Before we get to handing out some ugly grades, let's answer a few of the comments from yesterday...
(Oh, and a quick note, this is probably a record long post, so you may want to print it out and take it someplace comfortable.)
Anonymous writes: My hope is that OSU is really good - no make that great - if not.........
DH: My first inclination after a bad loss is always to go in the opposite direction of the natural instinct, to take a calm, analytical approach and essentially ask the question: Was it really that bad?
As Anonymous points out, Georgia did lose to the No. 9 team in the country. The Dawgs did essentially shut down the Okie State offense in terms of overall productivity. Unless there was more to the game on Thursday that I didn't see, there's no chance South Carolina is going to be as good as the Cowboys.
But did Georgia really lose to the ninth-best team in the country? I don't think so. Oklahoma State really did all it could to keep Georgia in that game. OSU shot itself in the foot with 15 penalties -- FIFTEEN! -- that made Georgia's defense look a little better than they probably played. And it wasn't as if OSU won the turnover battle 3-0 simply because the Cowboys were doing a great job of securing the ball. Georgia simply didn't capitalize on at least three gifts the Pokes gave them.
So, in my humble opinion, I think Anonymous will be disappointed. Georgia definitely did not lose to a great team, and I'd be willing to say they didn't lose to a really good team either.
Anonymous writes: Richard Samuel - Do the coaches coach this kid?? I saw zero improvement over last year. He still goes down on first contact, he doesnt protect the football with both arms (EVER), and he might as well just cut off his non ball carrying arm. Does he know what a stiff arm is? With his size and speed, he should be coached up to run through tackles, use his lower body strength, WAKE UP AND RUN THE BALL LIKE A FOOTBALL PLAYER. If this kid had ANY football instincts, he could be great...but at this point, we should just yank his scholarship cause he is a waste of a physical specimen.
DH: OK, so this is why I say it's important to keep some perspective. This comment about Samuel was not entirely different from similar ones I got about Joe Cox, Mike Bobo, Bryan Evans, Jon Fabris or Mark Richt.
Folks, I'm not saying you should be thrilled about anything that happened out on the field Saturday, but remember that it was one game against a decent enough opponent, and while the offense looked bad, the unit was also essentially starting from scratch in terms skill position players. Let's at least wait to see what happens in Week 2 before we fire Richt, bench Cox and boot Samuel off the team.
SilverDawg writes: We need the fire of an Erk Russell. One would be great. Two or three even better. Without "fire in the belly" it's just an empty stomach.
DH: I understand the fan reaction to say, "These guys just didn't want it enough." You watch on TV and you REALLY want it, then you don't see the results. It's a natural reaction.
But I can assure you, Georgia WANTED this game. I was in the interview room afterward. I know what the mood was. There wasn't any loafing on the field or any excuses afterward.
Last year, I might have agreed that the team lack the "want to." Saturday, however, wasn't about "want." It was all about game plan and execution, and Georgia simply didn't get the job done.
(As a side note: A number of people compared Georgia's attitude to Alabama's and said it showed the Bulldogs lacked intensity. I'd like to remind people about what they were saying last season when the "intense" Bulldogs were racking up 11 or 12 penalties a game and the outcry was to tone it down.)
If there's anything encouraging to take from the game -- and there's not much -- I think it's how much heart the D showed after going one series after another with bad field position. Last year, that was essentially a free touchdown because the D showed virtually no heart in the face of adversity. That wasn't the case Saturday, and Willie and Co. deserve some credit for that. (Which is not to say I don't have other criticisms to level in their direction, just that heart isn't one of them.)
Anonymous writes: Have the coaches addressed the use of Brandon Smith on offense? It seemed as though he touched the ball more than Carlton Thomas and had more passes thrown his way than Tavaris King. Do the coaches have more confidence in Smith with the ball in his hands than Wooten or Brown? I was not impressed with SMith's continuous running from the end zone on kick returns or the interference with Miller's efforts to down a punt inside the five. Smith just seemed like a true freshman caught up in the game, which is understandable, but should he have played that big of a part in his first game?
DH: Here's what I think this came down to: Georgia's coaches didn't believe they had more than one or two reliable playmakers, so they designed a few low-risk plays to give Smith because his speed put him in a position to make something happen -- which to me is essentially the football equivalent of throwing you-know-what against a wall and seeing what sticks.
Of course, even if you're going to do that, why would you not at least put Marlon Brown out on the field? His size alone creates a mismatch that at least would have forced Okie State to rethink things a bit, regardless of whether or not you plan to throw him the ball.
