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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Live Game Blog: Georgia vs. Alabama

POSTGAME UPDATE: Let's take a look back at my five keys to the game I posted before kickoff:

1.) No turnovers. Stafford has been INT-free, and he needs to keep a 0 on that stat line.

Stafford threw his first two interceptions of the year, and probably could have had a couple more. The Alabama secondary was very good tonight, but the third-down completion to Green that ended up an interception by Hightower not only killed a promising drive, but put Georgia so far behind the 8-ball in the second half, it needed a miracle to come back.

2.) Get an early lead. Don't let Alabama hang around. Come out playing aggressive and get 'Bama off its game plan.

This couldn't have gone much worse, and the roughing the passer penalty that negated a fumble recovery deep in Georgia territory is probably to blame. The Bulldogs barely saw the ball in the first quarter, and before they had a chance to catch their breath, the game was already out of hand.

3.) Quick passes and draw plays. Georgia's offensive line -- on paper at least -- is overmatched, so the Bulldogs would be well served to force the Tide's pass rush to be a bit less aggressive.

This never really developed. Georgia had no clear offensive game plan in the first half, and Stafford was either under pressure or had nowhere to throw the ball. The running game never got going, and the game was nearly out of reach before the offense found its stride. Alabama owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Georgia didn't have a rushing first down until the final minutes of the game.

4.) Kickoff and punt coverage. Javy Arenas can be a game changer for 'Bama, and Georgia has struggled on special teams so far. Alabama has yet to prove it can sustain any long drives against a tough defense, so don't hand the Tide good field position.

This was a disaster. Brian Mimbs had about as bad a day as a punter can have, and Blair Walsh wasn't much better. Between the poor kicks, the turnovers and Javy Arenas' strong returns, Alabama consistently had great field position.

5.) Stop the run. Put the game on John Parker Wilson's shoulders. If he beats you, well, it was meant to be.

Other than the penalties -- which were the biggest difference -- this was the turning point. I, along with many others, made the mistake of assuming just because Wilson HADN'T led 'Bama to a win meant he COULDN'T lead 'Bama to a win. Georgia actually did a nice job of stopping the run early, but Wilson picked the D apart. The lack of a consistent pass rush and the poor play by the secondary didn't help, but Wilson deserves the credit for this one. He was downright good.

Add that all up and you've got the perfect recipe for exactly what we saw on the field. The truth is, Georgia wasn't as good as we thought it was coming into this game, and it isn't as bad as it looked in the first half. The resilliance the Dawgs showed in the second half is encouraging, but there are major flaws that need to be fixed -- and none of them should come as a surprise. The O line has holes. The pass rush needs to get better. The secondary needs to step up. The kick and punt coverage are problematic. The penalties are brutal. This is all stuff we've talked about before, but they all happened to come home to roost tonight. It wasn't pretty, but it shouldn't come as a total shock. Better days lie ahead.

FOURTH QUARTER UPDATE: Prince Miller taketh away, and Prince Miller giveth. Yeah, it's backward, but who cares. After being burned on a number of passes in the first half, Miller took the Alabama punt and brought it back 95 yards for a TD. We have ourselves a ballgame.

Short pass up the middle goes for big yardage. Georgia really needs a turnover. A field goal essentially ends the game, barring a miracle. A stop, and they've got a shot. I've been really impressed with Wilson's mobility so far. He's been able to avoid the rush throughout and he's made quick decisions on whether to get out of the pocket or dump the ball off. I've never been a huge fan of Wilson, but he's been excellent tonight. Georgia came up with another stop, but Alabama booted a field goal to go up 17. Where's Zack Renner when you need him?

How many penalties can Georgia kill itself with? It's not just the insane amount of laundry on the field, but the penalties have come at the worst possible time. Stafford hit Green to convert a fourth-and-18, but a holding penalty negated that, too. You knew penalties were going to come back to haunt Georgia at some point, but this was just ridiculous. That's ballgame folks.

THIRD QUARTER UPDATE: Georgia players and coaches spent a lot of time the past week downplaying the penalties, but there was no doubt they were a problem. Blame the awful refs last week if you must, but that doesn't change the fact that this has been an ongoing problem. A false start on the first play of the second half brings Georgia's flag count this game to seven.

