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Monday, September 28, 2009

Grading the Game: Arizona State

The reaction to Georgia's win over Arizona State has certainly been a mixed bag, ranging from elation to outrage to utter confusion. What are we to make of this team?

In truth, I'm not sure. I think we can clearly say there is a lot of potential there. I think we can also say that the mistakes are going to catch up to them sooner than later -- and maybe this week. But I'd argue there's a lot of reason for optimism.

I said before this game that if Georgia struggled with Arizona State, it would be catastrophic in terms of what fans could expect the rest of the way. It seemed to me like it should be a cake walk for the Dawgs, and another close game would be a pretty damning endorsement.

But after watching it play out in nail-biting, heart attack-inducing style, I'm actually feeling exactly the opposite about Georgia.

For one, the weather played a factor. A portion of the game plan had to be tempered because of the conditions, and all the rain essentially demanded a close game.

Secondly, Georgia continues to show a ton of grit in the face of adversity. Listen, as someone writing on deadline, I'd like to see an easy one as much as any of you, but the fact that the Bulldogs have continued to come back in tough games says a lot about their character.

Third, the defense did everything it was supposed to. No, I wasn't encouraged by the early success ASU had in the running game, but overall the D played spectacularly. They allowed just 204 total yards of offense and they were a brick wall in the fourth quarter. The way the D responded following Joe Cox's final interception was a revelation. Where has this been for the past two years?

Foruth, A.J. Green is a special player. I don't mean that in a "Matthew Stafford was a special player" sort of way, when you look at a guy's talents and think he's capable of anything. Green is special in the way Herschel Walker was special -- the type of player who simply changes the complexion of a game simply by being on the field. When that third-down pass went up on Georgia's final drive, everyone in the stadium -- including the Sun Devils -- knew who was coming down with it. There's an invaluable quality that Green brings. It's the knowledge that, no matter what else is going on, Georgia has a chance to win because it will always, in every game, have the best player on the field. It's an intangible bit of confidence (or concern if you're the opposition) that cannot be accounted for but changes how the game is played. He's one of a kind.

In fact, I think this anonymous commenter said it best: "If you were to create a receiver on NCAA and gave him 99s on everything, I still think AJ Green would be better."

And finally, in the credit where credit is due department, I'm going to say ASU isn't simply a mediocre Pac-10 team. No, Danny Sullivan isn't a game-breaking QB, and if the Sun Devils had Ryan Mallett on their side, they probably would have won that game. But Arizona State's defense was a lot better than I expected, led by a ridiculously talented corps of linebackers. That was a far tougher test than I assumed it would be, which alleviates a lot of the concern I might otherwise have about Georgia's performance.

And while folks will no doubt find plenty of flaws in the 20-17 win, I think it's worth posting this note from bnwdawg14, who provided us with this little reminder:

Scores from the '02 SEC squad
UGA 31 - Clem 28
UGA 13 - USC 7
UGA 27 - BAMA 25
UGA 18 - TENN 13
UGA 24 - AU 21

Scores from the '80 NC squad
UGA 16 - TENN 15
UGA 20 - Clem 16
UGA 28 - Ole Miss 21
UGA 13 - USC 10
UGA 26 - UF 21

It's a good point. The great teams don't always win easily, but they win. So with that, let's hand out some grades...

QUARTERBACKS: Well, you've got to hand it to Joe Cox, he's not one for the middle ground. One week, he's tying a school record for touchdowns, the next, he has you checking whether your health insurance covers a quintuple bypass surgery.

I'm not here to make any excuses for Cox. In fact, I'm pretty much in agreement with I'm-Thinking-19, who says Joe is who he is -- a decent QB who needs help along the way. Outside of A.J. Green, I'm not sure how much help he got against Arizona State, whether from the line, from the running game or from the play calling.

And if you've ever seen Cox in person, you know his measurements in Georgia's media guide probably are a bit generous. He's far from the biggest QB, and when you combine his smaller hands with a lack of great arm strength, it's obvious why the wet conditions could make throwing the ball difficult.

