A big preseason earned Richard Samuel the starting tailback job to open the season, but beyond an 80-yard run against Arkansas, his numbers have been declining each week since.
The sophomore tailback tallied 87 yards in his first career start against Oklahoma State and chipped in with several impressive runs against South Carolina a week later. But outside of his 80-yarder, Samuel has averaged just two yards per carry in his last two games, and head coach Mark Richt thinks the solution may be patience.
“I guess he’s similar to a quarterback who can throw it extremely hard,” Richt said. “They’ve got to understand sometimes how to use the touch. He’s a back who has to learn at times to gear it down a little bit until he really sees it, and then hit it.”
Richt said he remains confident that Samuel can develop into a star running back, and he isn’t asking him to change his style – just his approach.
“I think he’s getting a better feel of the vision of the running schemes and where it should go, but it’s hard to slow him down,” Richt said. “He really runs hard, and there’s a lot of value to that if you start knocking people back and breaking tackles. It’s just a different style of running.”
Samuel arrived at Georgia as a 16-year-old last season, and his football pedigree was primarily on the defensive side of the ball rather than tailback. So while Samuel hasn’t demonstrated all the subtleties of being a star running back yet, Richt said the coaches and fans should remain patient, too.
“That’s something they probably learn as they’re growing up if they’re runners all throughout their careers and they just kind of get the hang of it,” Richt said. “You could see where Richard is still in the process because he hasn’t been a running back his whole life. He’s a big, strong, fast guy, very smart and is tough and wants to do it just right, but it just takes reps until they get the feel of it.”
BOYKIN MISSES PRACTICE
Sophomore cornerback Brandon Boykin sat out Wednesday’s practice session because of an undisclosed illness, Richt said.
Boykin has started all four games for Georgia this season and has one of the team’s two interceptions. Following Tuesday’s practice, however, Richt said Boykin wasn’t feeling well, and coaches kept him out for precautionary reasons Wednesday.
“He doesn’t feel good, but we think he’ll practice (Thursday),” Richt said. “We think he’ll be fine.”
Georgia’s secondary was already thin thanks to a knee sprain suffered by junior Vance Cuff against Arkansas. Cuff missed last week’s game against Arizona State but returned to a limited practice Wednesday.
“Vance is practicing, and I would say he’s probable also,” Richt said. “I don’t think he had a setback (Wednesday). He doesn’t look full speed when it comes to change of direction yet, but he was out there working with the scouts and I think he finished.”
CONFIDENCE IS KEY
Freshman receiver Marlon Brown hasn’t seen much action in his first four games at Georgia, but that could change soon.
Richt said he chatted with Brown following Wednesday’s practice to offer some encouragement, and he said he has been pleased with the progress Brown has made since the season began.
“I’m seeing a tremendous improvement in Marlon,” Richt said. “He’s smoothing his game out, and it’s coming. (Tight end) Artie Lynch, same way. He’s a guy who is improving rapidly, and their futures are very, very bright.”
Still, for a highly recruited receiver on a team without much depth at the position, the lack of playing time came as a surprise, Brown said.
“I came in working hard. I knew I needed to lift a little more weights and get a little faster,” Brown said. “Then camp came, and I was like, OK I had a pretty good camp. Then the season started, and I wasn’t playing. I got down a little bit, but after a while I was like, ‘Forget it,’ and I just decided I’d go out and grind every day at practice.”
Brown said the biggest hurdle now is simply gaining some confidence in his ability to understand the offense and make plays when called upon. He said that was driven home by some advice from a couple of his teammates.
“I talked to Mike (Moore) and A.J. (Green) about it, and they said to keep grinding,” Brown said. “A.J. said just to have confidence in yourself out there on the field.”
MURRAY THROWING AGAIN
Freshman quarterback Aaron Murray is back to throwing again after missing nearly two weeks with triceps tendonitis.
Murray said he began short tosses last week, progressing slowly each day.
“I started about 10 yards, the next day 20 yards, 30 yards,” Murray said. “I pretty much did most of practice (Wednesday). It’s feeling pretty good. No pain, no soreness, nothing.”
Still, the time off was tough, Murray said. The freshman was hoping to avoid a redshirt and earn some playing time as the season progressed, but with two weeks on the sidelines, he admits hurt his chances.
“It was kind of a bummer because I missed the whole month so I didn’t get to continue progressing,” Murray said. “I kind of took a little step back, but now I’ve just got to get out there and keep doing my thing.”
GOOD DAY OF WORK
With the weather cooling and No. 4 LSU on the horizon, Richt said Wednesday's practice was among the best of the year for Georgia.
"It was probably the best Wednesday we've had all year. I say that because of the effort, but also they just had a lot of enthusiasm out there. They seemed to enjoy it for a change. Instead of us feeling like we're riding herd, they just got into it and competed and seemed to really enjoy, so it was maybe more fun today. You can actually get your work done and enjoy it, and maybe they found that out today."
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
A big preseason earned Richard Samuel the starting tailback job to open the season, but beyond an 80-yard run against Arkansas, his numbers have been declining each week since.
This is probably a fun but otherwise meaningless bit of good news for Dawgs fans today.
ESPN's initial recruiting rankings for the class of 2010 were just posted, and Georgia comes in at No. 3.
