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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fleeting Thoughts: LSU Edition

There's probably a lot more to say about this game than I've got the energy to write in this post, but here are a few of the things than ran through my head in the hours following Georgia's 20-13 loss to LSU.

-- A.J. Green is amazing. I know I said it last week, but I think it needs to be said again. Multiple times. Every week. For the rest of the season.

-- I know people are going to want blood following this game. My guess is that Willie Martinez will be at the top of their list. But I'll tell you this much: Willie didn't lose that game. The D was not just good, but great for three quarters. And you can't blame Willie for the utter lack of tackling on those last two drives. The game plan was good. The execution was not.

-- LSU was in the red zone three times in the first half and came away with three points. Seriously, you can't blame Willie for this one.

-- I know the Charles Scott TD at the end made the D look bad, but keep in mind, he ran that from the 33. Even if Georgia's D had stopped him, LSU runs the clock down to the end then boots a field goal without giving Georgia's offense a chance to come back. The TD was really almost a benefit.

-- I had a reader comment on this last week, but it really needs to be said again: The SEC has the highest-paid coaches, assistants making more than head coaches in most leagues, a multi-billion-dollar deal with ESPN. And yet the officiating remains a complete disgrace. There is simply no excuse for it whatsoever.

-- I have a lot of respect for Georgia's players for taking responsibility for how the game ended and not blaming the refs for the absurd celebration penalty, but the bottom line is those flags had no business being thrown. There is no excuse for ruining what had been one of the truly great endings to a college football game this season with crap like that. It's an embarrassment.

-- Despite those comments, this should be remembered: LSU got flagged for the same thing after its last touchdown. The difference? One team can cover kickoffs and one can't. That, too, is an embarrassment. And at the end of the day, it's Georgia's lousy kick coverage that was the difference in this game.

-- Trindon Holliday had two kick returns for a total of 89 yards -- an average of 44.5 yards per return. Coming into this game, LSU was 117th in the nation, averaging just 16.57 yards per kick return. What does that tell you?

-- Seriously, go back through the last two seasons and see how many times Georgia followed a big play on offense with an absolute disastrous play on special teams. I'm sure there are at least nine or 10 examples.

-- I don't blame Blair Walsh for that last kickoff either. Honestly, kicking it out of bounds would have been a far better strategy.

-- I am confused as to how Walsh missed what should have been a chip-shot field goal. In the end, it didn't make the difference in the game, but it certainly could have.

-- I've made no bones about the fact that I think highly of Brandon Boykin, but I have no clue what he was thinking taking that INT out of the end zone. It essentially gave LSU three points. I know there are a lot of young guys on this team getting a lot of PT, but you've got to be smarter than that.

-- I estimate the average blood-alcohol content of the city of Athens to be around .06 last night. And I'm including all the children, the old folks in retirement homes, the people who haven't watched a football game in 10 years… the whole city.

-- Washaun Ealey ran the ball far better than Caleb King or Richard Samuel, but he didn't see the field in passing situations. That is going to be a problem, because Georgia can't afford to sub a back every time they want to throw a pass. And as "impressive" as Ealey was, he still averaged just 4 yards a carry. Good by Georgia's standards Saturday night, but far from great.

-- Speaking of Samuel, he didn't see the field in the second half.

-- Branden Smith played a very impressive game defensively. But why didn't we see him on offense during that debacle of a first half?

-- One first down in the first half. To paraphrase Harry Doyle in "Major League"… that's all we got? One G-D first down? ("You can't say G-D on the air! … Ah, nobody's listening anyway.")

-- Georgia had 10 first downs in the second half, but only one came via the run. For the game, even with Washaun's impressive debut, the Bulldogs mustered just 45 yards on the ground.

-- Georgia had 20 negative yards on the ground, and none of that came via a sack. Say what you want about the running backs, but negative plays are a result of poor line play.

-- Didn't get a chance to ask him about it after the game, but if you noticed, Richt had the headset on for nearly all of the second half.

-- Say what you want about the playcalling, but the personnel stuff is even more confusing. There were too many crucial plays when players like A.J. and Rennie weren't on the field.

-- Drew Butler might be the second most productive player the Bulldogs have.

-- Zero penalties in the first half. Seven in the second. Not good.

-- Rennie Curran had 16 tackles in that game, and afterward, the only thing he talked about was the one he "missed" on Charles Scott's 33-yard touchdown run on LSU's last drive. And by "missed," I mean he had a shot at a shoestring takedown while being blocked by another player. That's accountability.