But let's get down to the bottom line here: Cox has started four games this season, and he has turned the ball over six times (and it would have been seven if not for Carlton Thomas' heads-up dash to cover up a fumble against South Carolina). Not all have been Cox's fault, but after all the talk about his MENSA-level knowledge of the playbook and instinctual decision making this offseason, that number is simply too high. Way too high.

Both of Cox's picks against Arizona State came on the exact same play call. In fact, it was the only two times that play was called the entire game. What it came down to, Mike Bobo said, was an idea to do whatever it took to get the ball into Green's hands, and Joe forced two throws that weren't there.

You can look at that in one of two ways. On one hand, a fifth-year senior should know when it's time to force a throw and when it's not -- and it definitely wasn't time when he threw those two picks. On the other hand, Cox is playing with confidence -- maybe a little too much, but that's better than the alternative.

Following the loss to Oklahoma State, Cox said what held Georgia back was a fear of making a mistake. They allowed worries about bad plays to prevent them from rolling the dice on a good play.

Following the Arizona State game, I asked Joe if they'd be scrapping the play that went 2-for-2 to the other team from the call sheet for this week's game. No, he said. It was a good play, and looking on film, his tight end was wide open both times. It was his execution that lacked, but he said he'd make the throw again and again -- just hopefully with a bit better decision making preceding it next time.

Confidence has its drawbacks, but I think this Joe Cox is far superior to the one who trudged off the field down and dejected following the loss in Week 1.

Another note on Cox, which I think cannot be overstated enough: He has seen significant action if six games in his career. In four of them, he's led Georgia to come-from-behind wins. When players and coaches talked about his leadership during the offseason, I don't think that was remotely oversold. The kid really does know what it takes to help a team win. In fact, I think this quote from tight end Aron White sums things up perfectly:

"Joe bounces back really well after a turnover. Just the presence he has on the field and when he comes to the sidelines, keeping everybody's mind right. That really helps our team. Last year, we might have gone in the ditch a little bit after turnovers. This year, we’ve had some turnover issues early on, but we take it in stride and come out the next series with something to prove."

I noted in my post yesterday that Georgia would probably be 0-4 right now without A.J. Green. That's true, but I think it's fair to say the same might be true of Cox. He has changed the personality of this offense, and while his skill set doesn't match that of Matthew Stafford, I think what he does bring to the table has been far more important to this team than anything it lost in terms of arm strength.

A few other quick notes on the quarterbacking:

-- Cox had two screen passes that should have been caught that may have made his numbers look a good bit better.

-- I would have loved to have seen some key short-yardage situations become play-action passes rather than runs. Why you take the ball out of the hands of your veteran leader and put it into the hands of a guy with three career carries is tough to explain.

-- That pass to Green in the end zone should have been a TD and probably would have changed the perspective on this game quite a bit if it had been called properly.

-- If Georgia is going to use Logan Gray, give the kid a fighting chance. His role, along with Branden Smith's, was intriguing early, but has quickly become excessively predictable. Remember Tim Tebow's freshman year? Gray is no Tebow, obviously, but it was the handful of throws that Tebow was able to make that kept defenses honest enough to open up running lanes. Bobo would be well serves to throw a few different looks in the mix to keep opposing coaches guessing.

Final Grade: C+

RUNNING BACKS: I'm not saying I know the answer here because I don't. But what I do know is that Georgia is not utilizing its running game to its potential. Just 92 yards on the ground against Arizona State is testament to that.

First off, if you have a tailback with Richard Samuel's size and strength, and an experienced fullback like Shaun Chapas, why is Fred Munzenmaier getting four short-yardage carries in a game?

Second, if Samuel is averaging less than two yards per carry during the past two games (not counting his lone 80-yard TD when he went down the middle untouched), why is Caleb King still getting just 11 carries in a game in which weather conditions made throwing the ball particularly difficult?

The only answer I can come up with for either question is ball security, and I suppose it's a reasonable concern.

But here's the catch: Georgia has three primary tailbacks, and all of them have fumbled at least once this year. So what do you do? Do you bench them and let Munzenmaier be your primary ball carrier or do you get back on the horse and give them another shot?

Again, I don't know the correct answers, but I do know that the Bulldogs need more consistent productivity from their running game if the offense is going to function at full speed, and right now they're not getting that.

