An awful ending masks an encouraging showing by UGA

Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) is carried by teammates Kyle Phillips (5) and Charles Mosley (78) after making a last-second touchdown catch to defeat Georgia 34-31 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The thrill of victory. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

This is presented as an adjunct to the Georgia-Tennessee game column, which can be found here. Tennessee won 34-31, as you’ve doubtless heard.

ATHENS — I’ve been around a while. I’ve seen lots of stuff. I’ve seen games almost like this, but nothing exactly like it. Two 40-plus-yard touchdown passes inside the final 10 seconds. Try beating that.

The closest thing that comes to mind isn’t the Hobnail Boot or 70-X-Takeoff or the Prayer at Jordan-Hare, as stirring as all of the above were. The closest is a Georgia-Georgia Tech game, the result of which was one reason a different Georgia coach got to order up a shortish kickoff after his team took a late lead and lost.

Nov. 29, 20014: Malcolm Mitchell caught a 3-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds remaining to put Georgia ahead 21-17. Mark Richt called for a squib kick. Tech took the ball at its 43. Justin Thomas scrambled for 21 yards. Harrison Butker sent it to overtime, where the Jackets prevailed, with a 53-yard field goal that mightn’t have been good from 54 yards.

Oct. 1, 2016: Riley Ridley caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Eason with 10 seconds remaining. Georgia was penalized for excessive celebration, meaning that the Bulldogs had to kick off from the 20, not the 35. Kirby Smart ordered a “sky” kick — a bloop version of a squib. Evan Berry returned it 20 yards to the UGA 48. Georgia was offside on the kickoff, pushing Tennessee to the 43.

Four seconds remained, not enough time to throw a quick out and try a field goal. Joshua Dobbs had to sling into the end zone, and it’s easier to do that when you’re throwing from the opponent’s 43, as opposed to yours. Georgia deployed the 6-foot-6 linebacker Lorenzo Carter as the deepest of safeties. Six Bulldogs wound up in the end zone with four Tennessee receivers. Weight of numbers should have prevailed. It did not.

From the moment Dobbs’ pass began to descend, these eyes saw only two hands — those of Jauan Jennings, the 6-3 Tennessee wideout. He boxed out every Bulldog behind and rose to meet the ball. The weird part about this astonishment was that, seeing it live, it didn’t seem all that astonishing. There was no tip. This was as clean a catch as one receiver can make amid six defenders. (And Dobbs didn’t even have to roll out and buy time. He dropped back and threw.)

If Richt was wrong for kicking short in 2014 (and he was), his successor was wrong this time. Smart made it clear afterward that he’d gotten what he wanted, more or less, from the kickoff. (Complicating matters is that Georgia has no real kicker to boot it deep, especially not from the 20.) But here Tennessee outflanked the Bulldogs, ordering a return they hadn’t seen on film. Said Smart: “We thought they had their ‘hands’ team out there.”

They didn’t. This was something, according to Butch Jones, the Vols had been practicing but hadn’t gotten around to using. Berry took it on the left side and cut across field, taking six seconds. Time for one play. Dobbs and Jennings made that play.

Smart will have to live with Jennings’ catch, same as he had to live with Auburn’s Kick Six against Alabama in 2013. Sometimes the other guy is just better than your guys. But the decision to kick short — we stipulate that coaches are given to overthinking at such frazzled moments — is one he’ll have to review, and the two penalties in the final 10 seconds he’ll never forget.

“We pride ourselves on being disciplined,” he said. “You hate to learn a lesson like that.”

To ascribe this loss to coaching would be missing the bigger picture. Tennessee was the better team, and Georgia outplayed Tennessee. Said Smart: “We practiced physical and we played physical … We’re a good football team.”

In the first half, Georgia fell on every loose ball. (There were three; two of the recoveries either scored points or kept points from being scored. That was also reminiscent of the 2014 Tech game, which featured three fumbles at the 1-yard line.) That might have been a function of luck, but the cold truth is that the Bulldogs seemed to be playing harder than the Big Orange. Every Georgia runner — Nick Chubb had but one carry — finished his run, as coaches like to say. This was stirring stuff.

