It’s funny how a fan base will get spoiled in a hurry. Having an undefeated team to root for will do that, even in seven short weeks.
On Saturday, Georgia gave up 28 points and 312 total yards to Missouri. You would have thought the heralded Georgia defense had collapsed and would never be the same again — at least if you listened to some fans after the game.
That’s what six impressive games will cause — much higher expectations. Georgia had allowed 10 points per game in the first six games, and gasp, the Bulldogs allowed four touchdowns to the horrible Tigers.
Well, the Missouri team may not be very good, but it did have good players. Quarterback Drew Lock is a good downfield passer, and his main targets — Emanuel Hall and J’Mon Moore — can be really good, as we saw Saturday night in Athens.
Georgia had to expect Missouri to pass the ball, as Lock can sling it around the field. And that’s exactly what he did. Lock threw two 63-yard touchdown passes to Hall and had 253 yards passing. He scared the Georgia fans when his touchdown passes had the game tied at 21 in the second quarter.
Sure, it wasn’t great for Georgia’s cornerbacks to get beat. They gave up a few big plays. That’ll drive a head coach, particularly the short-fused Kirby Smart, crazy. But in the big picture, the Georgia defense needed that Saturday night.
They needed it to wake up and realize this quest for a perfect season is going to be tough. They may have believed, with the way the defense had played the previous three weeks, that it would be easy. But this schedule is going to get more difficult as we move into the second half of the regular season.
Georgia hadn’t been tested since the Notre Dame game a month ago. The Bulldogs needed this challenge.
The Bulldogs are off this week, and as Smart said after the game, this will be a work week, not a week to relax. They have 10 more days to prepare for Florida, and no matter what condition the Gators are in, they’ll be ready for the game next weekend in Jacksonville.
Georgia’s defense needed to come back down to Earth. It needed to be humbled a bit and stop thinking it was the best defense in the history of the sport. Now, there was no evidence that was getting out of hand, but human nature would have given them great confidence after what the Bulldogs have done the past few weeks.
Smart is not likely going to let them get out of control. Now he can say to his defense, “You think if you play like that again, against a better team, you’re still going to win?” He can also point to the upsets last weekend and remind his team that upsets are what end special seasons.
This guy never stops coaching. If you watched Smart on the sideline Saturday, he went nuts about every five minutes. You would have thought they were losing a few times. But that’s what Smart does — he just never stops coaching. And he undoubtedly will use the Missouri game as a teaching lesson leading up to the game in Jacksonville.
Evidently, Smart is blessed with great senior leadership. Not many championship teams win anything special without great senior leadership. Now is the time for those leaders to step in and make sure the younger players don’t buy the hype that comes with being an undefeated team.
Jake Fromm proved to anyone who didn’t believe that he could throw the ball effectively when needed. After throwing 51 completions in his previous four games, Fromm had nine in the first quarter and was 18-of-26 with a career-high 326 yards against Missouri.
At some point, Fromm won’t be allowed to just turn around and hand the ball off to Nick Chubb or Sony Michel. At some point, Fromm will have to make a crucial throw with the game on the line. What better way to practice that than to play in a SEC conference game against Missouri.
So, Georgia worked on its passing game and had its secondary challenged by a very good passing game. Along the way, they won, but the challenge and lessons learned will only be good as they continue to try and make this a magical season.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.