Kirby Smart knows how to motivate a locker room. He’s had some epic pregame and halftime rants. The pregame speeches before TCU and at halftime against Florida last year are marked “NSFW” but are motivating. Smart did it again in last Saturday’s win against the Gamecocks. Rather than laying into Georgia with colorful language for being down 14-3, he told them they would find a way to score and win the game. “We’re gonna get about six possessions on offense. We’re gonna score on four of ‘em. They may score once more, but that’s it.” Georgia would have seven second-half possessions, scoring on three of them and missing a field goal on the other. Let’s hope Georgia doesn’t need another halftime pep talk this week. Before we dig into the Georgia preview against UAB, let’s look at three keys for the game this week.
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Georgia Preview Key #1: Finish Drives
Georgia’s biggest problem last Saturday was finishing drives. They had four drives in the first half, resulting in just three points. On two of those drives, Georgia couldn’t finish. Their first drive of the game lasted 15 plays and milked almost eight minutes off the clock but stalled on the eight-yard line, resulting in a field goal. In the second quarter, Georgia again marched down the field in 13 plays, only to see the drive stall at the 10-yard line and the drive end with a missed field goal. To salt the wound, South Carolina responded by scoring a touchdown five plays later and going up 14-3. This trend of slow starts and not finishing drives is familiar for Georgia in 2023.
After Smart’s halftime speech, Georgia responded with touchdowns on three of its next four drives. A 12-play drive that ended in another missed field goal was the only drive not to end in a touchdown. All three of the touchdown drives also came in ten plays or less. Brock Bowers, Rara Thomas, and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint all have shown big-play ability this season. They should be called on to spark the Georgia offense early on Saturday against the Blazers and help finish drives.
Georgia Preview Key #2: Find a kicker
Peyton Woodring did himself and Georgia few favors against South Carolina. The freshman from Louisiana was just one of three on-field goals. Overall, he is four of seven on the season, with his long being 35 yards. Georgia has not had to worry about kicking duties for most of Smart’s tenure. Jack Podlesny was dependable for the last few years for Georgia and was named the Associated Press and Coaches’ All-SEC First Team. On Tuesday, Smart shared that the competition is still ongoing between Woodring and Junior Jared Zirkel.
Smart and the staff are continuing to evaluate the position. “We did a bunch of exercises to put some pressure on those guys today, and we’re going to do the same thing throughout the week and then make a decision. That’s minute to minute, hour by hour.” Woodring was the top kicker in the 2023 class. Zirkel has handled kickoffs this season. Finding a kicker will be important as SEC play starts next week.
Georgia Preview Key #3: Feed Dejuan Edwards
Heading into the South Carolina game, we questioned whether or not Georgia’s running game was still elite. It turns out, Georgia just needed Daijun Edwards to return to the lineup. The senior had 20 carries for 118 yards a touchdown in the win. On Saturday, Edwards will be asked to carry a big load against the Blazers. Georgia’s other two tailbacks are still dealing with injuries. Roderick Robinson (ankle) and Kendall Milton (knee) didn’t practice earlier this week, but Smart hoped to have at least one back for Saturday. “It’s looking doubtful that Roderick will be able to play this week. I’m still holding out hope that Kendall might be able to.” This should free up some more carries for Cash Jones. Jones is looking to be the next big walk-on story at Georgia, following in the footsteps of Stetson Bennett.
UAB vs. No. 1 Georgia Preview
📍 Stanford Stadium
⏰ 7:30 p.m.
📺 ESPN 2
💰 Georgia -42.5
“An SEC football game at night is a way better atmosphere than a Super Bowl.” Those were the words of new UAB Blazer coach Trent Dilfer this week. Let’s hope Sanford Stadium will be rocking come Saturday night and lives up to the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback’s expectations. These two teams met two years ago, and Georgia walked away with a 56-7 win. The Blazers are 1-2 on the season, with its only win against FCS opponent North Carolina NC A&T. UAB will try to attack Georgia through the air. Quarterback Jared Zeno transferred in from Baylor and is completing just over 80% of his passes on the season. Look for Malaki Starks to continue to lead Georgia and have a big game.
Prediction: Georgia 49 UAB 3
Photo courtesy: Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK