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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fleeting Thoughts: Georgia Tech Edition


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,

30-24, hahahahahahhahahahah!!!!!

Jameson"

28 comments:

Dave & Marie said...

David, Thanks for your great work this season. I've enjoyed your writing and appreciate your willingness to opine as much as your reporter role will allow.

Last night was a thing of beauty and leaves us wondering what may have been. Despite the win, I thnik we all know changes must be coming.

I never saw CMR smile even during the post-game presser, almost as if he were burdened the decisions that are coming.

David Hale said...

Thanks! And you're right... he did seem relieved by the win more than excited by it.

Anonymous said...

David,

Can you confirm UGA staff waited to call the timeout with just 3 seconds before half giving GT a shot at the hail mary? Why wouldn't you call the timeout with 20 seconds forcing GT to punt the ball & chance to block a punt. Great win, but the thing that is correctible is coaching. Why run Brandon Smith who fumbled when #4 & #24 were taking care of business at the time?

FresmanDawg said...

So, a bowl win puts us at 8 wins. That's in line with many fans predictions at the begining of the season. I think the vast majority of frustration has stemmed from the fact that we were so close to being a great team, but continually shot ourselves in the foot. Having just average kickoff coverage gets us two wins against LSU and Kentucky. That's one easily fixed problem that puts us in position for a ten win season. It is truly frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Awww...still no column from widdle Adam Krohn! I wonder why.

Anonymous said...

I have to dispute the kickoff thing.

That 44 yard return was on a deep kick that didn't make it to the end zone. That's at least what I saw. It's really easy to make directional kicks sounds stupid if you say bad deep kicks are directional.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:04...
Paul Johnson called that timeout with 3 seconds left in order to throw a hail mary. Richt had to call his timeout to get his players back out on the field. Once the Dawgs ran off the field Johnson called the timeout. Pretty shrewd, but thankfully we had the one TO left.
hdh

Blake said...

Even the ABC commentators made reference to the decibel level of their PA system. Tech is always a poor winner/loser. I'm surprised they didn't turn the lights out on you in the press box. All just an example of why I would rather watch this game on TV. Don't have to deal with the rudeness.

Great job this season and I look forward to reading your blog thru the holidays and the buildup up to next season.

Thanks David

Matt said...

Does Quentin Banks gets some kudos as well? Seemed like he played pretty well for being 3rd string safety who barely played at all this season. I watched the game on TV, so I couldn't see everything he did, but it looked like he was largely responsible for stopping Nesbitt at the goal line. I realize that doesn't matter, since he went in on the next play, but still good safety play from a backup replacing Evans.

dawgjammin said...

Richt called the time out to end the 2nd half because Paul Johnson called one with 3 seconds left in the half only after most of the uga team had ran off the field. Richt had to call one because half his players were still running back from the locker room.

Last nights game was great example of the dawgs dictating the pace of the game and imposing its will at the point of attack on both lines of scrimage. Any one who thinks we will not miss the trio of Atkins, Owens and Weston next year is kidding thereself. I hope we sign at least one stud Juco/Prep School DT in this recruiting class. 2010's OLine Boiling, Sturdivant, Jones, Glenn and J Davis should be a thing of beauty.

It blows my mind that neither team punted in this game. I for one like the aggressive call of letting Blair kick the field goal. It was a Bellicheckian moment that worked out.

What was up with all the times they had to add several seconds back to the game clock on several occasions?

The biggest understated play of the game might have been when tech scored the TD from the one yd line. The review made them try again on 3rd down. This ate an additional 18 seconds off the play clock. If Tech scores on 1st and goal on that drive, they probably have an extra minute and a half on their last drive which would have drastically affected Paul Johnson's play calling.

Great win...things are restored and all is right in the world again, at least for 364 more days.

Anonymous said...

"The coverage on the final four throws was exceptional". i respectfully disagree. we had exceptional coverage on 3 of the last 4 but on 4th and 10, we had our gimpy cornerback manned up on Tech's best and only legit receiving threat and not surprisingly he was open by 5 yards. that play said it all in terms of Willie Martinez for me.

Anonymous said...

David, first, thanks for a great job of reporting this season..your chats made a great contribution to the Bulldog Nation's fans...and many thanks to the Defense for a focused, determined game. The O line played like we expected all year..good prep by Coach Searles. Actualy, great job by all coaches! This gives us a year of POLITE ragging of Tech and their fans. Did you notice the conservative demeanor of your fans' comment..kudos to UGA fans for completing the drill in style. Looking forward to another year of great reporting and insight into the Dawgs' program!

