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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fleeting Thoughts: Independence Bowl Edition

I stopped at a gas station on my way back to the hotel after the game to pick up a six pack to unwind after deadline. The place I selected had three options for booze: 40s, double deuces and Arbor Mist. I think that perfectly sums up how enjoyable this trip to Shreveport has been. Just a great time all around.

And for Georgia's part, the Bulldogs made sure the trip ended on a high note with a decisive win over Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl, running Mark Richt's bowl record to 7-2 and giving UGA win No. 8 for the 13th straight season -- the longest such streak in the country.

It wasn't a good game. And I'm not even sure it was an entertaining game. But a lot happened. Here's some of what I noticed along the way...

-- I'm predicting Alabama wins the BCS title by a score of 106 to -3.

-- Seriously, A&M was bad when it came to the fundamentals across the board, but the special teams was an absolute disaster. I don't know why they ever tried to punt. Yikes.

-- That said, the A&M offense was for real. No, Jerrod Johnson wasn't perfect, but credit the Georgia D for forcing him into some mistakes. The pick by Reshad Jones was completely created by some great pressure from Demarcus Dobbs.

-- I know Georgia hasn't made a lot of big strides this year, but the improvement of the pass rush has been huge.

-- It's funny how the knock on Willie Martinez was that he employed a bend-but-don't-break defense with little success. That wasn't really true. The fact is, Georgia was 30th in total defense (i.e. yards allowed) but 70th in scoring defense. They were a break but don't bend group… until Monday. A&M racked up 471 yards but were effectively shut out for all but a 10 minute stretch at the end of the second quarter and start of the third.

-- The only real concern I had about the D's performance was the wide-open plays down the middle of the field -- both through the air and when Johnson decided to run.

-- Speaking of Johnson: 69 rushing yards (not counting sacks) and 362 passing yards. That kid is good.

-- I know my game picks have been brutal this year, but do I get some bonus points for predicting a huge year from Brandon Boykin? And he was both legitimately surprised and excited about tying the SEC kick return record.

-- And sad that Boykin came up just 12 return yards shy of 1,000 and Cox came up 1 TD shy of the passing TD record.

-- Slow return to action for A.J. Green, but he still made six catches. I spoke to him after the game and he was kicking himself for a couple "drops" on deep balls he thought he should have had and for not breaking tackles on those first two screen passes. Gotta love that kid's attitude.

-- Rushing yards in the first half for Georgia? 27. Rushing yards in the second half for Georgia? 181.

-- Great to see Sanders Commings get an INT. I really thought we'd see more of him this year, but if you're looking for ways to spin this game into next season, perhaps he's a good place to start.

-- Not one sack for Texas A&M. Clint Boling absolutely stoned Von Miller, the nation's leader in sacks.

-- I know a lot of people have been quick to criticize Vince Vance's performance, and I'm not going to tell you he played well. Bean Anderson got more PT in the second half and the Dawgs ran the ball better. As Willie would say, "bottom line." But... I talked to both Clint Boling and Mark Richt about this and both said that the first-half problems were all about scheme. A&M was doing things at the line of scrimmage UGA was not prepared for and unlike anything the Dawgs had film on. It was the halftime adjustments to that that made the real difference. And, while Bean played a lot more in the second half, Vance was on the field on several drives in the half, including Caleb's final touchdown.

-- After the game was over, Joe Cox was the last one off the field. He got a huge ovation from the Georgia fans still there, many of whom chanted, "Joe, Joe, Joe." You could tell how much it meant to him. It was nice to see. I have no doubt he'll be a very good coach. He's a stand-up kid with a lot of heart and just the right mind-set for handling the job. He takes it all a bit too seriously, but still gets the big picture.

-- Man, no one seems to want to 'fees up to coaching search details, but from the all-over-the-place answers, I'm guessing they all have an idea that something's up and are doing their best to avoid being pinned down on anything. I don't know what will happen, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if it happens soon.

