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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fleeting Thoughts: Kentucky Edition

You'll excuse me if I miss a few points here. With as much abject failure as occurred in a 30-minute span, it's hard to fully grasp it in totality. Anyway, here goes...

-- I want to start by saying something on behalf of some of the seniors that you no doubt are not particularly thrilled with right now. Bryan Evans and Joe Cox both made some plays that significantly impacted the outcome of this game. But they're going to now live with those memories for the rest of their lives. Their last performance in front of the home crowd was probably the worst one of their careers, and they'll never live that down.

So I'm not saying you shouldn't be upset about the outcome, but keep in mind how much baggage these guys will already take with them after last night. They've been punished enough.

-- If you're making a list of people to blame for this loss, Willie Martinez's name is probably on the list, but it's nowhere near the top. The D was lights out in the first half (with the exception of the TD, which was as much about a nice screen by the ref as anything else). In the second half, only one of those scoring drives was for more than 50 yards and when the Dawgs absolutely needed a stop with two minutes to play, they got it.

-- And speaking of that defense, this play won't show up in the highlights because it ended up not mattering, but Rennie Curran's tackle of Randall Cobb at the 1-yard line on second down in the fourth quarter was perhaps the best defensive play made by Georgia all season. If anyone can find video of it I can link to, let me know.

-- Now, the Derrick Locke touchdown run, on the other hand, does not bode well for next week.

-- Kentucky's starting field position following kickoffs: Own 36, own 37, own 49, own 31, own 25, UGA49. Awful.

-- Here's what Richt had to say about the decision to squib kick following Georgia's lone second-half touchdown: "We actually kicked the ball extremely well last week -- high, where we wanted it placed -- and we still struggled. So we have a lot of respect for Auburn, but Kentucky's kick return team is the best in the SEC. They just do a superb job. So we were trying to create a little doubt, trying to get the ball where we could pop it up and maybe get it somewhere around the 30, 35. That's not anything to brag about, but we feel it's better than kicking it deep to this guy."

Allow me to address several points:

Kentucky is actually seventh in the SEC in kick returns, averaging just .36 yards per return more than Auburn.

If you can't cover a directional kick, what makes you assume you can cover a squib kick?

If you're happy with the potential of a drive starting at the 35, why not just purposefully kick it out of bounds and KNOW they'll be starting at the 40?

Or better yet, since you have the SEC's leader in touchbacks, why don't you roll the dice on that before you roll the dice on an absolutely horrendous move like squib kicking?

And how is it that a slow-footed tight end can field a kick and return it 20 yards before Georgia's apparently athletic coverage team can bring him down? This wasn't simply a matter of him breaking tackles either. Georgia's tacklers simply weren't anywhere near him.

So let me get this straight: You think you have to squib kick to avoid Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith with a 14-point lead midway through the second half against Kentucky, but you didn't think that was a good idea when you were kicking to Trindon Holiday with the game on the line after getting a penalty that backed you up against LSU?

-- I think the Senator says it best: "It’s not just that they’re so bad (on special teams). It’s that they’re so bad with Walsh, Butler, Boykin and Miller. You really have to work at it."

Every coach that manages special teams for Georgia should have to take a short bus to Butts-Mehre this week.

-- The bottom line is this: Georgia's kick coverage team is the difference between the Dawgs being 6-5 and headed to Shreveport and 8-3 and headed to Orlando. A change MUST be made.

-- Funny side note about Saturday's games: LSU and Les Miles are being crucified for spiking it with 1 second left. Um, that's old hat for Georgia, folks. Been there, done that.

-- Wow, lots of bad stuff so far. How about a little touch of good news? Orson Charles, Rantavious Wooten, Caleb King, Branden Smith and Justin Houston all had very good games. There is going to be a ton of talent on this team next year. A ton.

-- OK, let's just get into it. The toss sweep.

My first thought was, Cox must have audibled into that play because there's no way the coaches called that.

But I was wrong.

Here's the story from each side:

Washaun: "I just put the ball on the ground. It hit my hands, I should have caught it. I’ve got to keep my head up. I was just trying to get in the end zone fast. Joe didn’t know I was that close to him when he pitched. I’m just trying to keep my head up."

Cox: "I couldn't tell if he thought it wasn't a pitch play, but he said he did. He was just real tight and normally isn't that close, and it just got on him quick. I really don't know what happened, and I don't think he really knew what happened either. I think he might have had his eyes up looking at the hole. I'm not real sure. To be that close and have that happen, it's not good. We had our opportunities and we blew it. It's something we run all the time. It's not a hard ball to catch, it's just the way that he ran it, it made it tougher. It was like he saw a hole and tried to cut up while I was pitching the ball to him and it got on him quick. I don't know. But it's definitely not something that was too tough for him to comprehend or to handle. We run that play all the time."