Texas_Dawg said...

David,

Have you heard any discussion of the bowl game? Any chance at the Cotton Bowl if they choose to not take Ole Miss (for the 2nd year in a row)?

Anonymous said...

I, too, tip my hat to your work this year--an island of sharp, timely analysis in a sea of mediocrity. "Focused, determinded" is what I'll most remember about last night. That and the fact that I don't think I've ever seen Coach Richt quite as intense. Did anyone else notice? Heck, he looked downright mean. And I loved it!

Eddie said...

I was really upset with the way Richt acted after the Powerade bath ( I refuse to call it the "G" word) It had to embarass Evans....What happened to the always calm demeanor...it just really seemed classless...almost
Saban like....and he still seemed miffed in his post game interview...

Matt said...

Eddie-

The game wasn't over with. Mark Richt yelled at his players after dumping the powerade on him was to tell them that there was still at least a minute of the game left. I'm glad he did it. Discipline our players and let them know that we don't win until we've played a full 60 minutes of football.

Besides, in college football, especially in a rivalry game, you should always expect the unexpected.

Anonymous said...

Given that our players had to be called back from the locker room before the half was officially over, I think Richt was entirely justified at being miffed at the premature bath. More of that, please.

Anonymous said...

Scott Howard at the end of the game...

"The world is back on it's proper axis.."

Classic

Go Dawgs!

Beaufort Dawgs
P.S. Thanks David for a great year! You are sensible where most covering the dawgs are not. While you are just covering things as an honest outside observer..I sense a little bit of uga love creeping up in you and WE love it!

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Tech tumbles to #12 in the new poll, btw.

Eddie said...

Matt, Good points...but the kids were just so excited since they had overcome so much adversity this season....so they reacted a bit prematurely. So why choose tha moment to discipline them when it had been absent all year...

Dog44 said...

Great win, Dawgs. Boy, this goes a long way toward easing the discomfort of an offseason after a disappointing season.

- Here's hoping our O-line carries this performance into the offseason and is just as nasty every game next year.

- I want to go on record in saying that I was wrong about Caleb King (I was one of those before the season started that thought he was on his way to being a bust.) As David pointed out, I was premature, and I am very happy to be wrong. My public apologies to Mr. King.

- And while I'm eating crow, I was probably also wrong in my interpretation or Richt's quote a couple weeks ago about wishing he could see how the D would have played all year without the mishaps. (like many others, I interpreted it as him practicing a line of defense for WM.) If Martinez does indeed step down, then perhaps Richt may have had a clue even then about what was on the horizon, and was sadly lamenting the circumstances leading to it that could have been avoided. (This also gives a little more meaning to the big bear hug at the end of the Auburn game.) But of course, these are all just guesses. No one knows. In retrospect, I respect the way CMR has handled the Martinez criticism this year.

Here's to a great Bowl game and a great 2010 squad.

Anonymous said...

1) Nice to see Stafford on the UGA sideline. 2) Hope someone gave "Russ" a steak. 3) Anxiously hitting refresh to see if there's news from Athens.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with CMR's reaction to the Powerade bath (it better be the GA based Coca-Cola powerade; I still won't buy the other product after hearing some of the profit still goes to fill the coffers in Gainesville). Anyway, after the bath and Richt's reaction I couldn't help but think of the "Bluegrass Miracle." Guess which team drenched the coach?

Josh said...

What are the chances we wind up in the Chick-Fil-A bowl?

Texas_Dawg said...

Anyway, after the bath and Richt's reaction I couldn't help but think of the "Bluegrass Miracle." Guess which team drenched the coach?

Very different situation. LSU was getting the ball back with a little time left on the clock. GT wasn't getting the ball back against UGA.

Derek said...

David, regarding your comment on Atkin's fumble recovery you certainly summarized my initial thoughts on the play...it sure took Geno a while to get his hands on the ball. Is this 1st recallable instance of this this season? (...nice working-in of the ball bouncing comment...)

JoshG. said...

I can't wait to see the commemorative rings Georgia has made in honor of this year's victory over Tech! Oh, that's right, Georgia is not a bunch of pathetic nerds.

Thomas said...

I agree - too many players deserve credit for a great game, but Owens, Atkins and Weston deserve a game ball for slamming the door shut on the middle of the line and neutralizing Dwyer. They came up big. Nothing against Butler (our MVP this season), but I enjoyed a game with no punts. Maybe the idea will catch on.