-- I know most of the talk has surrounded Rennie & Reshad, but it'll be interesting to see if another name emerges the way Asher Allen and Reshad Jones did a year ago in regards to the NFL. I spoke with Clint Boling about it Monday and he said he didn't even submit his paperwork for the advisory board. Had Caleb King stayed healthy and put in a 1,000-yard season, who knows? But I'm about 99 percent certain he'll be sticking around. The only other potential early departure might be Justin Houston, who did have a fine season, who also had some off-field issues and who lost his position coach when Jon Fabris was let go.

-- I've been a bit critical of some of Richt's public relations stuff this year, and I'm sure some of it is personal -- I'd simply appreciate more info coming from him. But the Rennie Curran situation Monday seems to me to have been a time when Richt really needed to be a bit more forthcoming, at least with the local media. Rennie's first-quarter suspension was apparently something that stemmed from a minor miscommunication back in Athens, but it was never mentioned to anyone leading up to the game. So when Rennie wasn't on the field, it looked bad and we had litle explanation to offer. Instead, from what I'm told the TV announcers made it out to be a bigger deal than it was -- that Rennie skipped punishment, as if he was flaunting his indifference toward the rules, which many fans read as a sure sign he was bolting to the NFL. As it turned out, it was a non-story for the most part, but you wouldn't know that unless you read the postgame notes from one of the local beat writers. It makes Rennie look bad and all because information simply isn't shared. Considering it was a nationally televised game and Rennie's draft stock could be affected by negative stories like that, I just don't see how that's helpful. But again, maybe it's just me.

-- A few more points from our pal, The Real Texas Dawg:

1) the A&M cheers get old after a while
2) was it just me or did the Redcoats band dominate 4 qtrs?
3) military school + women are not a good mix - uga women are still the finest
4) the inevitable "SEC" cheer broke out with 11 min to go
5) I never saw #3 after the first qtr
6) praise God no more 3 or 23
7) Garner and the GA's deserve a bonus $$
8) 8-5 shouldve been 10-3 (lsu & ky)
9) 9 can't cover....but can lay the lumber!
10) hope it's another 20 yrs before returning to S-port

-- My replies:

1.) Watching their band at halftime made me dizzy.
2.) They were monsters. The A&M band was playing from the stands for a while pregame, and then from outside the stadium came a few notes from the Redcoats and the Georgia fans went nuts. It was pretty cool.
3.) Amen to that.
4.) Best question of the postgame news conference: "Coach Richt, with you and Clemson winning, do you think that really illustrates the dominance of the SEC?" Seriously, this is what I have to deal with on deadline.
5.) He was still in there, but he didn't play horribly.
6.) Prince laid out at least one great hit. He actually has had some nice moments the last few games.
7.) Abso-freaking-lutely.
8.) Yeah, but Arizona State and South Carolina probably should have been losses, so it works both ways.
9.) Perhaps sticking around another year and learning those coverage skills would help his future.
10.) The SEC ends its tie-in with the Indy Bowl after this year, so I think you're set.

-- You know, if Georgia doesn't blow that game to Kentucky, they would have ended the season winning six of seven, with the only loss being to Florida. If that had happened, I think most fans would be downright giddy about the future. And since that UK loss was really nothing more than a few fluke plays in a game the Bulldogs otherwise dominated, I'd suggest that fans still head into 2010 with a good bit of enthusiasm and excitement.

There's just enough coming back that the Dawgs could be very dangerous, and just enough questions that this should be an interesting offseason. I'm looking forward to it.

And as for the season past, I just want to say thanks to all of you for reading and providing so much great input and feedback. It's made the grind of a long year a lot easier for me.

I'm going to be traveling today and I'm in the process of moving and have to be out of my apartment by the end of the month, so we might be a little lighter on blogging for the next few days. But I will keep you up to date on any breaking news and get a few other posts in along the way.