(One other side note -- After Smith brought out the first kick from 7 yards deep, how is it that no one on that sideline grabbed him and said "Do not let that happen again!"? Instead, he did the same thing on the next play. I get it. He's a freshman and he's confident. I don't blame him. You have coaches for a reason.)
Anonymous writes: Why no qb change considering Joe C had the flu? first game of the year our substituting was poor , 35 and 22 etc played to much on special teams. And our starting corners were returning kicks , maybe later in the season but thought we needed to save our playmakers on d.
DH: I don't want to pick on our anonymous commenter here, because he was hardly alone in expressing this sentiment. But didn't we spend the whole offseason arguing about how Georgia needed to use more skill guys on special teams? Can't have it both ways.
I think using some top players on ST is great. What I can't understand is why even with those better players, you still can't cover a kick. Perhaps it's that you keep returning to a philosophy that has not worked over and over.
And one other thing on the kickoffs: I have trouble pinning too much of that on Blair. For the most part, he put the ball where he was asked. It's the plan that was flawed, not Blair's kicking.
Chillydawg writes: I’m sure the first series of the game was scripted and was executed well, one reason we took the ball down and scored. After that, the offense was a Hodge podge of nothing. The o- line played well for the most part but we did nothing to keep them off balance – to slow down their rush, make them think to slow down their aggression. We were so simple. No draws to slow them down, no screens or counters (that I can remember) to take advantage of the aggressiveness. Just plan old zone dives and toss. Bobo’s grade - F
DH: I couldn't have possibly said this any better. A "hodge podge" is exactly what Bobo threw out there. The first drive was surgical in its precision, and Georgia looked good. There was a plan. The offense looked dynamic. It looked in rhythm.
What followed was a mess. There was no plan, no direction, no philosophy... nothing. How can that be when Georgia's coaches had longer to prepare for this game than any they'll have the rest of the way?
Also, I wanted to go back to this quote Mark Richt gave just one week ago after practice:
“If you’re not quite sure of all your personnel, you’re more apt to make sure the right guys are getting the ball, which is not as much fun as a coordinator,” Richt said. “When you’re sitting there going, ‘Well, so-and-so is in the game, so I’ve got to do this or that,’ I hope that we don’t have to do that. We’re not going into this game saying that’s what we’re going to do because we feel like we’ve got to let these guys go out there and make plays.”
Either something happened in the week between Richt expressing that sentiment and the game, or he was simply being visibly confident in front of the media while not really believing the words he was saying in private. Georgia's offense Saturday was exactly the opposite of his stated plan. It was every bit the "Well, so-and-so is in the game, so I've got to do this or that." There was no imagination, no plan, and a complete reliance on Richard Samuel and A.J. Green to be the lone playmakers.
I said this soon after Stafford and Moreno decided to head to the NFL: This year's team will be defined by the coaching staff. There is talent on the roster, but it's inexperienced, unpolished. It will take some dynamic thinking and some exceptional teaching to ensure that talent shows up on the field every Saturday because the parts that Georgia has to work with aren't the typical puzzle pieces the coaching staff has had to put together in the past.
After watching the game unfold Saturday, I haven't changed that opinion much, but I'm significantly less confident that the coaching staff can -- or worse yet, is willing to -- put that puzzle together.
Now to the grades...
QUARTERBACKS: Joe Cox will take the brunt of this loss. It's a role I'm sure he'd happily take regardless. And no, he didn't play well.
There were several passes it simply looks like Cox can't make. There was a throw in the second quarter down the middle -- about a 15-yarder -- to Aron White that was batted away downfield by an OSU linebacker. It needed zip and it had none. With Stafford's arm, it was a completion for a long gain. Cox didn't come close to getting the ball past the defender. On another deep ball to A.J. Green, Cox badly underthrew his open receiver, and Green was relegated to playing defensive back to prevent a pick by Perrish Cox.
More concerning still was some of the fundamental flaws Cox exhibited. The sales pitch with Joe was all about his accuracy and decision making. While a number of his passes should have been caught -- think the Orson Charles drop or the one that tipped off Michael Moore's hands in the fourth quarter -- they weren't exactly on target either. Cox's passes were often a touch behind a receiver, which is concerning since that was supposed to be his strength. Cox also hung on to the ball longer than he should have and often focused too much on his first target -- which may, of course, have been the result of the fact that he wasn't given a second target.
Having said all that, Cox receivers let him down. The drops were bad, but the sheer lack of any second target beyond Green made his job nearly impossible. Add to that the potential effects of the flu and you've got a recipe for a long afternoon.
