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College
In familiar excruciating fashion, Bulldogs lose to Bama
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In familiar excruciating fashion, Bulldogs lose to Bama

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart addresses the press after another tough loss against SEC rivals Alabama Crimson Tide. (Video by Ryon Horne, AJC)

In familiar excruciating fashion, Bulldogs lose to Bama

For a complete report on Saturday’s SEC Championship Game and Major Heart Surgery With a Butter Knife, you may read on.

Or, just Google the Alabama -Georgia game from Jan. 8, the one for all the marbles, not just the regional ones. Then simply change all the Tagovailoas to Hurts and all the Hurtses to Tagovailoa. You’ll get pretty much the same flavor.

Like a bad truck stop burrito, Alabama just keeps coming back on Georgia. It never seems to change for Bama. Struggle early. Change quarterbacks. Celebrate in Atlanta.

So went another excruciating day in the big city for the neighboring Bulldogs. They came from ahead to lose Saturday’s SEC Championship game inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the unbeaten and top-ranked Crimson Tide 35-28.

Just losing wasn’t bad enough. This loss ran right over the scar tissue from Georgia’s overtime loss to Bama in the national championship game here just 11 months ago. 

Then it was Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa bailing out Jalen Hurts in the second half of the national championship, the Bulldogs sacrificing a third-quarter, 13-point lead.

On Saturday, it was Hurts coming on for an injured Tagovailoa, engineering fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 80 and 52 yards to carry the Tide past a Georgia team that led by 14 deep into the third quarter.

Only this time throw in a large dose of second-guessing, as Kirby Smart’s call to go for a fake punt on fourth-and-11 at midfield with just over two minutes left in a tie game spectacularly misfired. That gave Alabama a half-a-field head start on the winning touchdown drive.

“Thought it was there, and it was there today,” the Georgia coach said of the direct snap to the up man in punt formation, freshman quarterback Justin Fields. Needing 11 yards, Fields rushed for only two. Smart suggested the play was intended to be a pass, but then broke down.

Five plays later, Alabama’s Hurts tucked away the ball and ran the final 15 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tide the lead for the first time Saturday with just 1:04 left to play. Georgia won many of the previous 59 minutes, but will receive no trophy for that accomplishment.

Smart’s most defiant explanation for the fake: “We came to win the game. We wanted to win the game.”

And to think, Saturday had begun so promisingly for the Bulldogs. It always begins promisingly for them against the Tide. 

Barely four minutes into the game, Alabama was experiencing a sensation new to it this season – discomfort.  

Throwing into the same end zone where 11 months ago his pass play to DeVonta Smith had ended overtime and won the national championship at Georgia’s expense, Tagovailoa was intercepted by Bulldogs safety Richard LeCounte. It was only the third interception this season by the nation’s leader in passing efficiency.

Alabama’s angst was further heightened when Tagovailoa, who had been dealing with a balky knee since early October, ducked into the team’s sideline medical tent after that play seeking attention away from prying eyes.

Tagovailoa carried on, although he never seemed quite right the rest of the night. Meanwhile, Georgia went about the business of proving it, too, had a pretty fair quarterback.  

Jake Fromm had a brilliant day, finishing 25-of-39 for 301 yards and three passing touchdowns. On the Bulldogs’ first score, Fromm’s arm accounted for all but two yards of the 60-yard drive. The final strike was a 20-yarder over the middle to tight end Issac Nauta.

In its unbeaten regular season, in which no team had come within three touchdowns of beating it, Alabama had trailed for a grand total of 75 seconds. Georgia would carry an advantage a good deal longer than that. Just not long enough.

Georgia was a first-half juggernaut, adding touchdown drives of 74 and 51 yards to put them up 21-7 with just four minutes left in the first half.

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In familiar excruciating fashion, Bulldogs lose to Bama

The Bulldogs were controlling the ball, possessing it for nearly 21 of the first 30 minutes. Fromm was unerring – over one stretch completing 10 consecutive passes (tying a SEC Championship game record). And then Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift began putting his fingerprints all over the stat sheet. He ran for one of those first-half scores – a 9-yard sprint – and caught a pass for another – an 11-yard hook-up. 

