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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fleeting Thoughts: Independence Bowl Edition

I stopped at a gas station on my way back to the hotel after the game to pick up a six pack to unwind after deadline. The place I selected had three options for booze: 40s, double deuces and Arbor Mist. I think that perfectly sums up how enjoyable this trip to Shreveport has been. Just a great time all around.

And for Georgia's part, the Bulldogs made sure the trip ended on a high note with a decisive win over Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl, running Mark Richt's bowl record to 7-2 and giving UGA win No. 8 for the 13th straight season -- the longest such streak in the country.

It wasn't a good game. And I'm not even sure it was an entertaining game. But a lot happened. Here's some of what I noticed along the way...

-- I'm predicting Alabama wins the BCS title by a score of 106 to -3.

-- Seriously, A&M was bad when it came to the fundamentals across the board, but the special teams was an absolute disaster. I don't know why they ever tried to punt. Yikes.

-- That said, the A&M offense was for real. No, Jerrod Johnson wasn't perfect, but credit the Georgia D for forcing him into some mistakes. The pick by Reshad Jones was completely created by some great pressure from Demarcus Dobbs.

-- I know Georgia hasn't made a lot of big strides this year, but the improvement of the pass rush has been huge.

-- It's funny how the knock on Willie Martinez was that he employed a bend-but-don't-break defense with little success. That wasn't really true. The fact is, Georgia was 30th in total defense (i.e. yards allowed) but 70th in scoring defense. They were a break but don't bend group… until Monday. A&M racked up 471 yards but were effectively shut out for all but a 10 minute stretch at the end of the second quarter and start of the third.

-- The only real concern I had about the D's performance was the wide-open plays down the middle of the field -- both through the air and when Johnson decided to run.

-- Speaking of Johnson: 69 rushing yards (not counting sacks) and 362 passing yards. That kid is good.

-- I know my game picks have been brutal this year, but do I get some bonus points for predicting a huge year from Brandon Boykin? And he was both legitimately surprised and excited about tying the SEC kick return record.

-- And sad that Boykin came up just 12 return yards shy of 1,000 and Cox came up 1 TD shy of the passing TD record.

-- Slow return to action for A.J. Green, but he still made six catches. I spoke to him after the game and he was kicking himself for a couple "drops" on deep balls he thought he should have had and for not breaking tackles on those first two screen passes. Gotta love that kid's attitude.

-- Rushing yards in the first half for Georgia? 27. Rushing yards in the second half for Georgia? 181.

-- Great to see Sanders Commings get an INT. I really thought we'd see more of him this year, but if you're looking for ways to spin this game into next season, perhaps he's a good place to start.

-- Not one sack for Texas A&M. Clint Boling absolutely stoned Von Miller, the nation's leader in sacks.

-- I know a lot of people have been quick to criticize Vince Vance's performance, and I'm not going to tell you he played well. Bean Anderson got more PT in the second half and the Dawgs ran the ball better. As Willie would say, "bottom line." But... I talked to both Clint Boling and Mark Richt about this and both said that the first-half problems were all about scheme. A&M was doing things at the line of scrimmage UGA was not prepared for and unlike anything the Dawgs had film on. It was the halftime adjustments to that that made the real difference. And, while Bean played a lot more in the second half, Vance was on the field on several drives in the half, including Caleb's final touchdown.

-- After the game was over, Joe Cox was the last one off the field. He got a huge ovation from the Georgia fans still there, many of whom chanted, "Joe, Joe, Joe." You could tell how much it meant to him. It was nice to see. I have no doubt he'll be a very good coach. He's a stand-up kid with a lot of heart and just the right mind-set for handling the job. He takes it all a bit too seriously, but still gets the big picture.

-- Man, no one seems to want to 'fees up to coaching search details, but from the all-over-the-place answers, I'm guessing they all have an idea that something's up and are doing their best to avoid being pinned down on anything. I don't know what will happen, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if it happens soon.