-- Georgia faced 17 third downs in the game. Fourteen of them were third-and-six of further.

-- Along those same lines, Georgia didn't have a turnover until its last play of the game, yet LSU still ran 14 more offensive plays.

-- Justin Houston is going to be the type of difference-maker Georgia's line has been looking for. After having just 12 tackles for a loss in the first four games, the Dawgs have 18 in the last two, including seven sacks.

-- Richt didn't know whether sacks were counted in the tackles for a loss category. I found that odd.

-- The Logan Gray fair-catch-a-thon is becoming a bit of a joke.

-- Joe Cox only had one turnover in the game, and it was on his late, last-ditch throw that was picked off with just 20 seconds left. But he had at least two other passes earlier in the game that should have not only been intercepted, but returned for touchdowns, too.

-- Having said that, was there anyone who wasn't confident Cox could lead Georgia to a score on that two-minute drive?

-- Where has Michael Moore been the last two weeks?

-- Georgia ran three screen plays to Caleb King in the fourth quarter that added up to 30 yards. Why the heck weren't they doing this earlier? I had at least a half-dozen readers this week mention how effective the screen can be against LSU's aggressive front four.

-- And the draw plays to King on the Bulldogs' penultimate drive? What the heck was that?

-- The run blocking has been brutal, and the inability to even get a snap off properly on the last drive was inexcusable. This is not the offensive line we were promised. Nowhere close.

-- Richt on why the offense goes in the tank from time to time: Too many young players at the skill positions start to press when things don't go well. There's probably a lot of truth to that, but five games into the season, that mentality needs to change.

-- As close as that game was, it was even closer than most people will give it credit for. There were two plays on LSU's second-to-last drive that could have been huge. Brandon Boykin came on a corner blitz on a third-and-10 and just miss bringing down Jordan Jefferson. Instead it went for a third down. Then later on that drive, on a second-and-3, Justin Houston had Jefferson by the shoestrings 7 yards deep, but the QB stepped out of the tackle and ran for 26 yards to the Georgia 13. A half-an-inch in the other direction on either play, and Georgia wins.

-- I don't think LSU is very good. I foresee a big win for Florida next week. (Of course, if you read my picks for this week, that probably means the Tigers cruise.)

-- Georgia could pretty easily be 5-0 right now. It could pretty easily be 0-5 right now. Somehow 3-2 seems about right. The Dawgs have been bipolar all year, and it's hard to pin an identity on them. But I think at this point it's safe to say they are an extremely talented yet invariably flawed team. Some of that is youth, some is coaching, some is utterly inexplicable. It's all pretty frustrating to watch.

-- Walking out of the locker room after the game, I happened to look over and see Mike Bobo and Willie Martinez sitting next to each other on some chairs near the coaches' office. Usually the two duck out pretty quickly during the interview session, but this time, they stuck around the whole time. Bobo had his head buried in his hands. Martinez had his fist tucked up under his chin, staring off into space. The two looked absolutely dejected. It was among the most visibly shaken I've seen two grown men outside of a funeral that I can remember. I think that image really summed things up better than anything else I could write.


A few additional thoughts after reading through a number of your comments...

-- As bad as the kick coverage was following the penalty, I should have also mentioned this: A.) It was absolutely absurd that they kicked off out of the huddle. Why would you get cute on the single most crucial play of the game? B.) They only had THREE MEN to one side of the kicker, which was both bad for coverage (as we saw) and resulted in a penalty for illegal formation. I can't fathom how that can be seen as anything other than a coach making a dreadfully poor decision at a time when the team could least afford it.

-- Joe Cox isn't a superstar, but for all the folks saying he can't stretch the field, please look up the stats. He is among the national leaders in plays of more than 20 yards. And while credit belongs in large part to A.J. for that, Georgia's final TD was set up by a big play to Tavarres King, not A.J. If you want to make the argument that this season is a lost cause and Logan or Aaron Murray needs to see the field, OK. But if you're blaming Cox for this team being 3-2, you are being shortsighted. I think there's a good chance they'd be 1-4 without him.

-- We have the full story on Ealey playing at, but according to the coaches, yes, they had determined before the game that he would play. Why it took until midway through the third quarter for that to happen, I have no clue.

