Greetings from the Independence Bowl in balmy Shreveport, La. We're about a half-hour before kickoff, and the stands are still about 20 percent full... maybe.
Some early notes...
-- I'm probably being generous in saying it's 2-to-1 A&M fans. That number is probably closer to 3-to-1.
-- You know, it's not often you can say this, but this is hands down the biggest college football game in the country today.
-- The stadium here is very Vandy-esque. Pretty low-key. The elevator ride to the press box was a little scary. There was some creaking and cracking. I was glad I hadn't eaten a big breakfast. That might have put it over the edge.
-- No fun messages on Washaun Ealey's arms today... Just the letters G D S A. I have no clue what that means.
-- Speaking of food... the press box meal was not actually a press box meal. We had to leave the press box and go down to field level to get it. The room it was being served in had a sign on the door that said, "ESPN Meal." Ummm... you know, there are media here from other places, right? I was expecting to open the door and see Ron Franklin enjoying a feast by himself.
-- The food wasn't terrible, but it was pretty indistinguishable. There was something that resembled chicken covered in something that resembled old motor oil. But they had banana pudding which is always a big plus in my book.
-- There's a press box seating chart on the elevator. In persuing the list I noticed there are a whopping eight media members here for Georgia.
-- Even better, there are two scouts from the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos here for the game. I really think Joe Cox needs to give pro football a shot. Hey, Doug Flutie was a star in the CFL, right?
-- Here's some early thoughts from Marc Weiszer and Tim Tucker.
-- And a few intriguing links... A bashing of the passer rating stat and some info on the real profitability of bowl games.
-- Your YouTube clip of the day is.... Joe Kines!
-- Our predictions for the game: Joe Cox sets the school record for TD passes and the coachless Dawgs D pitches a shutout.
-- Seriously, how funny would either of those things be considering how this season has gone?
OK, back with more soon.
START OF FIRST QUARTER
-- OK, so I think there's a real possibility that there are more LSU fans here than Georgia fans.
-- You can really just feel the enthusiasm as the Aggies take the field. Oh, no, that's not enthusiasm. I've just had too much caffeine.
-- A pretty hearty round of boos greet the Dawgs as they take the field.
-- I did see Russ on the field, which leads me to an important question: Which is more likely to happen...
Georgia's D plays great and Mitch Doolittle gets a full time job or...
Russ goes 2-0 and interim mascot and gets hired as the full-time Uga?
-- The Intergoogles have been a little spotty here, so we'll see how this goes. I supposed I should have anticipated this. One day, I'd like to think newspapers with tight deadlines will invest in wireless cards for their beat writers. I assume I'll be collecting medicare by the time that happens.
-- Hahaha... just kidding. Newspapers won't still be around by then.
-- Brandon Boykin deep to receive the opening kickoff and he does his usual acrobatics to set the Bulldogs up at the 33 yard line.
-- No Josh Davis to start the game as anticipated. Vince Vance in at right tackle.
-- A.J. Green with his first catch in a while picks up a first down to the UGA 48. Good to see A.J. back.
-- Another pass to A.J. and for the second time he was one tackle away from taking it to the end zone. OK, bold prediction time: A.J. gets to 1,000 yards today. He needs just 240-some yards.
-- Caleb can't pick up the first down and Georgia punts. Drew Butler comes in an drops a beautiful kick 42 yards and it's downed at the A&M 4. I don't think teams should punt in this game. It needs to be played like a game of Madden... just try to score every time.
-- A&M loses a yard on its first play. Doolittle for DC!
-- Three-and-out for A&M. I say hire Todd Hartley. It would be great for Georgia to have a DC that still gets carded at liquor stores.
FIRST QUARTER 10:13 REMAINING
-- Prince Miller fair catches a short punt from A&M and Georgia takes over at the Aggies' 43. Somewhere, Jon Fabris is shaking his fist and yelling at the TV that only Logan Gray can call for a fair catch. "What the heck are these dang GAs doing? Where's Logan! Hey you kids, stay off my lawn!"