Bobo: "That's our bread-and-butter play, the toss sweep. Earlier we were on the goalline and they had kind of crammed everybody inside on a third-and-1 when we had to settle for the field goal, and we talked about next time in that situation we were going to run the toss sweep outside. It looked like he was a little tight."

Richt: "It's part of our offense. Toss sweep all year long. … I'd have to look at the film but the back certainly looked too close to the quarterback on the pitch. I don't know if it was by alignment or the track he took. It looked like he was downhill more than he should have. But the toss sweep is a pretty fundamental play. We've run it many times, so I'm not going to sit here and try to second guess that."

I think UGA needs to hire a coach who doesn't have a position, but simply has common sense. So every decision made has to be run through him first. It would have made a big difference on this play in particular.

My problems?

Well, one, you learned a lesson at the 1-yard line early that made you want to run the toss sweep, so why didn't you learn the lesson when the UK D lineman disrupted the toss earlier in the second half and caused Cox to fumble?

You get ideas throughout the game, but those ideas must also be dictated by the situation. With the game on the line and two plays to score from the 1, you have to play it safer than that. You have to.

Even if you're going to run the toss sweep, you have to have Caleb King in on that play. Washaun is a good runner and a good kid, but he's a true freshman. The odds of him making a mistake on that play have to be significantly higher than the odds of Caleb doing it. And now the coaches will blame Ealey for making the mistake, when in fact it's completely on them for putting him in the position to do it when they didn't have to.

Just a brutal, brutal play call.

-- One more reason the play call made no sense: The O line had been doing nothing in the second half. Here's how Cox describe the toss that ended up as a fumble: "We had one play where we had a pitch called and when I turned to pitch it, one of the defensive linemen had actually gotten through so fast that he grabbed my arm while I was trying to pitch the ball."

Again, how do you not learn from that?

-- The one thing Kentucky didn't want to do was put the game in Morgan Newton's hands. So why didn't Georgia force them to do just that? Newton had to throw just 17 passes in the game.

-- Three of those passes went for touchdowns. That's more than he had thrown in his career.

-- Going back to that list of reasons why Georgia lost, No. 1 might well be the work at the line of scrimmage. In the first half, Georgia rushed for 143 yards. In the second half -- 53. On the other side, Georgia had seven tackles for a loss in the first half, and just two in the second. Kentucky completely changed the game by changing who was winning the battles in the trenches.

-- The receivers had their moments, but A.J. Green was missed. Bobo said Kentucky stacked the box more than any defense they had faced this year without Green to help draw extra attention from the safety.

-- The fumbled kickoff by Branden Smith really swung the momentum, and he probably shouldn't have even been in there. Brandon Boykin was clearly healthy enough to play -- he was in on the next kick return -- but Georgia thought they could get by without him.

-- I'm not sure what to make of this quote from Smith: "It was hard. Everything was against our back. We were down. We just needed a touchdown to tie it up. I guess we just fell apart as a team. We weren't working together as a team. That's one thing with winning is you have to work together. I guess once we started getting down, all the mistakes started happening, everybody just let go."

-- There were plenty of bad flags, but Bryan Evans' pass interference call in the second half was a blessing. He was beaten badly in the end zone. And can someone please teach Georgia's DBs to turn around and make a play on the ball once in a while?

-- I have no doubt that there will be a lot of people calling for coaches' heads right now. Rightfully so. But again, it ain't gonna happen this week, so don't bother stressing yourselves out about it. And despite the season essentially being flushed down the toilet Saturday night, there's still much to play for this week. I, for one, am tired of St. Simons' posts on every AJC blog.

-- I hear Shreveport is lovely this time of year.

28 comments:

lewis g said...

UGA XII is dead and I don't feel so good myself.

Anonymous said...

Time for coaches to go. This a train wreck that can only lie in the laps of the coach.There is a trend here that must stop. A CEO would be fired.

Anonymous said...

UGA XII is the only thing that is dead. I, an alum, am really sad about UGA and tired of watching a dieing program that has the best of the best of everything...My nephew went to UGA as a recruit last year and was treated poorly as compared to Air Force, GA Southern, Ohio etc..needless to say he made the right choice...against my wants..What is wrong with GA? Don't you get it..it is the coaching.............

Anonymous said...

Wow, Uga XII is dead, now, too? That's 6 dogs in a week!

Anonymous said...

Please don't forget the 4 points we gave away on our first scoring drive. We have the confidence to go for it on 4th and 1 near midfield, but get to 2nd and 1 on the 2 yard line and we decide to get fancy and throw the ball?????

This is a point when the head coach on the headphones has got to say NO. and RUN THE $#@*@ BALL.

Anonymous said...

Kelin Johnson actual said Willie teaches the secondary to not turn around and track and make a play on the ball when in the air. Instead, he tells them to face guard and read eyes.

