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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fleeting Thoughts: South Carolina Edition

I'm writing this from I-85 at 6:30 a.m. on my way to Charlotte following a whopping three hours of sleep. But, I have tickets to the Eagles-Panthers game today and I'm rocking my Brian Westbrook jersey, so I'm full of energy.

Anyway, Tyler Estep and Fletcher Page are being kind enough to handle the game follow-up stuff for me today, and they'll have notes up on the blog following Mark Richt's teleconference tonight, but before that, I figured I'd share a few thoughts from last night's 41-37 Georgia win.

-- First and foremost, it's hard to quantify just how important that win was for Georgia. An 0-2 start would have been a disaster. Instead, the win gives Georgia some momentum heading into a tough road game at Arkansas and gives the offense some actual highlights. As Joe Cox said after the game, "This win meant everything to us."

-- For all the talk about Cox's injury and the conspiracy theories that he was on his way out, Cox played all but one snap and looked pretty good doing it. I said before the game, there's absolutely no chance that Richt was putting a quarterback out there that he didn't think gave him his best shot to win. That was clearly backed up Saturday.

-- Which isn't to say that Logan Gray doesn't deserve more than one snap a game.

-- The offense looked much improved over last week, but I'd say the majority of that had to do with two things: 1.) Joe Cox played much better. Yes, the pick-six was UGLY, and he knew it. But outside of that throw, Cox performed admirably and his passes had a lot more on them than they did a week ago. I'm inclined to believe the flu really had a profound effect last week. 2.) The offensive line played much better. While the pass protection broke down badly on the one play where Cox was blindsided and fumbled, for the most part there was running room and time to throw. It was a much better performance than a week ago against a much tougher front four.

-- Having said all that, Mike Bobo's playcalling still left me a bit puzzled. Just as Richard Samuel was getting into a groove -- and he looked downright mean on the drive capped by his 1-yard TD -- he was essentially pulled from the game for consecutive series. Georgia faced a crucial third-and-4 on their own side of the field at one point, and Samuel was on the sideline in favor of Carlton Thomas, with Cox throwing from the shotgun. It just made no sense.

-- Speaking of personnel, once again Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten were absent from the game plan. Brown was in on two plays and Wooten one, but it was at an odd time, almost as if the coaching staff was saying, "Better get them in the game so no one asks why we didn't."

-- Holy cow, A.J. Green is good. He wasn't much more open Saturday than he had been against Oklahoma State, but he just decided he wanted it more. He finished with six catches for 86 yards and had another crucial pass-interference flag come in to salvage a Georgia drive.

"It looks good, but he's done it so much that it doesn't even surprise me," Cox said. "He'll make a catch, and I'll just laugh a little bit like, 'that guy's good, and I'm glad he's on my team.'"

By the way, his 9-yard TD reception in the second quarter was eerily reminiscent of the one he caught against Kentucky from Matthew Stafford near the end of the game. Even more eerie? Cox's rationale behind the throw was exactly the same: "Coaches were going nuts saying to throw it away if it wasn't there, but with a guy like A.J., you always have a chance."

-- Back to Samuel for a second: He ran much harder than a week ago and broke several tackles. Better yet, he picked up the tough yards. There was no going down behind the line of scrimmage. Every run meant something. But his best play? It came on a reception by Mike Moore in which Samuel darted downfield about 15 yards and absolutely leveled South Carolina's safety. Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones have nothing on that guy.

-- There were a couple pretty scary snaps. Ty Frix's snap over Drew Butler's head was the obvious one and went for a safety, but Cox seemed to have trouble with at least three or four others during the game.

-- I told you before the season Brandon Boykin was going to be a stud. He looked strong in coverage yet again, had Georgia's first INT of the season on a play in which he got about 53 feet off the ground, and what else can I say about the kick return?

-- Speaking of Boykin, he's a perfect example of what Georgia will be all about this year. There is a ton of natural talent on that team. From Boykin's big plays to Branden Smith's 61-yard run for a TD to Orson Charles' two big catches (despite the fact that he remains underutilized by Bobo so far) and on down the line. It's going to be a mixed bag as some of these guys get acquainted to their roles, but there's a high ceiling for them.

