Close, but no ceegar

Your reminder of how 2016’s 7-5 regular season could have been:

Georgia is one late, fourth-down touchdown catch by Isaiah McKenzie (against Missouri) away from going 0-4 last season against the teams it will face in this four-game stretch. Of course, the Bulldogs also came close to going 3-1 against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mizzou and Florida.

The only game that was out of reach was a 24-10 loss to Florida where Georgia mustered all of 164 yards of total offense. But had the Bulldogs not surrendered an unbelievable Hail Mary touchdown on the final play against Tennessee, and had their offense not faltered late in a 17-16 loss against Vanderbilt, the narrative from Kirby Smart’s debut season as Georgia’s head coach would be slightly more positive. As it stands, it was a disappointing first season for Smart marred by losses in three of the four biggest games on the schedule: Georgia Tech, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee.

“Slightly”?  Win those Tennessee and Vandy games, and they roll into Jacksonville with a 6-1 record, 4-1 in the conference, and a completely different mindset.

Of course, they’ve got to run the same gauntlet again this season, with only one of the four games in Athens.  If we’re looking for a measuring stick for improvement in Smart’s second season, it starts with going better than 1-3 (barely) against that bunch.

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42 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

42 responses to “Close, but no ceegar

  1. If Kirby had won the games that truly were winnable on that day, 2 of those plus tech, I think everyone would say the team exceeded expectations. 10-2 would have been a damn good season to build on. I think there would be #93k hype for G-Day. Alas, we didn’t, and instead, we’re talking about whether App State should be able to hang with us.

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  2. UGA85

    It honestly feels like the same old problem at UGA. No offensive line, so no consistency on offense and breakdowns when we least need them. CKS has poured huge effort and resources into developing an O line; hoping for results on the field, starting with App. State.

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    • merk

      A fairly poor WR core did not help matters. Yes we had a deep set of TEs, but they spent half the season blocking.

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      • In all fairness to those guys (yes, they had some drops at inopportune times), it’s hard to get open when the tight ends or running backs have to stay in to help protect. 2 or 3 against 5 or 6 usually doesn’t work out very well.

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        • Got Cowdog

          I thought I was the only one who noticed. a lot of the comments on here asked “Why don’t Chaney throw to the tight ends?” Because they have to help our 5 linemen block 3 or 4 defensive linemen and a linebacker. Throw in a blitzing safety and its a hit parade in the backfield.
          This is why I’m so hyped about Eason. I’d say he did very well considering the situation.

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          • Mayor

            ^This. There was little/no pass blocking and the receivers had hands of stone. What was Eason supposed to do? Throw it to himself?

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  3. Bob

    Going 1-3 against Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Tech for the first time since 2000 makes it more than a “somewhat” disappointing season. That cannot happen again.

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  4. Bright Idea

    10-2 would have certainly meant a whole lot less of worn out analysis four months after the fact. The narrative would be how great 2017 will be. We still expect to be in ATL regardless of the 2016 record or position group issues.

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  5. Spike

    And beating Florida!

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  6. Fred Everett

    Way too pessimistic … we should expect “significant” improvements at QB, OL and Receivers … plus a 22 month recovery for Nick … plus a year to settle into a new system. As for defense … we should expect improvement in all position groups as we lost little … gained valuable experience … have added an abundance of young talent. 10-2 and a trip to Atlanta is my minimum expectation.

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    • I see we have at least one person who’s not buying into the throwaway year narrative for 2017. 🙂

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      • JCDAWG83

        I don’t know anyone who views 2017 as a throwaway season, The tech game ended the honeymoon in a brutal, abrupt way. I think the clock is ticking on Kirby, he has to show the dreaded “significant improvement” in 2017 or I think the seat will be scorching hot.

        The East is, once again, weak as water and our West opponents aren’t any sort of murderer’s row. A loss to SC, KY, Vandy, Tenn, MO, UF or tech should be inexcusable unless we suffer a ton of injuries. AU, MSSt and ND represent the only three games we should be tested in. Anything less than 10-2 and a trip to Atlanta will be another disappointing season and will probably make recruiting a much tougher sell.

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        • dawgtired

          I wouldn’t put UF in that “inexcusable loss” group if their entire team died in a plane crash and the coaching staff had to go out and replace them with no-star left-overs….we have to get past the mental block and win a few consecutively.

