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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fleeting Thoughts: South Carolina Edition

I'm writing this from I-85 at 6:30 a.m. on my way to Charlotte following a whopping three hours of sleep. But, I have tickets to the Eagles-Panthers game today and I'm rocking my Brian Westbrook jersey, so I'm full of energy.

Anyway, Tyler Estep and Fletcher Page are being kind enough to handle the game follow-up stuff for me today, and they'll have notes up on the blog following Mark Richt's teleconference tonight, but before that, I figured I'd share a few thoughts from last night's 41-37 Georgia win.

-- First and foremost, it's hard to quantify just how important that win was for Georgia. An 0-2 start would have been a disaster. Instead, the win gives Georgia some momentum heading into a tough road game at Arkansas and gives the offense some actual highlights. As Joe Cox said after the game, "This win meant everything to us."

-- For all the talk about Cox's injury and the conspiracy theories that he was on his way out, Cox played all but one snap and looked pretty good doing it. I said before the game, there's absolutely no chance that Richt was putting a quarterback out there that he didn't think gave him his best shot to win. That was clearly backed up Saturday.

-- Which isn't to say that Logan Gray doesn't deserve more than one snap a game.

-- The offense looked much improved over last week, but I'd say the majority of that had to do with two things: 1.) Joe Cox played much better. Yes, the pick-six was UGLY, and he knew it. But outside of that throw, Cox performed admirably and his passes had a lot more on them than they did a week ago. I'm inclined to believe the flu really had a profound effect last week. 2.) The offensive line played much better. While the pass protection broke down badly on the one play where Cox was blindsided and fumbled, for the most part there was running room and time to throw. It was a much better performance than a week ago against a much tougher front four.

-- Having said all that, Mike Bobo's playcalling still left me a bit puzzled. Just as Richard Samuel was getting into a groove -- and he looked downright mean on the drive capped by his 1-yard TD -- he was essentially pulled from the game for consecutive series. Georgia faced a crucial third-and-4 on their own side of the field at one point, and Samuel was on the sideline in favor of Carlton Thomas, with Cox throwing from the shotgun. It just made no sense.

-- Speaking of personnel, once again Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten were absent from the game plan. Brown was in on two plays and Wooten one, but it was at an odd time, almost as if the coaching staff was saying, "Better get them in the game so no one asks why we didn't."

-- Holy cow, A.J. Green is good. He wasn't much more open Saturday than he had been against Oklahoma State, but he just decided he wanted it more. He finished with six catches for 86 yards and had another crucial pass-interference flag come in to salvage a Georgia drive.

"It looks good, but he's done it so much that it doesn't even surprise me," Cox said. "He'll make a catch, and I'll just laugh a little bit like, 'that guy's good, and I'm glad he's on my team.'"

By the way, his 9-yard TD reception in the second quarter was eerily reminiscent of the one he caught against Kentucky from Matthew Stafford near the end of the game. Even more eerie? Cox's rationale behind the throw was exactly the same: "Coaches were going nuts saying to throw it away if it wasn't there, but with a guy like A.J., you always have a chance."

-- Back to Samuel for a second: He ran much harder than a week ago and broke several tackles. Better yet, he picked up the tough yards. There was no going down behind the line of scrimmage. Every run meant something. But his best play? It came on a reception by Mike Moore in which Samuel darted downfield about 15 yards and absolutely leveled South Carolina's safety. Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones have nothing on that guy.

-- There were a couple pretty scary snaps. Ty Frix's snap over Drew Butler's head was the obvious one and went for a safety, but Cox seemed to have trouble with at least three or four others during the game.

-- I told you before the season Brandon Boykin was going to be a stud. He looked strong in coverage yet again, had Georgia's first INT of the season on a play in which he got about 53 feet off the ground, and what else can I say about the kick return?