-- There are going to be a lot of folks angry with Willie Martinez after this game because -- well they have to be angry at someone, right? But take a big step back, folks. Willie called a pretty good game, all things considered. The pass rush wasn't bad, but there were at least a half-dozen times were the rusher would spin the wrong direction or just miss bringing down Stephen Garcia, who played out of his mind. Willie was completely hamstrung by having his top defensive end, Rod Battle, go down with a knee injury and two of his top three Sam linebackers, Darius Dewberry and Nick Williams, miss the game with hamstring pulls. Marcus Washington spent most of the game floating between LB and DE, and Willie was essentially just working with what he had. The middle of the field was open a lot, but it was by necessity. He played a classic bend-but-don't-break style, which was not pretty, but it was effective. The defense was exceptional in the red zone, and South Carolina didn't score an offensive touchdown in the second half. This was not anywhere near as bad as some people are going to make it out to be.

-- Prince Miller's work in coverage, however, left a bit to be desired, and Vance Cuff had two bad flags.

-- On the plus side, this game was a perfect example of why Georgia fans love Rennie Curran. The kid is amazing. He played out of his mind, finishing with a career-high 15 tackles and for the second straight year, he made the defensive play at the goal line that saved the win.

More than just what Curran did on the field, however, was what he did off it. Here are three quotes from Mark Richt about the lead-up to the game. See if you can guess how Curran altered the timeline:

On this week's attitude: “They were down. They were down early on. I think everybody was just in the tank and I wasn’t feeling real good either."

On Rennie's presume thoughts: “Rennie talked to the team before the game and promised them all he was going to play with every ounce of energy he had and with all his heart, and sure enough at the very end, he makes the play.”

On the team's attitude during the game: “I think our guys played about as hard as I’ve seen them play in a long time. There was a special energy. I don’t know why. Maybe there was a special sense of urgency at not going 0-2, knowing we’re at home, knowing it was the SEC. There was so many things riding on it, and for whatever reason I think our boys had as much heart and fire, wire to wire, that I’ve ever seen.”

Richt might not know why, but I think most of you can guess.

-- Beyond everything else, regardless of how worried you now are about the defense or concerned you are about Bobo's personnel choices, you should take a minute today to appreciate what a great football game you watched.

When was the last time you saw a game with a 300-yard passer, a safety, a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, an interception return for a touchdown, a guy kick five field goals, a 61-yard reverse for a TD, a fake punt, one team run 30 more plays than the other and lose, the most points scored in one half of a UGA game in 18 years, a series that has been built on low-scoring affairs turning into a barnburner with 78 total points scored, and then comes down to a final fourth-down play that has as much suspense as most fans in the stadium -- regardless of who they were rooting for -- could tolerate?

That was just a fun football game, folks. And I say that as a guy who made his deadline with just a few seconds to spare thanks to all that excitement.


Rod said...


Thank you for all of your hard work - I don't know what I would do without getting your information. THANK YOU!

TrboDawg said...

@Rod... Amen Brother, Mr. Hale has become my #1 source for Dawg News - He's a DGD reporter...

NCDawg said...

Another thought on Curran, watching on TV, with the defense sitting on the bench gasping for air after spending sooo much time on the field, it was Rennie walking up and down the bench pumping his teammates up urging them on. What a courageous effort by the defense. The front 7 executed the scheme and got pressure on Garcia even if he was hard to contain.

Anonymous said...

And Lee Corso said it was going to be a boring game...ha!

chillydawg said...

David, you do an excellent job with your insight and analysis. Although I don’t always agree, you help me rethink some of my analysis of the game. Garcia, last night, looked like a former OBC quarterback by the name of Wuerffel. He did an excellent job of avoiding the rush (and we did get pressure quite a few times, even at times with the front four) and reading what the defense gave him. I give Coach Martinez credit, he tried to mix it up and tried numerous ways to put pressure on Garcia, but Garcia did a great job of reading the blitz and finding the right receiver. However, my concern was with the lack of awareness our LB’s showed in getting their head on a swivel and picking up the receivers and backs coming out of the backfield. I understand that when we send a LB, that leaves space, but in most blitz situations the secondary is playing some type of zone and someone is responsible for the flat zone and backs coming out of the back field. This was a major problem and should not happen in this caliber of football. It seems they just went to a spot and sat down instead of seeing the receivers route and working to it. We did a poor job of reading the play, anticipating the route and being there. Were not always going to knock the ball down or intercept the ball, but the yardage we gave up after the (flat) catch was too much… On Cox, he got better, but needs to work on his head and eyes. He still tends to telegraph his decision in the direction he’s going to throw. He needs to do a better job looking off the DB’s.