No team had scored more than 23 points against Alabama this season. And here was Georgia nearly hitting that ceiling in the first 26 minutes of Saturday.

That seemed to be the sharp stick in the eye that the Bama offense needed to rile it up a bit. But even its answering touchdown, just four plays after Swift’s catch made the score 21-7, wasn’t the typical forceful response you’d expect of Alabama. It was as much good fortune as it was good football.

For as Bama’s Josh Jacobs lunged for the goal line, the ball popped loose, raising the specter of a second turnover on the doorstep to a touchdown. But some force of nature kept the ball within Jacobs reach. Laid out, he was able to pull it in and hold it aloft just long enough to make it an Alabama touchdown.

So, here was Georgia, up at halftime against mighty Alabama, looking quite serious about shocking the world. Eleven months ago, that same vision was a mirage. A cruel tease. The necessary build-up to the let-down.

Surely that couldn’t happen again.

But when the usually sure-thing kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt midway in the third quarter, the omens started to take an ugly turn for Georgia.

The Bulldogs rebuilt the lead to 14 early in the second half (28-14) when Fromm laid a perfect over-the-shoulder, 23-yard touchdown delivery to Riley Ridley. It wasn’t much of a window Fromm threw into, more a narrow transom. 

They blunted one Alabama drive later in the third quarter when safety J.R. Reed intercepted a ball on the Georgia 3-yard line. 

And still that wasn’t enough. Dynasties don’t exactly yield like wet cardboard. 

Nor did Bama buckle when Tagovailoa, caught up in the backwash of another Georgia rush, had to be helped off the field for the last time with a bum ankle with about 12 minutes left to play.

For Hurts was ready for his moment. Once the star, he instantly, instinctually, picked up the role again He led a long 16-play, seven-minute drive to tie the score, using his scrambling ability to keep the last play alive long enough to find Jerry Jeudy for a 10-yard scoring pass.

Then, with just a little more than a minute left to play, Hurts’ keeper from 15 yards out was the last dagger in an old wound. 

“Same as last time,” said Swift, who finished with 75 rushing yards and another 63 receiving. “A new quarterback comes in and we get beat. Can’t dwell on it, but it’s still gonna hurt.”

“Jalen came in and surprised us a bit, a more mobile quarterback,” Bulldogs defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said. “Those are adjustments you’ve got to make in a game.”  

What was left afterward for a two-loss Georgia was to try to make the case that a narrow, heart-breaking loss to lordly Alabama shouldn’t eliminate it from consideration for the four-team college playoff field. The playoff committee will render its verdict Sunday afternoon.

Smart made his stump speech: “Well, it boils down to one thing. Do you want the four best teams in or not? It's that simple.” 

Noting that Alabama won it all a season ago after not even playing in the SEC Championship, Smart added, “They sat at home last year and got to go in the game while everybody else is beating each other up. Give that coach across the sideline (Saban) a vote who he doesn't want to play. He'll start with us. I promise you, you don't want to play us.”

Rewriting the script and beating Alabama would have made for a far more convincing argument.

 

