Bulldogs Beat

Three takeaways: The punting woes are back and more from the first half of the Sugar Bowl

Here are The Telegraph’s best photos from the Sugar Bowl

The Georgia Bulldogs lost to the Texas Longhorns at the Sugar Bowl this year. Here are our best photos from the game.
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The Georgia Bulldogs lost to the Texas Longhorns at the Sugar Bowl this year. Here are our best photos from the game.

Here are three things to know at the half of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Georgia trails Texas 20-7 through 30 minutes of play at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The punting woes didn’t stay in Atlanta

After the much-discussed 4th-and-11 fake punt in the SEC Championship, you might think those punting blunders are rare and would be a one-time occasion. You thought wrong. They followed Georgia to the Sugar Bowl.

There were no fakes against the Longhorns, however, and it was shakiness from freshman Jake Camarda. His first punt looked to be the best of his young career as it was downed by Jayson Stanley at the 11-yard line and the Longhorns would have to put together a lengthy drive. An official review, however, squandered that.

Camarda, while trying to corral an errant snap, lowered his knee before getting the punt off. Nope, can’t do that. Rather than a successful punt, he was ruled down at the 25-yard-line, it was a -14-yard rush and Texas was in prime scoring position — Longhorns’ place kicker Cameron Dicker converted a 37-yard punt later in the drive.

Camarda would be sent back out on the following drive, and things wouldn’t get much better. It was an 11-yard shanked punt and Texas took over at midfield. On that drive, the Longhorns failed to score, but it became an evident reminder that punting is important.

Defense hasn’t been so strong, either

One might think when Deandre Baker — Georgia’s best cornerback and Jim Thorpe Award winner — is sidelined, that the secondary may have some trouble. You’d be correct.

Texas had an offensive rhythm from its first drive as quarterback Sam Ehlinger conducted a 75-yard drive for a touchdown. Ehlinger found Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who was matched up against freshman Tyson Campbell, on a number of occasions and made it look easy.

Georgia’s defense is missing Baker, D’Andre Walker and Jordan Davis in the rotation. As a result, freshmen Azeez Ojulari and Divaad Wilson have played considerably. Wilson makes his first-career appearance after recovering from a torn ACL.

Then, on the final drive of the first quarter, that smooth offensive production was back. Oh, all of a sudden, Georgia didn’t look like a College Football Playoff team. Remember the onslaught of tweets by Bulldog players on Saturday night?

Ehlinger capped Texas’ second scoring drive with a 2-yard scamper. It was on a play where Georgia defensive end Malik Herring nearly had back-to-back sacks, but the Longhorns’ sophomore eluded it, waltzed into the end zone and flexed his chest in celebration.

Ehlinger, by the way, is second in Texas rushing with 27 yards through a half. On the following drive, Azeez Ojulari nearly had a sack and Ehlinger got past it for 17 yards. It would later lead to another field goal by Dicker.

Georgia’s defense is thin. Through a half, it has shown.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) reacts after scoring a touchdown, between Georgia linebacker Natrez Patrick (6), defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt (95) and linebacker Brenton Cox (1) during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Gerald Herbert AP

Some offensive life

You probably want to read something positive about Georgia now, right?

First, the bad: Early on, Georgia’s offense was non-existent. It looked like the Rose Bowl last Jan. 1 where the opposition was scoring at will. Only in this case, the Bulldogs didn’t have anything to answer with.

Texas was out-gaining Georgia 101-8 at the end of the first quarter. D’Andre Swift had a fumble, Riley Ridley had a dropped pass and the Bulldogs couldn’t manufacture traction in the run game. Everything imaginable was going wrong.

Then, wait for it … Brian Herrien to the rescue. Wait, what? Yeah, not exactly what you’d draw up in the movies, but here we go. Georgia’s third-string running back gave the offense some life.

After not playing substantially throughout the season, Herrien strung together 10 rushing yards on two carries. That doesn’t sound like much, but it was better than what it had been and it allowed Elijah Holyfield and other running backs to find some space.

The drive was capped by a 17-yard touchdown reception from Herrien. He was wide open in the slot, and Jake Fromm found him without issue.

Be patient, the Bulldogs are trying to find some life and recover from this deficit. They do receive the ball after the half.