Sunday, November 29, 2009
The picture above was the post-game press box meal. I'm hopeful that will be the last Papa Johns we see this football season.
Sorry for the late posting on this. I didn't get in from Atlanta until after 3, so I figured I'd wait a bit before writing this in the hope that it would turn out slightly more coherent with a few less mis-spellings. We shall see…
-- I'm not entirely sure where to begin, because there are a lot of kudos to be handed out across the board for Georgia, but I think perhaps it's appropriate to single out Reshad Jones. The UGA safety was so roundly criticized after his performance against Tech a year ago that he seriously considered bolting for the NFL. This time around, he probably played the best game of his career, and virtually every play he made was a difference-maker in the final outcome.
-- With all due respect to Mr. Green, Jones' interception of Jaybo Shaw was probably the prettiest catch of the season by a Georgia player.
-- Speaking of Jaybo, Georgia caught a break when Josh Nesbitt limped to the sideline in the first quarter. Perhaps it wouldn't have made any difference, but Tech gained a whopping two total yards on two drives with Shaw in the game.
-- OK, the running game. Plenty of credit to go around...
-- Mike Bobo, the king of the "balanced" offense, called 13 straight running plays to start the game. He deserves a ton of credit for sticking with what worked and killing a ton of clock. While UGA eventually won the time-of-possession battle by just six seconds, the Dawgs held a five-minute edge in the first half, which turned out to be crucial.
-- Can we officially say all that talk early in the year that Caleb King was a bust was premature? King ran with authority, scored two touchdowns (giving him four in the past three games) and averaged 9.2 yards per carry.
-- And how about Washaun Ealey? We knew he had it in him to run the ball as well as he did, but it was probably fair to wonder how the kid would recover from the devastating fumble at the goal line in the final minutes against Kentucky last week. He heard plenty of criticism -- even from his own coaches -- last week, and King said the play was "still messing with his head" but Ealey responded with a spectacular performance. He picked up 183 yards in the game -- nearly matching the high-water mark for Knowshon Moreno's career -- on just 20 carries, averaging 9.1 yards per touch.
-- The offensive line played phenomenally. King had some exceptional runs down the middle of the field. I can't help but wonder if King saved Ben Jones' life at some point in the past month, because the sophomore center has made it his job to open up holes between the tackles for King to run through. You'll remember King's final TD against Auburn on which Jones told him, "Just follow me and you're going to score." The 75-yarder King picked up went straight down the middle, too, and King was hardly touched. But even the outside runs -- particularly those by Ealey -- went for huge gains. It was easily the best performance of the season by the O line and the tight ends.
-- And one guy who we haven't talked about much this year but easily had his best game of the season was Shaun Chapas. The lack of production, particularly in the blocking game, by the veteran fullback had been a huge disappointment this year, but against Tech, Chapas looked every bit as good as he was during his spectacular sophomore season a year ago.
-- I think we can officially say that the ACC is not a very physical conference.
-- If this really was Willie Martinez's final game, Mark Richt sent him out on a high note. I know Richt will say that the decision to kick a 55-yard field goal with 3:03 to play was mostly based on the confidence he had in Blair Walsh, but don't believe it. Richt rolled the dice giving Tech the ball at its own 37-yard line needing a touchdown for the win.
Tell me that every Georgia fan watching the game wasn't having nightmares of Georgia's defense folding on that final drive and Richt being absolutely excoriated for the next nine months because of it.
And tell me that every still lucid UGA fan wasn't ready to give up on the game when Tech converted the fourth-and-1 at their own 46 with 1:53 to play.
But that's not how things played out. Richt had faith in his D -- and in turn, faith in Willie -- and the Dawgs came up huge. The coverage on the final four throws was exceptional, and while it may not be enough to erase the demons of Martinez's past, it was a fitting way to end the regular season and, perhaps, his career at Georgia.
-- And speaking of staff changes: Richt again would not commit to anything, but it's hard not to assume something will happen after his notably neutral responses after the game. There would have been no better time for him to endorse his defensive staff than after that stand, but that's not what he did. Here's what he said on the subject:
“Here’s the thing – I’ve been focusing so hard on the season, and that’s what I’ve been focused on. I know we’ve got some areas we need to improve in, but right now I’m just going to enjoy this victory.”
-- And while that wasn't necessarily a poignant quote in either direction, I think this statement, which Richt offered up on his own, also said a lot, without actually saying anything.
“I think that as I look back I’ve never had a season where the turnover ration was just so poor,” Richt said. “I think if you just take that one thing and make it just break even, we’d probably win two or three more games without changing one thing. But you can’t do that, and there’s definitely some things we need to correct. But I think everything is correctable. I think it’s a season of self-inflicted wounds, and that’s my responsibility to make sure we do better.”
-- Speaking of those turnovers, did anyone notice Caleb's fumble came on Georgia's 13th straight run. Lucky No. 13.
-- And how about Geno Atkins corralling a fumble? It took a long time, but finally the ball bounced Georgia's way.