-- The two quarterbacks in this game are Cox and Johnson. Hehehehehe. Ah, childishness is great.
-- Georgia gets its first penalty of the game, a false start on Boling. Or maybe Ben Jones. No one seems to be sure. I blame Josh Davis.
-- This is really turning into a defensive struggle. Man, Georgia needs to fire Mike Bobo, make Mitch Doolittle offensive coordinator and make Hartley the DC. That's the plan.
-- Another screen pass... this time to Chapas. And again, Georgia's punting from the A&M 41. Heck, let Blair kick from here.
-- Hey Darryl Gamble makes his first noticeable play (well, noticeably good anyway) of the year and makes a nice tackle to stop Johnson short of the first down for another three-and-out.
-- And good to see Logan Gray back out there. I assume Fabris texted Hartley between series to let him know how it's done.
FIRST QUARTER, 6:49 REMAINING
-- Interesting fact texted to me from our pal Fletcher Page... McShay has Prince Miller rated as the No. 22 cornerback in the country. And he also rates Millard Filmore as the country's sixth-greatest president.
-- Jordan Pugh with the stop on Caleb King on second down. Markiri Pugh must be angry to hear his name being announced so often. "Oh, so that's what it would be like if anyone ever gave me some playing time!"
-- And the Drew Butler show continues... at least this time he can boost his average a bit.
-- Our buddy Dan who helps write my "Picking the Winners" column has some scratch on Georgia today. I've already gotten about six angry text messages.
-- Johnson finds a hole down the right side of the field and picks up about 13. Second-and-1. Of course a holding call goes against A&M and backs them up.
-- Johnson's shovel pass falls incomplete on third-and-10 -- after a few UGA players couldn't come up with the pick, you know, ball bouncing the other way and all -- and we get punt No. 6 of the game.
-- Updated stats: Punts 6, First downs 1, Fair catches by Prince 2, Fair catches by Logan 0. Who could have seen any of this coming?
-- Joe Cox hits Aron White down the middle. The refs call it incomplete. The Jumbotron flases the words "Great Catch!!!" I'm pretty sure the NCAA rule book suggests that Jumbotron graphics overrule the referee.
-- For all the talk of A&M's hurry-up offense, they haven't seemed too up-tempo so far. And remember all the trouble Georgia had adjusting to the hurry-up against Auburn? Doesn't seem to have been a problem today. What was Willie doing all this time?
-- And Drew Butler is on for punt No. 4. Josh Davis = Georgia's offensive MVP.
-- A&M takes over again at the 13-yard line. The over-under in this game was 67. We may have that many punts.
-- Christine Michael picks up A&M's first first down of the game on a five-yard run to the 24. He follows it up with yet another on a 14-yard run around the left side.
-- A&M is rolling now. Johnson hits Fuller for a 13-yard gain. The Aggies have finally exposed the holes in Mitch Doolittle's D!
-- I take back what I said about the tempo. A&M is moving fast now and it has Georgia off guard. Johnson runs for another first down. The middle of the field is wide open on every play.
-- Prince Miller with a nice tackle standing up Swope for a loss of one. McShay moves him up to No. 21 on his list.
-- That's the end of the first with your score... wait a minute, let me double check this... Um... Nothing-nothing?
START OF SECOND QUARTER
-- So apparently Rennie didn't start as punishment for not running some laps he was supposed to run for disciplinary reasons. I'll mark that down as something I wouldn't have seen coming. But then again, Mitch Doolittle is a staunch disciplinarian. Anyway, Rennie is back in now.
-- Georgia blocks an Aggies' field goal attempt. Geno Atkins on the block. Georgia takes over at the 31.
-- I'm wondering if perhaps Mike Bobo was suspended for the first quarter, too.
-- Cox hits A.J. to midfield. So Green is working out well. The running game sucks again. Is it October again and I missed something?
-- Nice move by Mike Moore to pick up a first down to the A&M 38. If Moore's whole career was bowl games, he'd be an All-American.
