I’m not a superstitious person by any stretch of the imagination, but what happened this past Friday (the 13th) was weird. Clemson was a 24-point favorite at Syracuse and a lot of people thought the Tigers were going roll into their third straight College Football Playoff appearance. Well, Dino Babers and his Orangemen didn’t get the memo. They pulled off a monumental upset that came completely out of left field. The other big upset on Friday was Cal beating Washington State. The Cougars lowest point total in a game before this one was the 30 they scored in their win over USC. They only scored three points against Cal… three. Those big Friday upsets (in combination with Oklahoma losing to Iowa State with a similar point spread) made a lot of Georgia fans nervous for their game with Missouri. The start of the game didn’t help that, but the Dawgs settled in and cruised to an easy victory. Here’s what I saw from UGA’s homecoming:
1. QB (Non) Controversy: Any Georgia fans that were questioning Georgia’s ability to have a consistent passing game with Jake Fromm under center had those questions answered on Saturday night. Jake Fromm had the best game of his young career and really led Georgia early in this game when Mizzou was stacking the box and forcing the Dawgs to throw. He was 18-26 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His short-term memory in bouncing back from the interception and being great from that point on showed his maturity and poise under pressure. Fromm converted on five third downs passing the ball in the first quarter (the quarter that Mizzou did their most damage offensively in), including the great back shoulder touchdown to Riley Ridley. That would be an impressive conversion rate for a 5th year senior, let alone a freshman. If Georgia hadn’t converted those third downs, this game could have turned out much differently because Mizzou’s offense was rolling in the first quarter. This was exactly the type of game I wanted to see from Fromm to 100% solidify himself as Georgia’s quarterback. In regards to Jacob Eason, how about we just stop speculating and let the chips fall where they may after the season.
2. Shaky start, Savage Finish: Georgia’s defense was tested early in this game like they hadn’t been all season. Missouri was the first team to be able to test the Dawgs vertically with their passing game. The two 63-yard touchdown passes that Drew Lock threw to Emanuel Hall will definitely worry Kirby Smart, but Georgia definitely picked things up as the game progressed. Another thing that will worry Coach Smart is that for the second straight game, Georgia failed to record a sack. Being without Trenton Thompson to plug up the middle has definitely affected the ability to get after the quarterback, so hopefully that will get the pass rush back to where it was to start the season. He wouldn’t say this publicly, but I bet that Coach Smart wasn’t too mad about how this game went. You don’t want your team thinking every game will be a cakewalk, and for Georgia to get hit in the mouth early and then respond was a good sign for the rest of the season.
3. Every game is different: You wouldn’t know it by the way the other SEC games have gone this season, but every game provides it’s own set of challenges, and the way Georgia responded to something they weren’t used to (on both offense and defense) was impressive. On defense, Georgia hadn’t been tested vertically, but definitely were against Mizzou. The coaches (and players) made adjustments, and after the 3rd Missouri touchdown, the clamps were put down. Offensively, the Dawgs were facing a stacked box early as Mizzou dared Jake Fromm to beat them. Well, he did exactly that, and that allowed the running game to slowly get things going as the Tigers had to back off. As the season continues, Georgia will undoubtedly face adversity again. The ability to make adjustments is key, and the Dawgs were able to do that against Missouri.
4. Keep Chopping Wood: Unless you’re Paul Bunyan, it takes a few swings of the axe to chop the tree down. That’s a perfect analogy for Georgia’s running game against Mizzou. The Tigers were determined to force Georgia to pass early in the game, but when Jake Fromm proved he could beat them with his arm, they backed out of the box. That’s when the rushing attack got it going. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel kept grinding early on, and when the dam broke, it got ugly for Missouri. Georgia ended up rushing for 370 yards with the 5 backs, Mecole Hardman, and even Jake Fromm. D’Andre Swift showed that he just needs one touch to make a difference, as he busted out a 71-yard gain. Sony only needed 9 carries to pick up 86 yards and two touchdowns. Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield were solid in finishing off the game as well. Teams will probably continue to stack the box and try to make the freshman quarterback beat them. As long as he keeps playing well, the running game can keep chipping away until the break through.
5. Meet Mecole: When Coach Smart announced that Mecole Hardman would be making the move to offense full time going into this season, there was a lot of hype surrounding this young man. He wasn’t a receiver by trade, but had game breaking speed that could be huge for Georgia’s offense. So far this season, it’s been a mixed bag for Mecole with drops probably standing out more than anything. Well, that all changed against Mizzou. Hardman showed why there was so much hype and then some. His two touchdowns were both incredible. He bookended UGA’ s scoring, getting the first touchdown on a jet sweep where he went around the edge and left everyone in his dust. In scoring Georgia’s last touchdown, he took a short pass from Jake Fromm and turned on the afterburners. He torched a host of Missouri defenders en route to the end zone. If Georgia can continue to figure out creative ways to get him the ball, Georgia might have just found a new (and possibly better) Isaiah McKenzie.
6. Schadenfreude: You may have heard me talk about this before. Schadenfreude is the German concept of gaining pleasure from the misfortune of others. Well, this past weekend was chock full of that for Georgia fans. The following Georgia rivals lost: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida, Auburn, and Tennessee. I’d have to do some research, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that either that’s never happened before or it’s happened very few times. The way Georgia’s season is going, it’s almost too good to be true. Going even further, it’s the way that all of those teams lost. All of the losses had some element of heartbreak to them, which for Georgia fans should have been like a happiness strudel (I’m stuck on the German thing). Some might say it isn’t nice to laugh at other people’s misfortune, but I’m a realist. Georgia winning (and being 7-0 and ranked 3rd in the nation) in combination with all of those teams losing made this weekend that much better. Most Georgia fans have a habit of either living in the past or looking towards the future, but I’m having too much fun living in the now with this group of savages.
7. Bring on the Bye: The bye week comes at a great time for Georgia as they’re trying to get some guys healthy. It also gives fans a little break from what’s been a crazy (and extremely fun) season so far. The back end of the schedule certainly shapes up to be exciting, with games against rivals Florida, South Carolina, Auburn, and Georgia Tech all on the slate. Kentucky’s on there too, and they might be Georgia’s biggest threat in the SEC East (that felt weird to type). Here’s some advice: use the bye week to knock out some chores and get all the stuff you’ve been putting off done. Also, make sure to check out the Tennessee/Bama game because who doesn’t want to see the Tide try and cover that 34.5 point spread (at the time of this writing)? We could be in for a very special November/December Dawg fans. Just make sure you’re ready.