Setting aside Samuel's 80-yarder last week, he has just 52 yards rushing on his last 26 carries -- in other words, two yards per touch.

King, on the other hand, is averaging well over five yards per carry and has looked much better at shedding tacklers and picking up yards when space was at a premium.

Of course, King also fumbled in a crucial situation against Arizona State, and he dropped two open screen passes that could have easily gone for big gains.

Of course, King also has six carries of 10 yards or longer on 22 carries in the past two games. Samuel has one on 27 carries.

It seems pretty obvious at this point that either a.) King is the more dynamic back and deserves more touches, or b.) Samuel is the type of back who needs to get in a routine and needs more touches. Or maybe I'm way off on both.

But here's what Cox had to say: "We definitely didn't run the ball this past game like we wanted to. With the backs we have and especially with our line, we could be a really good running team. We've had flashes of really good plays, it's just a matter of consistency."

Consistency has to start with having a consistent approach, and I'm not sure that's been there for Samuel or King so far. Again, I haven't the foggiest idea what that consistent approach should be, but giving the ball to the fullback in key situations clearly isn't it.

I also mentioned last week that I though Chapas would likely see more action against ASU than he had all season. That turned out to be true, but not by much. Instead it was Munzenmaier who got the majority of the touches at fullback. Munzenmaier had some success -- scoring once and picking up a first down near the goal line on his second carry. But the decision to give him a crucial fourth-and-one carry was inexplicable. Even if you want to make the argument that the risk of a fumble by King or Samuel was too great to give them the ball, then that inherent risk should have been factored into the decision to go for it on fourth down in the first place. In a tie game, Blair Walsh should have been on the field to kick the go-ahead field goal there. Of course, that's more of a coaching issue than a running backs issue.

Final Grade: C

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: Let's start with the non-A.J. contributors.

Rantavious Wooten took another big step forward, catching two passes -- both for first downs -- and looking really good doing it. His first catch, which he made a nifty move to stay in bounds for -- was particularly impressive, and you can see why coaches praised his skills coming into the season.

Wooten didn't come as highly acclaimed as fellow freshman Marlon Brown, but he did arrive in Athens with two big assets: Polished route-running skills and a ton of speed. He demonstrated both against Arizona State, and the successful results probably mean we'll see a lot more of him in the coming weeks.

Mike Moore didn't do much to follow up on his impressive performance against Arkansas, but he didn't have a lot of opportunities either. Still, as the lone senior in the group, he needs to be more consistent in providing Georgia with a reliable second option opposite Green.

Tavarres King and Aron White combined for three catches and 34 yards, while Orson Charles had just one grab for zero yards.

And yet, Charles might have had the second-biggest impact of any offensive player in the game for Georgia.

Clearly the work Charles had done during the past few weeks made an impact on how Arizona State game planned defensively. While he was limited to just one grab, it was because he garnered a lot more attention than usual, and that impact was felt in two crucial situations.

The first came on a deep pass thrown his way in the first quarter on which ASU's Terell Carr was essentially forced to shove Charles out of the way and take a pass interference flag. That allowed Georgia to convert a third-and-28 and set up the Bulldogs' second touchdown.

But the biggest play of the game for Charles was one on which the ball didn't even come his way. On Georgia's final drive, the Bulldogs faced a third-and-6 from their own 42. The play was a go route, and Cox had two options -- Charles or Green. This was easily the most critical defensive play of the game for Arizona State, and the player they chose to double wasn't the superstar sophomore. It was Charles.

The result was man coverage for Green, and Cox connected with his receiver for a 36-yard gain to set up the winning field goal.

"It's tough for defenses to double (Green) because they know they'll have matchup problems with other guys, and that was probably something that came from how well we threw the ball last week," Cox said.

Of course, Charles work as a decoy was important, but the star of the show was no doubt Mr. Green.

He recorded his second straight 100-yard receiving day and, if the officiating had been a bit better, would have had two touchdowns in the game.

Regardless, here are the stats A.J. is on pace for this season: 80 catches, 1,380 receiving yards and 13 TDs. All would be school records.

