As Emerson fleshed it out ($$):
Kirby Smart is being criticized for a lot of things this week, but give him this, he sure has a pulse on his team. Minutes before kickoff last Saturday, Smart used his customary pregame interview with Chuck Dowdle to vent.
“We’ve got to get our ass ready to play. Our team’s not ready to play right now,” Smart said.
That wasn’t just normal pregame coachspeak and worry. Dowdle told me he’d never had a coach tell him that prior to kickoff. And then we know what happened.
Smart wasn’t the only one sensing something was amiss pre-game.
“Some people said they didn’t feel… They just felt Saturday was… They didn’t feel normal,” Swift said. “Some people felt weird during pre-game. I’m not sure what was going on but we just weren’t on the same page Saturday.”
Smart is getting some criticism for not doing anything to motivate his team despite his awareness of their mental state at kickoff, but I’m not sure exactly what he could have done then. Now, once the game was underway and it became apparent that some things weren’t working and tactical changes might be in order is another thing, although sometimes you gotta hope your team wakes up in the heat of battle and gets things going.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, either.
Another red flag for Georgia: something felt off.
“It felt off because we didn’t come out as a fast-tempo team,” defensive lineman David Marshall said, who noticed the effects progressively. “We came out a little sluggish. It’s one of those games where we didn’t play hard in the first half and got out-physicaled.”
Smart’s reaction? Double down on manball.
Offensively, those behind the line-of-scrimmage had trouble mustering rhythm. Georgia’s offense had its Plan A: pound the football and break an opponent’s will. Georgia tried it in repetitive fashion with power run plays on first-and-second down. Throughout regulation, the sequence occurred nine times and continued on into overtime. Even when the Bulldogs were down by one score, they opted for two consecutive up-the-middle runs by D’Andre Swift — one for five yards, the other for one.
Smart said “you try to rely on your strength” when it is the run game and offensive line.
I wouldn’t say “when in doubt, play to your strength” was the worst possible take there, but the predictability of the playcalling played into South Carolina’s defensive tactics perfectly.