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          • Macallanlover

            Sorry, that is a fan mental issue. These players weren’t even alive when SOS took over Florida. I think/hope they respect Florida but would be shocked if they feared them, and hugely disappointed if our coaches let it come to that. Funny how our fans overlook the recent dominations of Auburn, GT, Ole Miss, Vandy, Arkansas, and Clemson when we play them. Their fans may dread it but their players show up to win despite the recent series success we have had against all of them. All good athletes look forward to challenges and reversing trends.

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    • SOWEGA Mafia

      Fred, pineapple express?

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  7. sUGArdaddy

    College football is a razor thin games. Even in games that aren’t decided by one score, there is often 1 play that changes the feel and/or momentum of the game. And you never know what would happen from that point on. We were darn close to beating Tech, Vandy and UT. In fact, one could make an argument that we really outplayed all of those teams, especially Vandy and UT.

    We were also darn close to losing to Mizzou and UK. South Carolina and North Carolina weren’t cake walks, and Nichols was about to get sideways in a hurry. And all Auburn needed was one offensive play to turn that thing the other way.

    We kind of saw the same thing Richt’s first year. The palpable difference I saw in Richt’s second year was that we found a way to win games we had previously lost the 10 years prior. We started that season with two near miracle finishes and wins vs. Clemson and South Carolina. Clemson missed a FG at the end and we held South Carolina inside our own 5. Then we were man enough with a late drive and FG in Tuscaloosa and came back home to salt away UT with one final drive when we went for it on 4th down. Heck, we were only up 21-17 on Manning and Ole Miss at home at the half (thanks to a Tim Jennings pick six). Auburn became the ultimate example that year. That team could have lost all 5-6 of those games, but somehow won them all. By the time we got to Tech, we had finally decided to be great.

    That, really, is the key. We have to learn how to win those games. Meyer’s Ohio St. teams have become masters of winning some really ugly, close contest. Saban’s early Bama teams found ways to win those close games (and they still have to from time to time). DeShaun got Clemson over the hump in all those close tilts the last few years (it remains to be seen if they can do it without a generational QB).

    But, you can hardly point to a position where you think we’ll be worse in 2017 than we were in 2016. Jacob will improve by light years. The backs will be older, more determined and more healed (don’t forget Sony’s arm injury). The WRs and TEs will be very good. The D will be flat out nasty. The schedule is easier.

    Yet at the end of the day, we’re going to have a game(s) where there is simply a play that needs to be made. Somebody’s got to bat down a pass, cause a turnover, convert a first down, make a contested catch or drill a kick through the uprights. Make a play. Our biggest problem last year is that we didn’t or weren’t able to make a play when a play needed to be made.

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    • Mayor

      We had a saying in HS–“if the game was decided by 1 TD or less the difference was the coach.” I truly believe that.

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  8. 'Ol Gill

    If I think about what could have been, it’s equally possible that we could have lost to any or all of Nicholls, Mizzou, Kentucky, or Auburn. I just never understand the relevancy of “we were so close to beating x team” because the converse of that is always true also. More often than not, a team doesn’t win all it’s games by 20 and lose all it’s games by 3.

    With the brand of football we have, if you have a mediocre team you’re gonna have a lot of one score wins and defeats. Playing Harry Turtledove with them is pointless.

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  9. DawgPhan

    Even at 10-2 and losing in the SEC title game, this season is likely a disappointment. 10-3 likely means playing in Orlando against Wisconsin or some other Big 10 team.

    Any 2 losses on this schedule would be disappointing. Lose to Auburn and Tenn? UT and UF? Miss St and Tech? Anyone going to be stoked about losing those games?

    Getting plowed in the SECC doesnt make it any better.

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    • JCDAWG83

      10-2 with losses to UT and UF probably won’t equal a trip to Atlanta but who knows? A loss to tech and Kirby is on the serious hot seat and justifiably so. A fourth in a row to UF and we are back to same old same old with them. The East is another crap fest this season and doesn’t show any signs of improving any time soon. If Kirby can’t win the East this season, it might be tougher to convince recruits Georgia is a desirable place to be gong forward and the death spiral commences. This season is going to tell a lot, one way or another.

      10-2 with no trip to Atlanta and a mediocre bowl game and we’re back to those halcyon days of the Richt era where 10 wins had become the new undefeated. We might even be ranked at the season’s end. That would at least make some folks happy.

