Georgia football fans nearly had their hearts broken in the 2022 Peach Bowl, but in the end, Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs showed us the best of what they can be.
If you look at it from a distorted distance, it’s easy to look at Georgia’s 42-41 heart-stopping victory over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal game and think, man, this team has some flaws.
That’s the view Saturday Down South writer Matt Hayes chose to take as he poked more holes in the hopes of a Georgia fan than CJ Stroud did to the Dawgs’ secondary.
Yes, Georgia gave up a lot of points and a lot of passing yards and didn’t generate a lot of pressure on Stroud, but if you take a step back and really look, it wasn’t Georgia’s flaws that stood out as that final Noah Ruggles field goal attempt sailed wide left, sending Dawg fans into a euphoric frenzy.
It was the one thing that this team has shown all season long, and the trait that can carry them as far as they need to go.
Hayes, and other members of the media, looked at Georgia with one eye turned towards the 2021 National Championship team, making the inevitable comparisons simply because the regular season stat lines bore a striking resemblance.
But this is not that team. Not better. Not worse. Just different. Different in how they go about their business and different in how they react to adversity and strife.
If this 2022 team found themselves down 38-17 in the fourth quarter to Alabama in an SEC title game, I’d be willing to bet the final score wouldn’t be 41-24. There would have been more battles fought to bring the Bulldogs back. Even if they didn’t win, Alabama would have known they were in a fight.
That’s not a knock on the 2021 team who came back to beat Alabama in round two, but they weren’t a team that was used to facing long odds and beating them. They had waltzed through the regular season utterly destroying everyone in their path. They weren’t prepared for the likes of Alabama Crimson Tide talent.
When Alabama threw haymakers in that first meeting, Georgia wobbled and succumbed to a standing eight-count TKO.
The 2022 Georgia football team has had their mettle tested, and passed with flying colors.
In 2022, the team faced challenges and overcame them despite many saying “Georgia didn’t play anyone” (which is utter nonsense, by the way).
Mentally, this 2022 version of the Dawgs was prepared to take everything Ohio State could give them, and send it right back. The Buckeyes were the best team Georgia had faced all season, and they weren’t going to let that matter.
So was Georgia truly “exposed” as Hayes wrote, or was it more a case of them knowing exactly who they were? And who were they?
A defending national champion who sent 15 players to the NFL and graduated countless others. They were young and inexperienced on defense, as well as resetting one of the best offensive lines in the country. They were a team nobody gave a chance to repeat as SEC Champions or to reach the College Football Playoff before the season began.
Yet here we are.
Resilient. Unbreakable. Undaunted.
Hit them with an overhand right, and they’ll shake it off and counter right back with a devastating roundhouse kick. Try to coax a submission out of them with a deathlock, and they’ll lift you up and slam you to the mat. There’s no giving up. Ever.
Yes, the Georgia pass defense is susceptible to being torched. Yes, the defensive line could do a better job of creating pressure. Yes, the defense as a whole could do a better job containing a mobile quarterback.
But in the 15th game of the season, you are who you are, and the coaches know that. The last time we looked, TCU was giving up an average of 26.4 points and 395 yards per game. Ohio State was only giving up 21 and 321.
So another shootout? Fine by me. I’ll take Stetson and the Dawgs if it comes to that. Gotta like their chances in that scenario.
Flawed? Maybe. Resilient? Absolutely.