-- Just a quick tidbit of info... the only other game this season that was 0-0 after the first quarter was the Tennessee game. We know how that ended.
-- Washaun Ealey is on the ground for a spell. He jogs off the field under his own power. Doesn't look too serious.
-- No need for Drew Butler on this one. Joe Cox throws a floater intended for Green to about the 10 that's picked off and returned near midfield. Just a horrific throw. On the upside, A&M flagged for a personal foul that backs them up 15 yards.
-- I can't wait to hear the Joe Kines halftime interview today.
-- Another wide open pass down the middle to Tanneyhill picks up 21 yards. Seriously, Georgia is aware that they can defend that portion of the field, right?
SECOND QUARTER, 9:03 REMAINING
-- Georgia has failed to score in the first quarter in five of 13 games this year. They've scored seven or fewer points in the first quarter in nine of 13 games this year. South Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona State and Tennessee Tech were the only exceptions. In fact, if you take out the Tenn Tech game, Georgia has scored just 17 points in the first quarter COMBINED in its last eight games against D1 opponents.
-- Aggies pick up a first down after Bryan Evans decided to discipline himself by sitting out that play.
-- Third-and-10 for the Aggies at the 27 yard line of Georgia, but a penalty backs up A&M 5 more yards. This is seriously excruciating to watch.
-- Rennie breaks up Johnson's pass on third-and-15, and the Aggies consider going for it. In the end, they send out the kicking unit once again for a 49-yarder.
-- During halftime, Mark Richt should call Mike Leach and ask if he wants to call the offensive plays for the rest of the game. I hear Leach has some time on his hands.
-- These TV timeouts are really dragging down the pace of this uber-compelling game. Come on guys! They have a flea market scheduled here for 9 p.m.
-- Pooch kick! Easily the most exciting play of the game so far. I think my eyes are bleeding.
-- Cox falls down handing off to Ealey. He's still working on his footwork. Ealey healthy and back in the game though.
-- Another false start on Georgia. Seriously, it's like this team completely regressed to the way it played against LSU.
-- Michael Moore hauls in a pass from Cox for a 19-yard gain to the 27.
-- And Cox's third-down pass is incomplete. Tight coverage from A&M that has the Georgia sideline begging for a flag. Do you realize the Dawgs have a whopping three points in the first halves of their past two bowl games?
SECOND QUARTER, 4:37 REMAINING
-- Harry Doyle couldn't spice up this game. I'm sure the dulcet tones of Ron Franklin have put most of you into a deep slumber. I wish I were so lucky.
-- You know what? I say pull Aaron Murray's redshirt for the second half. The kid needs the experience.
-- Mettenber, too. Just to be safe.
-- A&M turns a third-and-12 into a first down to Uzoma Nwachukwu. You know what would be a great name? Ndamukong Nwachukwu. The kid would be a junior in high school before he knew how to spell his own name.
-- OK, I'm looking around on the sideline to make sure Willie isn't here. Johnson runs for 10 yards on third-and-long to pick up another first down.
-- I meant to mention this before, but amid a litany of stupid questions asked in yesterday's news conferences with the coaches was this gem: "Um, Coach Sherman, you coached in Green Bay. How would you compare Jerrod Johnson and Brett Favre?" Seriously, Sherman's answer was, "Well, they're both quarterbacks." Great line. Anyway, Johnson just looked like Favre against the Georgia D, throwing between two defenders for a long completion to the UGA 15-yard line.
-- By the way, it was Prince Miller in coverage on that play. Todd McShay shakes his head in dismay.
-- And one play later we have the game's first score. Johnson hits Jamie McCoy in the end zone for the 15-yard TD. Texas A&M 7, Georgia 0 (9-75-2:04). Fire Mitch Doolittle!
-- Dowtin was in coverage on what must have been a ugly zone... he let McCoy get behind him and Boykin never came up to cover him. McCoy was wide open in the end zone. Just like Jancek drew it up?
