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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fleeting thoughts: After Arkansas

For the third straight week, Georgia now has a game vital to its season, and in the eyes of some, even its program.

First, it needed to beat South Carolina to set the tone for the season, and be on track to contend for the division with Florida.

Then, the Bulldogs needed to beat Arkansas in order to avoid falling out of the East race, being 0-2 in the league, and so forth.

OK, having failed at both of those, NOW this is the most important game. The previous two games were basically regarded as toss-ups, but what about Mississippi State? I’ll be interested to see the line on that one.

More thoughts, followed later by grades:

- I understand the concern – and hyperventilating – by Bulldog fans. It’s not just that Georgia went 0-2 in these two games. It’s that it didn’t look like the better team in either one.

You can’t say either game came down to a bad call, a fluke play, or something like that. Georgia never led in either game. The offense and defense (and even special teams) all shared blame in each loss.

- Yes, Arkansas and South Carolina are each top 15 teams, at least at this point. And Georgia can plausibly say that it lost to two of the SEC’s better teams, after Alabama and Florida.

At some point you can’t keep saying, “Well we lost to so-and-so who’s a really good team, and then so-and-so who’s also a really good team.” Pretty soon, you’ve said that so much that you’re looking up at a ton of other teams.

- Having said that, I still think it’s hard to issue a hard judgment on the state of the program, or even how good this team is, until it plays a game or two with A.J. Green. What if starting on Oct. 2, it’s obvious the offense is a whole lot different with him in there?

I know the Bulldogs played well without him last year. And I was one of the people saying they still had a chance when he was suspended, that losing a receiver, even a star one, wasn’t the same as a starting quarterback or running back.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I wasn’t. But I do want to see how the Bulldog offense looks with Green in there, before I go making any broad declarations.

- Let's not focus wholly on the offense and gloss over what happened at the end of each half. You simply cannot allow a team to start at its own 20 with 46 seconds left – and get a field goal – and then start at its own 27 with 47 seconds left – and get a touchdown. That’s 10 points that just shouldn’t have happened, whether or not Ryan Mallett is the next Peyton Manning.

- Caleb King not playing may have been pivotal to the outcome. If he plays, maybe Ealey still gets most of the carries – but King is definitely in there at the end for that third down play from the 50, and picks up the blitz. Ealey, as we know, did not. If Murray doesn’t get sacked, who knows what he does with that.

- And now, the grades:

QUARTERBACK: Aaron Murray’s games are becoming pretty similar. A solid effort, not spectacular, but with no major mistakes. Just like the coaches wanted. (Which makes the losses more perplexing.) Murray passed for 253 yards despite a lot of pressure, including six sacks. His lone interception was a case of the ball just getting away from him, and the team didn’t end up paying for it. He also rushed a lot more, gaining 44 yards (then losing 35 of it on the sacks.) … B.

RUNNING BACKS: Ealey was solid as a ball-carrier (87 yards and a TD on 18 carries), but his missed block was key. Now you see why the coaches were going to start Caleb King after the preseason because of his pass protection. Carlton Thomas also had 30 yards on six carries. … C.

Kris Durham and Tavarres King had some big plays, each catching a ball for 40-plus yards. But where was Marlon Brown? Why did Aron White make the only catch for the tight ends? (And it was a nifty one.) I don’t think the blame lies with the receivers themselves, so I won’t grade them down. … B-.

Six sacks. Not a lot of holes for the running game. Yup, another confounding game from a unit that was supposed to be among the team’s best. You can’t blame their troubles on not having A.J. The lineup was tinkered with, going with Tanner Strickland at right guard, then moving Clint Boling there and putting in Trinton Sturdivant at left tackle. Nothing seemed to work that great. … D.

DEFENSIVE LINE: The run defense was much better this week. Stout, you might even say. On the other hand, the front three has now gone three games without a sack. And the only TFL it was credited with on Saturday was a half-one, by Kwame Geathers. … C+.

LINEBACKERS: Justin Houston was pretty quiet, after his three-sack game against the Gamecocks. Cornelius Washington had the team’s only sack, on Arkansas’ second-to-last drive. They did help in the run-stopping. But Arkansas still had too much of an intermediate passing game. … C+.

SECONDARY: There’s only so much you can do against Ryan Mallett. But it would be easier to excuse if not for the constant breakdowns: The two touchdowns off play-action, the quick strikes at the end of the first half to set up a field goal, and the three-play touchdown drive to win the game. … D-.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Drew Butler was back on his game for most of the game, until his low-hanging final punt. He was trying to angle it to the sideline, but it went off the side of his foot, and left Arkansas enough room to go for it, rather than play for overtime. Logan Gray, subbing for Branden Smith, had a 25-yard punt return. Brandon Boykin’s longest kick return was for 33, as the kick return unit continues to be a bit average. And the punt coverage unit somehow let a punter run for a first down. … C.