-- Mark Richt did praise the kick coverage team (and the special teams as a whole) after the game. Ummm… huh? Blair Walsh's first two kickoffs went for touchbacks. Then on kick No. 3, they go back to the directional approach, and it flies out of bounds. On Walsh's four kickoffs in the second half, he had a touchback and three directional kicks. One was covered well, and Tech started at its own 17. The other two were both problematic. The first resulted in a 25-yard return and nearly ended with a flag on Georgia, but as it turned out it was Tech that drew the flag for a hold. The final kickoff was exceptionally executed by Walsh, but the coverage team struggled to contain it, and Tech returned it 44 yards to the 41. The Yellow Jackets scored on that drive.
So the quick math: On three deep kicks, Georgia was a perfect 3-for-3 getting touchbacks. On four directional kicks, Georgia was 1-for-4 on executing them properly, with two of the three mistakes leading to exceptional field position for Tech.
-- The drops by Georgia's receivers this year have been really ugly. Rantavious Wooten made amends for his with a big 23-yard grab, but the drops are really becoming an ugly trend.
-- I do credit Bobo for sticking with the run, but I'm surprised by his lack of attacking downfield. The run was so successful that Tech had switched to a cover-zero in the second half. On Caleb's 75-yarder, there were no safeties deep, which is what allowed him to go to the house after he got past that second line of defense. So why not use the play-action against Tech, who was selling out for the run, and try to connect on a couple of deep balls? If I'm not mistaken, I think the 23-yarder to Wooten was the longest passing attempt of the game.
-- Georgia only had five penalties -- marking the third straight game they've been at five or fewer -- but again, the ones they got all seemed to come at some really bad times. That's the thing with flags… it's not so much the quantity, but rather when they happen.
-- It's really hard to overstate how much the defense improved over its performance a year ago against Tech. There was really only one truly bad play by the D, and that was on Demayrius Thomas' 76-yard touchdown reception when Vance Cuff missed a tackle badly and Bryan Evans took a horrible angle to the ball. But beyond that, the big plays were largely kept to a minimum, and while Tech did score 24 points, the defense made the Jackets work for everything. That's exactly what you have to do against a team like that.
-- Seriously… Jonathan Dwyer had 33 yards on 14 carries. The only team to hold Dwyer to fewer yards per carry was Miami, which not surprisingly, was the only other team to beat Tech. (And in that game, Dwyer got just five carries.) Willie Martinez did a spectacular job of making Tech do things they aren't generally comfortable doing by taking away their best player.
-- Justin Houston might be the most under-appreciated player in the SEC. He played a monster game, finishing with six tackles, including two for a loss. The defensive ends are so important against Tech's offense, and they have an exceptionally tough job. They have to beat cut blocks, get penetration without being overly aggressive, make the reads to avoid getting burned on the pitch and still pursue laterally. Houston did all of that and then some. If he hadn't missed those first two games -- and heck, even though he did -- he needs to be in consideration for All-SEC.
-- Ho-hum. Another 15 tackles for Rennie Curran.
-- Give Brandon Boykin some credit. I think the coaches were hoping to keep him off the field, but he gutted it out and played really well.
-- Back to UGA's tailbacks for a moment. Since the Vandy game, here are the totals for Caleb King and Washaun Ealey: King has 68 carries for 413 yards on the ground and six catches for 46 yards. Ealey has 94 rushes for 588 yards and two catches for 26 yards. In other words, for the past six games, Georgia's two tailbacks have averaging 6.3 yards per touch.
-- Just as a basis for comparison: Ealey and King have combined for 1,073 yards from scrimmage in the past six games. Knowshon Moreno's best six-game stretch last season resulted in just 900 yards from scrimmage.
-- Russ was a very popular dog after the game.
-- I was busy trying to frantically type up the conclusion to my story in the final seconds -- which has become routine for me -- so I missed the very ending when UGA attempted to give Mark Richt a Powerade bath. Saw the highlights on "SportsCenter" though and he was NOT happy about it.
-- Great post-game Tweet from Michael Moore: We already played the lamecocks and won, so i think that makes us ACC Champs :)
-- I heard from more than a few folks last week about how down the UGA locker room was after the Kentucky game. This team had every reason to be simply waiting for the season to end. The fact that the Dawgs went out and not only played well, but dominated the line of scrimmage and played a smart, focused ballgame is a tribute to the coaching staff, the leaders on the team like Joe Cox and Jeff Owens and Rennie Curran and the overall heart and determination of a group of guys who, despite having plenty of bad moments in terms of execution, have never backed down from adversity this season.
-- By the way, how odd is it that that was the first time I had to mention Joe Cox?
-- Nice job on press box tech support Georgia Tech. Loved not having Internet access on deadline. At least your tricycle races went well. You're really doing remarkable things for society.
-- And how about turning down the main on the PA a bit, eh? My ears are still bleeding.
-- And I think this comment by Jameson is the perfect way to sum things up...
"Dear St. Simons,
Posted by David Hale at 11:27 AM