From OnlineAthens.com
October 18th, 2016 03:49 PM

The Georgia football team may find the practice field during this off week a sanctuary of sorts to shield it from the message boards, talk radio and websites that can use the two weeks between games to tear into a 4-3 start, including an upset at the hands of Vanderbilt Saturday.
“They know there’s noise out there,” coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday. “We know there’s noise out there.”
From the deciding and ill-fated fourth-and-1 call to give a toss sweep to wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie to the opening kickoff returned 95 yards by Vanderbilt, there is plenty for outsiders to criticize Smart and his staff from the 17-16 loss.
Smart believes in self-evaluation, but he’s getting plenty of outside suggestions of areas where Georgia is seen as lacking.
“With this job comes criticism,” he said. “I’m accepting of that. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it with good friends. I’ve seen it with programs I’ve been in. That doesn’t scare me. What I’m worried about is our team and our players developing and getting better. That’s the most important thing.”
The final result — Vanderbilt’s first SEC road win in 10 tries under Derek Mason and first win in Athens since 2006 — is hard enough to take for fans.
Then there were little things that led to that result.
Just look at early in the game.
Before the big return on the opening kickoff, D’Andre Walker was offsides on the play.
Georgia was called for 12 men on the field on the Vanderbilt’s first offensive snap. The Bulldogs then only had 10 men on the field for their second offensive snap, a one-yard loss on a Nick Chubb run and punted two plays later.
“We had a guy that didn’t see the signal and didn’t come off,” Smart said of the penalty. “Same way we had a signal that a guy didn’t come on. It’s preparation and that’s the most important thing. We do those things on Friday. We do that every week. We substitute. A kid’s gotta see it and come off the field. We as coaches have to do a great job of being responsible for that and making sure it doesn’t happen.”
Georgia has committed the second most penalties in the SEC — 6.7 per game—but Smart said coaches emphasize cutting down on those.
“We even have a team meeting where we post who’s got the most because the kids sometimes are embarrassed by that,” Smart said. “They don’t want to be that guy on there.”
Smart is trying to fix issues on this team — special teams first and foremost — to turn around the 2016 season while at the same time lining up future players for 2017 and 2018.
“Kids have been really positive on the phone,” Smart said. “They understand there’s a lot of opportunities to come in and play and that’s what we’re selling. We’re selling this program is headed in the right direction. Just because we got upset and beat by Vanderbilt when we had 421 yards and they had 171….To say everything’s doom and gloom and everything’s bad over three or four situatiions that happened, that’s not what I’m going to do as a coach. I’m going to coach what we’ve got to improve on and focus on that.”
About that total yardage total, Vanderbilt’s 171 was the second fewest in a win in the SEC in the last 10 years, according to the SEC Network.
“Look, our kids know the word for the day yesterday was improvement,” Smart said. “We’re going to get each player better at each position. That’s our goal.”


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