Kris Durham finally added a spark to the Dawgs' offense with two big catches on their first drive, but of course he got hurt on the second catch and was carried off the field. Looks relatively serious. I'm really not sure what else could go wrong for Georgia at this point, short of Knowshon declaring for the draft in the middle of the next drive. Stafford had Michael Moore open for an easy touchdown on second down, but overthrew him. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, as an ineligible receiver penalty negated the play. That's eight flags now. Stafford's third-down pass was thrown to Moore in double coverage and fell incomplete. Stafford has looked like the Stafford of two years ago -- just bad decisions made out of frustration. Blair Walsh at least got the Dawgs on the scoreboard with a field goal. 31-3.

Not blame Stafford for everything so far. Look, when you're down big, your game plan goes out the window, but from the start it just didn't seem like Georgia even HAD an offensive game plan. It was sort of all over the place. When you're losing 31-3, there's plenty of blame to go around, but boy has Georgia looked unprepared for this game. I thought Mark Richt was supposed to have been spying on 'Bama in Week 1, after all.

Got to hand it to the crowd -- they are still pretty loud as Georgia forced 'Bama to punt for the first time. A relatively quick TD keeps the game within reach, but it will require a significant turnaround from how the Dawgs played the first half.

Well, so much for that. Three-and-out for Georgia. That may have been the last gasp of hope. Mumbs again boots a brutal punt. What happened to this guy? Two weeks ago he was a hero against South Carolina. Now it looks like he's got the punter's version of the yips or whatever it was that kept Mackey Sasser from throwing back to the pitcher back in the mid-90s.

At least the Dawgs' D is looking better. Akeem Dent landed a nice sack on Wilson and Geno Atkins put a quick stop to Alabama's draw play on third down. Then Zack Renner added to his legacy, partially blocking the Tide's punt to give Georgia strong field position to start its drive.

On a second-and-nine after Georgia looked sharp, Georgia decides to run a flea-flicker. The handoff went to Caleb King, who handed to Massaquoi who badly overthrew Stafford down the sideline. This was a wasted play. Again, I just don't get the playcalling. Is this really the time for a play like that? You're finally moving the ball, and then you put yourself in a third-and-long by having your receiver throw a pass to your QB? Stafford managed to convert a fourth-down play, but this just seemed like grasping at straws to me. Stafford completed a nifty pass down the sideline to A.J. Green who hauled it in at the 2. This is more like what we expected from Georgia's offense -- but is it too little, too late? Knowshon finished off the drive with his 10th touchdown of the year -- 31-10 Alabama.

INJURY NOTE: Durham is still laid up on the trainer's bench. He has his right ankle wrapped. Don't expect him back in this ballgame.

Adding to the list of things I don't get -- on the ensuing kickoff, Walsh quasi-pooched the ball and didn't get any air under the ball. Alabama starts at its own 39. Down three scores, I wouldn't have been opposed to trying to catch 'Bama off guard with an on-side kick there, but Georgia chose the worst of both worlds. Ugh.

That's the end of the third. (SIDE NOTE: Martrez Milner is on the sideline. Sadly, he can't play.) Anyway, I've got to bang out a game story, so I'll be updating less frequently in the fourth. I'll have a postgame add-on though.

SECOND QUARTER UPDATE: First quarter time of possession: UGA 3:41, Alabama 11:19. Ugly, ugly numbers. Stafford has looked to A.J. Green a few times already, but to no avail. The bigger problem here is first down -- Georgia's not getting yardage on first and are throwing the ball too much.

I'm not sure what happened to Brian Mimbs. He booted a whopping 18-yard punt. Nothing is going right for Georgia, and Bama appears to be getting its running game going -- a 9 yard gain on first down for Glen Coffee. This game is reaching a point where Georgia needs a momentum changer. At worst, they need to hold Bama to a FG here or things could get out of hand quickly. Once again, Wilson has plenty of time in the pocket and once again Julio Jones is wide open. Coffee finishes off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown. 17-0 Bama. Hate to overstate the obvious, but this is a worst-case scenario for Georgia.

