It was quite the mess.
Georgia’s 38-10 loss to Alabama showed it’s not ready to be on the big stage yet. It’s a long season and things can certainly change. But at this point, Georgia is a next-tier team with a lot to work on.
Here are five things we now know about this team following its blowout loss on Saturday.
Mark Richt, Brian Schottenheimer panicked
This isn’t to say Georgia comes back against Alabama if Greyson Lambert starts the second half. Lambert was abysmal in the first two quarters, completing only one of his final eight passes in the first half. But to go with Brice Ramsey, in the rain, to open the third quarter showed the coaching staff panicked and jumped the gun too early. All season, Lambert had been the guy. Richt previously said he wouldn't pull his starter if he was going through some struggles. Now, Lambert performed poorly in the first half. But did Ramsey do anything during the week to justify a move at that point? Of course, Ramsey throws a pick-six on his first pass, which makes the decision look even worse.
However, it’s also telling. If the coaches had trust in Lambert to get something going into the second half, they would have stayed with him. But the fact that Lambert held on to the ball for long periods of time and couldn’t find open receivers led Richt to believe he had to make a move. It makes you wonder how soon 2016 can get here for Richt and Schottenheimer so that Jacob Eason can enter the mix.
Quarterback worries emerge again
What a roller coaster the quarterbacks have been on. First, Lambert beat out Ramsey, who was recruited to be the future starter years ago. After a poor start against Vanderbilt, folks began wondering whether Lambert needed to be replaced. Then Lambert sets an NCAA record for completion percentage against South Carolina and is loved by everyone on campus. Halfway through the first half against Alabama, fans began to boo Lambert. Now even Richt believes the position needs to be evaluated again.
There were times where Lambert just looked uncomfortable in the pocket, even when it seemed he had time. Perhaps old habits from Virginia are still with him, given how much pressure he faced with the Cavaliers. But it’s not like Ramsey has proved to be any better. Ramsey’s performance ended with him throwing more passes to Alabama than Georgia. To move forward and win ball games, Richt and Schottenheimer have to figure out how to minimize any potential damage from the quarterback position in big games.
Secondary’s big-game inexperience showed
Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said during the week Georgia’s secondary went over every route concept Alabama ran Saturday. However, as the plays developed, Georgia defensive backs were out of position, letting receivers run free or a step behind the play. Play-action fakes also sucked them in sometimes, which was one major thing Richt was worried about last week.
As Pruitt said, the moment may have gotten to the secondary. Emotions can play a role in college football if players allow them to. With all the hype built up, Georgia’s defensive backs had a poor first-half performance, which led to some big plays from Alabama quarterback Jake Coker. And ultimately, the Crimson Tide’s ability to push the ball through the air after establishing the run played a major role in Alabama getting the blowout victory.
Georgia went away from the run too soon
Georgia wasn’t having success running the ball early. But with Alabama only leading 10-3 in the second quarter, there was no reason not to keep running Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, especially considering the Crimson Tide weren’t loading eight in the box every play. But that’s precisely what Georgia’s offense did. After Alabama’s first touchdown drive, the Bulldogs posted three consecutive three-and-outs. Seven of the nine called plays were passes – with Lambert scrambling for four yards on one. Only twice during that span did Georgia try to run.
Now, this isn’t to say Georgia would have won by sticking with the run. But down 10-3, Georgia wasn’t in a spot yet to rely heavily on Lambert. As everyone saw later, Chubb burst through for an 83-yard touchdown. Much like spread offenses can hit big plays in an instant in the passing game, Georgia can do so with its running attack. Unable to counter Alabama’s first touchdown, the game went from 10-3 to 24-3 in a matter of minutes.
Nick Chubb has a ton of heart
Chubb could have given up once the game got out of hand. The Bulldogs were done when Alabama took a 38-3 lead. But Chubb kept fighting and broke an 83-yard touchdown run against the Crimson Tide. After the game, his body language said it all. His shoulders were slumped and his head was down. He wanted to help Georgia get that needed statement win for the program. It just didn’t happen as Alabama whipped the Bulldogs in every phase of the game.
But the fact that Chubb was still grinding away and played his heart out shows what kind of special talent the Bulldogs have in their backfield.