-- Boykin taketh away, and Boykin giveth... He takes the ensuing kickoff and returns it 81 yards for the score... his third kick return for a TD this year. And for a little extra enthusiasm, A&M gets a 15-yard personal foul flag following the touchdown. Georgia 7, Texas A&M 7.
-- Boykin really wasn't even touched on that run back. He took it straight down the field, running behind big Derek Rich, who made a decent block at the end, but other than that it was all Boykin (or more to the point, all A&M's special teams).
-- Boykin's third touchdown on a kick return sets the Georgia career record... and he did it all in one year. That's two big special teams mishaps by A&M that have turned what should have been a 10-0 Aggies lead into a 7-7 ballgame. Boykin tied Willie Gault for the SEC record for kick returns for a score in one season, too.
-- Demarcus Dobbs sacks Johnson and strips the football. A&M recovers because... well you know the old story about the oblong ball and its haphazard bouncing.
-- I guess this note from Prince Lightfoot makes me feel a tad better: "Btw, David, by "wireless card," do you mean cellular data card and not wifi? Do any of your compatriots in the press box use those, successfully? 'cause I haven't been able to move data From the stands using AT&T in a stadium this year, and that's for games in the SEC, Big-10, and Pac-10. Official Wireless Sponsor, indeed."
-- Johnson overthrows his receiver on third down and Georgia blocks Epperson's punt on fourth down. Bacarri Rambo on the block, recovered by Vance Cuff at the 3-yard line. Interesting point in the press box: Boykin, Rambo and Cuff were all guys running stairs on Saturday.
-- Caleb King takes the handoff and piles into the end zone for the touchdown. Talk about a huge swing all on special teams. Georgia 14, Texas A&M 0 (1-3-0:07).
-- Brandon Boykin needed 119 return yards today to reach 1,000 for the season. So far, he has 107. A&M needs to score one more time to give him a chance to get it though.
-- Quintin Banks shaken up on the kickoff. Seriously, that poor kid has it worse than Samuel L. Jackson's character in "Unbreakable."
-- A&M marching down the field... first-and-10 at the Geogia 46 with 35 seconds left.
-- Geno Atkins with the sack of Johnson on second down. Georgia has had plenty of pressure but Johnson's athleticism is legit. Nice play by Atkins.
-- Johnson hits Fuller on third-and-16 for 18... the Dawgs just can't get off the field on third-and-long. They really are upholding the standard of the previous administration.
-- Tanneyhill wide open down the middle for another first down but A&M pulls a Les Miles and spikes the ball as the clock expires. Georgia darts off the field while Johnson argues his case. Mike Sherman tells the refs, "Come on, this is how it's done in the SEC!" And the boos from the crowd are the loudest the stadium has been all day.
OK, halftime... gotta do some real work.
-- I spoke to the scout from the Edmonton Eskimos, and he said the top talent scout in the CFL -- which I believe is Rick Moranis -- now has Prince Miller rated as the 36th top cornerback for the next Canadian Football Draft.
-- Some stats of note:
First downs: A&M 14, Georgia 4
Rushing: A&M 20-65, Georgia 14-27
Total yards: A&M 260, Georgia 99
Jerrod Johnson: 15-of-26 for 195 yards plus 10 carries for 31 yards.
-- And despite not playing in the first quarter, Rennie still leads the team with five tackles.
START OF THIRD QUARTER
-- Aaaaaand we're back. But as of right now, we're back without Internets.
-- And Jerrod Johnson is back, too. He completes his first pass for a 13-yard gain to the 40. Bryan Evans on coverage.
-- Michael runs around like a Roomba amid Georgia tacklers and still manages to pick up the first down. Somebody hurry up and register FireMitchDoolittle.com.
-- Dowtin gives McCoy the Reshad Jones treatment... shoulder tackle that does little to slow the momentum. McCoy picks up the first down and Dowtin is down on the field.
-- Atkins had Johnson for a huge loss but couldn't bring him down. He had him by the jersey but I suppose that's the problems with trying to jersey tackle a 6-foot-5 QB.
