Maybe the Georgia Bulldogs are simply learning how to win again. They didn’t win enough last year. They lost more than they won. They have to hope it’s just like getting back on a bike after falling off.
But it doesn’t seem that simple.
For two weeks in a row, Georgia has had trouble putting away an inferior team. The Bulldogs struggled to bury Mississippi last week, and the Rebels are just horrible. And Saturday, they seemed reluctant to pull the trigger to put Mississippi State out of its misery.
The other Bulldogs in the SEC are quite a disappointment. They were so good last year, but there’s no doubt Dan Mullen’s team has taken a step back this season. Mississippi State lost two tough conference games to LSU and Auburn and then barely beat Louisiana Tech last week.
Never miss a local story.
On Saturday, Mississippi State showed it is not as good as the team that beat Georgia in Starkville last season. And yet Georgia had trouble putting it away.
The third quarter was once again 15 minutes for Georgia to forget. The Bulldogs just didn’t look sharp coming out of the locker room ... again. Last week’s third quarter in Oxford was like watching a bad sitcom, and unfortunately, Saturday’s game wasn’t much better.
Georgia led 21-3 at halftime, but instead of putting the visitors away, the Bulldogs scored only one field goal the rest of the game. Georgia was the better team Saturday, but it didn’t seem to want to prove it.
“We can’t just have a great first half and feel great about that and think the game is over,” said quarterback Aaron Murray, whose threw three interceptions contributed to the malaise. ”When you play great teams, they’re going to be ready to go all 60 minutes. We’ve got to get that lead and keep pounding on them. We haven’t done that the last two weeks.”
The Georgia defense played well pretty much all day. Mississippi State’s offense, and particularly quarterback Chris Relf, sputtered. Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham admitted his game plan to avoid a repeat of last year’s disappointing performance worked.
“Don’t let him (Relf) run the ball,” Grantham said. “Make them do things that they don’t like to do. That’s the way to play defense.”
And Georgia seems to be learning how to do that. There were good performances from Cornelius Washington, Sanders Commings and even a big sack from John Jenkins that got the crowd going.
But Georgia’s offense was an entirely different story.
Yes, we definitely know that Georgia has a running back. Isaiah Crowell is a stud. There is tremendous potential in wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, as well. But together, as a unit, the Georgia offense is still not clicking.
Georgia had five offensive series in the third quarter, and they were all clunkers. There were three punts, one botched field goal and one missed field goal. The two main series in the fourth quarter were also bad, with an interception run back for a touchdown and then a missed field goal by Blair Walsh, who is really struggling this season.
“We’ve definitely got to put the hammer down on teams when we have the chance,” Murray said.
Georgia won last week, and it won this week. But you get the feeling from watching this team that if it played a much better team -- say LSU or Alabama -- it would have gotten beat convincingly.
“Great teams don’t have letdowns,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. ”They go for the throat, go for the jugular, and we haven’t done that the last couple of weeks.”
Georgia is a good team, and it has shown that the past three weeks. But if Georgia is going to be a great team and beat more elite teams, it has to start putting it all together for 60 minutes.
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