I'm not going to relive all the drama that Green provided Saturday. It's all been said and written. But I thought I'd share this quote from White, who recollected the best catch he's ever seen Green make.

"It was probably in preseason practice his freshman year. He ran a post and broke it hard. I think it was Stafford threw it behind him. He jumped, but when he jumped he kind of like stopped all forward momentum and twisted his body backward and caught the ball, completely parallel to the ground behind him with both hands. But then, somehow, he twisted in the air, got his feet back under him, landed and took off running. Everyone was like, wow."

Luckily, I was able to track down some footage of Green making several similar moves...

One other thing: I mentioned in my Sunday post that there were still shots of A.J. getting his foot in bounds on the second TD reception that was ruled incomplete. That elicited a few emails like this one: "I also thought it was a terrible call on A.J.'s catch in the end zone, but that was based only on the TV pictures I saw. Do you have links to the still photos you mentioned that show his right foot down in bounds?"

To answer your question: No, I don't have links. I saw them after the game from photographers. I have no idea where they are though. If anyone comes across a shot, let me know. Of course, A.J. also swears he was in bounds, and at this point, how could you not take his word for it?

UPDATE: Daniel Shirey from the Red & Black sent me THIS, which if you look and see that the tip of Green's foot is hidden behind the grass, provides some good evidence that he made the catch. Either way, it was a heck of an effort.

Final Grade: A (and it's a shame they don't make grades higher than A to give to A.J. He should really get his own symbol -- sort of like Prince.)

OFFENSIVE LINE: I asked Mark Richt why he thought the offensive line wasn't playing up to the standards many of us had for the unit in the preseason, and here's what he said:

"The loss of Trinton (Sturdivant) and Tanner Strickland certainly didn't help us, and we're just now beginning to get Josh Davis back, which will be another piece of the pie. There's been some games they've played beautifully, but this game in particular wasn't one of the best ones of the year. We've just got to get after it and play smart."

After the fourth word of that sentence, I'm fairly certain the rest of the explanation isn't relevant. I'm sure Strickland and Davis are good guys, but their losses haven't set the O line back, and "getting after it" should sort of go without saying, right?

But despite the overall irrelevancy of Richt's statement, there actually is some truth in there.

For one, Sturdivant's loss does hurt more than we probably noticed at first. It has been two years since Georgia has been able to trot out the same starting lineup on the O line for four consecutive games. While consistency was supposed to be the key for this year's unit, Georgia has already employed four different starting lineups in four games. The starting five Georgia spent all preseason working with already looks nothing like the one the Bulldogs are using now.

Mike Bobo warned during the preseason that the O line wasn't going to be quite as impressive as everyone assumed. It seemed at the time like typical coachspeak, tempering expectations despite a lack of evidence for doing so. But it turns out he was right, and the growing pains have played out on the field so far this season.

Saturday's game showed why there were high expectations for the O line but also underscored just how far the group is from achieving those expectations.

First, there are the penalties. A week earlier, Georgia had six false starts and three holding calls against Arkansas. The unit improved dramatically on that this week (just two of each) but back-to-back false starts will likely overshadow any of the overall gains.

But why so many flags from a veteran unit?

"It's something we can easily fixed," right tackle Clint Boling said. "It's just about being more focused. It has nothing to do with not being able to hear or anything, it's just going out and not focusing."

OK, easily fixed. That's good. But raise your hand if you ever expected to hear lack of focus as a rationale for failure from a Stacy Searels-coached unit.

Then there's the blocking.

Against Oklahoma State, the pass blocking was abysmal. It has improved each week since then, and the line -- namely new left tackle Cordy Glenn -- did a nice job against Dexter Davis, who is a legit NFL prospect. Joe Cox wasn't sacked in the game, although Richt said his first INT came as a result of excessive pressure that forced him to get rid of the ball too soon.

The run blocking, however, seems to have gotten worse. In that first game against OSU, Richt said it was simply about finishing blocks -- keeping the defender at bay for an extra half-second. But the line seems to have backslid from there. Yes, there was the 80-yard run by Samuel last week that was all about the big gap opened up by the line. But that's been the exception. Georgia's backs have not had much room to run the past two weeks, and while Caleb King has done a nice job of creating some yards, the short-yardage problems against Arizona State were particularly obvious.