-- Hey the Internets are working again! Way to use some Liquid Plumber on the series of tubes, Indy Bowl!
-- Kiante Tripp sighting!
-- Johnson hits Ndamuking Nwachukwu for a first down in the middle of the field... AGAIN. On the next play Michael goes down the left sideline for the touchdown. Hey, Georgia D. You just got scored on by a guy name Christine. Georgia 14, Texas A&M 14 (9-73-2:24).
THIRD QUARTER, 12:36 REMAINING
-- So at least we'll get to see Boykin go over 1,000 receiving yards now. That speaks as much to the Georgia defense as anything though, right?
-- Some good insight from rbubp... "Dowtin had responsibility for the TE on their touchdown--it was man coverage. Dowtin stood there and let the TE get behind him when the QB rolled out to the sideline. As someone else wad rushing the QB--two players, even--that TD was all on Dowtin, not Boykin. Marcus froze like a Georgia LB looking at a...QB roll-out."
-- Seriously, Georgia cannot handle athletic QBs.
-- And they kick short so we don't even get to 1,000 for Boykin. Instead, it's Fred Munzenfaircatcher.
-- False start for Georgia. Seriously, I miss Josh Davis.
-- Caleb goes nowhere. I feel like I've typed that before. How could Josh Davis have been this important to the offense? Or is it that Vince Vance is that bad?
-- The screen pass finally goes somewhere. Cox hits Caleb King on a third-and-9 and Caleb goes 32 yards to the Aggies' 38.
-- Back-to-back runs by Ealey sets up a third-and-3 at the 31.
-- Prince Lightfoot's TV critique: "I am not at all impressed with Quint Kessenich's decision to work the sidelines sans a cute hat. He'll never get a camera in his hotel room peephole with an effort like that." So true.
-- Cox had A.J. Green but the throw was just a tick behind him. It was close and would have probably gone for a TD, but it was just a touch off.
-- Blair Walsh in for the field goal. Here's Marc Weiszer's commentary as the kick goes up: "Short? Wide? Good." He's not the best color man in the business for nothing, folks. Georgia 17, Texas A&M 14 (7-40-3:11).
-- Walsh's 49-yarder is the third-longest in Independence Bowl history. See, Blair... who needs a Groza award when you've got that on your resume?
-- In case you were wondering, the longest field goals: Adam Crossett (Missouri, 2005) and David Hardy (Texas A&M, 1981) both kicked 50-yarders.
-- First down count so far: A&M 20, Georgia 5.
-- The Aggies take over at their own 33 with an empty backfield. Johnson's pass is complete to McCoy to the 43 for a gain of 9.
-- Third-and-10 for A&M and Georgia jumps offsides. Aggies use the free play to go deep but Reshad has coverage. It'll be a third-and-5.
-- Johnson had Tanneyhill, but he couldn't haul it in. On comes the punting team. And Logan Gray deep to receive. The energy in the stadium right now is throught he roof.
-- The snap goes over Epperson's head and Cornelius Washington hauls him down at the A&M 24. Man, special teams are bailing the Dawgs out here.
-- OK, we're going to review the previous catch by Tavarres King. While we have some time... do you think there'll be a point in like 25 years that Urban Meyer is regaining coherence at his palacial estate somewhere in the deep south and sees one of his kids, asks his name, then has a catch with him, a la Dewey Cox? I'd like to think that's what he's looking forward to.
-- And the replay shows that TK didn't make the catch. A person in the Aggies suite next to us literally just yelled "whoop whoop." Texans are strange.
-- Question from Spencer: "David, how tall is Joe Cox really? Like Michael J. Fox short, or munchkin from Wizard of Oz short?" Ummmm... bigger than a breadbox?
-- Third-and-10 and -- oh my! -- Marlon Brown is on the field. This is what the coaching staff envisioned when they burned that redshirt.
