwing at least three in each of the last five games. He still needs three touchdown passes to pass Danny Wuerffel as the SEC career record holder.
If Michael Bennett doesn’t return for Florida from his knee injury, Georgia’s passing game, believe it or not, could be even worse, especially with Conley’s status uncertain for now.
— Murray’s 114 passing yards was the third lowest of his career.
— Jonathon Rumph still hasn’t played despite talk he may be ready. Bobo said he just hadn’t practiced enough to be ready.
— Freshman Brendan Douglas rushed for 84 yards but fumbled at the Georgia 44 after an 8-yard reception with 2:53 left. “The longer you’re trying to grind your feet, the more susceptible you are of the ball coming out,” Richt said. “He’s got good habits. I’m sure they did a good job of knocking it out and every once in a while it gets knocked out. As a young back, he’ll learn to do even a better job of securing the football.”
— Vanderbilt coach James Franklin notched his first win against a ranked opponent in his three seasons.
— Murray probably wasn’t far off with this when asked about special teams: “We have a lot of work to do. Not just special teams, but offense, defense, all three phases. We’re far from perfect anywhere right now as a team. We have a lot, a lot of work to do.”