Georgia’s attempts at wooing Lady Victory weren’t always overly impressive in last week’s Peach Bowl win, but she did, at the very last possible second, hit the dance floor with the Dawgs.
The Cincinnati Bearcats’ defensive gameplan was simple, make the traditionally run-heavy UGA offense win through the air. Kirby Smart’s transfer quarterback JT Daniels seemed perfectly pleased with the looks he was given as he nearly finished with his second 400-yard passing performance in his limited action this season. Many of those yards were empty though as too many trips inside the red zone ended with no points for the guys in black. And before anyone says anything about the jerseys being the reason for Georgia’s lackluster play, may I instead point you to the program’s previous problems with the still-shiny Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Before last week’s bowl win, that building had provided Bulldog fans with only one highlight in its young life — the 2017 SEC Championship. There’s no need to speak of all the bad that has occurred inside that venue.
We saw a recurring trend when the Dawgs edged out the ‘Cats for all the peaches, defense kept Smart’s team within striking distance while the offense struggled to put up points against the American Athletic Conference opponent. UGA edge rushers had trouble getting to Cincinnati QB Desmond Ritter in the first half. He would run around back there, check his smartwatch to see how he was doing on his daily step goal, then find a receiver open for what felt like a back-breaking touchdown. After halftime there was the misstep that allowed Cincinnati to score a 75-yard rushing touchdown, but from that point on the Georgia defense did its best Gandalf the Grey facing the Balrog impression (“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”). The team that entered bowl season averaging almost 40 points per game wound up with a measly 21 thanks in large part to the play of UGA redshirt sophomore Azeez Ojulari and his fellow pass rushers. Ojulari alone had only four tackles on the day, but three of them went down as sacks including the game-ending safety that made the final score slightly more palatable for Georgia fans. He smartly declared for the NFL Draft after the game, and I’ll point out the obvious here by saying he will be missed.
But the cupboard is not bare. Georgia will welcome some big contributors back and we’ll likely see some big-name recruits step into larger roles. Those who bleed red and black tend to be the kings of “Next year is our year!” so I won’t say that, but I will say things do look good for the program that calls the Classic City home.