-- I know most of the talk has surrounded Rennie & Reshad, but it'll be interesting to see if another name emerges the way Asher Allen and Reshad Jones did a year ago in regards to the NFL. I spoke with Clint Boling about it Monday and he said he didn't even submit his paperwork for the advisory board. Had Caleb King stayed healthy and put in a 1,000-yard season, who knows? But I'm about 99 percent certain he'll be sticking around. The only other potential early departure might be Justin Houston, who did have a fine season, who also had some off-field issues and who lost his position coach when Jon Fabris was let go.

-- I've been a bit critical of some of Richt's public relations stuff this year, and I'm sure some of it is personal -- I'd simply appreciate more info coming from him. But the Rennie Curran situation Monday seems to me to have been a time when Richt really needed to be a bit more forthcoming, at least with the local media. Rennie's first-quarter suspension was apparently something that stemmed from a minor miscommunication back in Athens, but it was never mentioned to anyone leading up to the game. So when Rennie wasn't on the field, it looked bad and we had litle explanation to offer. Instead, from what I'm told the TV announcers made it out to be a bigger deal than it was -- that Rennie skipped punishment, as if he was flaunting his indifference toward the rules, which many fans read as a sure sign he was bolting to the NFL. As it turned out, it was a non-story for the most part, but you wouldn't know that unless you read the postgame notes from one of the local beat writers. It makes Rennie look bad and all because information simply isn't shared. Considering it was a nationally televised game and Rennie's draft stock could be affected by negative stories like that, I just don't see how that's helpful. But again, maybe it's just me.

-- A few more points from our pal, The Real Texas Dawg:

1) the A&M cheers get old after a while
2) was it just me or did the Redcoats band dominate 4 qtrs?
3) military school + women are not a good mix - uga women are still the finest
4) the inevitable "SEC" cheer broke out with 11 min to go
5) I never saw #3 after the first qtr
6) praise God no more 3 or 23
7) Garner and the GA's deserve a bonus $$
8) 8-5 shouldve been 10-3 (lsu & ky)
9) 9 can't cover....but can lay the lumber!
10) hope it's another 20 yrs before returning to S-port

-- My replies:

1.) Watching their band at halftime made me dizzy.
2.) They were monsters. The A&M band was playing from the stands for a while pregame, and then from outside the stadium came a few notes from the Redcoats and the Georgia fans went nuts. It was pretty cool.
3.) Amen to that.
4.) Best question of the postgame news conference: "Coach Richt, with you and Clemson winning, do you think that really illustrates the dominance of the SEC?" Seriously, this is what I have to deal with on deadline.
5.) He was still in there, but he didn't play horribly.
6.) Prince laid out at least one great hit. He actually has had some nice moments the last few games.
7.) Abso-freaking-lutely.
8.) Yeah, but Arizona State and South Carolina probably should have been losses, so it works both ways.
9.) Perhaps sticking around another year and learning those coverage skills would help his future.
10.) The SEC ends its tie-in with the Indy Bowl after this year, so I think you're set.

-- You know, if Georgia doesn't blow that game to Kentucky, they would have ended the season winning six of seven, with the only loss being to Florida. If that had happened, I think most fans would be downright giddy about the future. And since that UK loss was really nothing more than a few fluke plays in a game the Bulldogs otherwise dominated, I'd suggest that fans still head into 2010 with a good bit of enthusiasm and excitement.

There's just enough coming back that the Dawgs could be very dangerous, and just enough questions that this should be an interesting offseason. I'm looking forward to it.

And as for the season past, I just want to say thanks to all of you for reading and providing so much great input and feedback. It's made the grind of a long year a lot easier for me.

I'm going to be traveling today and I'm in the process of moving and have to be out of my apartment by the end of the month, so we might be a little lighter on blogging for the next few days. But I will keep you up to date on any breaking news and get a few other posts in along the way.

Now, here's hoping I don't run into more snow in Dallas.

13 comments:

Ubiquitous GA Alum said...

David,

Thanks for such a great blog and some really fine reporting. Your wit/snark is just enough to keep it fun - but always keeping it real.

Hope to buy you a cold one, two, three ... when in the Classic City next year. Just to say thnaks.

Happy New Year!

Nolan said...

