Bulldogs’ red-zone inconsistencies troubling for Kirby Smart

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ATHENS — Although Georgia’s offense has looked to be dominant on paper – averaging more than 531 yards per game – the Bulldogs have struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone.

With the number of weapons the Bulldogs have on the field, it comes as no surprise that the offense is explosive in most of Georgia’s drives. Yet, once the team crosses the 20-yard line, the offense’s fluidity comes to a screeching halt.

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In 26 red-zone appearances, Georgia has produced 17 touchdowns.

Instead of UGA putting six points on the board to close out drives, coach Kirby Smart has had to rely on kicker Jack Podlesny to salvage three points. Podlesny has made 8 of 9 field-goal attempts this season.

“He has been so consistent,” Smart said. “Hate we’ve had to kick as many as we have. That’s been the Achilles’ heel for our offense.”

Though Podlesny’s consistency has been a plus, Smart said he would much rather score touchdowns.

“We may not punt, but we kick a lot of field goals,” Smart said. “It’s fun for ‘Pod,’ but it’s not fun for the rest of us. It’s really great to have Pod – the reliability and the consistency that he’s played with. It’s been great, but the hope is that you don’t have to rely on him all the time and just score touchdowns.”

Scoring red-zone touchdowns was one of Smart’s focuses after last season. Out of Georgia’s 69 red-zone appearances in 2021, 42 of those resulted in touchdowns.

While 2022 has been an improvement percentage-wise – 65% this season compared with 61% in 2021 – top-ranked Georgia will look to increase that percentage as the Bulldogs seek a second consecutive national championship.

Of the teams ranked in the top four, Georgia’s eight field-goal makes in the red zone are the most. No. 2 Alabama has two, No. 3 Ohio State has one and No. 4 Michigan has five.

Georgia has the most red-zone appearances in the country, but it ranks only 17th in scoring nationally. If the Bulldogs scored touchdowns on each of those eight field-goal makes, Georgia would be second in the country in scoring.