INJURY UPDATE: Dannell Ellerbe has an injured left knee. He return is uncertain at this point. Like I said, worst-case scenario.

ANOTHER INJURY UPDATE: Tripp Chandler was shaken up and helped off the field after Alabama's kickoff.

Alabama's secondary is doing a great job. Stafford has had time on the majority of his throws, but just hasn't had anyone to throw to. The Tide just aren't biting on play-action. When the Dawgs finally made a play -- a first-down completion to A.J. Green, Green let the ball fly out of his hands and into the hands of Dont'a Hightower. I'd love to call this an old fashioned butt-whoopin, but it's not. Georgia is just repeatedly shooting itself in the foot.

Once again Alabama converts on a third-and-long to set up a first-and-goal. Prince Miller has looked awful tonight -- of course, he's hardly alone. Wilson's end-zone toss on first-and-goal was his first incompletion of the game. Upchurch finishes the drive with a run right up the gut for a TD. 24-0 Alabama.

Alabama's scoring drives so far: First TD comes after a fumble is negated by a roughing the passer penalty on Georgia. First FG is aided by 25 yards in penalties on Georgia. Second TD is aided by an 18-yard punt by Brian Mimbs. And fourth TD is handed to the Tide after A.J. Green literally hands the ball to Dont'a Hightower. Getting beat is one thing, but this is as much about Georgia throwing the game away as it is about Alabama winning it.

In what I think is a very smart move, Stafford went right back to A.J. for a 15-yard gain. Don't let the kid's confidence get shaken. Smart play. Moreno simply isn't finding running room. Bama's D line is dominating the line of scrimmage.

INJURY UPDATE: Tripp Chandler is back in the game.

Stafford simply has no one to throw to. Alabama's secondary has played a perfect ballgame throughout the first half. Georgia needs a stop before halftime -- something it hasn't done yet -- and needs to go the locker room to regroup. This is simply a disaster.

Glen Coffee is just running right up Georgia's gut right now and Wilson has been nearly perfect. The defense is on its heels. First downs so far: Alabama 16, Georgia 3. Yikes. Wilson ends yet another drive by tossing a beautiful back-of-the-end-zone pass to Jones. It was good coverage by Asher Allen -- nearly interference, to be honest -- but Wilson laid it out perfectly. SCORE: 31-0 Alabama. Wilson's numbers so far: 10-of-11 for 141 yards and a TD. The last time Georgia trailed by this much at the half at home was against Auburn in 1999.

Kudos to Ramarcus Brown -- the only Bulldog doing his job tonight. Another good kickoff that gives Georgia the ball at its own 43 with 1:17 to play. Georgia's last-ditch effort in the half ends, however, when Stafford simply threw a ball up for grabs into double coverage -- an easy INT. That pass looked like it came out of sheer frustration. No one has been open tonight, and I think Stafford just decided he was putting it up no matter what. There's a good mix of boos with the tepid encouragement as Georgia trots off the field of the half.

The ugly first-half numbers:
First downs: Alabama 17, Georgia 4.
Yards: Alabama 231, Georgia 114.
Rushing yards: Alabama 92, Georgia 27
Turnovers: Alabama 0, Georgia 2
Penalties: Alabama 1-5, Georgia 6-66
Time of possession: Alabama 20:05, Georgia 9:55

FIRST QUARTER UPDATE: What do know -- Mr. Walsh can boot a kick when he needs to. Nice touchback to start the game. Must say, don't think I've ever heard it this loud in here. Dannell Ellerbe was shaken up on Alabama's third-down conversion. He jogged off the field, looking OK, but was taken to the locker room. First catch of the day for a No. 8, and it belongs to Julio Jones. It came on a roll out by J.P. Wilson in which Jones was wide open. Alabama is playing conservative so far, but it's working. Prince Miller was beaten badly on a play-action pass and was called for a pass interference to set Alabama up with a first-and-10 at the 21. Wilson has had all kinds of time to throw as Georgia has keyed in on the running game. Making Wilson beat you is the smart game plan, but so far he's doing it. On third-and-long, Georgia finally brought the blitz and Alabama was ready for it -- running a screen to Glen Coffee for a big gain. Coffee fumbled, but it didn't matter when Georgia was flagged for its 916th roughing the passer penalty of the season. Seriously? Why is this still an issue? These are the things that cost you close games. Mark Ingram finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown. Alabama has now outscored its opponents 71-0 in the first quarter this season.

