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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fleeting Thoughts: Auburn Edition

That was a fun game to watch last night. Here are a few of my thoughts afterward, but I'm sure I'm leaving some good stuff out...

-- I had a nice day of predictions: I called a Caleb King TD, a Reshad Jones INT and a game that came down to the final play. All of it happened. I also promised you seven winners in my picks this week... and I gave you eight.

-- Willie's D looked awful early, but given the high tempo Auburn plays with, perhaps it's a bit excusable. And once the Bulldogs adjusted to the speed of the game, the D was much improved. Auburn had 156 yards on its first two drives and just 197 the rest of the way. Talking to Willie after the game, he said the three-and-out Georgia forced on the Tigers' third drive -- one that started at the Tigers' 45 -- was the key to the defensive revival.

-- Give Willie a ton of credit for this, too: After what happened with Bacarri Rambo with two plays left to go, it would have been very easy for Georgia to fall apart. Emotions had to be running high. Auburn had plenty of time to draw up a play for third-and-11. The Bulldogs' focus could have been far from the task at hand. The air had been let out of the building. And yet Willie had his boys ready.

-- Speaking of Rambo, that was a scary few minutes, but credit Georgia's medical staff for taking every precaution necessary. And credit Rambo for being one tough customer.

-- There were plenty of boos from the crowd early in the game, but I will say this: If I were a recruit and I heard the reaction the fans gave Rambo and the energy that was in the building those final few plays, I'd be ready to commit right then and there. It was a lot of fun to be in Sanford Stadium last night.

-- I hope fans will be as enthusiastic at Senior Day next week when Joe Cox is introduced. No, he's not the best quarterback who has ever played at Georgia. And yes, he's made some bad (and dumb) throws this season. And yes, that big pass to Orson should have been an INT. But that kid loves Georgia, and he's done a heck of a job of keeping his young teammates' heads in the right places and has led five big comebacks already this season. A lot of what we were told about Cox was probably overstated, but his leadership was not. He's going to be a heck of a coach one day.

-- Four penalties and they won the turnover battle? Um… was that Georgia we watched?

-- Most humorous part of the game? That was definitely when Richt tried to send Vince Vance in to replace Josh Davis after a false start penalty and nearly got flagged for having too many men on the field before Vance ran right back off again. Yeah, I get why he abandoned the plan.

-- Israel Troupe. Didn't see that coming.

-- Want a reason to be excited about Georgia's future? Well, there are plenty, but the success of Caleb King and Washaun Ealey the past four games should be at the top of your list. Both ran exceptionally hard and both averaged more than 5 yards per carry.

-- OK, small bad news: We have two more bad kickoffs at crucial times to add to "The List."

-- Auburn ran the ball pretty well early but ended up at just 3 yards per carry.

-- Chris Todd had thrown just three picks all year, and Georgia added two to that total Saturday. Probably could/should have had two more.

-- Three more sacks for the UGA defense -- Geno Atkins, Justin Houston and Cornelius Washington -- and nine more TFLs. Suddenly getting pressure doesn't seem like such a problem.

-- Akeem Dent finished with six tackles -- 1.5 for a loss -- and got his first start of the season. A healthy Dent adds a lot to this D.

-- Rennie played his best game in weeks, finishing with 12 tackles. Sometimes those tackle numbers are a result of Curran being the only player in position to make a tackle or chasing down other players' misses. Saturday, Rennie was a playmaker.

-- Much will be made about the Rambo injury, but you have to feel for A.J. Green, too. The kid was in line for a truly special season and now there's a chance he won't play again until the bowl game. He has just six catches for 69 yards since Oct. 17, and that's not the way his season is supposed to end.

-- Speaking of that bowl game though -- The Outback Bowl doesn't seem so out of reach anymore. With Tennessee's loss and Georgia's win, the Bulldogs are in the driver's seat for second place in the East. The Outback could still pick UT over Georgia if the Vols finished within a game of the Dawgs at year's end, but it would be a close call. Either way, I think we can officially write off Shreveport, and maybe Nashville, too. Assuming the Dawgs take care of business against Kentucky.

