After every game, UGASports.com teams up with 11Alive.com and hands out grades to Georgia’s position groups. Here is the Bulldogs’ report card from their 26-23 loss to Alabama in the National Championship Game:
This wasn’t Jake Fromm’s game, plain and simple. The Alabama defense had his number early and the Crimson Tide took advantage of it. Fromm never looked comfortable in the pocket, which is odd, because the true freshman never lacks confidence on the field. The first interception thrown by him was just a fluke play and ended up not hurting the Bulldogs. The second interception was the real heartbreaker and led to the momentum shifting into Alabama’s favor. Fromm never set his feet on his second errant throw due to defensive linemen breaking through the offensive line, but the pass still should’ve been avoided. In the end, he finished 16-of-32 for 232 yards, one touchdown, and the two interceptions. In defeat, if one thing is for sure, Fromm will be back in the film room, studying the game, making sure that he gets better from it.
Running Backs: C
It seemed every time Nick Chubb got on a roll this season, Sony Michel did too. That was not the case against Alabama. Chubb never got going, rushing for just 25 yards on 18 carries, which led to Georgia facing a number of long third-down plays. On the other hand, Michel rushed for 98 yards on 14 carries but did not get to touch the ball much in the fourth quarter, which does not make a lot of sense. Freshman sensation D’Andre Swift rushed for 15 yards on four carries and was not a factor in the game. The running backs needed to have a big outing against Alabama in order to win. While they did some good things throughout the game, the unit never had that big breakaway play that everyone has become accustomed to seeing.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends: B+
Riley Ridley and his brother, Calvin, swapped jerseys after the game, but are we sure that they weren’t just giving each other back their real jerseys? The reason being, in what looked to be role reversal, the younger Ridley who plays for Georgia had an incredible game, whereas his older brother did not. The Bulldogs’ Ridley shined, catching a team-high six passes for 82 yards while keeping some drives alive. Javon Wims, who is normally the go-to receiver, suffered an injured shoulder, but had he been at full strength, Fromm would’ve had his favorite target down the stretch of the game. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman had an 80-yard touchdown catch, in which he showed his blazing speed to the world. The wide receivers, who are normally great blockers downfield, never really got to show off their talents in that regard because the backs seldom seemed to be able to bounce to the outside. Last, but not least, Terry Godwin had four catches for 48 yards and was consistent for the entirety of the game.
Offensive Line: C-
The offensive line’s performance can be split into two. The tackles, Isaiah Wynn and Andrew Thomas, played great and helped keep Fromm from feeling any type of outside pressure for most of the game. As for the interior linemen, Ben Cleveland, Lamont Gaillard, and Kendall Baker, the opposite can be said for this group, as the Alabama defensive interior linemen lived in the Georgia backfield. The interior linemen have been great all season and are responsible for much of the success of Michel and Chubb, but when Chubb is getting hit behind the line of scrimmage like he was against the Crimson Tide, it is hard for him to get any type of downhill momentum. The correlation between Chubb and the interior offensive linemen both not producing or playing well is no fluke.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line played an admirable game, proving that Alabama’s distinguished offensive line can’t bully everyone. Yes, the Tide gained 215 rushing yards, but over 100 of those can be attributed to running backs rolling to the outside and breaking free. Trenton Thompson made a tackle on a receiver that will be played on highlight tapes for years to come. Tyler Clark, who played out of his mind against Oklahoma, continued that same style of play against Alabama. The defensive line unit made five tackles, including three solo stops and one-half tackles for loss. With games being won or lost in the trenches, the Georgia defensive line did everything it could for victory, outplaying an extremely talented opposing offensive line.
Roquan Smith’s defensive performance this year will go down as one of the best in Georgia history, and the junior linebacker continued his notable season against Alabama. Smith led the team with 13 tackles, including nine solo stops, two-and-half tackles for loss and a well-timed sack. Not much more can be said about Smith other than if he were to come back for his senior season, the Bulldog support staff needs to promptly start the “Roquan for Heisman” planning. As for the other linebackers, well, it wasn’t their night either. The play that really stands out for this group was the scramble by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, in which both Davin Bellamy and D’Andre Walker missed tackling him in the backfield, which resulted in a first down and a huge momentum swing for Alabama. The lack of pressure from the outside linebackers, a hot-button topic for most of the season, happened again in the title game. The unit did a decent job in passing situations, but the quarterback scrambles threw off this group.
Defensive Backs: D
Simply put, this unit had a bad game. Tagovailoa threw three touchdown passes in the second half alone, including the game-winning 41-yard scoring pass on a blown assignment by the defensive backs. Cornerback Malkom Parrish was picked on the entire game, as Alabama would get to the line of scrimmage, even sometimes pointing him out pre-snap, and then throw to the wide receiver in which he was covering. The lone bright spot in the defensive backfield was Deandre Baker. The talented cornerback had an interception in the third quarter that, if it weren’t for the ensuing Fromm interception, could’ve been the game-clinching play.
Special Teams: A
Rodrigo Blankenship kept hope alive with his 51-yard field goal in overtime. The sophomore placekicker also kept the Georgia Bulldogs in the game with his 41-yard and 27-yard field goals earlier. The kicker with the signature specs proved to be one of the biggest weapons for Kirby Smart. Punter Cameron Nizialek also had a nice outing, averaging 46 yards per punt. The return game, led by Hardman, was extremely close to breaking off a touchdown on a couple of occasions. All in all, the special teams unit played well, helping keep the Bulldogs in the contest.