If there’s such a thing as an encouraging excruciating loss, this was it. Having two conference losses, one of them to Tennessee, makes it nigh-impossible for the Bulldogs to win the SEC East. (The Vols would have to lose three times, and they end with South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.) But Georgia showed itself and its coach something Saturday.

“We challenged them to play their best game today and a lot of them did it,” Smart said. “That’s a response I’m proud of.”

As wild as this finish was, as disappointing as the result was for Georgia and its fans, there’s something to be said about holding your own against a stronger team a week after being obliterated in Oxford. Georgia is not a great team. But it is, as Smart said, a good one. Given time, it will get better.

If memory serves, Mark Richt had two awful home losses in his first season here — against South Carolina and Auburn, both featuring goal-line foul-ups. The next year Georgia went 13-1 and won the SEC for the first time in two decades. Just sayin’.

Reader Comments 0

94 comments
McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Go Dawgs ... to the bottom of the standings.

CHDawg
CHDawg

Did anybody see Mcgraw run on the field?  How a backup defensive player gets called for having his hat off on the field is pretty hard to figure out. The ref clearly said the penalty was on #36 for taking his helmet off on the field.  I sure hope it was really flagrant because guys on the bench don't wear their helmets much.  A TN kid made the key penalty for UGA, and a GA kid made the key throw for TN. Ironic.

CHDawg
CHDawg

I agree with Mark.  UGA showed progress.  I would still like to see more creative and unpredictable play calling on O, but CJC clearly improved.  I also don't understand why Blankenship can't kick it as far as he could in HS.  Mystifying, but at least we finally got a field goal. We have so much talent that isn't being used, and it could be in a good tactician's hands. Mecole Hardman was a QB.  Why not put him in a package with run-throw options on O, while he is learning to be a CB?

CHDawg
CHDawg

Apparently, Butch Jones has taken on Richt's role as the missionary to the SEC:

“The way the paint was on the field, as my shoes which were black had become white, and one of the coaches came and put a cross on my shoe about midway through the fourth quarter,” Jones told 247Sports on The Butch Jones Show. “And again, it’s just giving things to the good Lord. Thanking Him for this opportunity and thanking Him for this opportunity to be the head coach at the University of Tennessee. And thanking Him for our players and just a surreal moment, a moment that we’ll remember for a lifetime."


As much as it hurt to watch as a Dawg fan, it was an exciting and miraculous win in the last few seconds, followed by an even more exciting and miraculous win by TN. Two for the price of one.


threespeed
threespeed

Mark Richt continues his perfect record at the North Avenue Trade School's very nice intramural field. The Ga Southern Eagles are the next visitor and the Gnats are looking forward to seeing just how this option offence is supposed to work. 

TideDawg
TideDawg

Maybe the Dawgs learned a lesson......don't start celebrating until the game is over. Without the 15 yard and 5 yard penalties, even Dobbs couldn't reach the end zone in 10 seconds.

OH:IO
OH:IO

To funny


Richt #14


dogs #Un

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

"Too" funny, dumba*s.

At least you're reliable with your idiocy.

Stinger2
Stinger2

How to stop excessive "woofing" by UGA fans in Sanford Stadium:

Let the opponent score the winning touchdown on last play of game with four seconds on the clock.

Keith_S
Keith_S

UGA Football:  Ga Tech's humiliating obsession.


FlatTire
FlatTire

That was a thought provoking post; who knew that would happen when another team wins

Here's one; how to fill Bobby Dodd stadium to capacity? Schedule UGA to come play there.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Stinger2

How to continue excessive whining by GT fans everywhere after their annual game with UGA:

Keep playing them!

TOJacket
TOJacket

Where oh where is 12/13 oh where oh where can he be? With his house on wheels and his teams falling off...oh where oh where can he beeeee!

