Looking back on it, that first score was too easy. In Georgia’s three previous games, scores in opening series came as the result of steady drives down the field. This time, we saw an electrifying 75-yard run from Bowers less than a minute into the game. The fans relaxed. Unfortunately, so did the team.
The result was a vindication of two hoary college football chestnuts: (1) noon starts lead to sleepy teams and (2) never let an inferior opponent get the feeling they’re still in the game. Yes, the final margin was seventeen points, but Kent State was a 45-point underdog that had a shot of making it a one-score game in the fourth quarter.
In keeping with the game, the bullet points are good and bad.
- Kent State made a decision that they didn’t respect Georgia’s deep passing game, and with Mitchell’s and Smith’s absence, that wasn’t a terrible choice. Monken and Bennett, in turn, made a decision on the game’s very first play to test that, and it should have worked. Unfortunately, Ladd McConkey, who played the most forgettable half of college football he’s ever turned in — at times, it looked like he had money on the Golden Flashes to cover — didn’t bring in Stetson’s pass. That’s a possible point of concern, but it was good to see Smith suiting up for the game, suggesting he’s making real progress on the health front.
- Like it or not, it was a pretty quiet day for Georgia’s wide receivers. I think McConkey had one catch of over 20 yards, but no one else did. Again, I like seeing Blaylock out there, he’s such a good route runner with good hands. I hope he’s working himself into game shape, because he has the tools to be a bigger contributor.
- Another awesome day for the tight ends. Bowers had two rushing touchdowns and Washington threw key blocks on both of them. Washington also continues to impress me with his growth as a receiver. Anyway, it felt like any time things were starting to tighten for the offense, they turned to a tight end and it worked out.
- The running backs weren’t bad, but they weren’t explosive running the ball, either. With Milton, it seems to be the case that he needs the o-line to create a little space to get going. He did turn in a couple of nice runs where he was able to accelerate, but again showed an issue with not being able to keep his balance with shoestring tackle attempts.
- I’m just gonna say this: it’s time to feature Edwards in the run game more. I know McIntosh was limited with an injury, so Edwards got more opportunities to run, but he’s producing. He’s always run hard, but it seems like he can get out of the backfield more easily than the other two.
- The o-line remains a mixed bag. They’re getting great play out of the tackles and Van Pran, but the guard play remains inconsistent. Ratledge is still noticeably struggling, presumably as he continues to work his way back from injuries into game shape. The sack was the result of him and McIntosh whiffing on protection. If you think he’s your best option at guard, should he get healthy, I can see why you’d keep him out there. It would be nice, though, if he’d get there soon. Truss and Willock have their moments, but have their share of inconsistencies as well. Will things get better on the interior?
- I don’t want to rag on Stetson too much, even though it was his weakest game of the season. Much of that was due to his receivers not holding on to the ball. The interception could be partly blamed on Rosemy-Jacksaint letting the defender get inside him on an underthrown ball, but it looked to me like Stetson locked into him from the snap and ignored a couple of receivers who were in his line of sight that were more open. But he made some sharp throws and for the most part, good decisions.
- The defense started out looking very much in control, with Dumas-Johnson leading the way. He and Nolan Smith had a couple of early sacks, and that, too, probably contributed to the feeling of relaxation. Kent State scored its first three points of the game in two series netting a total of two yards of offense. The next series saw them gain zero yards, setting up a safety on a punt block. The next time they got the ball back, another three-and-out.
- That, in turn, led to the play of the game, McConkey’s fumble after reception. Two plays later, Kent caught Georgia misplaying a sideline throw and turned it into a touchdown reception. Lassiter lost contain and didn’t have the safety support to bail him out. And Kent State suddenly felt like the game wasn’t going to be a blow out.
- That Jalen Carter was missed more Saturday than he was against South Carolina seems a weird thing to say, but it doesn’t make it any less true. KS’ bowling ball of a back had some success running the ball up the middle. It wasn’t so much that the Dawgs’ d-line was being overpowered as it appeared they weren’t gap solid at times. That, fortunately, is something that can be fixed, but it will be nice to get Carter back, too.
- I continue to like what I see out of Bear Alexander. He’s gonna be a good one with time.
- It was not one of the linebacking corps best days. As noted, they did get off to a good start, but as the game wore on, there were plenty of missed assignments, players out of position and some missed tackles. Containment wasn’t consistent, although for the most part, they did a very good job with Schlee and his threat to run the ball. Then again, they over-committed on a screen pass that led to a big gain.
- Same story with the secondary. Ringo was the most consistent out there. Safety play wasn’t as locked down as we’ve seen, although it wasn’t bad. Lassiter needs some coaching up. Bullard flashed on occasion. Overall, they weren’t awful, but they were inconsistent enough that a smart, tough opponent was able to take advantage at times.
- Special teams were a roller coaster. Except for Podlesny, who didn’t miss all day long. There was a great punt block that led to a safety, but there was also a successful fake punt for the second week in a row, which is inexcusable. Add in McConkey’s flubbed punt catch, and you had a eventful day of action — and not in a good sense.
- As far as coaching goes, it’s not unfair to say our guys were outcoached. I give Monken the benefit of the doubt on that — Bennett struggled a little with Kent’s version of the 3-3-5, there weren’t any weapons to attack the defense deep, but in the end, 500+ yards and 39 points aren’t too bad, especially if you consider it could have been considerably more with better execution.
- Defensively, Kent State’s playcalling exposed a few flaws and I didn’t see much in the way of adjustment. Georgia appeared to struggle in the second half with Kent’s HUNH and that is something they’d better get a handle on before the Tennessee game.
- Kirby deserves a little criticism, too. He was really lucky the refs ruled Bennett scored on that run to end Georgia’s first half, because he’d blown through all of his timeouts on that weird series when Kent tried to mix Georgia up on that fourth-and-five, will they or won’t they go for it situation. And for whatever reason, he wasn’t able to get this team to wake up.
As a one-off, of course, this game doesn’t mean much. There’s plenty to work on, and I’m sure they’ll get after things this week in practice. I do wonder how much longer the coaches will continue the experiments on the offensive and defensive lines before settling in on starting groups. It would also be good to get players like Carter and Mitchell back in action.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to look back on this game as nothing more than a little bump in the road.
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