The winding road of Georgia’s regular season helped motivate it to finish strong enough for a meeting in the SEC championship game with LSU on Dec. 7.
“There’s been a lot of turning points that certainly probably cranked the heat up and the pressure up to perform,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “There’s been a lot of good work and improvement throughout the year and some hard-fought battles that I thought helped some young players turn the corner.”
Ahead of Georgia’s matchup against LSU, The Red & Black takes a look at the turning points of the Bulldogs’ regular season in 2019.
An offensive stall
Georgia started the season by defeating Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State teams with ease. Despite slow starts against both Notre Dame and Tennessee, Georgia’s offense was able to score enough points to win. Their weaknesses weren’t truly exposed until the South Carolina loss on Oct. 12.
Jake Fromm threw 51 passes, the most of any game up until that point. The junior began to show inconsistencies, as he threw three interceptions, his first and only picks of the season. Fromm targeted eight different receivers throughout the game but couldn’t find consistency or rhythm with any of them.
After a crushing defeat, Georgia knew it had to find a way to win the rest of its games, or the dreams of a playoff run would be far out of reach.
Good vibes in Jacksonville
The Florida game was the first answer. Georgia’s mood quickly switched as it brought home a 24-17 victory over the No. 6 Gators in Jacksonville on Nov. 2.
The Bulldogs used their loss two weeks prior and a bye week to fuel an impressive offensive performance.
“That was a hard-earned win against a good football team,” Smart said on Nov. 2. “Credit goes to those kids who played hard and played with grit. So many people doubted, and they never did.”
Fromm completed 20 of his 30 pass attempts and racked up 279 passing yards and two touchdowns. Graduate transfer wide receiver Lawrence Cager emerged as Fromm’s top target with seven catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia’s defense has been consistently impressive throughout the season. The unit has gone about its business game after game and is now receiving national recognition as fourth in the nation for total defense. The defense’s peak performance came against Missouri on Oct. 19.
The Bulldogs were writing history after completing their third shutout of the season and the second in a row at home against the Tigers. This had not happened since 1981. The Missouri game was also the last game in which Georgia did not allow a rushing touchdown. The Bulldogs were the only team up until that point who were able to do so. Now, Georgia is ranked No. 2 in the Football Bowl Subdivision for rushing defense.
After his performance against Florida, Cager looked like the solution to offensive problems. He was Fromm’s go-to target. On Nov. 29, hope turned into heartbreak after Cager announced on his Instagram that he would likely not return this season after suffering an ankle injury in practice the week after the Texas A&M game.
Cager is tied with George Pickens for most receptions in the regular season with 33 for 476 yards. Before the ankle injury, Cager dealt with shoulder and rib injuries.
Fromm hasn’t completed more than 50% of his passes since Cager’s full-strength performance against Florida. Against LSU, other receivers will have to step up, or the offense could find itself in gridlock yet again.