-- As for the Tim Brando comments, I hesitate to put words in his mouth, so I venture to explain his meaning. But I will say this: If he was referring to race, he would not have been the only person in the press box saying it -- and if you've ever been in a press box, it's about as lily white a place as you'll find. For my part, I don't think there is overt racism at work, but I do think subjective rules like this go a long way toward illuminating some distinct cultural differences between the people who enforce the rules and those affected by them -- in terms of race, age and economic status. The bottom line is that celebration and taunting penalties are in place to prevent the opposing team from being shown up. Yet Mark Richt and Les Miles both said they weren't remotely upset by the celebrations. At the very least, the rule is so subjective that there should be a warning before a flag can be thrown, like a sideline infraction or a pitcher who throws at a batter.


rbubp said...

The Logan Gray issue is the least of all of the concerns here, i would think, but I feel it says volumes about the coaching.

A. The other team knows there is zero threat of a return.

B. If he fumbles or any other sort of disaster he is free game for a wicked shot from a defender who knows he is a QB.

C. What if he turns an ankle, much less takes an accidental hit, while fielding a punt, and is then unavailable for a game?

This is stupid on several fronts. Why would you ever, ever, ever risk a QB you need getting hurt doing something this trivial and dangerous?

I'm reading tea leaves here, but I think this is exemplary for why we can't fix our kickoff problems and why we couldn't be smart enough to kick it out of bounds yesterday after the penalty. We are dumb.

Anonymous said...

Several things about your points.

Mike Bobo is the incompetent buffoon of coordinators, not Martinez.

Do you know why Ealey only averaged 4 YPC? Because after the 2nd play he was in EVERYONE IN THE STADIUM KNEW WHAT PLAY WE WERE RUNNING.

Instead of Ealey coming in, breaking off two nice runs and Bobo hitting them with a deep ball on play action, he continued going to the toss sweep well. Ealey passed blocked adequately on the plays he was asked. If the coaches cannot get a RB to be able to do more than run the ball, that is TERRIBLE COACHING.

None of our other RB's can RUN THE BALL, so if Ealey makes a mistake here or there in the passing game, so be it. He cannot be any worse than what we have now.

What was that chicken poop call on the reverse with Branden Smith in the game? Hey Coach, everyone in the stadium knows that when #1 comes in it is a trick play. We have used him about 10 times this year and it has worked ONCE.

Will Richard Samuel finally be moving to LB this week? The guy is simply not an SEC RB. Great athlete, great kid, not an SEC RB.

We are the stupidest team on the planet, and that goes back, again, to poor coaching. What the frick is Boykin doing running that ball out?

Why is Prince Miller fair catching a punt with 25 yards of grass in front of him?

Why was #46 on the field to start the game? He had one job on that play and FAILED TO DO IT.He flat-out WHIFFED on the crack-back block. That is why he is a walk-on scout teamer.

Joe Cox is a great guy, but this team is loaded to the gills with young, phenomenal talent. We need to be preparing the QB for next year. It is going to be a waste of a season if Murray or Gray do not get meaningful snaps at QB. We have THE BEST PLAYER IN THE COUNTRY at WR, and we might not have anyone to throw him the ball next year.

If Marcus Lattimore was watching yesterday, he would realize that he could be UGA's starting RB next year. How are all of those big time recruits no good?

Why does Stacy Searels not get any criticism? His unit has been terrible for much of this season. Everyone thinks of him as some sort of guru, but he has been inadequate this season, at best.

Rennie Curran is my hero. What a warrior.

Bryan Evans is TERRIBLE. Look coaches, time to play the freshmen all the time, they could not be worse than what we have if you blindfolded them and tied their arms together.

JJ said...

David, I'm seriously considering shutting down my blog because you always say everything I am thinking before I can get to the computer.

The Logan Gray thing in particular. Somebody has to ask about that this week. I've even tried to play devil's advocate in some discussions and I still can't figure out any reasoning behind it in certain situations. Is he the only guy on the team that we think can catch a punt?

Anonymous said...

Toughest loss since Auburn 05.

How do you know when the officiating is bad? When you long for the sound of the nasal-whine of Penn Wagers' voice.

JamiV said...

In the same vein as Branden Smith's offensive absence, why wasn't Ealey used 'to create spark' until halfway through the third? It was fairly obvious to me we needed that spark after our first drive.

JJ said...

Also a great point on the offensive line. Biggest surprise of the season so far in my opinion. Ben Jones and Clint Boling are having terrible seasons so far (Boling's OL of the week award aside.)

ClintThomason said...

