Did you know that Georgia didn’t score an offensive touchdown Saturday night? If you didn’t, here’s Matt Hayes to remind you.
This can’t be overlooked: The past 3 quarterbacks to play Clemson in a CFP-type atmosphere averaged 389 yards passing and 4 touchdowns.
Daniels threw for 135 yards and no TDs, and more disturbing averaged a pitiful 4.5 yards per attempt.
Those three quarterbacks who gutted the Clemson pass defense were the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft in 2020 (Joe Burrow), and 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields in his sophomore and junior seasons.
Daniels is a potential first-round pick, has an NFL arm and a high football IQ. But he and the Bulldogs were flummoxed by Clemson’s sink zone, forcing Daniels to take checkdowns and making receivers earn first downs.
The Tigers dropped seven and eight in coverage at times, and Georgia didn’t have an answer because, with the injuries, it doesn’t have a deep threat or a tight end with the athletic ability to stretch coverage down the seam.
That’s how you get 4.5 yards per attempt. That’s how you get a frustration interception by Daniels, when he stared down a receiver while trying to make an intermediate throw.
Daniels will see those sink zone defenses all season until Georgia adjusts. The easiest way: crossing routes, but those take time, and the Bulldogs’ offensive line had trouble in pass protection.
Yeah, that’ll happen when you lose your starting center and starting right guard (who was replaced by the injured starting center for virtually the entire game) to injuries. That’s not to make excuses — hell, Georgia won the game, so who cares? Instead, it’s something that should improve over the course of the season as some of those receivers make it back.
Which makes this comment especially funny:
One more thing: The narrative that Clemson will be the best defense Georgia faces until Alabama is ludicrous. First and foremost, Georgia plays 8 SEC games against teams that know their personnel and know how to scheme against it.
That’s how you get an upset loss to South Carolina 2 years ago. And those same three teams that can hurt the Georgia defense with a running quarterback vs. man under defense (Auburn, Florida, Kentucky), are the same three teams with good enough personnel on defense to cause problems for Daniels and the Georgia passing game.
Next up, PFF, which has never been on the Daniels bandwagon.
Brandon Marcello, too, has his doubts.
I have long been high on JT Daniels as a quarterback, but the lack of time in the pocket and the frustrating absence of playmaking receivers against Clemson should open eyes to a problem that has long (and frustratingly, I might add) plagued the Bulldogs. For whatever reason, Georgia just isn’t a complete team and hasn’t been for some time. This is Georgia’s best defense yet under Smart, and it just might be the best — by far — in the country. The Bulldogs have championship players on paper nearly every year, but playing together consistently throughout a 12-game schedule has never been their forte.
Listen, Clemson’s defense is also incredible and should not be taken lightly. Veteran Clemson assistant Brent Venables has, on paper, the best defense of his career, but at some point it would have been nice to see Georgia be more dynamic. There were flashes of potential, particularly when Daniels lifted the ball over the heads of linebackers in the second half to keep drives alive, but little else popped other than Zamir White (74 yards on 13 carries) salting the game away on the ground.
Until Georgia puts all the pieces together, I hesitate to say Smart has turned the corner in Athens. There is plenty of time to work out the kinks (and there might be only one more defense on the schedule in the same neighborhood as Clemson) but what we saw Saturday in Charlotte is yet another example of a well-rounded Georgia team transforming into a one-armed heavyweight fighter.
“Veteran Clemson assistant Brent Venables has, on paper, the best defense of his career, but at some point it would have been nice to see Georgia be more dynamic.” Well, yes, but I don’t think that was on Venables’ agenda. Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other guy. Then again, if Matt Hayes is right, look out for Todd Grantham!
Perhaps this was a problem.
Georgia got contributions from McConkey and Johnson. I’m pretty sure back in the spring nobody was counting on that from the receiving corps against Clemson. It is what it is. Kirby knows it, too.
“The perception is we didn’t score a touchdown and we didn’t,” Smart said. “We’re a very matter of fact judgment. And it’s OK, we didn’t score, but why? Why didn’t we score? You go through the reasons why, you go through each play, a lot of it was attention to detail. Not converting on third down, missing explosives.”
You beat the third ranked team in the country as an underdog and still have things to fix? That’s Kirby Smart’s wet dream. Let’s see where attention to detail and getting the walking wounded back over the next few weeks takes this offense before we start shoveling dirt over their grave.