The Vanderbilt Commodores picked up their first SEC win of the season on Homecoming Day Saturday in Athens over the Georgia Bulldogs. Why do the Dawgs continue to struggle?
Saturday’s loss has many questioning, how did this happen? How did the Georgia Bulldogs get to this point? The Bulldogs are now 4-3 and 2-3 in conference play. On the bright side, the Dawgs have a week off next week, which will hopefully allow them time to figure some things out. The bad news is, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Bulldogs. Next, the Georgia Bulldogs head to Jacksonville, Fla., to face the Florida Gators on Oct. 29. Then they’re on the road again the following week taking on the Kentucky Wildcats before returning to Sanford Stadium to take on the 4-2 Auburn Tigers.
For fans who are disappointed in the team’s performance, head coach Kirby Smart is too, and he’s taking ultimate responsibility. “It’s not acceptable,” said Smart. “I’m upset about it. And I think the best thing you do is you go to work. The only thing we can do as a team is look ourselves in the mirror, each individual guy – starting with me – (and say), ‘What can I do better to help this team?’ We have to improve. We have to get better.”
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What went wrong on Saturday?
Kirby Smart blames Saturday’s loss on special teams. Field-goal kicker Rodrigo Blankenship held up his end of the bargain, but it was the kickoff return and coverage units that didn’t. Georgia’s field goal crisis was put to rest on Saturday as Blankenship made three of them, one of which was the Bulldogs’ longest kick of the year at 45 yards. Blankenship is 4-for-5 this year.
Instead, the Dawgs struggled largely due to poor kickoff coverage and a costly mistake on a kickoff return. In fact, ten of Vanderbilt’s total of 17 points were due to kickoffs. The Commodores returned the opening kickoff 95 yards to Georgia’s 4. Then a penalty on the kickoff, as well as another one on the first snap, pushed the ball to the 1, setting up a touchdown run for Vanderbilt. In the second-half opening kickoff the struggle continued. Bulldogs wide receiver Reggie Davis stepped out of bounds, leaving the Dawgs with poor field position. After having to punt, the Commodores were able to convert a field goal without having to make first down, putting them ahead 10-6.
Additionally, the Bulldogs couldn’t manage to run the ball this Saturday. Last week, the team ran for 326 yards against the South Carolina Gamecocks. This time, the Dawgs managed just 75 on 35 carries against Vanderbilt.
What we’re learning about the Dawgs this season…
Unfortunately, the Georgia Bulldogs can’t seem to put a complete game together this season. It seems as though at least one aspect of the team lets the entire unit down each week. Whether it’s special teams and the running game this week, the passing game against South Carolina, the undisciplined penalties against Tennessee, or the defense against Ole Miss, it appears the Bulldogs aren’t going to get on track until they can function together as a complete unit. The Bulldogs themselves seem to be their biggest opponent.
“You have to do something about it,” Coach Smart said. “When you get knocked down, do you get back up? How do you handle adversity? We’ll see how we respond to this. As a leader, this is on me.”