The frustrating part is that there are times when the line shows flashes of the dominance so many expected. It just hasn't been consistent. And perhaps that's a function of the lack of consistency in the lineup (with Justin Anderson probably the least consistent, and Vince Vance not far behind). Vance, by the way, played at left guard Saturday, rotating with Chris Davis.

Boling isn't giving up on the unit yet. While Bobo wanted to temper expectations in the preseason, Boling said there's no reason the fans or the players should think that way.

"We expect that out of ourselves, too, just with the potential that we have the talent that some of these guys have along with the experience," he said. "We all know we can be playing better right now, we've just got to go out and do it."

Final Grade: C

DEFENSIVE LINE: This was easily the best performance Georgia's defensive line has had all season, and it began with the SEC lineman of the week -- Justin Houston.

To give you an idea of how insanely important that is for Georgia: The last time a Bulldogs defensive end was named the SEC's D lineman of the week, it was Charles Johnson, and it came in the same game Joe Cox started against Ole Miss in 2006. That's a long time to go without a dominant performance by a D-end.

In his second game back from suspension, Houston was dominant off the edge. He had four tackles, two for a loss and a sack and helped limit Arizona State to just 88 yards rushing -- including a net loss of four yards on the ground in the fourth quarter. Houston was in the backfield all night, and his performance clearly opened up some lanes for interior lineman Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens, who both had their best games of the season.

In all, Georgia recorded nine tackles for a loss (six from D linemen), which was a particularly impressive feat considering the Dawgs had just 12 in their three previous games.

ASU tailback Dimitri Nance had a lot of early success on the ground, particularly running up the middle, but Georgia put the clamps down in the fourth quarter, essentially halting the Sun Devils' offensive attack, given that quarterback Danny Sullivan was unable to stretch the field with his arm.

Cornelius Washington was noticeably absent from the stat sheet following the game, but Brandon Wood did make a surprise appearance. A week ago, Wood appeared headed for a medical redshirt following offseason shoulder surgery, but coaches decided they needed his help at D end and he was on the field -- although not on the rosters distributed to media -- for the game. He finished with one tackle, playing about 20 snaps.

Arizona State clearly won't be the toughest opponent Georgia's D line faces this season, but it was a good step forward. Houston appears ready to make an impact, and if Atkins and Owens could get a bit more time on the field together, it's fair to assume they will, too. The other defensive end spot remains a mystery, however, and it's a position Georgia needs to find an answer at. If Wood can become a factor or if Washington can continue to step up with Demarcus Dobbs handling a share of the reps as well, this line has the potential to become a strength of the defense.

They're nowhere near that yet, but for the first time in a long time, it at least seems like a possibility.

Final Grade: A-

LINEBACKERS: I've been less than impressed with Georgia's linebackers the past two weeks, but against Arizona State, the unit played well.

Rennie Curran had just six tackles and, for perhaps the first time I can remember, actually missed a tackle badly on a run by Nance in the second quarter. Beyond that, Curran was his usual self, and Arizona State avoided the underneath passes in the middle of the field for much of the game. That was key since Sullivan didn't really have the arm to go deep routinely, leaving the short out routes to the sidelines as the only successful part of the Sun Devils' passing attack.

Darius Dewberry returned from a two-week absence and looked good, making three tackles. Darryl Gamble was solid, if unspectacular. But I think the player who really needs to be talked about is Marcus Dowtin.

As a freshman last season, Dowtin saw minimal action, but he has come on strong this season. He had four tackles in the game, including one for a loss, and had a sack of Sullivan that was overturned by a Georgia flag. He now has 21 tackles on the season -- good for third on the team, despite limited playing time -- and he has yet to be exposed at any point in the passing game.

As Willie Martinez talks about getting more playing time for the younger guys on D, Dowtin needs to be at the top of the list. I like Dewberry, but right now Georgia's best linebacker set is with Curran, Dowtin and Gamble on the field.

Final Grade: B+

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Martinez says redshirt freshman Baccari Rambo needed more playing time, and he was right.