Leave it to Knowshon to put the charge back into the crowd. His 12-yard reception takes the Dawgs to midfield. It's early, but this is a crucial drive. Dangerous pass from Stafford to Moreno that lost yardage. Knowshon basically pulled the ball away from two defenders. Stafford has been under a good bit of pressure on this first drive, and Mimbs comes in to punt after the Dawgs can't convert a third and long.

Thanks to Arenas' magic, the punt netted only 13 yards, and Bama will start at its own 35.

In a nice gesture, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to Larry Munson in unison. Classy moment.

This is looking a lot more like the Dawgs of the South Carolina game than the Dawgs out West. Once again, it's close but no cigar trying to get to the QB, as Wilson scrambles for a first down. On the next play, Georgia flushed Wilson out of the pocket, forcing him to throw out of bounds. Once again, however, a big play is offset by a defensive holding flag. This is getting ridiculous. Another personal foul call on Georgia follows -- Bama inside the Georgia 20. If there were a manual on how to lose a ballgame, the Dawgs would be following it to the letter right now. The only savior has been the impressive run defense. On third-and-1, a host of Dawgs stopped Ingram to force the field-goal unit onto the field. Minor victory though. These penalties have to stop. The 10-0 Bama lead has effectively neutralized Georgia's best asset -- the crowd. On a bright note, the students in the end zone keep throwing the football away instead of returning it to the field after an Alabama score.

I'll say this -- Ramarcus Brown is going to break one soon. He's been a block away on a number of kicks over the past two weeks. Tonight might be a good night for it to happen.

END OF FIRST: 10-0, Alabama.

MORE PREGAME NEWS: Two quick things: 1.) Justin Houston and Demarcus Dobbs are getting the start tonight at DE. Second, check out
Paul Dehner's blog of the top 10 signs seen at GameDay today. He left out "Alabama Girls Blackout Every Saturday Night" but otherwise it was a fairly complete list.

PREGAME UPDATE: We're just about an hour away from kickoff. I must say, the black jerseys are looking pretty sharp. Also looking sharp is Knowshon Moreno, who is sporting a mohawk for tonight's game. It's a nice touch.

I'm not sure the late kickoff time has helped a few of the more hearty partygoers -- there was a pretty steady flow of blood and vomit on my walk here. That wasn't so pleasant. With Ole Miss's win over Florida, however, and another loss by Tennessee, this game has taken on even more significance for the Bulldogs -- something that hardly seemed possible. The stars definitely appear aligned for Georgia tonight, but fate doesn't win football games. I think the five big keys for Georgia will be:

1.) No turnovers. Stafford has been INT-free, and he needs to keep a 0 on that stat line.

2.) Get an early lead. Don't let Alabama hang around. Come out playing aggressive and get 'Bama off its game plan.

3.) Quick passes and draw plays. Georgia's offensive line -- on paper at least -- is overmatched, so the Bulldogs would be well served to force the Tide's pass rush to be a bit less aggressive.

4.) Kickoff and punt coverage. Javy Arenas can be a game changer for 'Bama, and Georgia has struggled on special teams so far. Alabama has yet to prove it can sustain any long drives against a tough defense, so don't hand the Tide good field position.

5.) Stop the run. Put the game on John Parker Wilson's shoulders. If he beats you, well, it was meant to be. Wait... what's that I said about fate?

Anyway, that's my two cents. For those of you -- and there aren't many, I'm guessing -- who aren't at the game, feel free to post your thoughts, opinions and questions throughout the game. I'll have 1-2 updates per quarter. Enjoy the ballgame!


Anonymous said...

You should ask Richt how many times he will allow his team to defensively get blown out in the first half so there is no chance to come back. The offense will look totally lost until the game is lost. There are two reasons for this and he can fix both by holding them to the same standards he holds the players. Review the games and see how out coached we are. WM and Bobo both have to go. Every year it is the same.