Sorry, but Champ would track the ball the second it left the QBs hands and make a play on it as if he were the WR.

I don't understand this defensive philosophy.

Brian said...

Anon @ 9:35a,

No, a CEO would not be fired for this. They'd collect a potful of deferred compensation incentives, etc. But they wouldn't be fired.

Enough of the political stuff....

This team is simply atrocious. We saw what can happen last week when we don't turn the ball over and limit penalties - we can beat a middling team. Middling teams beat us when we play like we did last night and good teams crush us.

And David, I have zero problems with the toss sweep in that situation. Richt and Bobo are right. That's a staple of our offense and it had a higher probability of success than just about anything else in that situation. That's just an "oh flock" moment. That can't be blamed on coaching.....The remainder of yesterday's debacle? Abso-freakin-lutely.

Anonymous said...

Dog's dead, football team peed down its leg against Kentucky, and the basketball team was blown out by UAB. GT, meanwhile, has one loss, is poised to win its conference and play in a BCS bowl, and apparently is one of only four schools in the country with both football and basketball teams ranked in the Top 25. These are dark days indeed for Bulldog fans. Where's the bourbon?

JRL said...

What's left to say - UGA is dead and so are the Dawgs.

How we can allow teams with far less talent to beat us every year is beyond comprehension.

Give the Kentucky staff our players and they may be playing in the SEC Championship game.

David B. from Athens said...

The toss sweep at the 1 was absolutely the wrong play. I know my memory is hazy, but how could Richt not remember the end to the 2002 South Carolina game, when South Carolina essentially called the same toss sweep on 4th down and fumbled the ball? I know he was on the sideline that day watching. There is no excuse for not running the ball straight up the gut twice with then jumbo set. To pitch the ball backwards and take the risk of getting stopped for negative yards is too big a risk when you're that close to the goal line. If anything, they'd have been better served by calling two QB sneaks. Better odds that you get 1 yard by driving straight ahead.

The tide has turned against Richt and I don't think there's anything he can do to save this sinking ship. He could fire all of his coordinators and it wouldn't be enough at this point for the new hires to have enough time to bail out all the water coming in.

And, yes, why we do have a lot of young talent, I have seen nothing from this coaching staff to indicate that they are capable of coaching them up and getting the most out of their talents. If anything, their flashes of skill are indicative of their rawness. The longer they're here, the more our coaches and their philosophies will blunt their edge.

First on the chopping block, however, has to be Coach Fabris. He is as incompetent a special teams coach as we have ever had. From the cluster formation on kick-offs to his misguided philosophies regarding directional kicking and his decisions on what personnel to use on coverage teams, he is an abject disaster in that phase of the
game.

Sorry, Coach Richt. You've lost the team and after next week, you'll have lost the program. There's no fire any longer, just sad resignation as you patrol the sidelines. It really is just a matter of time before the end comes. No longer a matter of if, but when.

There are better coaches out there, and it's time for us to go looking for one.

David said...

It could be worse. We could be Rutgers today.

NFL-bound Rashad said...

Rutgers is 7-3....lost a road game to Cuse....and would destroy GA on a neutral field (due to coaching alone).

Vegas says; Rutgers -12 Georgia

I'd rather be Rutgers today!

WiseDawg said...

Has everyone forgotten about our FB? Apparently, the coaches have too. Why not give it to the FB in that situation? It's safe and its been money in the bank.

Matt said...

It least Rutgers is coached right?

Why does Ricth not handle more special teams duties, like Meyer or Beamer? He can handle coaching special teams and be the head coach cant he?

Bryan Evans should have never seen the field again after that late hit on the first drive, terrible.

I have been a Bobo fan, but like you see no reason to pitch the ball from the one. Thats little league stuff, you just don't do it. I am with the 2nd poster, the problem starts at the head, CMR is responsible for everything that happens in this program.

Anonymous said...

I'm just thankful we didn't come out of the tunnel wearing black. That might have ended in a disaster.

Uh..wha? We what?

Nevermind.

Anonymous said...

The toss sweep is such a risky play in that situation! It might have a .5% chance of fumbling, but it is for sure riskier than a hand off (or better yet, a QB keeper or a FB run).

Why is Bobo getting cute by running Branden Smith of all players at the goal line and running a sweep with Wooten when YOU NEED A TOUCHDOWN OR YOU WILL LOSE THE GAME? Be conservative.

I agree with David, have Caleb King in there and let him go straight up the middle. Or give it to Fred Muzenmeier. With just a few minutes left before the end of one of the worst losses of the season, you have to make smart decisions - not gamble on trick plays that might work.

Also, what happened to our offensive line? One of the biggest let downs of the season, in my opinion.

Did the coaches give the team shots during halftime?

Plus, you can count most of the kick offs as turnovers, pretty much. The ball on the UGA 49 yard line? Come on!