Rambo saw easily the most action of his career against Arizona State, and he responded with a phenomenal four-tackle performance that included Georgia's second interception of the season. Rambo also had a crucial pass breakup on a second-down throw by Sullivan across the middle on Arizona State's final drive following Cox's second INT. That left the Sun Devils in a third-and-long, eventually forcing the field goal attempt that Green blocked. Houston definitely earned defensive MVP honors for this game, but Rambo deserves a close second (and that's not even counting a couple of nice plays on special teams as well).

Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith both shook off shaky performances against Arkansas by playing well. Boykin had five tackles, including one for a loss. Arizona State didn't challenge the Bulldogs downfield often, but when they did, Boykin handled coverage well. Smith saw a nice uptick in his playing time with Vance Cuff out, and he responded strongly. His confidence grows by the game, and it's not unreasonable to think that he might be Georgia's best cornerback by the end of the season.

Reshad Jones added to his big-hit highlight reel during the first half on a pass intended for Jovon Williams -- this time avoiding a flag -- but he was also burned by Kyle Williams on a 30-yard bomb, the longest play of the day for Arizona State.

And finally we have Prince Miller. In coverage, he played OK, but if Ryan Mallett had been throwing those passes again rather than Sullivan, I'm not sure how good Miller's stat line might look. And then there was the botched chance at an INT when Sullivan threw the ball up for grabs, and Miller froze like a deer in headlights as it fell to the ground in front of him. Miller isn't the most talented player in Georgia's secondary, but he is supposed to be the veteran leader, and he needs to make that play.

All in all, however, it was a solid performance by the DBs, who allowed ASU just 116 yards through the air -- or nearly 300 fewer than Arkansas tallied a week earlier.

Final Grade: B+

SPECIAL TEAMS: There were no fireworks in the return game this week, and Drew Butler saw his best-in-the-nation punting average drop a bit, but I think this can be chalked up as one of the finest special teams performances of the season for the Bulldogs -- and maybe one of the finest in a couple of years.

Blair Walsh was excellent on kickoffs, and Arizona State's best starting field position following a kick was its own 33. No return was longer than 18 yards, and Walsh recorded another touchback in the game.

Of course, it was his field goal as time expired that everyone will remember. Walsh booted two kicks in the game, bringing his season total to a perfect 8-for-8 mark. The sophomore is miles ahead of where he was last year in terms of compartmentalizing his roles and keeping an even keel throughout. He's been exceptional.

Then, of course, there's A.J. Green. When asked after the game if he's a regular contributor on special teams, his answer was perfect.

"Nah," he said. "Just when we need it."

I've heard a good number of fans complain about Georgia's lack of heart this season. Quite frankly, I don't get it. I wonder if they're watching the same games I am.

If you want to complain about the Bulldogs' lack of smarts, be my guest. The play calling, the defensive fundamentals, the bad decisions -- those things have cost Georgia this season. But heart? That's been there in spades.

Green's ups to block what would have been a go-ahead field goal showed how much the Bulldogs want to win this year. The same could be said of DeAngelo Tyson's block of a PAT against South Carolina. Those are plays that are nearly automatic for the opposition, and Georgia fought the battle anyway and won. Both plays were the difference between winning and losing.

There are probably a few dozen other examples of plays like that this season -- more than a few coming in Saturday's win -- but I think the work on special teams says it best. Again, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Georgia this year, but heart clearly isn't one of them. The Bulldogs may not have gone through quite so much adversity a year ago thanks to all the talent they had, but I also have absolutely no doubt they couldn't have overcome so much of it either.

One minor complaint on special teams, however: Um, Mr. Chapas, when your return man is standing four inches behind you, go ahead and let him catch the ball.

Final Grade: A

COACHING: This game really demonstrated some of the best and some of the worst of Georgia's coaching issues. Let's take a look at a few examples:

-- Mike Bobo once again had a nice game plan coming in. Georgia went down the field and scored on its first two possessions. And then? Nothing. It was eerily reminiscent of Oklahoma State, but really, it looked so much like so many other games, too. Think back to last year's game against Arizona State. That should have been a blowout, but remained close through much of the second half. Or last year's game against Tennessee. Or Vanderbilt. Or Auburn. It's frustrating to see a team that clearly can move the ball, but manages to shoot itself in the foot far too often to establish any sort of consistency.