The popular sentiment now seems to be -- get him outta there! I know I'm not the first to say this, but please folks, think about what you're saying. For one, we have no idea how much of that performance was "the real Joe Cox" or how much of his struggles were related to his health. He deserves more than one chance to show what he can do.
Secondly, it's very easy to be enthusiastic about Logan Gray or Aaron Murray before you see them on the field. Remember what 2006 was like when Matthew Stafford first took over? And trust me, neither Gray nor Murray are anywhere close to as ready to play as Stafford was.
That said, I think putting Gray in for a series would have been a worthwhile idea Saturday, if for no other reason that to simply give the OSU defense something else to think about and for the Georgia coaches to see what they have in Gray.
Instead, I think the fact that the game stayed as close as it did sort of left the coaches in no man's land -- how do you roll the dice when you're only down a touchdown? Of course, that assumes they had a plan to begin with, which is tough to find any evidence to support.
Final grade: C-
RUNNING BACKS: There were times Richard Samuel looked pretty impressive. He showed nice speed and an impressive ability to bounce the ball outside and make things happen. I know fans are going to point to what he could have done vs. what he actually did, which is fair. Samuel left a lot of yards on the field. But he was also Georgia's only real productive player for much of the game, and he did hang on to the football, which had to be considered a minor victory. And while Samuel could have done more, the kid did have 87 yards and only two of his 20 carries went for zero or negative yards. If Georgia had won, I'm not sure he'd be getting nearly the criticism he has now. He was hardly the weak point of the offense.
The bigger problem was the playcalling. When Mike Bobo needed to stretch the field, he stuck with the run. When the run appeared to be working early, he got away from Samuel in the second quarter and the wheels came off the offense.
I liked the use of Branden Smith as a runner, even if it didn't amount to much offensively. If they go to Smith enough, eventually he's going to break one.
I didn't like Carlton Thomas' performance, obviously. Thomas showed flashes of why he's so impressive, but it was only when he got the ball in space. On direct handoffs when he tried to go between the tackles, it was a disaster, including the costly fumble. I hate to be yet another critic piling on the kid for his size, but if Saturday was any indication, he's going to have a very tough time running against much bigger and better fronts in the SEC.
Caleb King was missed in this game. Another option to go with Samuel would have been helpful.
Final grade: C
RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: There's really nothing that can be said that's particularly positive here. Mark Richt complimented Tavarres King, but one catch for four yards and another miss that led to Cox's INT doesn't seem like getting the job done to me.
Green was blanketed most of the game, and the coaching staff waited too long to try to find other ways to get the ball in his hands.
Michael Moore was a non-factor with the exception of his 4-yard TD reception. His drop in the fourth quarter was particularly troubling.
Aron White and Orson Charles also had drops, but it was a good sign that both were open routinely. Still, they have to make plays when the opportunity comes their way.
The big question, however, is where the heck were Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten (or Israel Troupe for that matter)?
Georgia essentially went with just three wide receivers the entire game, which no doubt took its toll. Moore said he took 55 snaps alone, but more troubling was the reaction from his coach, who Moore said didn't realize that Brown, Wooten and Troupe had been absent.
"Coach Ball is in the box, so he doesn't have direct contact with us, and he didn't realize that until the end of the game," Moore said. "We didn't know what the rotation was going to be like and we basically stuck with just the three guys."
I'm not going to pin this on Tony Ball without talking to him first, but if the coaches really weren't aware that they had only used three wide receivers, that is a serious problem.
Regardless, no one I've asked seems to have any better explanation for why Brown and Wooten didn't get in the game, and it doesn't sound like it was the most popular decision with the other players.
"I'm not sure why we didn't sub some other people in," Cox said. "That's not my decision. Whatever reason Coach Bobo and the other coaches did that for, you'd have to ask them."
"With some of the things they were doing on defense, our playcalling was more limited that what we thought coming into the game," White said. "We have a lot more that we could throw out there. I feel like a lot of our weapons on offense weren't completely utilized to their potential."
Even if you're not sure what to expect from Brown and Wooten, isn't it better to at least find that out in a non-conference road game than be left with the same indecision and doubt against South Carolina? And even if you weren't going to throw to Brown, doesn't just having him on the field create enough of a mismatch for the defense that it opens up another avenue? I just don't get this at all.
Final grade: F
OFFENSIVE LINE: This was far from the dominant performance that many had expected.
The line opened up some holes in the running game, but Richt said they often struggled to remain engaged long enough for the tailbacks to finish a run.
"There was a couple times when we just didn't finish blocks," Richt said. "Schematically we were creating good space, but if we'd have stuck on our blocks a little bit better, we might have broken some big runs."
