As they say in sports, the film doesn’t lie.
It was pretty clear how Georgia lost this game. Georgia’s defense could not stop Tennessee defensively. Georgia’s offense made enough players to be in position but made some errors in key situations.
Here’s how Georgia looked on second viewing:
Georgia’s defense was out of sync a good bit, which led to plenty of issues defending the pass. Two of Tennessee’s touchdowns, both of which were inside Georgia’s 10-yard line, came on the same concepts and the Bulldogs were unable to recognize it either time.
The first time is understandable, although it was pretty clear what Tennessee was doing when it sent running back Alvin Kamara in motion late in the first half. When Kamara motioned, safety Dominick Sanders appeared to signal something to defensive back Quincy Mauger. Mauger then blitzed the quarterback, leaving three receivers on three defensive backs. The receivers ran straight at Johnathan Abram and Malkom Parrish, and Kamara was left wide open underneath. Sanders was either late with the read or was trying to get into the passing lane. The play went for an easy touchdown.
Fast forward to the third quarter, with the game tied at 24-24. Tennessee is at the 2-yard line and Kamara motions to his left. CBS Sports color commentator Gary Danielson recognized the play immediately. Most people watching at home probably saw it coming as well. This time, Georgia had three defensive backs to cover the play, although one of Tennessee’s receivers was able to cut off two defensive backs on the route. This allowed Kamara to be wide open again for the short score. The lack of recognition was evident here, as well as on many other plays.
In the third quarter on a deep pass from Joshua Dobbs to Ethan Wolf, Tennessee motioned Wolf to the left side of the formation, pitting three receivers against two defensive backs in zone coverage. On the snap, Dobbs pump-faked the quick pass, with both Mauger and cornerback Rico McGraw biting hard on it. This allowed Wolf and Jauan Jennings to run wide open down the sideline. Dobbs turned, threw the ball to Wolf and picked up a 34-yard gain. This was a similar play to what Alabama ran the week before, which went for a 50-yard gain from Jake Coker to Calvin Ridley.
Upon further review of the game, Tennessee should have never trailed 24-3. The Volunteers had numerous chances to jump out on the Bulldogs early. Tim Kimbrough, who has played a fantastic two games on an otherwise struggling defense, met Jalen Hurd in the backfield in the first quarter, which allowed Davin Bellamy to get in there and strip the ball. Leonard Floyd took it the other way 96 yards for a touchdown. The Volunteers had to settle for a field goal after being unable to come down with a pass in the end zone. Dobbs was off-target often in the first half and was missing wide open receivers
And that’s the bigger problem, in that through four quarters, Georgia allowed free receiver after free receiver to break open. Tennessee did a good job utilizing the middle of the field, which sometimes was left open when Georgia tried to disguise a blitz package. Either a linebacker didn’t drop back properly or was late in the assignment.
Even when Dominick Sanders nearly had an interception at the end of the first half, Dobbs had a wide open Hurd underneath that would have picked up a ton of yardage. On tape, the defense’s performance looked worse than from the press box viewpoint on Saturday.
On offense, perhaps more run-pass option plays are needed. One of the best executed plays of Saturday’s game occurred when Georgia faced a third-and-16 in its own territory. With the threat of Sony Michel running the ball, Lambert pulled the ball out on what looked to be a handoff and fired the ball to Malcolm Mitchell running a slant pattern. The play-fake sucked the inside linebackers just enough to where Mitchell had room to run behind them after the catch. Mitchell was just inches short of the first down, which Michel picked up on the next carry.
There weren’t too many of these plays in this game and perhaps more need to be called. When things were predictable, especially now without Nick Chubb, Tennessee had it covered. When Georgia executed its play-action passing attack or had Lambert execute some deeper drop-backs, better things seemed to happen. Lambert finished the day 15-of-32 for 279 yards and two touchdowns. His completion percentage was poor and showed how erratic he was at times. Some short and intermediate throws were just off, especially early. But Lambert’s deep ball stood out. The 48-yard touchdown to Reggie Davis was well put. The deep ball Davis couldn’t come down with was perfectly placed. He did a good job on the jump ball for a score to Malcolm Mitchell. He was just off on another deep throw to Davis, which seemed like Davis took some time getting separation on. He also barely missed too long on a deep ball to Terry Godwin.
Lambert played better than the stats showed, even if some of his early throws were bad. He wasn’t the problem in Saturday’s loss, all things considered.