(EDIT: Georgia scored on two of its first three possessions -- the first drive was a three-and-out.)

-- If you look at any of Bobo's play calls in a vacuum, they all seem reasonable. Yes, the toss sweep has long been a successful play for Georgia, but why run it at the 1-yard line? Yes, Munzenmaier has had a lot of success in short yardage situations, but why run it -- for a FOURTH TIME -- in a crucial fourth-and-1 situation?

-- Give Willie Martinez some credit: He played this one exactly how most fans wanted him to. He swapped players in and out, gave a lot of PT to the young guys and he made ASU work for every yard. The flaws in the defense Saturday weren't coaching (and really, there weren't a lot of flaws to begin with). It also goes to show that Willie wasn't just rambling on about nothing when he says that pressure up front is essential. It made all the difference Saturday.

-- And while ASU wasn't the toughest test Willie's boys will face this year, 204 yards of total offense is still a darned impressive number. And once again, the D was at its best when it mattered most. The stop following the final turnover was an illustration of exactly the type of defense fans have been clamoring for. Give credit where it's due.

-- I don't get the fourth-and-1 call at all. First off, I think you have to take the points there, and that's coming from someone who almost always thinks it's a good idea to go for it on fourth-and-short. But you're midway through the fourth quarter in a tie game and your kicker has been spot on all season. Plus, your O line has looked terrible in run blocking up to that point in the game. And on top of all that, what does a first down really get you? I could see going for it from inside the 10. But even if Georgia converts, it hardly guaranteed a touchdown.

What's worse, however, was the play call itself. A play action fake and a toss to Green would probably have gone for six. ASU cheated its linebackers up and it was obvious they were ready for the fullback run. What's even worse than that is that Bobo KNEW they were ready for it. After the ridiculousness of the shoved official and the long delay to get the play off, ASU had plenty of time to read the personnel, recognize the play, talk it over and then regroup in the right formation. All of this time went by, and at no point did Bobo decide to change the play. It was telegraphed from the start.

-- The penalties have got to stop. Much like the turnovers, it will eventually become something that the offense cannot continue to overcome. Like Richt, I don't care about some of the more aggressive penalties, but the false starts, the illegal formations -- that stuff is inexcusable. And since Richt has been saying it's been a focus in practice for going on 12 full months now, you have to ask yourself whether there's a serious flaw in how the coaches are focusing on it.

-- Kudos to John Jancek for insisting that A.J. Green be playing on Georgia's field-goal block unit, and kudos to Richt for backing him up. Fans have clamored to have the best players on the field on special teams, and that's exactly what Georgia did. My guess is people would be ready to run Jancek out of town if Green had twisted an ankle on the play, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, it was a decision made by a coach a month ago that didn't get talked about at the time but turned out to be the difference in the game Saturday.

After four weeks, I'm not sure if Georgia is a really good but flawed team or a really flawed but good team. My instinct is to say it's the former. Some of those flaws have stemmed from some poor choices by the coaching staff, but a good bit of the success has come from the coaches, too. Like virtually every other aspect of Georgia's team, the coaching staff has tons of potential if they'd simply stop shooting themselves in the foot.

I don't always agree with how Georgia's coaches, including Richt, have handled things from Monday through Friday, but at this point, the past three Saturdays have all ended with wins, and the staff deserves a good chunk of the credit for that.

Final Grade: B

So, where did I go wrong? What did I miss? What worried or impressed you about Saturday's win? Are you more or less confident going into the LSU game than you were last week?


Anonymous said...

We did not score on our first drive. We went three and out.

Daniel Shirey said...

Here's one of the stills.

Anonymous said...

"He should really get his own symbol -- sort of like Prince.)"

That would be Prince the singer not Prince Miller the player!!!

David Hale said...

Prince Miller's symbol would be a ref holding two arms up, right?

Ah, that was a low blow. I just couldn't help making the joke. I'm weak.

Anonymous said...