-- And finally, I wanted to end with this story: I did a story for Scout's Dawg Post magazine a few weeks ago on Rambo, back before he was really getting any playing time. I asked him, more out of my own personal curiosity, what kind of reaction people typically had to his name. We talked for a bit about how easy it was for everyone to remember, and how it lent itself to some good in-game crowd comments. He told me how much he was looking forward to laying out his first really big hit -- the first one that everyone would remember -- and he had envisioned it happening and the crowd cheering for him -- Rambo! Rambo! Rambo!

It was an incredibly electric moment as the crowd cheered for him as he was carted off the field and he raised his arm to let everyone know he was OK. It was electric because it had been so scary before we knew his status. It was electric because the energy in Sanford Stadium was as high as it has been all season. But more than anything, it was so powerful because I couldn't help but remember him telling me about how much he'd looked forward to the moment when the crowd would cheer his name. I just hate that he probably doesn't remember much of the play that brought those cheers from the fans.

Nevertheless, that play saved the game, and I'm pretty sure we'll hear "Rambo! Rambo! Rambo!" a few more times before his career at Georgia is over.


Jeff said...

Two things, David; well actually three. You can ask my friends this, but during those two big runbacks on AU's special teams after our touchdowns, I said "You can add that to David Hale's list". I was so irritated. So good call there.

Two: I agree about the crowd electricity during Baccari's moment. The recruits had to be in it then too.

Three: Keep up the great work, and don't ever leave the UGA beat. I'll petition Damon Evans to add you to the payroll or something. Every single article you write is just fantastic, thorough, and a testament to journalism. I admit, I actually started to tear up at the end of this article. You are an amazing writer.

jferg said...

When do you expect we'll know more about Rambo and AJ's injuries and the timeline on their return?

Also, replacing our DTs and QB will be tough, no doubt, but i'm so encouraged by our young guys at every position on this team. Finishing this year strongly, practicing and recruiting well in the offseason, and continuing their maturation should give all dawgs fans plenty of hope for our future and imminent return to challenging the SEC East, SEC Champion, and BSC contenter!

PS: I love the verification word today "defugly" hahaha. Use that in a sentence please!

Anonymous said...

Glad you gave CWM props. I think he should stay as DB coach and be in the booth. We need his eyes and mind there. Funny how when the O has no turnovers, mistakes and constant 3 and outs the D looks better. Once th O got going and Bobo quit being Jim D. the D played better. I think half of the Ds problems have been the terrible O and play calling which falls to Bobo. I don't see why he gets a pass and CWM gets the blame.

Anonymous said...

"I think he should stay as DB coach and be in the booth. We need his eyes and mind there."

Please give some examples from the last 4 years on why you think this.

One game does not erase horrid perfomances year after year.

Our DBs continue to be the weakest link. Just because Malzahn had a brain freeze and stopped picking on Bryan Evans does not give Willie a pass. A better OC would have put us in a 28-0 hole in the 1st quarter.

rbubp said...

Bobo gets less blame, Anon 10:18, because he has not been a coordinator for that long and because during CWM's tenure his defenses have been progressively, noticeably worse each season. Bobo will get the same blame with the same results, but he has not accrued them yet.

Ausdawg85 said...

"Give Willie a ton of credit for this, too..." No. The front 4 were fired-up on their own, not because of Willie. And "too" implies Willie is deserving of credit...I'm assuming for the defensive stats you listed previously. No. This defense, with this talent, for the last several years has simply failed to perform to any reasonable standards expected from a team like UGA with our available resources. Auburn scored 24 and was within a whisker of tying the game. No...CWM gets no credit, not even an ounce. C'mon man.

David Hale said...

Ausdawg -- I understand your feelings on Willie and I'm not saying there shouldn't be changes made after the season, but I was in the locker room, I talked to the players and I talked to Willie and if you think he didn't have a significant impact on the outcome of that game (in a positive way) you're way oversimplifying things and letting your feelings for him in the big picture cloud your judgment of that game. He did a good job Saturday -- which is a long way from saying all if forgiven, but it is giving credit where credit is due.

JasonC said...

The defense, specifically the DL did make some really nice stops inside once they started getting it together. We shut down the middle for the most part and then split the outside runs and bubble screens, swing passes with them- either -2 to 2 yards or 8-12 yards. But there were enough big stops to put them in long yardage situations late in the down count.

Actually, I would be interested to see how many 3rd and 7+ Auburn had down the stretch.