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket What have you got to yack about, Richt still owns your team's arse.

TOJacket
TOJacket

He and the dawgs only have that to hang there hats on.? Enjoy.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Yea....we made a couple of payments for him yesterday in the 2nd quarter. But no excuses, they had a better team than we did but we still were in the game. Don't remember it being 45-0 early in the 3rd qtr

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

"Only that"???

As if it weren't HUGE to GT fans.

Get outta here with that total BS!

OH:IO
OH:IO

dog is a hole hedged his bet.


Now he has no horse in the race.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

No bet-hedging here.

No horse in the race either.

TOJacket
TOJacket

He's studying his spelling words this morning.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

No studying required; I just look at your posts--and Ohio's--and they jump right out at me.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Here's a question for dogs to ponder:


How many votes will the dogs get in the "others receiving votes"?

Big Wally
Big Wally

@OH:IO Here's a question for you, how many teacher's has Gibson punched out this week?

TOJacket
TOJacket

Good grief sport. Is that all ya got. Lol

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@OH:IO About 10 more than Michigan State , which lost to the powerhouse ..........Indiana

Buckeyes oh so vaunted November schedule , turning into a cupcake walk..........

dog92
dog92

"This was stirring stuff" and "If there's such a thing as an encouraging loss, this was it," yet not one mention of blowing a 17 point lead. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

And the 21 point lead last year when Richt was coach?

dog92
dog92

@TOJacket Richt had a 10-5 record against UT, and a 13-2 record against the nerd herd. 


DawgNole
DawgNole

@dog92 @TOJacket

TOJ would rather you not remind him of such--especially the 13-2, which he continues to pretend doesn't exist while taking endless, mindless potshots at all things UGA.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Like 12/13, go away lil wally.


Your voice has been neutered. 

Big Wally
Big Wally

@OH:IO Unlike you, I at least know what blog I belong on.  You, can't find any buckheads who can read and write.

TOJacket
TOJacket

I kind of miss 350......12/13....not so much.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Gosh. I sure will miss ole 12/13.....he is still talking about that signature UNC win!

OH:IO
OH:IO

@TOJacket


Like 350, how quickly they fade away, just like the dogs.

TOJacket
TOJacket

How would dawg fans know?

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

Encouraging signs from losing a game where you had a 17 point lead, and a lead with 10 seconds to go and the other team hadn't received the kickoff yet?  This game was either an embarrassment or a disaster, and there was nothing encouraging about it for UGA.


Also, why didn't Georgia rush the passer on the Hail Mary play?  Dobbs had minutes to set up and wait for his receivers to get to their spots 50 yards down the field.  


Kirby Smart:  The next Will Muschamp or the next Derek Dooley?

TOJacket
TOJacket

Don't you talk about Barb's baby!!!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@ShovelPlease: "Also, why didn't Georgia rush the passer on the Hail Mary play?"

________________

It's called PREvent defense--and most teams employ it despite well-documented results over the years indicating that about the only thing it PREvents is victory.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Awful ending?........without a doubt one of the best final 2-3 minutes of a game I ever watched. I don't care who is playing.

E983
E983

An over showing of emotion causes a 15 yard penalty and the loss. That's just bad coaching. Not covering a receiver in the end zone causes a touchdown. That's bad coaching. Mistakes by a new staff cost them a win and a place out of the top 15. Write it down Coach Smart.

TOJacket
TOJacket

You're not quite a top 15 team yet......thus the problem with with early polls. Give it some time. ......like say a year or 2?

TOJacket
TOJacket

There were about 90,000 over-reacting.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

Still struggling with reading comprehension, lying hypocrite.

He didn't say they were top 15.

Duh!

mgunter
mgunter

Schultz, Bradley, must go. Magarity needs to go get th Alabama beat writers.....How bout them Canes! UGA has a very very undisciplined team...... Bahahaha