-- Speaking of Boykin, he's a perfect example of what Georgia will be all about this year. There is a ton of natural talent on that team. From Boykin's big plays to Branden Smith's 61-yard run for a TD to Orson Charles' two big catches (despite the fact that he remains underutilized by Bobo so far) and on down the line. It's going to be a mixed bag as some of these guys get acquainted to their roles, but there's a high ceiling for them.

-- There are going to be a lot of folks angry with Willie Martinez after this game because -- well they have to be angry at someone, right? But take a big step back, folks. Willie called a pretty good game, all things considered. The pass rush wasn't bad, but there were at least a half-dozen times were the rusher would spin the wrong direction or just miss bringing down Stephen Garcia, who played out of his mind. Willie was completely hamstrung by having his top defensive end, Rod Battle, go down with a knee injury and two of his top three Sam linebackers, Darius Dewberry and Nick Williams, miss the game with hamstring pulls. Marcus Washington spent most of the game floating between LB and DE, and Willie was essentially just working with what he had. The middle of the field was open a lot, but it was by necessity. He played a classic bend-but-don't-break style, which was not pretty, but it was effective. The defense was exceptional in the red zone, and South Carolina didn't score an offensive touchdown in the second half. This was not anywhere near as bad as some people are going to make it out to be.

-- Prince Miller's work in coverage, however, left a bit to be desired, and Vance Cuff had two bad flags.

-- On the plus side, this game was a perfect example of why Georgia fans love Rennie Curran. The kid is amazing. He played out of his mind, finishing with a career-high 15 tackles and for the second straight year, he made the defensive play at the goal line that saved the win.

More than just what Curran did on the field, however, was what he did off it. Here are three quotes from Mark Richt about the lead-up to the game. See if you can guess how Curran altered the timeline:

On this week's attitude: “They were down. They were down early on. I think everybody was just in the tank and I wasn’t feeling real good either."

On Rennie's presume thoughts: “Rennie talked to the team before the game and promised them all he was going to play with every ounce of energy he had and with all his heart, and sure enough at the very end, he makes the play.”

On the team's attitude during the game: “I think our guys played about as hard as I’ve seen them play in a long time. There was a special energy. I don’t know why. Maybe there was a special sense of urgency at not going 0-2, knowing we’re at home, knowing it was the SEC. There was so many things riding on it, and for whatever reason I think our boys had as much heart and fire, wire to wire, that I’ve ever seen.”

Richt might not know why, but I think most of you can guess.

-- Beyond everything else, regardless of how worried you now are about the defense or concerned you are about Bobo's personnel choices, you should take a minute today to appreciate what a great football game you watched.

When was the last time you saw a game with a 300-yard passer, a safety, a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, an interception return for a touchdown, a guy kick five field goals, a 61-yard reverse for a TD, a fake punt, one team run 30 more plays than the other and lose, the most points scored in one half of a UGA game in 18 years, a series that has been built on low-scoring affairs turning into a barnburner with 78 total points scored, and then comes down to a final fourth-down play that has as much suspense as most fans in the stadium -- regardless of who they were rooting for -- could tolerate?

That was just a fun football game, folks. And I say that as a guy who made his deadline with just a few seconds to spare thanks to all that excitement.


rbubp said...

Agreed. Thanks for the wire-to-wire full of fire reporting, DH. Get you some sleep after the game today!

Anonymous said...

please get serious
we all support our team
we all think joe cox is a nice fellow
he is a lousy qb and should take up assisstant coach offer from high school now
look at what the freshman at michigan did today
richt is nice fellow
he is no longer valuable as a major college coach
time has passed him by just as time passes by so many like fulmer
the day will come when saban will no longer be relavent also
look at spurrier he is no longer a god
georgia needs to lose richt just like they did wally butts so long ago
joe cox is like a mushroom not even a carrott

rbubp said...

Anon 10:35, the comments re; Richt and Cox are utterly ridiculous. Just get a grip.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:35,

Is that supposed to be a poem?

JJH4 said...

