I sent Dean a text in the middle of the third quarter that stated, “Article title: New Coach, Same Problems.” As Georgia fell behind 24-14, it looked like that they would suffer another loss due to the same demons they dealt with in 2015.
Then, in a moment that involved quick adjustments, and maybe even a little wizardry, Kirby Smart proved to the Bulldog Nation exactly why they moved on from Mark Richt after the 2015 season. North Carolina returned the second half kickoff for a touchdown, stopped the Dawgs, and then proceeded to score in under 5 minutes. Coupled with punting woes and kick coverage issues, it appeared that Georgia was succumbing to the same problems that made Georgia supporters pull their hair out for the last 2 seasons.
Sloppy quarterback play in the first half, an inability to defend the run-pass option, and the usual lack of attentiveness on special teams was supposed to be included in this post game recap, but something changed about halfway through the third quarter. After Jacob Eason came in and commanded a touchdown drive that ended in Isaiah McKenzie taking a jet sweep 16 yards for the touchdown, the momentum was back on the side of the red and black.
In Eason’s four drives today, UGA scored touchdowns on three of four, while setting up for a key field goal on the other. Many of the questions that seemed to be pressing were answered relatively quickly in Atlanta. Here, I will attempt to address all of the questions that Georgia had coming into today and which ones we have answers to now.
What is the status of Nick Chubb?
-Use your damn eyeballs (222 yards on 32 carries and 2 TDs)
Where does Georgia go at QB from here?
-It really looked like the Dawgs offense was leaps and bounds more comfortable with Eason in. I would be SHOCKED if we saw anyone but Eason in significant time moving forward. (Eason – 8/12 for 131 yards and 1 TD)
What is going on with special teams?
-After a game with a kickoff returned for a TD and two penalties on punt coverage, Shane Beamer will have a lot of questions to address come this weekend. The biggest surprise may have been seeing Reggie Davis and Brendan Douglas double deep on kickoff returns.
Is youth on the defensive line an issue?
-This was my largest concern coming into the season and I think it manifested itself today. When they were able to get pressure, it was dangerous, so much raw talents, but the Georgia defensive line needs to put the QB under duress more to beat the best teams in the country.
Who is going to be a breakout star this year?
-On defense, who really impressed me today was Roquan Smith. As a rover type linebacker, he was really all over the field against UNC. With a team that throws the ball as much as they do, Smith needed a quality start to keep UNC’s weapons in check.
-On offense, especially if Eason solidifies his spot and UGA can develop more of a passing attack, look for Michael Chigbu to impress a lot of people. He had three catches for 27 yards tonight, but his combination of size, speed, and body control could be a huge asset for this offense moving forward.
Are there still issues defending a dual threat QB?
-It appears that fundamentally, there still are. While they did hold Mitch Trubisky and the UNC offense to only 315 total yards, there were times where players looked lost. As the game progressed, they did appear to sync up and get on the same page a bit. The momentum in the Georgia Dome certainly helped as well.
Where does Georgia go from here?
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-Things appear to be looking up as the Dawgs head back to Athens next week to take on Nicholls State. This will give the coaching staff to look a depth charts in live action, assuming UGA takes care of business early. Provided that Eason takes the reigns and steps up moving forward, there could be a lot of development in this team’s passing game, adding plenty of dynamism to the offense. Getting a healthy Sony Michel and Elijah Holyfield back could make this team very dangerous moving forward. It’s looking like it could be a big one on September 24 in Oxford.