'It’s a great learning experience': Georgia relies on positive energy moving forward
Athens, Ga. - Georgia suffered a major setback in its hopes of winning a national title with a loss to top-ranked Alabama on Saturday.
However, the No. 3 Bulldogs seemed to have already dealt with the devastating blow, so sixth-year head coach Kirby Smart and his players are ready to move on.
Smart said that the players called a team meeting to discuss what needed to be addressed following Saturday’s defeat.
“Sometimes, you can only see that through a loss,” Smart explained on Sunday. “You hope you can see it through a victory but these guys were great today. They wanted to have a player’s meeting, so a couple of guys got up and spoke on their own. They were in a really good space today.”
Smart’s squad got punched in the mouth for the first time this season as Alabama won the SEC Championship Game by pure domination. The Crimson Tide dismantled the nation’s top defense, scoring a season-high 41 points against a unit that entered the contest giving up an average of 6.1 points. Alabama also racked up 536 yards of total offense, with redshirt freshman quarterback Bryce Young being responsible for 461 all-purpose yards.
Smart pointed out that the players left the meeting with a healthy mindset.
"The players had unbelievable energy, communication, talking about moving forward," Smart said. "A lot of them wanted to know what the schedule was going to be so they could get back to work. I look at it all the time, you have to be brutally honest with yourself at times like this. You have to be willing to say who are we, what are we doing well and maybe we aren’t as good as we thought we were in some areas, where can we improve.”
Georgia learned it could improve in a lot of areas and not just on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite the Bulldog offense racking up 449 yards, they lost the turnover battle as senior quarterback Stetson Bennett was picked off twice. Georgia also went 3-of-12 (25 percent) on third-down and didn’t score inside the red zone on multiple occasions. That paired with only averaging 3.9 yards per rush isn’t enough if the Bulldogs want to knock off a playoff-caliber type team like Alabama.
Smart indicated that his squad will be working on these specifics and other things leading up to the Orange Bowl against No. 2 Michigan.
"They’ll listen twice as hard now than probably they would have had they won last night," Smart said. "And like I said repeatedly if you went down the stat line that says you’re playing a team the caliber of Alabama, you lose the turnover battle two to zero, one was a pick-six, you lose the red-zone battle, you lose third downs, you’re probably not going to come out ahead. It’s something you can’t do when you play good football teams.”
Smart called the loss to Alabama a “learning experience” and that the Bulldogs need to get better in all phases.
“We’ve got to figure out what’s the best thing we do,” Smart said. “And how do we get better at this point? I do think you can get better at this point, and I think our guys got a good awakening of that [on Saturday]. They’ll do nothing but work hard now to be the best they can be. We haven’t played the best version of ourselves, and I’ve said that all year. That’s our job as coaches to get the best version of them out, and we’ve got to do that.”
Georgia will face the Wolverines on Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.