And the pass blocking was better, but not great.
"It wasn't flawless by any means," Richt said. "The sack that caused the fumble was a protection issue. Most of the time we protected well, but that time in particular it wasn't very good."
Add to that the season-ending injury to Trinton Sturdivant, and suddenly things aren't looking as rosy as they once were for the O line, which is particularly troubling since Oklahoma State's front four was nowhere near the biggest Georgia will see this season.
Final grade: C
DEFENSIVE LINE: The good news: Georgia did a decent job containing the run, holding Kendall Hunter to just 3.3 yards per carry and effectively shutting down Oklahoma State's ground game between the tackles.
Now the bad news: Once again there were no sacks and the perimeter containment was less than spectacular.
Again, you could blame the players, but read what Jeff Owens has to say first:
"If you watched the film, it was all play action and he tried to get out of the pocket," Owens said. "I can't remember one time of all 36 snaps I played that he dropped back and threw the football -- not one. It was a quick slant or the play action. I guess they knew we were going to try to get up field and rush the passer because there was never a five-step drop or seven-step drop and throw the football. It was tough for us. The one deep ball Dez Bryant went, it was play action. The two tackles, they pulled the guard, so we were playing run first and trying to convert to pass. There was never an, OK, we'll play the pass first. It was a good game plan because I guess they knew we were going to get upfield."
It sounds to me like this was yet another example of Georgia being outcoached and Oklahoma State being significantly better prepared.
I'll give a slight nod to Rodney Garner and Willie Martinez for mixing things up and using Geno Atkins at D-end, but he finished with just one tackle, so the experiment was hardly a resounding success.
One other tip o' the cap to Georgia's goal-line D, which was much improved from last year. They didn't make anything easy for the Cowboys.
Final grade: C
LINEBACKERS: I'm not sure why Rennie Curran wasn't on the field at a couple of key moments. I'm not sure at what point Marcus Dowtin was on the field enough to compile a team-high eight tackles. I'm not sure what happened to Akeem Dent, who was a complete non-factor. I'm not sure why Darryl Gamble essentially disappeared in the second half. I'm not sure why underneath routes were open for much of the game for Oklahoma State or why tight end Wilson Youman was wide open for a key 25-yard reception. I think the defense played pretty well overall, as did the linebackers, but this wasn't their finest hour.
Final grade: C+
DEFENSIVE BACKS: I know this wasn't a perfect day by any stretch of the imagination for Georgia's secondary, but on the whole I thought they played pretty well, all things considered.
On the down side: No interceptions, despite multiple opportunities; The awful flag on Reshad Jones, which was a clean hit for sure; Brandon Boykin and Bryan Evans each getting burned by Dez Bryant for touchdowns; The middle of the field was open too often.
The upside was better though. Evans played safety a lot like he played corner, which is a bit like having Brad Lidge as your closer. You know the talent is there, but it's always an adventure. Still, that hit he had to separate Bryant from the ball in the first half was a work of art.
For it being his first real action of his career, Boykin was very good. Yes, Bryant beat him for the one TD, but that was A.) only after the Jones' flag, and B.) bound to happen when you have a player as good as Bryant get that many chances. The fact that Bryant was held to just three catches and Zac Robinson completed just 11-of-22 passes tells me that for the most part, this was a winning performance by the secondary. The offense just couldn't make it stand up.
Special kudos to Vance Cuff, too. He played particularly well in reserve duty.
Final grade: B
SPECIAL TEAMS: Quite simply, I don't have the energy to go through all this again.
You all know the drill:
-- Why is Branden Smith taking the ball out of the end zone twice?
-- Why was Georgia blocking in the back to screw Prince Miller... again?
-- Why is Georgia still kicking directionally when it hasn't worked any of the 1,845 other times.
Drew Butler had a nice game and was clearly the bright spot for Georgia -- and I mean that overall, not just on special teams.
Blair Walsh showed why he's a valuable asset worth protecting by booting a 53-yard field goal that was meaningful at the time. Of course, if kickoffs eat away at him again like they did last year, you can probably count on a slump on field goals, too. Because, you know, who cares about protecting a kicker's psyche, right?
Something needs to be done here, and I'm at a loss to understand how Richt can listen to one man's opinion when the results aren't there while simultaneously ignoring so many knowledgeable people who have other ideas.
Final grade: D (with Butler really bringing up the class average)
COACHING: We discussed the lack of playing time for the receivers, and that must be blamed on the coaches.
We discussed that the offense was surprised by what Oklahoma State did on defense. That has to be blamed on the coaches.