Now, here's hoping I don't run into more snow in Dallas.

31 comments:

Kathleen said...

I was worried about that Miller kid, but I noticed once or twice that even our TBs could block him... maybe he was just that good because he is playing in the BIG 12?

SEC! SEC! SEC!

opsomath said...

So from a previous article on this blog: Reshad will definitely "make a decision about the draft this week" but "will wait to meet the new DC and learn about his scheme."

So does that imply we'll have a new DC this week?

Frank Franklin said...

Thanks for the great season, David. Looking forward to next year already. As a wise (and hammered) Georgia fan once told me right after the 2005 Outback Bowl, "I can't believe we're so close to next season." Can't get here soon enough, although I'm sure you're looking forward to a bit of a break. Take care

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of the good work this year DH! look forward to more in the future.

theworldaccordingtojennifer said...

Next year's schedule looks to be more manageable (though certainly not a cake walk).
09/04/10 Louisiana
09/11/10 at South Carolina
09/18/10 Arkansas
09/25/10 at Mississippi State
10/02/10 at Colorado
10/09/10 Tennessee
10/16/10 Vanderbilt
10/23/10 at Kentucky
10/30/10 Florida
11/06/10 Idaho State
11/13/10 at Auburn
11/20/10 --- Open Date --- ---
11/27/10 Georgia Tech

Thanks for a year's worth of great posts David! Best of luck with the move.

EmotionalFescue said...

David - Just wanted to say I've enjoyed the stories you provided for DawgPost and have come to really admire your blog over the season. But what I love most is that we have almost the exact same taste in TV and Film so I know you're a genius. Keep up the great work and know that all your loyal readers pray for a day when your press box food will be catered by Kevin from Top Chef.

Here's to G-Day 2010!

Ant123 said...

David, Thanks again for the great work.
Could it be that your moving has something to do with the DC job? You could really have some even greater in-game blogs then.
Hope all goes well with your trip home and your move.

Army Dawg said...

David,

I would like to pile on with another thanks for the great work you do. Enjoy the off season and hunker down through the winter and we look forward to another season next year...how long to spring football practices start?

Go Army!
Go Dawgs!

Anonymous said...

David, I have enjoyed your coverage of the Dawgs and have gained much knowledge about the UGA program. You have great respect from the UGA staff; therefore, we get "inside" information not available else where. I appreciate your feelings about the team and your frank statements about issues involving the team.
Big Bob

opsomath said...

1000 cocktails to you for your obsessive and press-box-food-fueled coverage of my Dawgs this season, sir. Hope you enjoy the rest of your holidays.

Anonymous said...

I don't know of a single UGA Junior who will go on the first day, and would be moderately surprised if more than one went on Day 2. I am afraid these yound men are being mislead. I feel Jones, in particular, is the one who could benefit the most from another year. Lots of questions, but he seems to have the potential to develop. Next year would be a more favorable year to showcase his talents, and work on bhis coverage skills. (I think coverage skills will be Rennie's downfall as well.) Houston is another that just may have the skills but hasn't gotten the time to showcase them. UGA could very well be in the SECCG next year, and that game is the stage these guys could leap from and add mucho dollars. Bottomline, the Senior DTs are the only guys I see with much of a chance in this year's draft.

Tim said...

I am a late comer to your blog, having only found you in the last few weeks, but I want to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your posts and, as a Dawg living way up in Maine, how nice it is to have the connection with my home team. Keep up the good work.

Prince Lightfoot said...

I have to admit, Prince Miller played a pretty decent game. He had several nice hits and seemed pretty effective in coverage. I don't think I saw him backpedal as the deep man on punt coverage, either. That being said, I'm not sorry to see him go...

Good luck with the move, DH, and thanks for a great season.

BTW, I'm wondering if my wife and I are the only ones who refer to this as "Haleblog." Commenters?

The Watch Dawg said...