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Local News

  • The University of Georgia announced Thursday that Maymester and Summer classes at all University System of Georgia institutions will be offered in an online format, with “limited exceptions.” The announcement from UGA President Jere W. Morehead was sent via Arch News to faculty, staff and students. According to the email, USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said all USG institutions will open again for in-person instruction for the fall semester “assuming health conditions permit.”From UGA President Jere W. Morehead via Arch News “Thank you for your dedicated efforts to implement and participate in online instruction as we advance toward the completion of Spring Semester. I have been advised this morning by the University System of Georgia that instruction at all USG institutions will continue to be offered in a remote format, with only limited exceptions, through the summer term.   For UGA, this means that our Maymester and Summer Semester course offerings will be online. Any unit that wishes to seek an exception should contact their Dean or Vice President for appropriate review, which ultimately will require USG approval.  According to USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley, all institutions will return to normal operations for Fall Semester, assuming health conditions permit. For the immediate future, however, we are to continue our current telework and flexible work strategies to minimize the number of individuals who remain on campus to maintain operations and support remote instruction.  I realize the extraordinary demands that this pandemic places on everyone and thank you for your resilience and determination. Like you, I eagerly await the time when we can return to campus and regain some sense of normalcy. Until then, we must all do our part to maintain social distancing in order to stay safe and healthy. Together, we will persevere through these challenging times.”
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  • There were two big announcements from Governor Brian Kemp Wednesday: he’s closing all public schools for the rest of the school year, and he is issuing a statewide shelter in place order. Both measures are aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus in Georgia. From the Clarke Co School District… Wednesday, April 1, 2020, Gov. Brian Kemp announced during a press conference that K-12 public schools will close for in-person classes for the rest of the school year. 'I want to stress that online learning will continue,' Kemp said at a press conference. 'I want to thank all of the educators and superintendents that have stayed in touch with us through this process to make the best of a tough situation. We will continue to work with them on the path forward.' Message from Dr. Xernona Thomas, Interim Superintendent I recognize how challenging the past weeks have been – the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all of us to make adjustments every day. We are working on how to address the many issues we face due to Governor Kemp’s mandate to close school through the end of the year. Please be patient as we receive new updates and guidance from the Georgia Department of Education and local, state, and national agencies.
  • The University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government is quickly moving some popular education programs online so that state and local officials don’t fall behind during the coronavirus pandemic. Vinson faculty members offered their first online class in the Certified Public Manager program on March 19. All 31 participants that are enrolled in the current program, which began in August, participated. Students in the current CPM program have been meeting since August so it’s important for classes to continue uninterrupted, according to participant Tracy Mason. “It was good for the institute to have a plan and be able to deploy that videoconferencing program so fast,” said Mason, senior assistant director of the Judicial Council of Georgia/Administrative Office of the Courts. “I don’t feel that I would have preferred to wait until we could meet face-to-face again.” The CPM program provides professional education to managers throughout city, county and state government that helps them make fiscally and socially responsible decisions that benefit their communities. Having this kind of education will be even more important now as Georgia’s cities and counties deal with the impact from the novel coronavirus. This program, like most of the Vinson Institute’s certification programs, is offered through a series of courses that build upon each other over a period of months. It would be a setback for participants if there was a long delay between classes. The institute already had been moving some of its classroom courses online, which would increase accessibility for government officials spread throughout the state. But the virus, and subsequent statewide restrictions on gatherings in groups, made the changes more critical, said Tracy Arner, financial management program manager at the Vinson Institute. “It’s shaping, really moment by moment, how we’re delivering services,” Arner said. Vinson faculty used Blackboard Collaborative Ultra to videoconference the March 19 CPM class on budgeting. Through that platform, class participants could raise a virtual hand if they had a question, gather into small discussion groups, and “talk” back and forth with the instructor and among themselves. “The class itself went on without missing a beat,” said participant Trey Wood, Jackson County finance director. “Once everybody got comfortable and started communicating back and forth, it was easy to stay engaged.” Even though they weren’t in a room together, participant Niki Lemeska said the interaction via video kept the class on track. “It allows you to feel like you’re picking up on the vibe of what’s going on in the classroom even though you’re not seeing your classmates live,” said Lemeska, program manager with the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. Vinson already offered online learning, with standalone courses and webinars, said Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “What’s new is we’re now providing live online instruction for courses we have previously delivered face-to-face,” Meadows said. Another Institute of Government course, the North Atlanta Regional Management Development Program, was taught online using Zoom on March 25. Participant John “Kevin” Norred, deputy chief of the Troup County Fire Department in LaGrange, found the process unusual but fulfilling. “I really thought I would be working today with this Zoom thing going ‘wah, wah, wah’ in the background,” Norred said. “But I found myself engrossed and engaged just like in class. I just don’t have to drive home.” While many classes are being adapted for videoconferencing, the institute will continue to offer webinars and self-study online classes for government officials throughout Georgia. Many are certified by the Georgia Department of Revenue, allowing local tax officials to earn continuing education credit. Others allow local and state leaders to work toward or maintain certification. You can find available classes at https://t.uga.edu/5M0.
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Bulldog News

