Dress rehearsal is over for UGA

September 1, 2012 

ATHENS -- They don’t have an exhibition season in college football. But that’s exactly what it was for Georgia on Saturday afternoon as it played Buffalo.

No, these weren’t the Bills. It was a team that got a big paycheck to come to Athens so the Bulldogs could get ready for the ‘real’ season, which starts next week with the road game at Missouri.

Turns out, Georgia needed the “exhibition.” The Bulldogs needed to be punched in the face to see if they would get back up. They needed some adversity, and they got it. If this had been an important game on the schedule, however, they might have been in even more trouble.

Sure, Georgia won by 22 points. But it wasn’t pretty. Many first games of the season aren’t, but this wasn’t exactly what a hungry fan base wanted to see in Week 1.

For the second straight year, Georgia looked at times like it was playing a scrimmage instead of a regular season opener. Last year, when the ­Bulldogs came out sluggish against Boise State, at least there was an excuse. Boise State was good, and maybe the Broncos made Georgia look sluggish.

Buffalo had won a total of 10 games in the previous three years, so this was no Boise State.

The supposedly great Georgia defense gave up 23 points. It wasn’t supposed to do that.

But maybe the Bulldogs needed to get this out of the way, so they’ll know what they’ve got to do when the competition is better in the SEC.

The defense was missing a few people -- Malcolm Mitchell had an ankle injury, and Sanders Commings, Chase Vasser, Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree were suspended. The defense was so sluggish in the first half that boos even rang out in the second quarter.

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham kept on saying one word in his postgame comments: inconsistency.

“Some inconsistencies led to some explosive plays, and those explosive plays led to points,” Grantham said. “I thought the guys played hard. I think they did some good things. But there are some things that happened in there that we cannot have happen or cannot do. We’ve got work to do.”

They know that now. This game had to open their eyes and make them realize that all the preseason hype of being a sixth-ranked team is just that -- hype. Buffalo, of all teams, may have given Georgia its best gift yet -- a realization that to be a championship contender, you’ve got to do better than what the Bulldogs did Saturday.

Maybe the fact Georgia was missing players is the excuse. But excuses won’t cut it when you play a conference opponent. Missouri is not going to care one bit next week about Georgia’s problems.

Take heart in the fact that Buffalo might have shocked Georgia in the first half, but the Bulldogs bounced back, made adjustments and realized they had to do better, regardless of how many starters might have been out.

“When things started going wrong (in the first half), we knew we had to really shape up and go out there and play the Georgia defense that we established last year,” defensive lineman Abry Jones said.

“This was good because a lot of the first-game kinks got knocked out, so we’ll be better next week,” linebacker Christian Robinson promised.

Robinson is right. The Bulldogs will be better. There was a lot for Georgia to be happy about Saturday, mostly that they have found a running back in Todd Gurley. However, it’s the negative stuff that will sometimes stick with you in a game like this.

Georgia was favored by 38 points. They didn’t cover. Was it just because the opponent was not one they needed to be worried about, so they took it easy? Or is this an indication it might take this Georgia team longer than we believed to click?

This was Georgia’s dress rehearsal. The show starts Saturday at Missouri. The Bulldogs better look better, or else the next team won’t be so accommodating.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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