I completely reiterate what the previous commenter wrote. I read your stuff every few hours most of the time. You're all over the news and your sense of humor is the cherry on top. There are plenty of people who appreciate your hard work. Can't wait to ready your during the new year.

Btw... Garlin said on the Dan Patrick show today that there's a 50-50 shot for Curb next year. Hells yeah.

Rob said...

David,

Thanks for all the hard work you do, it's always a pleasure going to your site. If my german boss ever figures out what "ugadogsblog" really is, I'm in trouble.

As far as the defense, I think the fact that the "bend but don't break" scheme actually worked this time had much more to do with what Georgia's offense didn't do, as opposed to anything Garner, the GAs, or the defense did. The offense only had one turnover this game, and that interception happened at A&M's ten yard line (even though it was returned to midfield). Additionally, special teams did a good job of controlling the field position battle. Don't get me wrong, the defense certainly had a good game, but it's a thousand times easier to execute (buzz word!) a "bend but don't break" philosophy when you have the majority of the field to work with rather than the minority. In my opinion, that's the reason that the 70th overall scoring defense is a much more accurate rating of our defense than the 30th overall yardage allowed.

FreshmanDawg said...

Great work all year, David. It was great reading your blog all season and you make me hope newspapers stay around for a long time. Great way to end the season and the O-line made the accomplishment of averaging less than a sack a game. The future looks bright, and while we do have a little uncertainty at quarterback everyone else in the SEC East has question marks at multiple positions, especially the Gators. So next season should be an exciting one.

Paul's Johnson said...

Let me see if I get this straight----Other than the loss to Kentucky, and under pressure your HC finally firing three coaches----your "bad year" wasn't really so bad. Uh-huh. And despite having to replace these defensive coaches, a large part of your defense and breaking in a freshman QB to boot--its suggested that Dawg nation should be giddy with excitement and expectation. Whatever works for ya.

rbubp said...

Paul's--

How does losing to us eight times out of every nine work for you?

Love,
Dawgs

saildawg said...

David,
Just wanted to say I really enjoy your work. Thanks and keep it up

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

P's J,

No, I don't think you have it quite right. The point being made was that there are reasons to be excited and that all is not lost. On offense, the tight ends all return (including Bruce Figgins, who redshirted this year as a junior), all runningbacks return (fullbacks and halfbacks), all receivers with the exception of Michael Moore return (in addition to Kris Durham who was injured for the entire season and will be back for his senior year), and the vast majority of the offensive line will return as well. The biggest losses will be a mediocre quarterback and a trio of very talented defensive tackles. Other than that, there are question marks at a few other positions, but none except for strong safety (if Reshad Jones leaves for the NFL) and quarterback are without backups with substantial playing time.

A new defensive coordinator will be hired as well as new defensive position coaches. This is a question mark, but I believe most people would agree that the defense can only improve. Expected improvement = reason for excitement. Add in an expected top ten recruiting class, and next year looks hopeful.

Additionally, the fact that a year in which Georgia finished with eight victories, defeated two of their biggest rivals (one of whom was a top ten team and the eventual ACC champion), and won its fourth straight bowl game is largely considered a "bad year" that warrants the firing of coaches should say something about the state of the Georgia program. Given the fact that Chan Gailey was allowed to coach for six years at Georgia Tech while registering more than seven wins only once, never earning a conference title, and never beating Georgia should be enough of an example to show the difference in expectations between the two programs. Georgia's "bad year", as you put it, is par for the course on North Avenue.

One more thing...I can't fathom why anyone would refer to themselves as their favorite head coach's genitalia, regardless of how cute of a pun it may be...but hey, whatever works for ya.

DWH said...

Brilliant Rob!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the hard work. I think this is the best UGA blog out there.Keep up the good work.

Castleberry said...

Thanks David - good luck with the move. I know that's a pain.

Agree 100% regarding Rennie. I was shocked when the booth guys said he skipped out on some discipline. Please do ask Coach to comment on whether he heard about what the announcers said. I'd be curious what he says. I'm sure he thought it would be better for Rennie to say nothing, but maybe he'll think twice before he does that again.

Chubs said...

Talked to my sister while she was in Shreveport. Here comment: "It's like being in a black and white movie."