COACHING: Well, the play-calling in the fourth quarter was pretty good, at least for two drives. And this week there were no wasted timeouts. On the bad side, well, one field goal in the second and third quarter can’t happen against Arkansas. And even when the other team is in a certain set, you have to figure out a way to use the tight ends more. …

Defensively, the gameplan seemed to be to stop the run and make Mallett beat you – which he did, but mainly at the end of each half. But the comeback also deserves some credit: When some fans were giving up and heading home early in the fourth quarter, the team stayed around and made it a game again. Albeit one that didn’t end well for the Bulldogs … C+.


Waldendawg said...

I think you were a little generous with the coaching and special teams grades.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was there until the end. You did not even mention the flat out stupid timeout that coach Richt called with 1:04 left. We have one of the nations premier kickers and 2 timeouts. You make absolutely sure that if you don't make a first down that the other guy has no time left and you go to overtime and get an equal shot. Richt panicked, called an unnecessary timeout and cut off a chance to turn the season around. I have been a staunch supporter of this staff, but clock management is solely in the head coach's hands and he gets an F. He is losing the masses. The students were significant no-shows. Does any one need Miss. St. Tickets. I won't be going.
Ala Dawg

Anonymous said...

I know everybody is sayin that ga can't win the east but I disagree. The only team we have to worry about is sc. They play ala fla and auburn and maybe ark too I'm can't remember. If fla loses to ala and we beat them we have the tie breaker there. I know asking sc to lose three times seems like a lot until you look at there schedule. I still hold out hope of winning the east. If I'm wrong about anything I just said please correct me.

Doug said...

I think you call the timeout @ 1:04. It might take 4-6 plays to get into field goal position.

It was the play call on that 3rd down that was atrocious.

Doug said...

SCAR plays Arkansas, Bama, and Auburn from the West.

Ben said...

I think you were generous with the special teams as well. What has happened to Drew Butler? Christ. Drove me nuts listening to Kevin Butler on the post-game radio broadcast when he failed to mention this.

Anon @ 12:15, you aren't wrong, you're just not facing reality. Could it happen? Yes but after what you've seen the last 2 games it's simply not realistic. I think they could very well lose in Starkville next week. If that happens, the UT game will be a ghost town sadly. Another Noon kick I'd bet.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why, but I get the feeling lately that Seth is smirking to himself while writing about the failures of UGA football. Hale really didn't have a dog in the fight and just wrote what he thought as an objective observer, but Emerson's writing on UGA always seems a little bit odd to me. Like maybe he started leaning to the Cock-side a little while in Columbia.

Just a feeling. But it makes it hard for me to read this blog. I feel like I'm reading a rival blog.

Anonymous said...

Doug how does them being from the west affect anything? Maybe I don't understand how the rankings work? Doesn't just your sec standings count?

Smith Roche said...

How about the announcers slobbering love afair with Green. I guess they forgot the team is made of 22 starters. He had mor air time than Lindsey Lohan. The dogs came back and fought hard

Anonymous said...

I have a real hard time watching Ealey dancing to the music over the PA system on third down (in a game you are losing)instead of concentrating on the game.Seems like the focus has been lost for the last several years.

Lindsay said...

I think the coaching staff (mainly Bobo) should have a lower grade. Not because of the bad calls, etc. But for calling out Murray after the game. Really? Without him the game would have been so much worse. Yes, he could throw away the ball quicker, but when you send the receivers down the field 20 yards, the QB has to hold onto the ball.

If he were to call out ANYONE, call out Ealey. He's been a showboat of a player. He's done little this season, and missed several blocks. Then to be excited after the touchdown. Yeah you got a touchdown, but you've been a disappointment on and off the field.

Dog44 said...

Appreciate the analysis, Seth.

On the Green thing... I agree with those that say there are 22 players on the field and the loss of one shouldn't be the difference between winning and losing (for a good team).

But I've been thinking back to last season... We were 3-1 after 4 games, and would have been 0-4 if not for A.J. Green. Go back and watch the tapes of the SC, ARK, and AZ St. games to see what I'm talking about. Anyone who says that having him would not have significantly changed the past 2 games isn't thinking straight. Good chance we are 3-0 if not for the jersey sale.

Now... that might be an indictment more of the UGA coaches than anything else. When your offensive production is so tied to one player, there is a problem. Injuries happen, suspensions happen. A good team can recover and win anyway (see Alabama.)