I was sad that Boykin didn't get the 12 yards to break 1000 on return yards, but I would have been pissed if Joe Cox got the passing TD record. Nothing against him, he's a good guy who tries hard, but a QB who has been as awful as he has been this year doesn't deserve to hold that record.

Travis said...

thanks for yet another great season, and I look forward to the upcoming off season and your coverage in 2010. You make it easy on a very displaced dawg David.

Anonymous said...

David, just wanted to add my thanks for all your hard work this year. I'm a Georgia grad who has lived out of state for more than 10 years now, so your blog has been a blessing.
I hope the new year and McClatchy treat us both well.

Anonymous said...

So the great "Watch Dawg" has decreed who is worthy, or not. What a crummy statement. Football is a team game, and records are dictated by that, not individuals. Cox did what the team needed, the OL sucked the first part of the year and we had to rely more on the pass. No doubt Stafford would have thrown many more TD passes had it not been for Knowshon. Give Cox credit,, he made some plays when we needed them or we wouldn't have won 8 games as a TEAM this year.

Anonymous said...

David,
Thanks for the terrific insight you've provided all season and for the entertaining game-blogs that I usually read after the games - your assessments are spot-on.

Anonymous said...

Boo "Watchdog"! Yay David and everyone else!

Go Dawgs!

Muckbeast said...

Thanks as always for your wonderful blog. The Macon Telegraph doesn't know how lucky they are to have you!

Dawgfan17 said...

Got a small bit of information on the coaching search. Not much more than what is already known and I know everyone says they have a guy in the know so take it for what you believe it is worth. My cousin-in-law (is that even a term?) had an apartment with Kirby Smith for a couple years while in Athens and the two keep in pretty close contact. Kirby told him that he is focused only on the NCG but has been in talks with MR and that while he likes it where he is there are things about UGA that attract him. The family atmosphere that would allow him to spend a little more home, the pull of UGA being his school, and possibly biggest being that he would have more freedom to do things his way with the defense are the plusses for UGA. He is not leaning anyway but UGA is defiantly a possibility. So if you don't hear anything at all before the NCG I would say that is a good thing for UGA.

shliknik said...

Best damn dawgs blog in the web. Thanks for all the work, David.

Derek said...

Thanks for all of the hard work, David.

Texas_Dawg said...

"The Real Texas_Dawg" is an impostor.

AC in Boulder said...

Have you heard anything about these rumors concerning Richt's wife and possible illness?

Peter said...

David,
thank you for your excellent coverge this year. Your articles, blog posts, chats, and Twitter coverage have provided terrific insight into our program. I am very thankful to have your perspective on our program, coaches and especially our players. Your coverage and personal insights do an excellent job of reminding us armchair/cubicle dwellers of who lives underneath the helment and of the high quality of young men that don the red and black.

Thanks again and beers on me in Boulder next year.

Pete

UGA69Dawg said...

Happy New Year and I hope the paper business picks up. Your blog is on par with the Senator's and that is a high compliment. Your game day blog is a highlight after the game, have you ever considered stand-up.

Thanks for the hard work.

hoodawg said...

It just occurred to me, but did Branden Smith see a snap on offense in this game? If so, is that the first time that's happened in 2009?

meansonny said...

Anybody know what Mark Richt was referring to early in the bowl practices where the guys were trying to pick up something new?


After watching the game... the only thing I can guess was that we ran an awful lot more defensive line stunts than normal.

That... or the quick hitting FB dive play in the second half (although I'm almost positive that it wasn't a pre-game focus but a halftime adjustment).

CrawforDawg said...

I apprecitae you and your work. Hope you have a little time to rest and ejoy some holiday.

CrawforDawg,
UGA '75 & '77

dougnut said...

David,
Excellent report. I appreciate your lack of bias in your reporting, yet you care for these guys and it shows. I know it can be a slippery slope, but you walk it well.

Dougnut