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  • ATHENS The best leaders and the most intelligent people are the ones who know what they don't know. Georgia football coach Kirby Smart a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll during his playing career served up a reminder of that when he deferred on speculating about college football's future. WATCH: Breaking down Kirby's spring football briefing 'I can't speculate on what I don't know, and we don't have a large amount of information right now,' Smart said. 'It's no fault of anybody. I'm not trying to point any blame, but we don't know a lot about the future and what that holds. 'I'm not going to sit back and say well this is what I think should be done, or this is what I think is going to happen, because I don't think that does anybody any good .' Smart did, however, feel comfortable enough to talk about his team. The 2020 Bulldogs are set up for an SEC Championship and College Football Playoff run on the strength of what on paper is the best returning defense in the nation. Georgia returns nine of 11 starters from its Sugar Bowl team, and Smart said there are rising sophomores and juniors that appear on the verge of breaking through even more. Here are three takeaways from Smart's teleconference with Georgia football beat writers earlier this week: 1. Priority on players Smart, like the CEOs of many of the nation's top organizations, has placed a priority on his personnel and ensuring their well-being ahed of any of the football business. Smart was quarantined himself after returning with his family from Central America at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic's severe effects on the U.S. society. It's clear he demands his players take the social distancing directives seriously. 'Th e No. 1 thing is the well-being of our players, their families, our student-athletes, our students at the University of Georgia,' Smart said. 'We're trying every way we can to make sure that they have everything they need because so many of them have parents in harm's way. 'They're in harm's way taking care of themselves if they don't respect what they're being told.' 2. Kirby's going to Kirby Thoroughness and efficiency are two of the traits that make Smart one of the best coaches in the nation, and he didn't take long to shift into that mode. Smart was among the first to push for videoconferencing, and that helped lead to the SEC approaching two hours of online 'chalk talk' between players and their coaches per week last Friday. The new measure took effect last Monday. 'In anticipation of doing it we were trying to get ready, we were practicing ourselves,' Smart said. 'A lot of these kids are better at these technological things than the coaches are, so we had to practice . to get ready so that we hit the ground running.' 3. Confident in quarterbacks Smart didn't exactly use the word 'comfortable' when asked about Jamie Newman. But he revealed the Georgia graduate transfer quarterback had found some 'rhythm' while throwing with receivers in limited work. Quarterbacks will be the position players most affected by the football stoppage, Smart said. But then he also revealed that Newman and the other UGA signal callers were able to at least get some familiarity with the offense. 'As far as the QB and the offense for our guys, I mean, we were able to meet leading up to spring practice,' Smart said. ' . we were able to have walkthroughs leading up to spring time, which we maximized that time. Not anticipating that we wouldn't have spring, but just knowing that we had new quarterbacks and due to the offensive systems we had to make sure we spent time with that. So we spent a lot of time on that.' DawgNation Kirby Smart offseason stories Kirby Smart reveals 5 players who impressed in workouts How CO-VID 19 is affecting Georgia football recruiting Why Kirby Smart gave Scott Cochran opportunity Nick Saban wouldn't Updates on rehab progress of Dominick Blaylock, D'Wan Mathis Smart boosts Dan Lanning over $1 million, new staff salary numbers Quarterbacks affected more than any position during stoppage, per Kirby Kirby Smart's sports stoppage message: Control what you can control D'Wan Mathis family thanks Kirby Smart, Georgia The post 3 takeaways from Georgia football coach Kirby Smart beat writer teleconference appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia