Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Bama Bests Clemson

After the super exciting Rose Bowl I found it hard to keep my attention on the Sugar Bowl. Clemson QB Kelly Bryant has a way of disappearing in games against tough opponents, when the chips are down. Early in the season Clemson squeaked by a tough Auburn defense, then really didn’t play anyone the rest of the year. Louisville and FSU didn’t put up much of a fight. Neither did Miami. Makes me wonder if Bryant will keep his starting job next season – they signed the top QB recruit in the country, the skinny kid from Cartersville.

Then Bama had time to get healthy, and the Tide shut down Clemson big time. The Tigers handed Bama two touchdowns, and couldn’t score a touchdown of their own. Bama’s offense didn’t light it up, but Clemson’s defense played their heart out. Rumor was Bama was fired up after Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow trash talked after last year’s game.   

Amazing that Oklahoma lost after being ahead by 17 points, after winning 87 straight games with that big a lead. The biggest comeback in Rose Bowl history. I knew the game wasn’t over at halftime, that UGA had plenty of time to come back. I just didn’t know if they could. Then when UGA took the lead but gave it right back with the fumble return touchdown.

Like everyone else I wondered if UGA scored too early, tying the game with 55 seconds left. So often those direct snaps to running backs don’t work, but both Chubb and Michel scored from the wildcat formation. But UGA stopped Oklahoma when Mayfield threw the low percentage pass on third and two.

I figured no way UGA could beat Oklahoma in OT. UGA would not be able to keep Mayfield out of the end zone every time. What I wasn’t figuring on was a blocked field goal.

This morning 680 had it right: Chubb & Michel’s record for most yards by two teammates will never be broken. These days at least one RB would tire of sharing time and either transfer or turn pro. So “The Sony Express” broke the record of “The Pony Express” – SMU’s Eric Dickerson and Craig James.   

At halftime the media was blasting the UGA coaches. Ricky Glover had given up. Down 31-14 he posted “Good run this year Dawgs, we just can’t match up.” After the game I asked him how bad Georgia got beat. Then several other of his friends got on him for giving up. Chad Eaton posted “we can’t win a shootout” and “Kirby doesn’t have them ready.” At halftime Kirby admitted as much, but unlike Chad, Ricky, and the media, Kirby and the Dawgs didn’t give up – and won the shootout.

I read a long article in the UGA student newspaper about Jake Fromm. After starring in the LLWS when he was twelve, the next year he played for the East Cobb Astros (& hit four home runs in one game). At 13 I’m not sure the teams he played against were as good.

I had worried that two youngsters were due for a bad game: the true freshman Fromm and sophomore kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. Fromm started off seemingly overanxious, drilling passes a little harder than usual. Still, he finished 20-29. A key fourth quarter pass to Nauta was thrown behind the tight end.

The spotlight seemed to shine on Blankenship throughout the game. While the Marietta native has made a few field goals this season longer than 40 yards, he’s also missed a couple. His first attempt in Pasadena was from 48 yards, and he hooked it just left of the upright. Announcers Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit continued to discuss the bispeckled kicker, supposedly nicknamed “Hot Rod” since birth. After the miss the camera caught Rodrigo returning to his practice net while discussing the kick with student kicking coach Kevin Butler. Later Herbstreit touted Butler, the only kicker in the college football hall of fame.

After Georgia’s next touchdown Blankenship’s point after also sailed left – though it stayed inside the upright. Two straight kicks had gone left, making me wonder if he’d have problems later in the game. But when UGA moved into position for a long field goal at the end of the half, after an Oklahoma time out Blankenship calmly nailed the 55 yarder with room to spare.

When the game went to overtime I knew kicking would be critical. Sure enough, Rodrigo was called on after Georgia’s first passion. Again he nailed the kick. It turned out to be Oklahoma’s kicker who decided the game, when his second attempt in overtime was partially blocked. Nice article in the AJC about the 55 yarder.

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