Ge­or­gia done in by un­usual rash of mis­cues in Su­gar Bowl

The Standard Journal - - SPORTS - By Brett Mar­tel AP Sports Writer

NEW OR­LEANS — Fum­bles and other fail­ings put fa­vored Ge­or­gia in a big hole in the Su­gar Bowl.

A fum­ble by run­ning back D’An­dre Swift deep in Bull­dogs ter­ri­tory and a botched punt at­tempt on a low snap led to 10 first-half points for a feisty Texas squad look­ing to make a state­ment that it was on its way back to elite sta­tus. Missed tack­les helped the Longhorns sus­tain two other scor­ing drives, and that wasn’t all that went wrong for No. 6 Ge­or­gia in a 28-21 loss on Tues­day night.

“Ge­or­gia didn’t play our best game to­day and that’s some­thing we have to ac­cept as a group and a ball­club,” Ge­or­gia mid­dle line­backer Na­trez Pa­trick, a se­nior, said af­ter what was his dis­ap­point­ing fi­nal game as a Bull­dog. “It hap­pens, man. It hap­pens. Those guys came in a played a great game and we made mis­takes.”

Swift fum­bled twice in the first half. The first gave No. 14 Texas the ball on the Bull­dogs 12, lead­ing to a touch­down. The sec­ond was re­cov­ered by Ge­or­gia on a drive that ended with a punt.

“I know DeAn­dre is as dis­ap­pointed as any­body,” Ge­or­gia coach Kirby Smart said. “We didn’t play with the same en­ergy level and that’s a lot of credit to Texas be­cause they were in our back­field sev­eral times. They pen­e­trated, we weren’t able to han­dle the pen­e­tra­tion and that’s how you cause fum­bles.”

The punt that never was — punter Jake Ca­marda’s knee touched the turf as he scooped up a low snap — re­sulted in a turnover on downs at the Bull­dogs’ 27. That mis­cue led to a Texas field goal.

Texas quar­ter­back Sam Eh­linger ducked un­der what looked like an im­pend­ing blind­side sack by out­side line­backer Azeez Oju­lari in the sec­ond quar­ter. Right af­ter Oju­lari slid over Eh­linger’s back, the Texas QB rose out of his crouch and scram­bled 17 yards for a first down to help sus­tain the Longhorns’ sec­ond touch­down drive.

By half­time, Ge­or­gia was down 20-7, and it only got worse when the Bull­dogs opened the third quar­ter with the ball.

Jake Fromm was in­ter­cepted on a down­field throw by P.J. Locke III on the Longhorns 17.

It was an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic rash of un­timely er­rors for Ge­or­gia, which less than a month ago went toe-to-toe with No. 1 Alabama in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence ti­tle game.

“If you pre­pare right and you go out there and play your best foot­ball game, you don’t have those er­rors,” Smart said. “You’ve got to be able to over­come those some­times. If you think about this year, we didn’t have a start of a game sim­i­lar to like that re­ally all year. We’ve got to do a bet­ter job pre­par­ing our play­ers for that and go out and ex­e­cute.”

The loss to the Crim­son Tide ended Ge­or­gia’s hope of qual­i­fy­ing for the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off, so their in­vi­ta­tion to the Su­gar Bowl might have seemed more like fo­cus-sap­ping rel­e­ga­tion than a cov­eted bid to a big game in the Big Easy. And sev­eral Ge­or­gia play­ers had man­i­fested their bit­ter­ness over be­ing left out of the na­tional semi­fi­nals when they took to Twit­ter to mock Notre Dame and Ok­la­homa for their dou­ble-digit losses.

“Just be­cause they tweet some­thing emo­tional dur­ing that time, that doesn’t mat­ter,” Smart con­tended. “It gives the other team mo­ti­va­tion. But our team was mo­ti­vated to play Texas. Texas out­played us, out­com­peted us. They out­coached us. They out­phys­i­caled us. They did a lot of things bet­ter than us.”

What­ever the case, Ge­or­gia was not at its best un­til it was too late, scor­ing its fi­nal touch­down in the fi­nal min­utes. By then, Ge­or­gia was left need­ing to con­vert an on­side kick just for a chance to tie the game. And like much of the night, the ball didn’t bounce fa­vor­ably for the Bull­dogs on that play, ei­ther.

“I guess Texas treated this game big­ger than we did maybe,” Ge­or­gia re­ceiver Mecole Hard­man said.

/ AP-Butch Dill

Ge­or­gia quar­ter­back Jake Fromm (11) passes un­der pres­sure from Texas de­fen­sive back B.J. Foster (25) dur­ing the first half of the Su­gar Bowl in New Or­leans on Tues­day.

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