(BTW - I think not having B. Smith and C. King was bigger than most made it seem.)

My big disappointment is with the O-Line. It seems that Searles was fantastic 2 or 3 yrs ago when the line was supposed to be bad, but can't help a line that's supposed to be great live up to their potential.

Anon at 12:38 pm... I've been a faithful reader of the blog since Hale's first day, and I don't think there's anything to Seth's writing that smacks of what you're saying. There's no pro or anti UGA bias here, and that's the way it should be.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Ben, but Kevin Butler did mention it.

Travis said...

i've heard all off season about how grantham's scheme will help our d get off the ball, and hide our stunts. I heard about how moving players around from d-line to outside backer, etc etc would help the more athletic players get after the QB and pressure the opposing QB.

am i missing something when i'm watching these games?

Anonymous said...

12:38 PM, I agree with you. I have been a loyal reader of this blog for a good while now (obviously including the days when Hale was writing), and it does seem that there is just a little something off in Seth's analysis. He seems a little smug or maybe even satisfied when the team does poorly or his blog readers get upset. I can't really put my finger on it, but I can say that I notice what you are talking about. Just my opinion.

Doug said...

"Anonymous said...

Doug how does them being from the west affect anything? Maybe I don't understand how the rankings work? Doesn't just your sec standings count?

September 19, 2010 1:02 PM"

A previous poster said:

"They (SCAR)play ala fla and auburn and maybe ark too I'm can't remember."

I was filling in the information.

Todd said...

Seth, I think the D-line is doing well, considering we don't have he prototypical personnel for the system. It is my understanding that, in the 3-4, the D-line's responsibility is to win the line of scrimmage, freeing up the LB's to make the plays. Getting sacks is a bonus. So I think from that standpoint, the guys are doing their part and will only get better. My issue is with the secondary - had it not been for the blown coverages we'd be singing a different tune right now. I was expecting an improvement over last year, and so far I haven't seen it.

For all the naysayers who think the year's a bust, there's a lot of football to be played and I wouldn't count out this team quite yet. I think this will be a good test of our coaches and the players. If we win big down the stretch and make it to a Jan 1st bowl (or even the SEC championship game), then that speaks volumes. If we give up and end the year with mediocre effort and miss a bowl, then heads should roll. This team has too much talent for that to happen.

UGA69Dawg said...

Bobo is an average QB coach and OC that got his job through the patronage system that was UGA football during the Dooley years. He is not capable of an original offensive thought but merely carries out the playbook and schemes of CMR and the Florida State University. When surrounded by world class football players he looks brilliant but when he has mere mortals his real weakness is revealed. How does he use his RS Fr Quarterback. Does he design plays that will keep the play and the QB alive, no he uses plays out of the FSU playbook but just reduces the number of plays to supposedly make it simpler for the QB. So on 3rd and 4 we have all of our WR's running deep patterns and when our RB whiffs the block and gets the QB dehelmeted Bobo blames the QB for being too slow with his throws. How about you call a play that gives the team at least a 50% chance of success and keep the smallness of your character to yourself. OLD school,rule #1 "The team wins games the coaches lose them." even if it's not true it is the damn rule. If it was good enough for every football coach in the HOF then its good enough for Bozo.

Rich said...

@uga69dawg Let's take this one step higher...You're right that Bobo is in over his head...CMR should be doing his first love and give up on coaching. He looks like he's on Valium on the side. I'm all for a good leader but some fire would sure be nice, These young guys will feed off this energy and at least see that this is very important to the head guy. Richt will never fire a coach without being forced to do so. That being said, I think it's time that we get a HEAD coach that other fans hate as much as we hate the Sabin's and Meyer's.Just a thought.

dawgjammin said...

bobo's excuse the past two games for not throwing to the TE's is that they had to stay in and block because of the defensive front/schemes to put pressure on the redshirt freshmen's a thought "HOT ROUTE!"... teams use it all the time to burn the blitz...our TE's should be wearing out blitzing defenses and making them pay by gashing them for 15 yards a pop...

Ben Dukes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Seth's blog is fine. When Hale was writing, times were a little, not much, but a little better for the program than they are right now. There aren't a lot of positives to write about with the Dawgs current situation. You may not like Seth "attacking" Georgia and writing about how good South Carolina played, but the facts are the facts....SC dominated that game against Georgia. Also, Seth is from the D.C. area.....I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a horse in any race down here...If Georgia is playing awful, call a spade a spade....and that is what he is doing...the blog (Hale's and now Emerson's) is one of the most informative of any major college program in the country. Stats are given to back up his posts and depth charts are broken down to let YOU know what is happening with YOUR Dawgs.....