#1 Georgia seeks improved short-haul production

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ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia Placekicker Jack Podlesny finds quarterback Stetson Bennett, who also serves as a holder on kicks, not always in the best of moods.

Walking onto the field in last week’s 16-6 win in Kentucky, Podlesny noted that Bennett was more optimistic about extra points than about field goals. That just meant Bennett and the offense hadn’t found the end zone.

No. 1 Georgia (11-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) maintained their unbeaten record to cap an unblemished mark in the league. Still, the Bulldogs were far from perfect in short-yard situations while relying on three field goals.

“Definitely ran onto the field, I especially remember the third or second field goal, he’s out there and he’s just shaking his head,” Podlesny said of Bennett on Monday. “He’s like, ‘This isn’t great. That’s not seven points. That’s only three.’”

Running back Kenny Milton was stopped in a fourth and one game without a win to open the fourth quarter. Georgia also failed to convert two third-down plays when it needed just a yard and two in the last quarter.

The short-yard offense will be a focus in practice this week for Saturday’s regular-season finals against Georgia Tech, which included last week’s 21-17 win at then-No. 13 North Carolina.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart says he wants to “be creative” when coming up with the best short-yardage plan.

“You have to sit down and think, are we in the best staffing group for that?” Smart said Monday. “Shall we put it on the right side? Are we attacking the weakness of their defenses? …Are we in our best personal grouping? Do you have to get tall to get a meter or can you stay short and spread them out?”

Georgia played big against the Wildcats, using 300-pound defensive tackle Jalen Carter as an extra blocker. The extra muscle wasn’t enough for Georgia’s offensive line to generate the boost it needed in the short-range games.

The Bulldogs still had enough offense to hold their own against Kentucky, but 16 points might not be enough against Georgia Tech or in the Dec. 3 SEC championship game against No. 6 LSU. Georgia, also ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoffs, is looking to regain its offensive momentum to win a second straight national championship.

The Bulldogs scored their only touchdown against a 9-yard run by Kenny McIntosh. It wasn’t a typical performance for the Bulldogs, who rank 11th in the nation with an average of 38.4 points per game.

Georgia leads the country in red zone scores. The fourth stop marked only the second time the Bulldogs had failed to score in 61 red-zone possessions. Smart’s only downside on that stat is that he has to rely on field goals for 19 of the 59 red zone results.

“We took a step back last week,” Smart said. “And the level of concern is about the execution. It’s not like you can say it’s a thing or oh you’ve got a problem here. … Any piece we can point to and say we have a bug here. And if you make a mistake here, we don’t execute. You play good defence, they benefit from you.”

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