-- Aron White may have gotten away with a bit of a push off, but no matter... it's a 24-yard TD catch. Georgia 24, Texas A&M 14 (3-24-0:27).
THIRD QUARTER, 7:49 REMAINING
-- So Georgia's scoring drives today: 0 yards, 2 yards, 24 yards.
-- OK, Indy Bowl. If you already hadn't woven your way into my heart... you send an intern to DELIVER cookies to us. Well played.
-- Third-and-3 for A&M. If you're the Aggies, you go for it on fourth right? You can't possibly send that punting unit back out.
-- Doesn't matter. The Doolittle defense gives up another big play... Howard Morrow takes the short pass from Johnson and Boykin comes in with a bit hit. But Morrow falls on Boykin and never touches the ground, getting back up and darting down the sideline to the UGA 32.
-- And it's another third-and-long... right where A&M wants them. Johnson runs with it and it'll be close. Curran comes up and makes a big tackle that appears to have saved the first down. Fourth-and-1 from the UGA 23.
-- A&M goes for it, Johnson flushed out of the pocket and his heave is intercepted by Sanders Commings. And yes, Commings was also running stairs on Friday.
-- Point just made in the press box: If Texas had trouble beating A&M, is there any chance in the world they can hold off Alabama?
-- Posts on the Dawg Vent poted exactly one minute apart: "Dowtin is a stud, making every play" and "Congratulations Dowtin on quitting on the team."
-- The tight ends are coming up big. Another first-down grab by Orson Charles at the 35.
-- OK, I take that back. Charles drops a pass near the sideline.
-- "Charles is a stud. He's making every catch!"
-- "Congratulations Orson for quitting on the team."
-- Washaun finds a hole up the middle and goes for 19 yards... finally some real running success. That was all on Ben Jones who just stoned his block. That kid has improved by leaps and bounds this season.
-- On third-and-six, A.J. goes about 50 feet up in the air to knock down an overthrown ball by Cox. Not sure if that would have been picked, but it would have been close. Drew Butler boots a touchback.
-- Georgia has really dominated the line of scrimmage defensively in this game, but Johnson's athleticism has made it interesting.
-- I'd be a big fan of some running plays... I need some clock killing to make deadline.
-- And another first down on third-and-long. "Bottom line, we gotta get off the field."
-- Facemask on Jeff Owens gives the Aggies 15 yards to the Georgia 47. I'm going to guess Georgia will win this game, but they really have no business doing so.
-- Oh my... Johnson throws up a Joe Cox special... lobbed into double coverage. Prince Miller had a shot at the pick, but Reshad made the interception and returned it all the way to the A&M 28. Pressure from Demarcus Dobbs set the play up. Todd Hartley adds another line to the "accomplishments" section of his resume.
-- Cox connects with A.J. Green at the 12-yard line to end the third quarter. Georgia will set up shop with a first down at the 12 to start the fourth.
START OF FOURTH QUARTER
-- Johnson may have two picks, but he's already over 300 yards passing. See, Doolittle and Hartley have taken Willie's philosophy but made the bend-but-don't-break defense work.
-- You get me for about five more minutes and then I've got to write a game story. Deadlines!
-- Heck of a run by Washaun who breaks a few tackles making his way down to the 1. First and goal.
-- Von Miller made the tackle on that run by Ealey. That's the first time I've heard his name today. Nice work by Clint Boling to hold the nation's leader in sacks to a quiet day.
-- First two plays go nowhere. Third-and-goal from the 2 and A.J. is on the sideline. No matter, Cox hits Aron White wide open in the end zone for the touchdown. Cox is now one TD away from the passing TD record. Georgia 31, Texas A&M 10 (6-28-2:13).
-- OK, that'll do it for me for the remainder of the game. Gotta write my game story. Ideally, we avoid any epic collapses and Todd Hartley can submit his application for the open Florida defensive coordinator job.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Greetings from the Independence Bowl in balmy Shreveport, La. We're about a half-hour before kickoff, and the stands are still about 20 percent full... maybe.