football coach Kirby Smart covered a lot of ground in his teleconference with beat writers on Tuesday, leaving some room for speculation in key areas. Smart made sure everyone knew his top priority was taking care of the players, but he also shared some updates on transfer quarterback Jamie Newman and the rehab of receiver Dominick Blaylock and D'Wan Mathis. The Ingles on The Beat segment ran twice on Tuesday, both on Facebook live and on YouTube. Here's are the clips, including a Florida Gators fan crashing the party and getting a DawgNation lecture! Ingles on The Beat Facebook Live (Part One) Ingles on The Beat YouTube Live (Part Two) The post WATCH: Breaking down Kirby Smart's spring sports break briefing appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Kirby Smart is the first coach to tell anyone football is played in pads. But on Tuesday, the Georgia football head coach was in a giving mood. Giving, as in wanting to help the media tell the Bulldogs' fans what has been going on with the football team during this unprecedented COVID-19-related sports stoppage. So, who looked good during the offseason workouts before UGA went on spring break and the NCAA ordered a suspension of activities back on March 12? 'A lot of football is built off pads, we didn't get to do that,' Smart said. 'We did get to do offseason running, and movement and agility. There's a ton of that sophomore and junior group that's waiting to jump up and make that impact.' Smart said he does 'hate to single one guy out, but there are guys that are working really hard.' So . ? 'I thought that George (Pickens) was competing really hard and doing good things in the workouts,' Smart said. 'He really liked the competitive side of things.' Pickens is coming off a Sugar Bowl MVP performance. Pickens will be a key to the scheme new offensive coordinator Todd Monken is building. ' Clay Webb was a guy who was really competing hard,' Smart said, an indication of the battle shaping up on the interior offensive line. 'He did some good things.' Smart also mentioned returning senior offensive guard Justin Shaffer, a 6-foot-4, 330-pounder. Shaffer started after Solomon Kindley went down with an ankle injury against Notre Dame. He seemed entrenched before suffering a season-ending neck injury and missing the final eight games of the season. 'Shaffer's coming back off of injury,' Smart said. 'Not that he was an outstanding performer, but considering that he wasn't able to do anything for six to eight weeks, and now he's coming out there competing and pushing through adversity. I was really proud of the way he worked. And he tried to lead.' Fans already know there's going to be a lot of competition at running back, and Smart added fuel to the fire. ' James Cook, I mean, we had competition daily to see who was going to win individual battles, and James probably had the largest winning percentages,' Smart said. 'He and Zamir (are) really challenging each other and competing really hard. 'Those guys can continue to grow' It remains to be seen how players will stay in shape during the break. But the head coach has certainly taken note of a few, and now the Georgia DawgNation fans will, too. One takeaway: All of the players Smart mentioned were on offense. It's pretty clear the head coach is going to make sure the Georgia defense, which returns 9 of 11 starters from its Sugar Bowl team, does not get complacent. DawgNation Kirby Smart offseason stories How CO-VID 19 is affecting Georgia football recruiting Why Kirby Smart gave Scott Cochran opportunity Nick Saban wouldn't Smart boosts Dan Lanning over $1 million, new staff salary numbers Quarterbacks affected more than any position during stoppage, per Kirby Kirby Smart's sports stoppage message: Control what you can control The post Kirby Smart reveals 5 Georgia football players who impressed during offseason workouts appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Dan Lanning has become the highest paid assistant on the Georgia football staff after the Bulldogs led the nation in scoring defense and rushing defense last season. Georgia did so despite not having a defensive player selected first-team All-SEC unity, according to an Associated Press panel. RELATED: League-leading Georgia defense shut out on AP All-SEC first team Lanning, 33, had his salary elevated from $750,000 in 2019 to $1.25 