So why didn’t No. 7 Georgia score more than 23 points against Mississippi State on Saturday? The answer is a familiar one, and Mark Richt is, frankly, sick of talking about it.
The Bulldogs bogged down in the red zone (the 20 yards nearest their opponent’s goal line). The struggles weren’t enough to hurt them in a 23-10 win over Mississippi State, but it’s likely to be a different story when Georgia travels to play Tennessee in Knoxville on Oct. 8.
“I don’t know why we don’t execute in that area,” Richt said. “It’s there to be had. We just for whatever reason can’t stand prosperity, I guess. Plus, I think we like our kickers to be tops in America in scoring points.”
Place-kicker Billy Bennett set the NCAA record for field goals in a season with 31 in 2003, and at Saturday’s pace, Brandon Coutu is going to get a chance to break that mark this year. Georgia got inside Mississippi State’s 21-yard line six times and scored only 16 points.
“We’re just shooting ourselves in the foot again, whatever the reason is for that I don’t know,” Richt said.
The reasons Saturday were fairly clear -- a poor pass from D.J. Shockley that floated over Leonard Pope’s head, a fumble and a costly penalty -- but the reason Georgia keeps being plagued by the problem is a mystery to Richt.
The Bulldogs had played respectably near the goal line in the first three games of the season. They were fifth in the SEC in red zone offense, with seven touchdowns and 10 scores in 13 trips, entering the Mississippi State game.
Now, they’ll go back to the drawing board. The Bulldogs have an open date next weekend so they have plenty of time to figure things out. Much of Tuesday’s practice will be spent in physical red zone and goal line drills, Richt said Sunday. Although Georgia’s defense played very well against Mississippi State, it could use the red zone work, too, as Richt pointed out.
“Our red zone defense hasn’t really been worth a hoot either,” he said. “We’ll probably spend some time down there working against each other.”
Georgia was tied for last in the SEC in red zone defense entering Saturday’s game. Its opponents had scored on all five trips inside the 20. Mississippi State got inside the 20 twice on Saturday and scored both times, once with a field goal and once with a touchdown.