I think Gray should get more snaps but Cox is the best we have. If he wasn't, Gray would be getting more of a shot than 1 snap.

Richt had the fire last night that I thought he might have lost.

Is Rennie Curran possibly the best LB in Georgia history???

rbubp said...

If only Rennie could play all of the defense's position at once. Sometimes I think we'd be better off.

Here's hoping Battle is back, Houston is as advertised, and Dobbs and the other LB (forgot which) can play more than not this week, because the Mike and Sam were eaten alive last night. They were wretched.

Nancy R said...

David, I agree with you. A.J. did look good. I thought Samuel looked even better. And like you, I began to miss him in the second half.

You did say Boykin would be a stud this year, but I was too impressed with Samuel's critical thinking skills to pay Boykin any mind. He's got my attention now.

And you're right about your last point. That was game was just plain fun to watch. As I wrote on my blog, for one who's trying to learn football, that was the game to see. I didn't understand half of what occurred on that field, but I knew I'd probably never see them again in one game.

And kudos to you for writing on so little sleep so close to deadline. I couldn't do it.

Doug M said...

Great job as usual.
Thanks for providing a more level-headed analysis of the defensive performance. Not a great on, but not as bad as it might have seemed.

JasonC said...

Seriously, I would take a team consisting of Geno, Owens and 9 Rennies any day, even if he isn't a natural at all the other positions.

Anonymous said...

Everyone must read this story from the Miami newspaper today, funny as hell:

JJ said...

LOL - I thought the same thing when I saw Wooten trot on the field in the 4th quarter. That was an odd time to make a college debut. It was almost like they just remembered at the last minute that those 2 guys (Wooten and Brown) were on the bench.)

Anonymous said...

Any chance in the world that CMR can talk his fellow military supporter and travel companion, Tommy Tubberville, into taking over the defensive reigns from Willie? It's a long shot at best I know, but knowing that he can stick it up AllBarn's rear end every single year could be a very enticing selling point. He could be this generation of Bulldog fans' Erk Russell without the bloody forehead. The Dawgs and we as fans continually talk about "getting over the hump" to become serious national championship contenders. We probably only need a nudge, but this would be a Reshad Jones push out of bounds in the right direction.

Will Q said...

Anon 11:22,

If it was supposed to be a poem, he should have gone for haiku.

Oh, and about Cox: if he wasn't the best quarterback we had right now, he wouldn't be playing. JTIII got benched for Stafford when it became apparent that the freshman gave us the best chance to win. Richt would do the same if Gray, Murray, or Mettenberger gave us a better chance than Cox. As to why the freshman at Michigan looked so ready to play as opposed to our freshmen (or sophomores), that could go down as the difference between learning the spread vs. learn our own pro-style offense. Besides, USC's freshman QB didn't look quite as ready for primetime, and he's already the Next Big Thing.

Mike said...

David, excellent job of reporting. You do a great job covering UGA and we all appreciate it.

Martinez' bend-don't-break will become bend-AND-break if we don't adjust that soft zone. The redzone gets tighter, so of course we do better, but between the 20s, with a better QB against us, and we're toast. Richt needs to have a "sit down" with Bobo and try to get some idea of where his head is in games ot take back over play-calling. Richard Samuel needs 25-30 carries per game not a mere 15. Why were we passing the ball when Norwood picked him off...?? We needed to burn clock and Samuel was running hard. Not getting Brown, Wooten and Charles more involved is pitiful coaching.
Richt needs to get in these Coordinators' faces and explain to them that their jobs depend on their performance and stop being their "buddy".

Anonymous said...

Where the hell are you Hale?

Nothing to report from Sunday practice / teleconference?t

Dawg Stephen said...

I totally agree with you David. One thing I notice about those complaining why Joe was throwing when they wanted the clock ran out. If Georgia had just run there, and went 3 and out they might have been accused of being too conservative...i guess everyone has different ideas.

I will leave the coaching to the coaches, and just say Go dawgs