Arts & CultureFeaturedFlag Football

After Struggling Against Missouri, Maybe the Dawgs Aren’t as Good as We Thought

Photo credit: University of Missouri Athletics

My first inkling we may be in for a tough night against Missouri came before kickoff. I looked at the scores from the noon and afternoon kickoffs, and nothing exceedingly weird or exciting had happened yet. Since it’s not a college football Saturday until some exciting, weird stuff goes down, I had a sudden realization: The exciting, weird stuff is about to happen to us.

So it was against the Missouri Tigers in Columbia. The Dawgs did win this exciting, weird game 26-22—this post would be taking a much more dramatic tone in the event of a loss—but not before struggling for three quarters and change. Georgia trailed from the first quarter until it took the ultimate lead with four minutes to play. In the plainest possible terms, it sucked!

Strange to say, but just last week I was reflecting on how I missed tight games. The Dawgs have been so dominant the last couple of years, we haven’t had many games that make you stand five feet from your TV and yell at refs as if they can hear you. 

I don’t miss those games anymore. In fact, I’ve had my fill for quite some time. If Kirby Smart and the Dawgs wanna go ahead and rattle off another 10 easy victories and another national title, thank you very much. Then we can go back to where we all want to be: staring at our phones by the second quarter and only looking up to give a high-five after a touchdown.

If only it were that easy. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that, regardless of how much we deluded ourselves into believing this team was as good as the 2021 team, it ain’t true. An SEC title, a playoff berth and a national title are still all possible. But “possible” doesn’t mean “likely.”

On the “Solid Verbal” podcast, host Dan Rubenstein likes to say that no team is as good as its best performance or as bad as its worst performance. A team’s true identity lies in the meaty middle. If we take that as true, the first five games present some troubling signs.

I had hoped that the 39-22 win over Kent State would be our worst performance of the season, but it took only a week to prove otherwise. With that illusion shattered, I began to doubt another. I had hoped the 49-3 season-opening win over Oregon would not go down as our best performance. The last two weeks show there is merit to that being the case. This team has the talent and coaching of a national title contender, but it’s put on showings worthy of a loss to Mizzou. There’s a lot of room between those ends of the spectrum.

At this point, it’s safe to say the performances against Missouri and Kent State weren’t just a matter of sleepwalking or underestimation. This team has real problems that must be fixed. The offensive line couldn’t get a push until the fourth quarter, once fatigue set in on the Tiger defense. Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards rattled off 107 fourth-quarter rushing yards and a pair of short touchdown runs to correct that late. Stetson Bennett was stonewalled in the red zone until the fourth quarter and completed just 55% of his passes.

The Missouri crowd also played a factor, as will every other road crowd that’s given a chance. This is how it is now—we will be the biggest game of almost all our opponents. We’re the Super Bowl to a team such as the Tigers. When it’s a night kickoff, and you don’t kill the game with some early scores, the crowd builds belief. Before you know it, a bunch of folks who would be happy to leave in the second quarter if Georgia were winning 14-0 are screaming their lungs out in hopes of seeing the upset of a lifetime.

But a win is a win, so we chuck that dumpster fire of an evening in the rubbish bin and move forward. Auburn is next. A big win over a rival is a great way to refocus the season and get right. If nothing else, it would make me feel a hell of a lot better.