The line can't seem to run block for anything. Their pass protection has actually been pretty good. Cox wasn't touched yesterday, and has only been sacked maybe 5 times this year. Ealy actually tried something foreigh to King and Samuel and that was running in the hole. King tiptoes to it and Samuel just runs straight into his blockers.

I, like everyone else, do not understand the Logan Gray thing. In a game when the offense was struggling as bad as they were in the 1st half yesterday, why not let Prince try to break a punt return? They wasted a great effort by the defense.

I like Joe Cox and think he's a good QB, but he doesn't have a strong arm. So why do we continue to have him chunk the ball deep. It seems he can only throw the deep ball, which is always underthrown, or a pass in the flats. Where are all the 5-10 yard routes? You know the ones that teams complete on us all day long? Let's throw it intermediate and let our WRs make plays with their legs.

That's all the bitching i got for right now. I'm still pissed and hungover so I'm going back to bed.

Anonymous said...

David, have you seen Tim Brando's rant about the celebration penalties? It's interesting to say the least. Good discussion of it on the Dawgrun too.

James said...

I think its time to realize that this is an average to slightly above average football team.

The offensive line was supposed to to be strength, but has instead been a weakness. I could make a feasible argument that the O-Line play has regressed since last year. These guys just don't seem to have the toughness, passion, etc. to run block and grind out yards. I have been unimpressed with Searels and in my opinion, he hasn't lived up to the hype.

Cox has been adequate at QB, nothing more and nothing less. He has a tendency to lock on to AJ Green, and while AJ is our top weapon on offense and should get his touches, it sometimes feels as though Cox locks on to the exclusion of other competent skill guys on the offense. A prime example of this is the two picks he threw against Arizona State...Tight End was wide open but he was locked on AJ.

It has been en vogue to criticize Martinez this year, but in the two losses our offense has scored 10 points and 13 points respectively. Those numbers won't get you a whole lot of W's, regardless of what the defense does.

We are what we are. This year we are a 7 to 8 win outfit. With this squad, we cannot take any game for granted and should prepare ourselves for a few more nailbiters, starting this Saturday against Tennessee. Too many things would have to fall into place for us to turn the corner this season. While I concur with the sentiment that we are a talented but extremely flawed team, I translate that differently...we just aren't that good this year.

And its not the end of the world!

Go Dawgs!!! Beat Tennessee!!!

Trey said...

David, I hope you see this and can respond... but:

Did you see the CBS postgame video online? Towards the end, Brando went into a tirade on the penalties and the SEC officiating. He started making threats about "They don't want us to take this where we could take it. They don't want us to tell why they are calling the games the way they are." What is he referring to? What could they do about it that would threaten the SEC enough to make a change? Thanks for your blog, read it every day.

Anonymous said...

Attention Don Leebern

Either have a talk with Richt and make him understand to bench all the non productive seniors like Cox and
play all the freshman stars so we can really have a team next year.
This year is a wasted effort and sometimes you have to bit the bullet.

Or made a decision to fire Richt now or resign from the board of trustees yourself if you do not have the fire to help this team.
Incidently i watched you play with Tark long ago.

Anonymous said...

Trey- look at the comments for the previous post.

Anonymous said...

"And you can't blame Willie for the utter lack of tackling on those last two drives. The game plan was good. The execution was not."

Then who's to blame for the fact that for the 4th year now we struggle w/ poor tackling??? Who coaches them to tackle??? Who coaches that pathetic excuse for a secondary???

Who's responsible for all of that if not Willie???

Anonymous said...

As much as I dislike Willie, I have to say after this game I dislike Fabris more. I wish he would get the pink slip but I know better than to expect it to happen.

Danny said...

Another thing I think people are overlooking is the penalty we got on our final kickoff after the unsportsmanlike like call. We had too few men on one side of the kicker and that was the side the kicker returned the ball! How could that not go for a big return?

David Hale said...

Anon 12:35 -- You're right in the sense that Willie & Richt ultimately always bear responsibility for what happens. But I'm at practice, I see what goes on, and I can assure you -- it's not like Willie is letting this slide. He teaches sound technique. He punishes players for failing to do it. At some point, the players just have to get it done. All the yelling and all the coaching and all the up-downs in the world can't make them do it. They have to want to, and there's just no reason for the lack of "want to" on a lot of these tackles. Yes, it eventually falls to Willie, but I honestly don't know what more he can do.

Anonymous said...

