Georgia lost to Alabama 44-21 Saturday night in Tuscaloosa to give the Dawgs their sixth consecutive loss to the Crimson Tide and their third since Kirby Smart was named head coach in 2015. The best I can say is, at least we didn’t suffer another last-minute heartbreak.
Despite the loss, Georgia still has everything to play for this season and holds its destiny in its own hands. Win out and, in all likelihood, we’ll meet Alabama again for the SEC Championship Game in December. But there’s also a lot we need to fix to give ourselves a shot in that hypothetical matchup.
After a shaky start, Georgia settled into the game and put up a field goal and three touchdowns in the first half. On the first touchdown drive, 47 of the 57 yards came on the ground. The second touchdown came on an 82-yard pass from Stetson Bennett IV to James Cook, our longest pass play since 2013. The final touchdown of the half came via a methodical drive capped by a touchdown pass from Bennett to freshman Jermaine Burton with 23 seconds left on the clock. Alabama, however, managed a field goal in those final seconds to make it a 24-20 game at the half.
The Tide were always going to put up points. After all, they have two future first-round receivers, two future first-round tackles, the best running back in the SEC and a quarterback who can throw the football a mile. Even with Georgia’s vaunted defense, the Tide putting up points was never in doubt. The problems arose in the second half, when Georgia’s offense could no longer keep pace.
One of the biggest factors in the anemic offensive display in the second half was Smart and offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s decision to abandon the run once Alabama scored a pair of touchdowns to take a 34-24 lead. The Dawgs averaged nearly five yards per carry, and Alabama had no answer for our stable of running backs. Yet, with ample time still on the clock to make a comeback, the decision was made to go to the air.
Which brings us to our second culprit—Bennett. The junior was steady, if unspectacular, in the first half. In the second half, we were all reminded that this is a former walk-on facing the Alabama defense. Bennett completed only 45% of his passes and averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt. Most notably, he threw three interceptions. There isn’t a world in which we can give up three turnovers to Alabama and still win the game.
Bennett was a fun story through three games, but he’s simply not good enough to take this team where it wants to go. He left a number of big plays on the field because he was unable to spot the open receiver. And, yes, he’s also too short. Alabama saw that Tennessee was able to swat a few of his passes at the line of scrimmage last week, and its defensive line was coached to throw up a hand every time Bennett threw a pass. A number of potential big plays were batted down at the line of scrimmage.
There are now almost two weeks until the Dawgs travel to Kentucky after the SEC rearranged the schedule to accommodate for COVID postponements. Smart and Monken have a decision to make in that time. Bennett is probably good enough to lead us to a 9-1 record and a rematch with Alabama this season. But he isn’t good enough to beat the Tide in that rematch.
So do we stick with him, get to the SEC Championship Game, and then probably lose again? Or do we go a different route and try D’Wan Mathis again or JT Daniels? Both of those guys may suffer growing pains that lead to a regular-season loss, putting our spot in Atlanta in jeopardy. But both of those guys also have a ceiling far above Bennett, who seems to have hit his in his first appearance against Arkansas.
If our goal is to make it back into the playoffs and win a national championship and not just to win the East again before suffering another loss in Atlanta, I know which way I’d rather go. Your move, Kirby.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.