ATLANTA — Former Eastside Eagle and Georgia Bulldogs starting cornerback Eric Stokes walked out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday disappointed with the outcome but geared up and ready to get back to work.
The LSU Tigers were favored heading into the SEC championship by 7 points, but their dominant 37-10 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs had to catch many onlookers off guard.
The Georgia defense, which has been one of the nation's best all season long, had their worst performance in quite some time as they gave up 481 yards of total offense, with the majority of those yards coming through the air.
Joe Burrow's 349 yards passing against the Bulldogs defense is the second-most passing yards by a single quarterback in the Kirby Smart Era and the first 300-plus passing yard game against a Bulldogs defense since Sept. 24, 2016, at Ole Miss.
This shows how dominant the Bulldogs pass defense has been during Smart's tenure since that game against Ole Miss came in week four of Kirby Smart's first season as the team's head coach.
While stats like these are nice to hang your hat on, most people only care about the last game, and the Bulldogs defense had its fair share of struggles in pass defense throughout the contest.
Despite such a frustrating outcome, Stokes seemed to have positive thoughts for the future and ready to get back to this SEC title game.
"This makes me even more hungry because I know we can't take anything for granted," Stokes said. "It's a blessing that we were here for three years straight, and I know it's tremendously hard to get back here."
Stokes credited Burrow for his outstanding ability to buy himself time and scramble in and out of the pocket as that being the sole thing that gave the Bulldogs the most trouble. On a positive note, many of the Bulldogs’ contributors on Saturday will return next season and many were freshmen who have a lot of time ahead of them.
Stokes was happy to see these guys come in and contribute in a game of this magnitude and knows that it will only help the team be better in the future.
"It was great like Tyrique Stevenson, and Lewis (Cine) came up with a big play that we thought was a turnover, so it was just freshman getting in and getting a taste for it, so they know next year that I've gotta work much harder to get back here."
One guy who expressed similar sentiments was freshman inside linebacker Nakobe Dean, who should be in the thick of the battle for the starting inside linebacker spot that will be vacated by senior linebacker Tae Crowder.
"I look forward to the next game and look forward to just playing hard and being the best we can be," Dean said. "It hurts to lose a big game like this, but we can learn from it and hit the ground running for next season."
Fellow freshman Nolan Smith also seemed to have that same "hungry" mentality as Stokes as he looks forward to getting back to the SEC championship game in the future and believes his experience from a game like this will only help.
"I don't want to wait to come back. We came here three years and only won one, I want to be that different class that comes here and wins," Smith said. "It most definitely gets us prepared and tells us that we have a chance. As a young team, we're most definitely going to be back here for years to come."
Stokes was most recently named to the Associated Press All-SEC second team and should once again be a leader for the Bulldogs next season.
With Stokes and many of these talented players returning on defense, the Bulldogs should find themselves with the opportunity to play for the SEC title again in the near future.