The Georgia Bulldogs came away with a resounding victory against the Eagles of Georgia Southern Saturday. That, of course, was to be expected.
Still, as well as the Dawgs played, it wasn’t all roses for Georgia against its FCS opponent between the hedges. There’s always room for improvement, and the Dawgs need to be aware of that moving into the most important two weeks the program has seen in recent memory.
Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from the Bulldogs’ victory against the Eagles.
Starting slow and finishing strong has been an unfortunate theme for the Bulldogs so far this season. Saturday against Georgia Southern was more of the same, with the Dawgs struggling to break away in the first half.
The defense hasn’t had to defend a true option offense so far this season, so it’s understandable that GSU had some success moving the football early on. And despite being able to move the ball, the Eagles were still only able to convert that into a single first-half touchdown.
The offense, on the other hand, should have had the petal down from the get go, but again struggled to produce. It was only a last-minute touchdown drive just before the end of the half that kept this from being a one-possession game going into the locker room.
If Georgia is going to have any hope of besting Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, it is going to have to come out firing on all cylinders right away. The Dawgs have one more game to try get out and start fast. Hopefully, they can get that done against Georgia Tech and ride that momentum into the Georgia Dome.
With Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett out of the remainder of the season, someone was going to have to step up and fill those voids at wide receiver. Fortunately, it looks like Chris Conley is ready to make the most of this opportunity.
To have Conley come on strong for the past two games is great for the Bulldogs, as he’s best suited to replace Brown as a go-to receiver because of his height. At 6’3”, Conley is the tallest receiver left in the unit and can go up and get balls over defenders.
Georgia will need Conley to continue to play well down the stretch to complement Malcolm Mitchell and Tavarres King and continue to provide Murray with another option down the field.
Rhett McGowan has come on in the second half of the season to play a bigger part of Georgia, returning punts and logging some time at wide receiver.
While McGowan has done well, his ball security was questionable on Saturday against the Eagles.
McGowan lost a fumble after a nice reception in the first quarter and recovered his own fumble on a punt return in the fourth quarter.
Against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, one turnover could easily mean the difference between two pretty evenly-matched squads. With McGowan back returning punts, ball security will obviously be at a premium against the Tide, and he absolutely cannot afford to put the ball on the ground in that game.
Todd Gurley didn’t have his one of his better games of the season against Georgia Southern. In fact, Gurley failed to reach 100 rushing yards for only the fourth time in 11 games this season.
However, Gurley’s day was not without statistical significance. Against the Eagles, Gurley went over the 1,000 rushing yards mark for the season. In doing so, Gurley became only the second true freshman in UGA history to accomplish that feat, the first, of course, being the legendary Herschel Walker.
Considering it only took 11 games and Gurley has been splitting time with Keith Marshall and Ken Malcome throughout the season makes this accomplishment even more impressive. Congratulations, young man.
With UGA taking care of business against FCS Georgia Southern, it did what it had to and sat back to see if could get some national championship help from the remaining undefeated teams around the country.
Shockingly, UGA got more than some help. Thanks to Stanford and Baylor, the Dawgs got all the help they needed and are amazingly two wins away from their first ever BCS title game berth.
In a matter of a few hours on Saturday night, stemming from events far away from the Southeast, the SEC Championship Game is all of a sudden almost certainly a play-in game for the National Championship.
Never before in the BCS era has Georgia been this much in the national championship conversation this late in the season. The journey certainly isn’t over and there’s a long way to go, but savor this, Dawg Nation; I know I am.