DawgCPA said...

David... with all due respect... your analysis is right on point. It always is. HOWEVER, DON'T EVER, EVER, EVER POST A "POST GAME NOTE" BEFORE THE GAME IS OVER!!!! You disrespect the team AND us. It's a long season. This was an SEC West loss. Our goal must always be first the SEC Championship. We must never lose sight of that. We all got just a little ahead of ourselves. That being said... We win out. Bama loses to LSU. We beat one of them in the SEC Championship game. We still play for the NCG. Simple as that. But again, don't EVER post until its over.

DawgCPA said...

Hey anon... GET A LIFE! WM and Bobo both have to go?!?!?! What world are you livin in? When did you become a Dawgs fan? Last week? You're a PERFECT example of what's wrong with the "typical" Georgia fan!

Anonymous said...

You're probably right.

Everytime a college or nfl team wins a title, you hear about some star coordinator who becomes a hot commodityto fill another team's head coaching vacancy.

You'll see a unicorn trot out onto the field before you see martinez or bobo get any head coaching offers.

Anonymous said...

Bobo was an assistant who never was an offensive coordinator at a college. He should have been made to prove himself at another college before given the job. WM may be a nice guy like Bobo but they are both too predicable. If they stay we can never win it all. If you are happy with that great. But David, ask Richt the question. The record speaks for itself. You can question my loyalty but you can not change the results.

DawgCPA said...

1. if you're a man... post your name. Don't hide behind anon.
2. I'm sorry... but I'm a little confused. Are our coaches trying to do well enough to get some other job or are they trying to do the job they have now to the best of their ability? Why do I think you're also a perfect example of what's wrong with our country today? Everyone wants everythinhg NOW. Everyone wants it all for themselves. What happened to sacrifice? What happened to dedication, commitment, and putting the team first? Have you EVER actually put on the pads and played a down? Grow up!
BTW, I believe in unicorns!

Anonymous said...

Hiding behind a name,"dawgcpa"?

Seriously, there are few things sadder than a guy on the internet talking tough.

DawgCPA said...

You're right.
Brett McClung
Marietta, GA

David Hale said...

No offense meant in posting early... please remember, I have a newspaper deadline, too. There's not a lot of time there. Just trying to get the main points up in time for it to be worthwhile and still get my stories for the paper done. Hope you understand.

Anonymous said...

Ok, we all know our names. Jim Garcia in Austin, Texas. Actually I did not post all of the anon postings.

This does not change the results. I have been a Georgia fan and graduate since 1979. Richt is the best head coach we have ever had but WM is possibly the worst defensive coordinator I have seen. He does not learn from his mistakes. Erk did.

Bobo never should have been promoted to the offensive coordinator job. I thought at first he was just new and would grow into the job. At this point, I think he should be a high school coordinator.

David, Good reporters ask the hard questions. Halberstam.

DAve said...

David: For the record, the pass to A.J. Green was ruled a catch and fumble recovery by Alabama, not an interception by Stafford.

And to those of you talking about firing Bobo and/or Willie Martinez: Since the start of last season we are 15-3, have scored 40+ points in half of those games, and won a Sugar Bowl.

We were without Sturdivant, Tripp, Southerland, Battle, Ellerbe and Owens (all preseason starters) yet still were outgained by Bama by ten yards and held the Tide to 2.9 yards per carry.

We played and lost to a better team, as simple as that. There are a number of things this team needs to do moving forward, but firing Bobo and/or Martinez are not those things.

David Hale said...

Dave -- you are completely correct, in my opinion. I'll have more on this tomorrow, but really good points. Do I think Bobo and Willie had their best games? No. But firing the coordinators isn't a solution. And I plan to talk to Richt about the coaching this week -- but for those of you asking me to ask Richt about firing them -- what do you think he will say? Even if he was legitimately thinking it -- which he's not -- he would never say so to the media before it happened.

And RE: the Green fumble -- it was originally credited as an INT by ESPN and CBS, so that's how I had it listed. I will update in future posts. Please remember, this live blog post is all as it happens, so some stats, rulings, etc. will change as the game goes on or in the future.