ATLANTA -- For 30 minutes, Georgia had to feel like the best team in the country. The Bulldogs were manhandling the top-rated team. LSU couldn’t do anything right. It was like the Tigers were asleep.
And then LSU woke up. Well, a honey badger woke them up.
If you needed to know whether or not Georgia was really a good team, we got our answer in the first half. It was perhaps the most impressive half of defense you’ll ever see. LSU didn’t have a first down in the first two quarters, with only 12 yards on 21 offensive plays.
That’s how Georgia won ballgames all season, with an intimidating and aggressive defense. Todd Grantham’s unit punched LSU in the face, and it really didn’t look like the Tigers were going to get up.
You might say LSU came out slow, kind of like Georgia did a few weeks ago against Kentucky. But that was all Georgia’s defense. If the boys in red could have just controlled a player nicknamed “The Honey Badger,” the Bulldogs would’ve won the game.
But instead, Tyrann Mathieu ran all over the field -- with a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter and then a fumble recovery and a breathtaking punt return in the third quarter. Georgia couldn’t catch him. I guess honey badgers are fast.
Wikipedia says honey badgers are “notoriously fearless and tough animals, having been known to savagely attack their enemies when escape is impossible.”
Yes, I looked that up. The scary thing is someone knew enough about honey badgers to write the description.
LSU escaped the Georgia Dome with a win Saturday night, so Mathieu must have rubbed off on the whole team a little. The second half was somewhat of a savage attack, as LSU showed why it has been beating teams all season long.
But for a while, it looked like magic was going to happen for Georgia, which had absolutely nothing to lose. That’s why the Bulldogs came out and were aggressive early in the game. They threw long passes. They tried some razzle-dazzle. They recovered an onside kick.
Unfortunately, the mistakes in the first half may be remembered more than the successes. Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell dropped sure touchdown passes, while Sanders Commings dropped an interception that might have been a pick-six. At halftime, Georgia could have been up 28-10.
That lead wouldn’t have been enough. LSU is just too good a team to be down and out for too long. The Tigers showed that last week against Arkansas, when they were down 14-0 and then blew the Razorbacks out. A similar script was written Saturday.
While Georgia showed its defensive strength in the first half, LSU didn’t do too badly either. The Tigers showed why they had the second best defense in the country when they limited Georgia to 36 yards of total offense in the second and third quarters.
That’s how the Tigers win games. That’s why they’ll play in the national championship. And that’s what Georgia’s trying to learn how to do. If that first half was any indication, the Bulldogs may be on their way.
LSU was going to win the game no matter what. The Tigers are that good that they can overcome a slow start and a sloppy first half. But Georgia showed it is almost there with a first half that will be hard to forget.
Give LSU credit. The Tigers eventually did get up from being punched in the mouth and did a little punching of their own in the third quarter. The problem is, Georgia didn’t get up. The Bulldogs won the wrong half.
It’s OK to feel bad about a loss. That’s only natural. But hang your hats on that first half Bulldogs fans. It was great enough to make everyone know this Georgia team had a pretty good season.
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.