Low blow but hilarious, cuz its true! I havent refered to him as Princess in awhile but his play lately seems to have regressed. He looked so much better on punt returns last year too!

I like the observation about Chapas grabbing that kickoff when Boykin was right behind him. I dont know if it was Boykin who didnt let him know he was in position to catch it or not...BUT it sure looked like he saw an opening or two.

NYCDawg said...

Princess is right. I'd like to just give him a D- for the season and call it a year.

Anyone else confused by the lack of pressure on punts? If B Smith is the fastest guy out there, let him go at it a few times...and what happened to Zack Renner, Special Teams Extraordinaire?

Ant123 said...

David, I don't think you missed anything really. The O-line is not what it should be and had ASU had a average or better QB we would have probably lost.
In short we have proven we can beat teams if they fail to execute one one side of the ball or the other. How are we gonna do if they execute fairly well on both sides of the ball? Of course should we decide to execute on both sides of the ball the same game we are gonna be pretty good too.

Anonymous said...


Good assessment. If any of our fans are saying our players don't have heart they are morons. I am graduate and a 28 year season ticket holder and I am seeing a very talented bunch of kids bust their guts out there. What has made me angry this season is that our coaches (some of them) are not putting these kids in positions to be successful. I have been very critical of Willie but he deserves much credit for playing the young guys Saturday and getting better results. Coach Bobo's calls are sometimes brilliant and sometimes mind numbingly idiotic. We often don't have the right personnel in for his plays. For example, it is painfully obvious that Richard Samuel has good top speed but he is not a "cut back" type of running back. Why do we continue to toss him the ball 7 yards behind the line and expect him to cut it up and get around the corner. That is Caleb's run. Samuel should be runnning plays more north and south - not laterally. I really like all of our skill guys on the outside and I think we have a chance to be really good on offense. Let's see which defense shows up this week. Thank you for the daily insight.

Lee / @Suthrn_Shepherd said...

One key aspect of the picture that shows why the ref missed the call being 5 feet away from the play, is where the refs eyes are. You can see from the photo that they were on AJ catching the ball, and NOT on AJ getting his feet in the endzone. I'm not ref so i don't know where they teach them to focus, but on a play like that, i'm looking at feet first and then checking to see if he came down with the ball.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have an idea if/when Marlon Brown will see the field?

Matthew said...

If you look in that still photo you can see that A.J.'s shoe is untied as well!! Freaking amazing!

Gregg in Albany said...

There has been some confusion on whether the refs in ASU game were a SEC or PAC 10 crew. I am fairly certain they were an SEC crew. Agree? Regardless, it is amazing to me that the SEC, which has the BEST players, most attendance, unbelievable fan passion, and the MOST money, has the WORST officials in college football!!!!!!!!!!!! Simply amazing.

Anonymous said...

First I'd like to say, as a Maconite, that I thoroughly enjoy reading both your Telegraph write ups and your blog. Always highly informative. So thank you for that. Secondly, I'd like to call you out on your Marlon Brown prediction last week saying you "guaranteed" MB's first catch of the year against ASU. What were you basing that on? I am dying to see this kid in action! Thanks again.

Unknown said...

Excellent job as always . . . really look forward to this blog every day.

On point about the coaching, if A.J. can block kicks like that he should be on the kick block unit a lot more often. You don't want to have a guy get hurt on a play where he's not able to utilize his talent, but A.J.'s ability to leap seems especially suited to blocking kicks and while those plays are not as crucial as catching touchdowns, they are not too far behind them either, especially if Georgia continues to play close games.

Anonymous said...

After the Oklahoma State game I felt like it was 50/50 whether or not we would beat S.Carolina. That assessment turned out to be dead on as that game could undoubtedly have gone either way. The next week I thought was also 50/50. Last week I became slightly more confident and felt it was about 60/40 us. Now with LSU coming into town I'm back to 50/50, not so much because I think we are good enough to have such even chances against the #4 team in the nation but mainly because they haven't looked real swift either. Finally, in the words of Lloyd Bentson: "I knew the 2002 Ga Bulldogs, the 2002 Ga Bulldogs were friends of mine, you sirs are no 2002 Ga Bulldogs".