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      • Otto

        10-2 and UGA is back up to a good Richt year in year 2. It will likely take 4 years to see if Smart is a success. UT last year was as good as they have been since Cutcliffe was in Knoxville, UF is better under McElwain than Boom. I still look for UF to be the favorite to win the East. McElwain catches flack but 2 years in a row he has finished without their starting QB and still won the east. They just red shirted a QB who was highly rated. McElwain is not Saban or Urban but he is a solid coach.

        You are correct GT is a must win, 2 in a row to GT and Smart will be on the hot seat.

        10-2 with losses to UF, and Auburn or UT due to the road schedule and I will likely be content for year 2.

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        • redfadora

          Please stop that Richt thinking, GT & Notre Dame are meaningless in the big picture. The Richt system was beat GT & the unranked teams to get to 10 meaningless wins a year. Done with that. I’m measuring us vs EAST opponents and ranked teams (if we play any ranked teams this year).

          We have one goal-WIN THE EAST.

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          • If you think a UGA coach can survive losing to Tech regularly, you are dreaming.

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            • Otto

              It is the one game in isolation which will get you fired from UGA. UT, Auburn, and UF seem to get lumped into an overall record.

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          • Otto

            Uhm Richt thinking? I was one of the early ones calling for his firing and out of conference games are just about must wins for me. Boise St went a long way on how I viewed Bobo and Richt. I do believe Smart inherited a worse situation than most here and it takes time to rebuild especially OL where Richt was at his worst. So, I am giving Smart more time than many others.

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      • 1smartdude

        It could be worse, we could become life champions…..

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  10. 69Dawg

    Well at least Kirby is stocking the cupboard for the next coach, if it turns out he can’t get it done on the field. You can lose to Florida, UT, Auburn and even Vandy on occasion but if you lose two in a row to Yech you are on double not so secret probation. Three in a row gets your butt fired. Donnan is the prime example. He lost too many to Yech and he too had an attitude with the media and fans. Kirby was at Alabama so long he forgot what humble is and being a head coach in the SEC will remind you real quick. Bold prediction, there won’t be anything like 93k at G-Day, the new has worn off.

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  11. DawgPhan

    If we lose to UF and UT we likely arent playing in the SECC and we are out of the CFP discussion before halloween.

    not sure that there would be a lot of people that satisfied with that.

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  12. redfadora

    That’s what gives me hope. I thought we really ought to have been 11-2 instead of 8-5, it was soooo close. 1 point losses to GT & Vandy, and a 3 point loss on a Hail Mary to the Vols. 3 plays. 11-2 would have put us in the top 5 nationally in Kirby’s first year. I know there are cynics to this, we could have been 5-7 blah blah, seriously man, come on, you don’t really believe that, UGA rarely goes 5-7, no one takes that comment seriously because it has no feasibility.

    Here’s the thing, during the regular season, South Carolina, Tenn are the PLAYOFFS, and the SUPER BOWL is the Florida game. In that sense, we had a miserable season going 1-2 when it really mattered most, bottom line, we sucked in the “playoffs” and “Super Bowl”. That’s how Kirby and the team HAS to look at the schedule. If McGarity had a brain as large as his ears, he’d tie every bonus for the next 2 years to these 3 games. Got to start winning the East to have a playoff chance.

    One thing we know by now, is Florida under McElwain will field a top 10 defense. Muschamp could be sound in defense if you look at what he did at UF. And Butch Jones teams have been top 20 in offense. So no easy wins there. Can’t blow any of these guys off. (ESPN FPI source).

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    • DawgPhan

      USC will likely be better on defense than Florida. Florida is losing a lot of talent and hasnt been replacing it.

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      • redfadora

        Trust me, Randy Shannon will have the Gator defense ready again. And Muschamp’s defense will be much improved, he’s a defensive genius. Butch has a track record of winning where he goes and has been hell on wheels offensively. We have to treat this trio with more respect or they’ll kick our asses like UF has been doing.

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  13. redfadora

    Pretty interested. ESPN FPI preseason has:
    Auburn ranked No 5
    UF No 15
    Notre Dame No 17
    Tenn No 20
    SC No 32
    Miss St No 33
    KY No 34
    GT No 37
    MO No 41
    Vand No 47

    UGA, UF, Tenn, SC, and Ky are all expected to field a top 35 team.

    And MO & Vandy aren’t far behind.

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  14. Brandon

    I don’t care if we are 7-0 or 0-7 when we roll into Jacksonville. We should roll into that town with the mindset of beating some Gator ass Every Damn Year. Maybe I’ll live to see the day.

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