On the 33 yard run from Scott there are two blatant things that I see that bear on this discussion about tackling. Rennie is being held and tackled by #53 and Evans is jerked down by #70 (I think). This holding allows for Scott to break for the 33 yards.

I don't think that tackling is an issue. I mean we held them to 13 points. That is pretty awesome. So I don't think that we can say tackling is an issue when we gave up no RAC and only two plays that went over 30 yards.

Anonymous said...


I feel compelled to plead for you and your fellow journalists to bring greater exposure to SEC officiating.

We need for this discussion to go beyond the blogs, which are often more easily dismissed by the stodgy, stuffed-shirted power structure. We need for this discussion to take place in the papers and on television.

I hope some journalists can speak to the head of officiating and the conference president. Tebow calls attention to himself and plays to the crowd in such a frequent and verbose manner that it would make an early 90s Hurricanes player blush.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant for the festering, corrupt agenda and/or sheer ineptitude on display since the '07 Auburn/ Penn Wagers game.

Thanks, David, for all your hard work.

Carter said...

The previous 2:56 comment was from me.

Anonymous said...

Is there some sort of link or anything to brando's comments? Or a transcription?

David Hale said...

Brando's comments begin about 2/3rds of the way through...

BCSAV said...

For all of you who are ready to pack it in and look to the future I'll just say this. Joe Cox is not great but hes obviously better than Gray or he would be getting atleast a couple of series a game. Murray's injury is more than is being led on. Mett is just not ready. So Cox is the guy and will be the guy.

If we beat Tennessee next week we will be in better shape than we were in at the same point of the 2007 season. After losing in Knoxville 2 years ago everyone wrote off that team which went on to finish #2 in the country. I'm not sayting this team has the same potential but the SEC Championship is still an obtainable goal and I guarantee the coaches will approach today and this week with that attitude.

Go Dawgs of 2009!

ingerson said...

Why are you so sure about Cox being the guy over Gray BCSAV?

This is the same staff that redshirted Knowshon Moreno, after all.

JJ said...

Carter....the problems with officiating actually date back to the 2005 Auburn game (also Penn Wagers.) Still the worst officiated game in the history of college football. Yesterday was Top 10, but Auburn '05 takes the cake.

Anon 12:30 said...

"They have to want to, and there's just no reason for the lack of "want to" on a lot of these tackles."

First, thank you for answering my question. Second, that answer tells me a lot & makes me nauseous quite frankly. We keep recruiting these top 5 classes & are just 2 years away from finishing the season #2 in the country yet our players don't want it bad enough? There's no doubt in my mind that you are stating the truth, i just can't figure why we seem to have this problem. Why do our players not want it as bad as other programs? What are we doing wrong in the mental toughness & motivation department?

David Hale said...

I really don't know the answer to that, but I should say it's not exactly a blanket issue.

Georgia's players looked great in the want-to department for much of that game. The stop on fourth-and-inches was a prime example. But for two years now, people like Rennie and Corvey and Jeff Owens have to stand in the locker room after games and talk about a lack of fundamentals, poor tackling or a missed assignment at a crucial time in a game, and I'm as confused as to the reasons for it as anyone.

It's not that Georgia's players don't play with heart or have good fundamentals or can't make a tackle or cover their man or any of that... it's that they don't do it ALL the time.

BCSAV said...

The reason I think Cox is better is because Richt has shown in the past that he is more than willing to play 2 Quarterbacks. David Green was a lot better than Cox and he would give way on a couple of series to Shockley. If Gray was anywhere near Cox he would get the same opportunity that Shock got. To not get more than 1 snap in any game shows me that the coaches don't believe he can make an impact great enough to warrant more playing time. Could they and I be wrong, maybe. But it just seems to me they are not real confident in Gray's ability compared to Joe.

j.leonardjr said...

I have to disagree with your assessment that the missed field goal did not matter in the end. I think it was pretty big. If Georgia makes that FG then they don't go for 2 pts after the second touchdown which means there is a good chance the score is 17-12 instead of 13-12 when LSU gets the ball back with less than 2 minutes to play assuming Georgia still scores a TD versus playing safe and kicking a FG on their last score. This changes the whole purpose of LSU's final drive. Now LSU has to score a TD and a FG does them no good which means they probably aren't running the ball the last few plays because they can't afford to waste time off the clock. Instead they are passing most likely and both their offensive mindset and Georgia's defensive mindset are very different. Georgia knows they just have to prevent a TD and LSU getting into field goal range isn't disheartening. I think that missed field goal totally changed that game.