(*NOTE: You can read my game story from Saturday's loss HERE.)
After an impressive debut last week against LSU, Georgia hoped freshman Washaun Ealey might be the solution to its woes in the running game. Ealey’s follow-up performance wasn’t exactly what the Bulldogs were waiting for.
Ealey tallied just 18 yards on 10 carries as Georgia’s running game struggled to move the football once again and Tennessee stifled the Bulldogs’ offensive attack en route to a 45-19 win.
“It’s difficult to mount any kind of sustainable drive if you can’t run the ball,” head coach Mark Richt said. “For our offensive system to be successful, we have to have good balance, we have to be able to run the ball well, and it’s just not there right now. We’re not coordinated enough, we’re not physical enough, and we’ve got some young backs trying to find their way. We’ve got a ways to go.”
Georgia had 89 yards rushing in the game, the third straight outing in which the Bulldogs have failed to crack the 100-yard barrier on the ground. For the season, Georgia is mustering just 97 yards per game rushing – just 3.4 yards per carry. Just four of the team’s 15 touchdowns this season have come on the ground.
“It starts from the running game, and that’s really hurting us right now,” receiver A.J. Green said. “If you can’t run the ball, nobody’s going to respect you. … It would really help us if we get our running game going, just knowing that the passing game and the receivers we’ve got can make plays.”
Caleb King missed Saturday's game with a concussion. Richard Samuel started and picked up 25 yards on five carries, but 22 came late in the fourth quarter after Tennessee had a huge lead. He also failed to convert a third-and-inches on Georgia's first drive. Carlton Thomas was the Bulldogs' leading rusher for the day, picking up 30 yards on three carries.
Georgia’s offense failed to score a touchdown Saturday and mustered just 241 total yards. It’s the third time this season the Bulldogs have failed to pick up at least 300 yards of offense and Georgia has scored a touchdown in just one of its past 11 quarters of action.
That led a reporter to ask Richt after the game if he was happy with the play calling by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Richt was overtly curt in his reply.
“I like Mike Bobo’s play calling,” he said. “That’s why he’s my coordinator and calling plays. I guess you don’t.”
Still, it’s hard to argue with Georgia’s offensive ineptitude. The Bulldogs went three and out on six of their 12 drives in the game and are punting after just three plays on 26 percent of their drives for the season.
The worst performances have come during the past three games, however. Cox won national offensive player of the week honors after beating Arkansas on Sept. 19, but the offense has mustered just 36 points in three games since.
“I don’t think it’s been something creeping in,” Cox said. “It’s not like there’s an attitude that’s getting worse and worse. It’s not that type of problem. It’s just something that we can’t shake off. I don’t know what we’re going to have to do, but we better find out quick.”
TIME FOR A CHANGE?
While Richt was quick to defend his offensive coordinator, he’s reserving judgment on the play of his quarterback.
Asked if he thought Cox has regressed as a passer as the season has gone along, Richt’s lack of a denial was noticeable.
“I’ll just have to say that I’ve got to look at the film before I start making comments like that,” Richt said.
After winning national offensive player of the week honors in Week 3, Cox has seen his completion percentage drop each of the past three weeks. During that stretch, he’s completing just 55 percent of his throws and has five interceptions to go with just three touchdowns.
Still, his top target isn’t giving up on Cox.
“Joe doesn’t need to be pushed,” Green said. “Joe’s a great guy and a leader. He’s going to fight, and I wouldn’t have anybody in the huddle with me except Joe.”
TURNOVERS KEEP COMING
For the fifth time in six games, Georgia coughed up the football three times, and Tennessee made the Bulldogs pay on Saturday.
Joe Cox threw two interceptions, and the Volunteers scored following each. Michael Moore also fumbled following a reception, and Eric Berry returned the turnover all the way to Georgia’s 14-yard line. Bryce Brown cashed in for a touchdown three plays later.
“We can’t focus on it any more than we have,” Richt said of all the turnovers. “We just have to hang on to the ball.”
For the season, Georgia turned the ball over 16 times while creating just four takeaways. The Bulldogs myriad of turnovers have led to 71 points for the opposition, while Georgia has tallied just 13.
