Post-game notes: Smart on offensive approach
With Georgia trailing by seven and the game starting to get late, Bulldogs fans began losing their patience, following a couple of inside runs bringing up another third-and-long.
So much so that boos rained down from the stands at Sanford Stadium from the Georgia faithful, expressing their displeasure over what was unfolding before their very eyes.
After the game, head coach Kirby Smart was asked about the issues by his offense, and whether or not there were areas he wished his team had perhaps approached differently.
“We called a lot of deep opportunities. But they’re not there if they’re getting pressed or at the line. Because there were several deep balls thrown, if you notice there was no space,” Smart said. “They were on the sidelines, they were out of bounds, they were getting wired. We’ve got to do a good job of winning the one-on-one, and when the pass pro’s there, and you give Jake (Fromm) time, he’s very accurate. But you’ve gotta win the one-on-ones.”
Unfortunately, that didn't occur.
Although Georgia out-rushed the Gamecocks 173-142, never in the game did it seem like the Bulldogs were anywhere close to establishing their offensive will as they've done so many times before.
Second-down plays were often a head-scratcher.
Of Georgia’s 28 second-down plays, the Bulldogs only passed the ball 11 times, just three in the first half alone.
Smart was asked if he had concerns with all the second-down runs.
"I don't think so. You try to play to your strengths. We went a few series with empty and with passes. It's hard when you're behind the sticks on second-and-10 as well. When it's first down, everybody can say don't go run the ball. When you're getting four yards, we consider that a pretty successful play,” he said. “There were some times we ended up second-and-9, second-and-10, but there were more times we ended up second-and-6, second-and-5, and you've got the option to do what you want against the defense. But I certainly think there were times we opened it up, and we opened up some drives by taking a shot. We did that a couple of times.”
Unfortunately, nothing worked, although Smart offered no apologies for the way James Coley’s offensive game plan was conceived.
“When you're not successful there, it's easy to come back and say why are you running it on first and second. Well, if the strength of your team is your backs, you feel like they can make guys miss, and the strength of your team is your offensive line, you try to rely on your strength,” Smart said. “Once they negate that, and you're not able to move them up front, you've got to try other things. We tried to do both. We opened it up and threw it over the middle a couple of times. and took a shot one time coming out. We tried those things offensively.”
Blankenship takes the blame
Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was the first Bulldog to enter the post-game media area. The look on his face told the story.
“I feel like I didn’t do my job today,” said Blankenship, whose 42-yard miss in double overtime enabled South Carolina to hang onto the 20-17 win.
It certainly qualified as one of Blankenship’s tougher games.
After a 50-yarder on Georgia’s opening drive made it 12 straight for Blankenship to start the year, the senior’s troubles began. The Gamecocks blocked what would have been a 53-yarder on the final play before the half, before his attempt in the second overtime sailed wide left.
“I’ve got to go into the film room and see what happened,” said Blankenship. “Right now, I don’t know.”
Smart was asked what he told Blankenship after the game.
“Oh man, the guy has made so many big field goals—he’s got to go back to work. We’ll continue to show confidence in Hot Rod, he’s a worker, we believe in him, he’s meant so much to us, he’s given us so much. But it’s tough,” Smart said. “Their kicker missed one, too. It’s tough. But in that environment, you’ve got to be able to make those field goals. Rod knows that. We support him, we love him; there’s other games we wouldn’t have won without him."
Unfortunately, that was little consolation to Blankenship.
“My preparation stays the same. I try to approach every kick the same, no matter who we're playing, no matter the point in the game,” he said. “I try to do things exactly the same way. Today, it just didn’t work out.”
The Bulldogs played Saturday’s game without freshman defensive end Travon Walker, who was on the field, but with his left arm in a sling.
When asked about Walker earlier this week, Smart said he was “getting something done” during individual workouts while the media was in attendance.
Sources tell UGASports that Walker had wrist surgery, but is not expected to be out long.
…The Bulldogs also played the game without running back Brian Herrien, who came down with back spasms Friday and was unable to go.
“He had back spasms and he got them yesterday. They were going treat him for it and get him out there today,” Smart said. “He tried to go, went through warmups but couldn’t get over them. It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t able to play being a senior."
…Georgia also lost defensive back Mark Webb, who banged his knee with Gamecock quarterback Ryan Hiliniski.
…Left guard Justin Shaffer also missed much of the game with an undisclosed injury.
Georgia did get some good news on the injury front.
…Jordan Davis (ankle) dressed out and did play.
…Cornerback Tyson Campbell (foot) dressed out but did not play.
…Solomon Kindley dressed out, albeit with a brace over his left ankle, but wound up playing most of the game after coming in at left guard on Georgia’s second offensive series before leaving once again.
Quotes from Kirby Smart
● On the fight of his team:
“Our kids are resilient. Our kids will continue to fight. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror as coaches, as staff and do a better job. We’ve got to help our kids out. I just told everyone in the locker room, you can’t hang your head. They’ve got to go get better. We’ve got to help them get better. The leaders in that room will do that; that’s part of it. When you play in the SEC, guys, every week, you’ve got to be at your best, because every team is 100 percent capable of out-physicaling you and outplaying you. Today, they played better than we did. We didn’t do a good enough job as coaches to help them out.” – Kirby Smart.
● On not sending Blankenship out to attempt a field goal with 13 seconds left in regulation: “Not earlier. We had time. We had 13 seconds, I think it was, at the time. We had a play call to work the sideline. We were going to work the sideline like we do every week. We were going to work the sideline and try to get five more yards, six more yards. Jake always does a good job of making those decisions. We throw it away or get him out of bounds. We thought the 38-yard line, it was a long, long field goal, but it was a shot to make it. We felt like we had to take one more chance to get five or six yards, and we were going to kick it. We were not going to kick with 13 seconds. No 1, we thought we could get some more yards back, but the penalty obviously killed us. Not only did we get the penalty, but we lost the play. When you lost the play and you get the penalty, now you’re forced with three seconds left to kick a 60-yarder or try a Hail Mary.” – Kirby Smart
● On the message to his team:
"The message is, we're a team, we stick together. When things get thick, we come together even better. The outcome of this game affects everybody outside of our building. Inside our building, we just get tighter and we'll get better. That's what we need. We've got to grow and get better. We've got to improve. So, the outside world is going to say what they're going to say, regardless anyway. We can't control that. What we control is that our players believe, our players believe in each other, and we've got to help them get better as a coaching staff." – Kirby Smart
● If he knew this kind of performance was coming:
"No. I thought we had a good week of practice. Thought we had good practice prep. I thought we may be a little tired, but we went a little lighter on Thursday because of that. [South Carolina] did, they played a really good football game but, at the end of the day, we gave them four gifts. Of the four gifts, three of them were on our side of the field, four of them were on our side of the field. We've got to turn those into points." – Kirby Smart