Despite loss, Georgia still has clear path to SEC title game

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Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield senses that Georgia is rejuvenated after an off week and eager to rejoin the national title race at the annual showdown in Jacksonville. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson, File)

ATHENS, Ga. — Jonathan Ledbetter and Elijah Holyfield say No. 7 Georgia got just what it needed from a lopsided loss at LSU.

The defeat kept the Bulldogs humble during last week’s bye and allowed time to reflect on what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again.

Georgia (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) can’t afford another setback this week against No. 9 Florida (6-1, 4-1). If the Bulldogs plan on winning the East Division and repeating as league champions, they likely need to beat the Gators, Kentucky and Auburn to earn a trip back to Atlanta in early December.

“If we continue to do what we’re supposed to do and bounce back from that and handle the rest of the season the way we’re supposed to, then our destiny is in our hands,” Ledbetter said Monday. “We can be where we want to be. Everything is still ahead of us, like coach said.”

A loss to the Gators in their annual showdown at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville would make the task nearly impossible, but Holyfield says the team has too much talent and potential to let the season slip away.

“Everybody knows what’s at stake,” Holyfield said. “Everybody knows what we’re playing for. Everybody knows where we want to go. As long as everybody’s on the same page, and I think we are, I think we’re going to be fine.”

Georgia’s defense learned a hard lesson at LSU. It couldn’t get off the field, lining up for 81 snaps and getting gouged for 275 yards rushing on 51 attempts.

Facing an up-tempo attack kept the Bulldogs from substituting as much as they would have liked and exposed what coach Kirby Smart called a lack of conditioning, not a lack of effort.

“We’ve played a lot of players this year, and sometimes you can’t do that in (every game),” Smart said. “Sometimes when people go fast, go hurry-up, they keep the same guys in, and you have to be able to sustain and play longer.”

Ledbetter, a defensive end, put the onus on himself to make sure the Bulldogs get tougher against Florida. The Gators average 34 points per game and won their fifth straight two weeks ago at Vanderbilt as Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett combined for 234 yards rushing.

Georgia got pounded up front by LSU.

“Nothing against them, but we didn’t come out and execute like we’re supposed to,” Ledbetter said. “We weren’t physical enough. They came out and played a little bit harder than us. You might have thought you were playing pretty well, doing everything the right way, but there’s always room for improvement. You’ve got to fix those areas.”

The Bulldogs’ offense faces a challenge in protecting quarterback Jake Fromm and creating running lanes for Holyfield, D’Andre Swift, Brian Herrien and James Cook. Florida averages three sacks per game and ranks third nationally with 18 takeaways. Its last three opponents have combined to convert just nine of 41 third-down chances.

Georgia’s running game was one of the few positive signs with 113 yards against LSU. The Bulldogs ran the ball 30 times, but not effectively enough to set up play-action passes. Fromm completed 16 of 34 passes with his receivers mostly covered up.

“It doesn’t really make us feel better about the loss, but it at least gives us a lot of hope moving forward still,” Holyfield said. “There’s a lot to look forward to and a lot to play for. Whoever wins this game is in the captain’s seat for the big one so that is a big thing for us, but you can’t see it as just that.

“You can’t have that as your main focus because it will just become a distraction.”

Smart wouldn’t commit to giving freshman Justin Fields more snaps at quarterback. He was under center for five plays against LSU, but his running ability would seem an easy way to disrupt Florida’s pass rush. Fields has averaged 7.6 yards on 18 attempts.

Fromm, though, is 18-3 as a starter and isn’t close to losing the job.

NOTES: Smart said Swift was expected to return to practice after missing time last week with a sprained ankle. … ILB Monty Rice’s knee is not completely healthy, but Smart expects he will play. … G Ben Cleveland (leg) and DE Davdi Marshall (foot) are out.

11 COMMENTS

  1. If we lose we’ll hear how we were overrated and if we win they’ll be saying we were their sleeper bet all along. No respect I say a la the late Mr. Dangerfield. I am sure UGA is working on a plan to fix the glaring hole LSU exposed. I have watched a little of there games this year and there is something there that says that wasn’t the only hole in their game. I do think they are thin in some areas that will work in our favor if our offense doesn’t put us in a hole. I think Grantham’s defense is going to put some pressure on them and the depth there will be able to keep the foot on them the whole game. (NO EJECTION PENALTIES!!!!) (DON”T LET THEM BAIT YOU INTO EJECTION PENALTIES!!!!) If we can not miss the occasional assignment that gives up the long run and force them into passing into DB land we should have some turnovers. I didn’t like in the last game one of our DB’s got hit in the back of the head with the ball. Franks breathe, look off the primary, follow your progressions, clock is ticking, Stay loose, trust your eyes. Don’t let them get in your head. OL don’t get beat to the gap, don’t miss your man, TE, WR, block, run good routes, if busted help QB stay with him, RB block do what you guys do. (thins is a strength that we have several good RB’s) Have fun playing. You didn’t last year. If you miss an assignment shake it off. If your teammate misses an assignment have his back. You guys are getting no respect from the major media pundits. You are too young to remember Rodney but he got no respect either. LISTEN TO YOUR COACHES! EARN IT! WIN IT! Show the Cocktail Party IT”S GREAT TO BE A FLORIDA GATOR!!!

  2. Please change the title of this article to read:” Despite 1 loss Gators control their own destiny.”
    Here’s how:
    Assuming we beat Ga. , Kentucky has to beat both Ga. and Mizzou to stay at one loss. That won’t happen.
    Gators would be the only one loss SEC East team then.
    We should move up to #7 with the win over Ga.
    We need to leap frog three other teams then to get into the top 4 spot. My bet is that those three teams include: LSU (they play Bama) Michigan (plays Penn St. and OSU) and Texas who plays OK State and W. Va.Think of it Gators, in two weeks we could be at #4 and in the BCS Championship hunt!
    Of course we would still need to beat Bama in the SEC Championship to advance, but if you can beat
    LSU and Ga.,…… I think you stand at least a chance of beating Bama.

    • If the article name were changed as you suggest, it would be incorrect. The SEC is clearly not in our hands.
      However, if we win out, and Kentucky wins out, or wins out until they lose to Alabama, we would probably slip into the playoffs.

  3. Teams are very dangerous after a bad loss like Ga to LSU. Think of UF to UK. We will get their best, I guarantee they wont overlook us. Teams get complacent when they win all their games and that happened to Ga. I think our players will be shocked how hard Ga will come out after them.

    • And therein lies the rub, Daz. Georgia has had the overconfidence knocked out of them by the same team we knocked it out of. Can’t therefore count on that factor. And granted — like you say, they will come out against us hard — but maybe too hard? So hard they’re too tight and only get tighter as the game progresses, assuming we do what we do best? I don’t know for sure, but like with MSU, it may be. And if they do, we can take them if we keep our heads and play 60 minutes of relentless effort football.