million for this upcoming season, per UGA athletic director Greg McGarity. In addition to coordinating the nation's No. 3-ranked total defense, Lanning coached up FWAA Freshman of the Year Semifinalist Azeez Ojulari at outside linebacker. He also landed the nation's No. 1 recruit, outside linebacker Nolan Smith, along with the No. 1 JUCO recruit, outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson. Lanning was making just $325,000 in 2018 before he was promoted from within the staff to replace Mel Tucker after Tucker left to become the Colorado head football coach. OPINION: Dan Lanning promotion to defensive coordinator a promising hire Georgia head coach Kirby Smart maintains a large presence on the Bulldogs' defense, staying involved with coaching the secondary and working in concert with Lanning on play calls. It's clear Smart has a chemistry with the rising coaching star; the two worked together at Alabama prior to Georgia. Lanning coached the Memphis inside linebackers and was the Tigers' recruiting coordinator in 2016 and 2017 before joining the Bulldogs' staff. Prior to the Memphis job, Lanning served as a graduate assistant in 2015 on an Alabama coaching staff that featured Smart as the defensive coordinator and Tucker as the secondary coach. Defensive line coach Tray Scott also received a noteworthy raise, from $470,000 to $600,000, per salary numbers that first appeared in the Athens Banner-Herald. The raise was likely on the strength of the Bulldogs leading the nation in rushing defense as well as the performance of young players. WATCH: Dan Lanning discusses Georgia 'No-Name' Defense before Sugar Bowl Scott is one of only three assistant coaches who remain from Smart's original staff in 2017, along with running backs coach Dell McGee and inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann. Todd Monken is the highest paid offensive assistant. Monken was hired in making $1.1 million as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, essentially replacing James Coley. McGarity told DawgNation on Tuesday night that all of the salaries (listed below) involving raises were negotiated before the coronavirus pandemic brought the sports world to a standstill and affected the global economy. Georgia Football Salaries 2020 ( 7.2 million) Dan Lanning: Defensive Coordinator / OLB Coach $1.25 million Todd Monken:, Offensive Coordinator / QB coach $1.1 million Matt Luke: Offensive Line / Assoc. Head coach $900,000 Dell McGee: RB coach / Run game coord. $650,000 Charlton Warren: secondary coach $600,000 Glenn Schumann: Asst. DC / Inside linebackers $600,000 Tray Scott: defensive line coach $600,000 Cortez Hankfton: WR coach $550,000 Scott Cochran: Special teams coordinator $550,000 Todd Hartley, TE coach $400,000 2019 staff: 6.045 million James Coley: Offensive Coordinator / QB Coach $950,000 Sam Pittman: Associate Head Coach / OL Coach $900,000 Dan Lanning: Defensive Coordinator / OLB Coach $750,000 Dell McGee: Run Game Coordinator / RB Coach $650,000 Charlton Warren: DB Coach $600,000 Cortez Hankton: Pass Game Coordinator / WR Coach $550,000 Glenn Schumann: Co-Defensive Coordinator / ILB Coach $550,000 Tray Scott: DL Coach $470,000 Scott Fountain: Special Teams Coordinator $325,000 T odd Hartley: TE Coach $300,000 2018 staff: $6.42 million Mel Tucker: Defensive coordinator / secondary $1,500,000 Jim Chaney Offensive coordinator / tight ends $950,000 James Coley Quarterbacks / Co-offensive coord. $850,000 Sam Pittman, Offensive line $825,000 Dell McGee, Running backs $550,000 Tray Scott, Defensive line $420,000 Cortez Hankton, Wide receivers $375,000 Glenn Schumann, Inside linebackers $325,000 Dan Lanning, Outside linebackers $325,000 Scott Fountain, Special teams $300,000 2017 staff: $4.56 million Mel Tucker: Defensive coordinator / secondary $900,000 (Now at Michigan State Jim Chaney: Offensive coordinator / quarterbacks $850,000 (Now at Tennessee) Sam Pittman: Offensive line $660,000 (Now at Arkansas) James Coley: Receivers $450,000 (Now at Texas A&M) Tray Scott: Defensive line $400,000 Kevin Sherrer: Linebackers $375,000 (Now with N.Y. Giants) Dell McGee: Running backs $350,000 Shane Beamer: Tight ends, $300,000 (Now at Oklahoma) Glenn Schumann: Inside linebackers $275,000 The post Rising coaching star Dan Lanning becomes Georgia football's highest paid assistant appeared first on DawgNation.