It’s that time of the year, folks.
The point in the college football season where style points are all the rage has come and gone. It’s November, and what matters now is a W in the win column.
Just ask Oklahoma, whose offense dazzled two weeks ago in a 48-41 loss to Kansas State that put the Sooners’ playoff hopes in peril. Or Penn State and Alabama, two of the top four in the initial College Football Playoff rankings who saw undefeated seasons tarnished with losses on Saturday.
That brings us to Georgia, the No. 6 team in those first playoff rankings. At points this season, the Bulldogs have yet to put it all together in a game against Power 5 competition, either struggling with offensive inconsistency, big plays allowed by the defense or both.
Against Missouri it was more of the former, as the offense sputtered at the end of drives and settled for five field goal attempts. But remember, this is November: the Bulldogs secured a win by a score of 27-0 over the Tigers.
“I don’t really think about style points,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “I just think about what we have to do to win the game and what we have to do to be more efficient and what we have to do to be at our best.”
Smart noted after the game the struggles of the offense in finishing drives, saying it feels like the Bulldogs have kicked about 28 field goals in the last three games against Missouri.
For the season, however, settling for field goals has been a theme of the offense. Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has attempted at least three field goals in six of Georgia’s nine games, with season highs of five attempts and four makes coming against the Tigers.
Of Blankenship’s 22 attempts for the year, half have been from 40 yards or closer, indicating a Bulldog drive that reached the opponent’s 23-yard line and didn’t end in a touchdown.
However, Blankenship knows that it doesn’t matter if he’s kicking field goals or extra points.
“We just have to continue to prepare and continue to treat every week as seriously as we possibly can and do whatever it takes to win,” Blankenship said. “It would be nice if we could score a zillion points, but at the end of the day, as long as we win, that’s what matters.”
To hear those on the offense tell it, those field goals might turn into extra points sooner rather than later. Quarterback Jake Fromm emphasized that he feels the offense is inches away from hitting on all cylinders, adding “I think sooner or later we’re going to break it out, and it’s going to be exciting to watch.”
But in a team game like football, sometimes one side of the ball has to help out the other when things aren’t running totally smooth. That’s where the defense comes in.
The Bulldogs pitched their third shutout of the season against Missouri, and the second in a game where the offense struggled at times. The other was a 21-0 win over Kentucky on a rainy night on Oct. 19.
Offensive lineman Cade Mays credited the defense with at least putting the offense in positions to score points and holding opponents to field goals rather than touchdowns. Indeed, the best way to help an offense that doesn’t always finish drives with touchdowns is to keep the opponents from scoring any.
Safety Richard LeCounte said the defense tries to take each game one possession at a time, setting a goal each series of getting a turnover or creating good field position for the offense. Whatever the offense needs as a boost to get a win in the book, the defense does what it can to make it happen.
“Each game we want to play our best game,” linebacker Tae Crowder said. “Whatever it is to win that game, as long as give it our all, we’re satisfied with it.”
That’s part of the November mentality for this team. There are still three games left in the regular season, plus a likely berth in the SEC Championship beyond that.
From now until the end of the year, whenever that may be, the mindset is the same for the Bulldogs. No more worrying about style points or impressing a committee or cruising through games trying to iron out kinks.