The rain today just makes this more depressing.

Matt

BZ said...

Does it bother anybody else that Richt doesn't show any emotion on the field. we could score a touchdown or get 5 personal fouls and he does nothing. He just walks the other way down the sidelines talking on the headset.

Anonymous said...

Joe Cox lost the sympathy vote when he echoed the arena talk and said the fans don't know what they are talking about. Evans just isn't a safety. Good kid. Tries hard. Not the smartest player, but we don't have many that are, sadly.

David said...

See, my above comment about Rutgers is becasue David Hale is a Syracuse follower and they won and that was something he might think was ironic in that they were underdogs and.....nevermind.

Greg said...

....and what? we might be better with Greg Paulus than Joe Cox?

Probably wouldn't make much of a difference.

I was sitting there last night in utter disbelief when we got the ball back with a minute and change. My friend turns and looks at me and says "so, pick on first play a la Matt Ryan?" Sure enough, Joey C must have been listening.

Those picks last night were two of the worst picks I've ever seen.

Anyone notice Stafford wit 3 TD's in 1st half and Mo-Mass with over 100 yds in first half?

Woe is us....

Watson said...

David,

Can you not ask CMR about the special teams issues you brought up in this post (squibbing it vs. UK but not against LSU)? You make so many good arguments here on your blog, but I really feel that the coaches need to be grilled about these things

Anonymous said...

Kick the damn football and play defense. Another average team to score over thirty on our "defense".
Hopefully there will be some changes next year. Players, COACHES...

David Hale said...

Watson -- it was my question that got the quote I included. As you've probably noticed throughout the year, honest answers (or at least rational ones) don't follow tough questions. I can only ask them so many ways. But I will keep asking.

Anonymous said...

None of the top coaches will touch UGA. You saw the disasterous result of the basketball HC search.

Anonymous said...

David,

I for another have no problem with the toss sweep. Players are responsible for the execution of a called play. This reminds me of the outcry against Coach Jim Donnan when the official called the non-fumble against Jasper Sanks in the GT game. Everybody jumped CJD but UGA had driven the length of the field with strong running plays.

If the play had worked no one would be saying the play shouldn't have been called. If anything else had been called and failed there would be a bunch of grousing and criticism of it. Taking your point that Caleb should have been in: if he had got the ball and failed the coaches would be criticized for not using Washaun; if a pass had been called and failed there would be all kinds of reasons given why it shouldn't have been called, but if it was successful no one would say anything.

It's all about execution, and in my mind any criticism, any criticism should be directed to the teaching and preparation of proper execution.

I agree wholeheartedly concerning kick coverage. The last two to three games made me think the directional kicking philosophy had been abandoned, but obviously it hasn't been. Your stat concerning UK's standing in the SEC on kick returns is very revealing. It raises a question of whether Coach Richt had been misinformed or whether he was just trying to justify a failed strategy.

Jay

Pete C said...

David, if you have the chance to ask the coaches any of my questions below I would appreciate it:

1. If our coaches are basically resigned to the fact that our opponents will start on the 35 or further after kickoffs, then how much worse could it really be putting Bogotay back there and seeing if he can kick it deep. He couldn't have done any worse Are they afraid his leg will fall off?

2. Why did Bobo stop throwing to our tight ends in the 2nd half? Orson was a beast in the 1st half, and Aron White was open even when he dropped the passes. Why not continue throwing it to them until Kentucky proves they can stop it?

3. Why are certain position groups held more accountable for mistakes than others? Samuel hasn't seen the field in 3 games after fumbling, our o-line is quickly pulled for making mistakes, but Evans literally costs us points every game but is never taken out. Is there a reason why CWM keeps him in as opposed to seeing what Pugh or Banks can do instead?

Anonymous said...

This game was lost primarily by special teams and Joe Cox's horrible second half. The picks aside he just made a slew of terrible throw that stopped drives. The defense played good enough to win but was put in horrible positions. CMR is running out of time. He can fix the program if he will (I hope he does -- I think he is a great head coach but a head coach is only as good as his assistants. The tale will be told after the season in the changes he makes. At a minimum the approach to special teams must change. Frabris should have been fired when he contradicted Richt during the Summer. The offense next year will be lights out if we find a QB, which I think we will. The defense has played pretty good the last few weeks. If CMR fails to shake things up he'll be remembered as a coach who had a nice early run but couldn't maintain it. For those who think he didn't show any emotion last night he looked pretty ticked to on a lot of occasions.

John said...

Gotta agree with the Anonymous poster about Joe Cox.

I'm sorry but his defensive attitude towards criticism has lost me completely. When he said that fans shouldn't say anything about his performance because they haven't played football... Well that is just ridiculous.

He sounds like an arrogant punk, really. He has been like that all year. So it's hard to say "Well he sucks but he's just a good kid so we shouldn't be too hard on him."