We discussed the "hodge podge" play calling, and that has to be blamed on the coaches.
We discussed that Georgia's pass rush continued to play the run despite Oklahoma State gashing them with the play action, and that has to be blamed on the coaches.
We discussed the directional kicking and its utter failure, and that has to be blamed on the coaches.
We discussed the fact that, even after a full offseason and five weeks of preseason, Georgia still appeared unprepared and confused on offense, and that has to be blamed on the coaches.
We mentioned the numerous players who missed time while getting IVs during the game, and the lack of proper conditioning for the weather has to be blamed on the coaches.
Listen, it was hot on the field. I was down there, so I can vouch for it. But how hot was it really?
I got this email from a reader named John, who was sitting just two rows up in the stands: "It wasn't that hot! I had about 8 beers before the game and only drank one cup of sprite durning the game."
John wasn't putting in the same effort as Georgia's players, but the players also (hopefully) hadn't had eight beers before the game (although that might explain a lot).
But when it comes to illustrating just how bad the coaching was in this game, I think these two quotes sum it up best.
The first, from Coach A: "Earlier in the game (we) should have varied what (we) did and tried to open it up a little more. We wanted to establish the run and ball control and it started out well, and it just came down to execution and (we) didn’t do a very good job of spreading it out or spreading the field.”
The second, from Coach B: "I felt like (we) didn’t give (Samuel) enough chance to make plays. We really felt like he’s a playmaker and we wanted to give him 25-plus carries. I don’t know what we ended up with, but not enough.”
Now, you're probably reading those quotes and getting a little concerned that there's a clear rift in the philosophy of two of Georgia's offensive coaches. Rightly so. Clearly one guy favors featuring the run, while the other guy thinks that the reliance on the run prevented Georgia from opening things up and stretching the field.
To have two coaches disagree so fundamentally would be concerning. What's even more concerning, however, is that both of those quotes came from Mike Bobo following the game.
Georgia came into Saturday's contest unsure of what its identity was offensively, and that's unacceptable when the coaches had the past five weeks to figure it out.
But what's far worse is that they'll go into this Saturday's game with the exact same dilemma.
Final grade: F-
THE VENUE: As a special bonus for away games, I figure it's worth grading the venue for the game. A few thoughts...
-- I'm a big fan of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, where I had a layover on both legs of the trip. Easy to maneuver, clean, some good places to eat. Also the overhead placards that give directions around the airport all said "toilets" rather than "restrooms." Nice touch, Texas.
-- I stayed in Tulsa, which was not nearly as bad as I had assumed. Went out for a bit Friday night and found a good little entertainment district. Also got to shoot a game of pool with the Bulldog in Exile and his lovely wife, Mrs. Exile. Good times all around.
-- The drive to the game wasn't bad, but the tolls into Stillwater required exact change, which I didn't have. Enterprise Rent-A-Car can be expecting a fine shortly.
-- It was a breeze getting in and out of the stadium, the fans were all very friendly and cordial, and the stadium was well-appointed. I will say though, I can't quite figure where they spent all that money, because while the stadium was nice, it certainly wasn't impressive. But I also wasn't invited into any of the luxury boxes.
-- Undercooked chicken in the press box for pre-game meal. Not good.
-- Went out after the game to try to find some food. There were shockingly few people out considering it was supposedly the biggest win in Oklahoma State history. I did see a kid passed out on his front porch though, so I guess that's a start. Also, rather than hearing people cheering about the Cowboys' win, I heard numerous people celebrating Oklahoma's loss. I feel like they'd get along well with Georgia Tech fans.
Final grade: B
Anyway, I guess if I had to leave all this with a final thought it's this: Let's reserve some judgment until after the South Carolina game. The players didn't execute well, but I pin the vast majority of the game on the coaching staff. I'm not sure how encouraging that should be (and as a side note, I was reminded by a reader that Georgia is just 6-4 in its last 10 games), but at least there's a good bit of talent there. Maybe it's just going to take a while to bring it all out on the field.
Again, I ask the question I asked at the beginning of this post: Was it really that bad?
As demoralizing as the game clearly was for the fans, remember this: As bad as they played, they really weren't that far away from winning. If they had been able to get anything going on offense in the second half, if they had been able to come away with a turnover on any of those opportunities, if Samuel had been able to break one big run, if the offense hadn't had two costly turnovers... those things are all disappointments now, but had any of them gone in the other direction, there's a good chance you all would be celebrating a frighteningly close win right now.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Before we get to handing out some ugly grades, let's answer a few of the comments from yesterday...