Anonymous said...

David, great analysis but its time we quit trying to be "half glass full" on the Defense. Without the unusual blocked PAT, then SC would have kicked a field goal and we would have been 41-41 going into overtime -- against a mediocre to terrible quarterback and offense! We gave up 467 yards to this offense! That is not the way to be a champion. Everyone knows this Defensive scheme won't win championships, and just because those weaknesses didn't cause us a loss this game (school record return and return yards) doesn't mean more "Ls" aren't on the way. This defensive scheme is terrible and is going to get ripped apart by better offenses....

Silver Dawg said...

I've been following the Dawgs for a couple of millenia and reading columnists and commentary and news during that time.

David Hale is the finest I've yet seen. Period. Double period.

Thanks again, Sir David for all your hard work and insightful commentary.

A moderately twisted mind with a keyboard is a good thing, methinks.

HamDawg11 said...

Kudos to the offense and special teams, but I want to talk about the D for a moment.

Man, what a great game played by the defense!! They were on the field forever and played their hearts out. The offense and special teams put them in terrible situations throughout the game, but they still kept fighting. Out of the 37 points scored, SC really only had to "earn" 19 of them. With injuries, cramping, and little help from the O early on, the D played inspiring football.

For all the Willie haters out there, please take a week off and be thankful for the win. Try putting yourself out there for a 4 hour game and play at that high of a level. I'm proud of all the boys on defense, great job!

Go Dawgs!!!

FL Dawg said...

Great win glad to see the dawgs wake up.

1. 15 carries for Samuel??
2. Up ten in the fourth why are you throwing especially when the D has been on the field all game. Run some time off the clock! Then punt who cares.
3. Play some man coverage mix it up. The ole ball #### made Willie look silly as far as I’m concerned. Willie made Garcia look like an all american wich he is not.
4. When we expand the stadium are they looking to make it louder move the fans closer especially on the visitors side. I know it was rocking last night but lets make it the loudest get the echo
5. Will we ever out coach a team?
6. The worst thing to me about Willie is that his specialty is the secondary this is a scary thought.I almost feel better when the other team is in our red zone because with the short field Wille can't screw it up and would rather give up 3 than 6.

FL Dawg said...

Remember someone said the only person to keep Terell Davis under 100 yards was Ray Goff. Well the only person to give Garcia 300 yards is Willie M. Sorry Ray

Anonymous said...

"Will we ever out coach a team?"

Georgia set a team return yardage record for a game. In the first half alone.

Why didn't Saint Spurrier fix this?

Anonymous said...

Should have said we will never out whit another teams coaching staff. The returns where guys making plays. The fake punt? Not running with a 10 point lead? All of the easy passing yards givin up down the middle. How many times can Rennie and co shut teams down in the red zone? Our red zone D is sick. Why are we so weak against the pass the past few years? Its not the talent thats for sure.

Anonymous said...

I know no one is probably going to believe me, but I know someone who knows and he made an off handed comment. The USC coaches figured out the defensive calls. They need do figure out a better way to disguise things.

Will Q said...

Now I gave the coaching staff hell for the fake punt during the WVU Sugar Bowl because those guys had nothing to lose by going for it, but if you think our coaches should have realized that Spurrier would go for it on 4th and long inside his own 30 in the first half, you need to ratchet down your expectations. They don't get to consult with the Oracle of Delphi before the games.

Rusty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FL Dawg said...

Beamer is the special teams coach so special team trickery runs in his blood. The dawgs had two guys running back early to help block for the return and USC saw an opportunity. Also what about the short TD pass? We gave them a five yard cushion.

Michael said...

kickoffs? we're talking about kickoffs? its the simplest, most fundamental play of the game. the coach has been here for how many years now? and we're still discussing our strategy on kickoffs? seriously. we're talking about kickoffs. kickoffs. kickoffs? not the game, not the game. kickoffs. not the game, the university of georgia bulldogs are debating wkyhat they should do on kickoffs. kickoffs.

Zach said...


First let me say I've been reading your blog for about 1.5 years.. good stuff mayne.

Second, I noticed that they put Joe Cox in the shotgun way more than I've seen at georgia, I believe we were very productive on offense as a direct result of this.

Would you say that this is the change in offensive philosophy to match with the personnel that we have?