Georgia’s offensive line didn’t live up to its reputation as one of the nation’s best in its 20-17 loss to South Carolina.
The Gamecock defensive line proved to be disruptive, and the defense forced four turnovers. Quarterback Jake Fromm finished with a completion percentage of just 54.9%, was sacked three times and threw his first three interceptions of the season. The backfield had no rushes longer than 14 yards. Georgia had only one play more than 20 yards, a 33-yard pass to George Pickens.
“They played really physical, they rotated guys up front and did a better job against our run game than most people have [and] as anybody who has done in the past,” head coach Kirby Smart said on Oct. 12. “It wasn’t the dominant performance. It wasn’t controlling the line of scrimmage that we like to have.”
Since Georgia’s offensive line has been so injury prone, it has been forced to try several different combinations across the starting five. Jamaree Salyer came into the game against South Carolina at right guard, and Cade Mays rotated to left guard.
Cole Cubelic, ESPN college football analyst and former Auburn offensive lineman, said there is plenty of blame to go around. He believes the offensive line’s issues start with its rotating lineup.
“A great offensive line plays together,” Cubelic said. “They don’t play for themselves. They play for the guys next to them. It’s very difficult to build that and formulate that when you aren’t playing a ton of snaps in games together.”
Cubelic gave a majority of the credit to South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, who led the pressure on Fromm that resulted in three sacks and other poor decisions. Fromm had only been sacked once on the season before meeting the Gamecocks.
“[The offensive line] didn’t play a great game, I get it,” Cubelic said. “There are plenty of breakdowns, and they played a generational talent along that defensive line that also made a lot of great plays.”
The problem is that South Carolina is not the best defense Georgia will face this season.
Georgia will play against four teams within the NCAA’s top-50 defenses in the coming weeks, including Florida, Missouri and Texas A&M. Auburn’s defensive line is especially daunting, and Georgia will have to travel to The Plains for that matchup. Georgia harps on its depth at every position, but a healthy starting offensive line will be a recipe for success.
“We knew coming in that [South Carolina’s defensive line] was going to be good and physical, and that’s exactly what they were,” Georgia offensive lineman Ben Cleveland said on Oct. 12. “That’s what we asked for coming into this game. We can’t really point fingers at anybody other than ourselves.”