Offensive Miscues Frustrate Dawgs

ATHENS – If it was all just a lost cause, maybe then Joe Cox could sleep a little easier.

If there simply wasn't any talent on the field, maybe then it would make more sense.

If Cox hadn't seen, felt, celebrated the high points, maybe the lows wouldn't be so frustrating.

The truth, however, is that Georgia's offense has loads of potential, Cox said. The truth is, the Bulldogs have proven they can play at a high level. But the problem remains, they just aren't doing it often enough.

"That's the most frustrating part is when you know you can do better than what you're doing, and you just can't get it right no matter what you try to do," Cox said.

If fans are baffled by Georgia's schizophrenic production this season – 52 points one week, 20 the next; three quarters of struggles, then two touchdowns in the fourth quarter – Cox and his teammates are downright stunned.

There are moments when the wheels all click into place, even against Florida's vaunted defense last week. At times, Georgia moved the ball better against the Gators than any team had this season.

And then there are moments when success seems to be at their fingertips, only to be snatched away by foolish penalties, costly turnovers and a myriad of mental errors.

"With the team we have this year, we're always a couple plays away from the performances we've prepared for," tight end Aron White said. "We could come out and put any team away, but we self-destruct sometimes. It sucks."

The problems have been numerous, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has tried nearly everything he can think of to right the ship.

Branden Smith, Logan Gray and Rantavious Wooten have all seen action on gadget plays in hopes of breaking a big run. They've met with limited success.

Caleb King is slated to start at tailback this week against Tennessee Tech, the third different starter this season. The long-term solution remains hazy, and the ground game continues to slug along at less than four yards per carry.

Against Florida, the Bulldogs sent out their fifth different alignment on the offensive line in eight games. While the running game looked improved, the pass protection broke down. Plug one hole, another bursts open.

Against Vanderbilt three weeks ago, Bobo resorted to the coaching equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. He left his usual spot in the press box during the game to call plays from the sidelines. At that point, anything was worth a shot.

In the end, it's been a mixed bag of small steps forward and dizzying, demoralizing steps back.

"There's not a whole lot you can do other than work hard day in and day out in practice and hope we come out on Saturday and perform the way we've been practicing," White said. "These are things we don't do in practice, but for whatever reason in a game we'll throw the ball wrong here, have a fumble there or jump offsides. We've just been killing ourselves."

It hasn't helped that Georgia has been playing catch-up nearly every game.

The Bulldogs have scored first just twice this season. They've trailed by at least 10 in the first half in five games. They've trailed at some point in seven of eight games. In Georgia's four losses, it has scored just seven points in the first quarter and has been outscored 61-29 in the first half.

"That's kind of been our thing this year," White said. "We've been the team that's fought back, even though we weren't able to seal the deal in a lot of them."

An added degree of difficulty may be old hat for the Bulldogs at this point, but it's hardly what a struggling offense needs to get back on track, and last week's loss to Florida proved a perfect example.

The Gators jumped out to an early 14-0 lead after two impressive drives down the field for touchdowns in the first quarter. Meanwhile, a personal-foul penalty killed a promising first drive for Georgia and left Bobo and company to crawl out of an early hole.

"Some plans do change depending on what's happening throughout a game, but you have what-ifs going into any game," Bobo said. "Just last week we got down, but we stuck with what we were going to do, and I though we were successful except for the turnovers, which have been an Achilles' Heal all year long."

Indeed, the turnovers have been troubling – 21 of them in all. But two of last week's four interceptions proved perfect examples of how adverse situations have dictated costly results.

Midway through the third quarter, Georgia was driving into Florida territory trailing by 14. On a third-and-1, Cox was flushed out of the pocket under immense pressure. Rather than take a sack or throw the ball away, Cox forced a throw to a receiver near the sideline, desperately hoping to keep a much-needed drive alive. Instead, the throw was picked off.

When backup quarterback Logan Gray entered the game in the fourth quarter, his mandate was simple – see what he could do to try to rally the team in a last-gasp attempt at a comeback. Instead, backed up near his own goal line, Florida knew what was coming and linebacker Brandon Spikes stepped in front of his throw, intercepted the pass and waltzed into the end zone.

"It's something we've been used to but it does make you feel like you have to have more of a sense of urgency and make plays," Cox said. "It is tough when you're behind and you feel like you have to make something happen. It can force you to try to be more aggressive with the decisions you make."

Aggressive, passive, big-play passing schemes or grind-it-out ground games – it's all been the same frustrating mix of missteps and mental errors.

This week, Georgia gets a chance to right some wrongs. With FCS opponent Tennessee Tech coming to Athens, the Bulldogs are expected to have the early lead, to be able to run the ball, to be the team making the plays rather than the team making the mistakes.

Perhaps it will be a dose of confidence, White said, but it hardly makes up for the missed opportunities. Last week's loss proved that Georgia wasn't ready to compete with the No. 1 team in the country, but that had little to do with talent or ability.

"We killed ourselves, that's for sure," White said. "My hat's off to them because they're a great team, but I don't feel that they're unbeatable by any means. I feel like if we'd have come and had a little more focus, we could have came out with a ‘W'."

And that, above all else, has been the source of the most frustration.

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