RAMBO CASHES IN
In the third quarter, with the Georgia offense excruciatingly stalled, and defense repeatedly susceptible to the pass, safety Bacarri Rambo made the last big Georgia play of the game.
The redshirt freshman broke on a Jonathon Crompton pass, and was in position when the ball skipped off a Volunteer receiver’s hands.
Rambo caught the ball in stride, racing 28 yards to the end zone.
“Crompton threw it quick and the receiver wasn’t expecting it and I was right there waiting on it,” Rambo said. “I stayed at home and watched the routes, and I did my job and came out of it with a great play.”
The interception, Rambo’s second of the season, made the score 24-19, and gave Georgia an edge in momentum, which wasn’t sustained.
Rambo saw increasing time on the field, replacing senior Bryan Evans for most of the second half.
Still, the Seminole County product said he didn’t find personal achievement in the loss.
“I’ll just do anything to help the team, man,” he said. “If I need to get on the offensive line and block, I’ll have to do it because I want to win and I know my teammates want to win. I know if they were asked to get on the offensive line and block or do something like that for me, they’d do it. So I go out there and do it for them.”
Rambo’s interception return was the first defensive touchdown by a Georgia player since Darryl Gamble returned two interceptions for scores last year against LSU.
Georgia’s Zach Renner is known for getting to the punter.
He blocked the third punt of his career Saturday, fighting through the Volunteer middle to get in position to stop Chad Cunningham’s kick in the second quarter. The ball went out of the end zone for a safety.
“I mean I honestly didn’t think I’d get there. It was a real small hole and I just kept on my feet, trying to fight and I just dove at the last minute. I ended up getting my hand on it.”
The play occurred at an opportune moment, inching the Bulldogs closer, 21-12, heading into halftime. The Bulldogs felt a shift in momentum after the play, Renner said.
“I did when it happened, even though we only got two points out of it,” he said. “It would have been great to get a score out of it as well, but it doesn’t feel as good coming out with a loss.”
Renner blocked two punts last season, one each against Arizona State and Alabama.
BROWN GETS No. 1
After he committed to Georgia on National Signing Day, Marlon Brown earned the ire of many Tennessee fans who had hoped the receiver would stay close to his Memphis home and play for the Volunteers.
Instead, it was against his home-state team that Brown made his first reception – a nine-yard grab in the second quarter. The crowd booed Brown after each of his two catches, but Cox said the freshman handled himself well.
“I thought he handled it pretty well,” Cox said. “He knew what to do and he played hard.”
ANOTHER LONG ONE
Brandon Boykin showed his 100-yard touchdown on a kickoff against South Carolina was no fluke. The sophomore brought another kickoff out of the end zone Saturday against Tennessee and returned it for Georgia’s first score of the game, becoming just the second Bulldogs player with two kick returns for a touchdown in the same season.
Boykin’s return also tied Georgia’s school record for the longest play in a road game. Jimmy Campagna and Charlie Britt each had 100-yard returns for scores in the 1950s.
-- Freshman tight end Arthur Lynch got his first career start as the Bulldogs opened in a two-tight-end set, backed up at their own 1-yard line.
-- A.J. Green’s eight catches tied a career high.
-- Blair Walsh booted a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter. It was his third make of 50 or more yards in three tries this season, and he is 5-of-8 in his career from beyond 50.
-- Drew Butler punted six times Saturday, averaging 49.8 yards per punt, including four that were 50 yards or longer. Butler is the NCAA’s leader in punting average.
-- After racking up seven sacks and 18 tackles for a loss in the past two games, Georgia failed to sack quarterback Johnathan Crompton and had just three tackles for negative yardage in Saturday's game.
-- Receiver Michael Moore, who had six catches for 49 yards Saturday, had two messages for Georgia fans following the game. Via Twitter, Moore simply said, “Speechless,” in the moments after the game. He followed that with: “All I can say 2 the dawgnation is don't turn your backs on us. That's it. We need u to support us and times like this is when we need u most.”
*Fletcher Page contributed to these notes.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
(*NOTE: You can read my game story from Saturday's loss HERE.)