Of course, there's always the other side of things, too: Florida is at No. 1.
Here's what they have to say about the Bulldogs' class so far:
In 2009, the Bulldogs bolstered their offensive line by signing the No. 5 overall OT (Austin Long) and the No. 2 overall OG (Chris Burnette). However, you can never have enough big boys up front, so Mark Richt added Brent Benedict (Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles) and Kolton Houston (Buford, Ga./Buford). Benedict, who is this year's No. 5 offensive tackle in the country, comes out of his stance with good pad level and gets into the defender immediately. He is good with his hands, fights to sustain blocks and works to keep proper leverage. Houston, who is the No. 3 guard in the country, has great athleticism, footwork and quickness. He displays great quickness and explosion out of his stance as a run-blocker; can get movement versus down linemen and has the athletic skills to block second level defenders.
It's that time again...
I'll be chatting with readers live at noon on Thursday (or "tomorrow" for those of you reading at present time) at Macon.com/UGAChat and answering any questions you might have about the Bulldogs and their upcoming game against No. 4 LSU.
If you won't be near a computing machine at noon, you can surf on over to Macon.com/UGAChat right now, press the "play" button, then post your question to the queue. Then just check back any time after noon tomorrow to find your answers.
I mentioned this yesterday, but now it's official: The 2009 Mumme Poll is up and running.
For the uninitiated, the Mumme Poll is the brainchild of Senator Blutarsky over at Get the Picture. The idea was simple enough: Is it possible to create a college football poll that more accurately defines the best teams in the country and eliminates bias?
Last year's efforts proved intriguing, but this year, the Senator is taking things to the next level. He has teamed up with several other bloggers from around the country -- including myself -- to improve analysis and commentary on the poll, but more importantly, he's teamed with the folks at 3rd Saturday in Blogtober to help bring the voting to an even larger populace -- including you.
Still need some more info? Start HERE, with the Senator's basic rundown. Then go HERE to read the background from 3rd Saturday in Blogtober. Finally, head HERE to register and practice casting a ballot. And don't forget to bookmark the site.
Starting in Week 6, the balloting will be for real, and ideally, by year's end, we'll have a much better view of the college football season than the coaches' poll, AP poll or BCS rankings provide.
IMPORTANT: This directly from the good Senator: Please make sure your readers know that (1) they have to register between now and 9:00 PM EST Monday and (2) they must cast a dry run ballot between 9:00 AM EST Sunday and 9:00 PM EST
Tuesday -- err, Make that MONDAY. If they don't do both, they'll be locked out from voting the rest of the season.
Possibly related link:I got an email from a reader in North Carolina yesterday. He runs his own alternative poll over at whobeat.net that offers some unique perspective. Be sure to check it out.
Yesterday I posted some interesting statistical work done by reader Jim F. regarding Willie Martinez's ability to make in-game adjustments. The reaction from readers was mixed, which is about what I expected. First, as I readily admitted in the post, stats don't prove everything, they simply provide context. If that context is being provided to an already fully-formed opinion, well, it's not very useful. For everyone else, my hope was that it might shed more light on the questions of why Martinez's defenses were struggling. In either case, it was not meant to say that Willie wasn't struggling.
But, the real beauty of yesterday's post wasn't the grand illumination of Georgia's defensive misfortunes. It was that it ignited a bit of creative and mathematical ingenuity on the parts of some other readers. So, let's take a look at what they found...
First, from David E., who wasn't sold on the numbers that supported Willie's ability to adjust in game. One of the common criticisms of the analysis was that teams are often less aggressive in the fourth quarter when they have a lead, so numbers across the board would be down.
There's some merit to that, I'd imagine, but that hasn't really been the case for Georgia's opponents this season. Either way, numbers only make sense in context, and David wanted to see how the Bulldogs' competition fared from quarter to quarter, too. Here are the results:
Looking at yards allowed by Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Vandy this year....
|Time ||UGA || Ga Tech ||Florida ||Vandy |
| 1st half ||554||378||269||264|
| 2nd half ||418||483||211||161|
| 1st qtr ||305||137||74||74|
| 2nd qtr ||249||241||195||190|
| 3rd qtr ||302||281||87||63|
| 4th qtr ||116||202||124||98|
Now by QB rating...
|Time ||UGA || Ga Tech ||Florida ||Vandy |
| 1st half ||136.57 ||112.62||88.55||85.54|
| 2nd half ||115.29||155.3||61.85||72.94|
| 1st qtr ||165.19||96.02 ||67.46||67.46|
| 2nd qtr ||106.33||127.72 ||104.8||99.88|
| 3rd qtr ||147||215.22||61.54||66.48|
| 4th qtr ||75.89||115.92||61.98||79.7|
And lastly, by first downs...
|Time ||UGA || Ga Tech ||Florida ||Vandy |
| 1st half ||23||16 ||14||13|
| 2nd half ||18||18||10||5|
| 1st qtr ||13 ||5 ||5||3|
| 2nd qtr ||10 ||11 ||9||10|
| 3rd qtr ||13 ||10||3||2|
| 4th qtr ||5 ||8||7||3|
So, what does this tell us? I'll let David give his thoughts:
"As you can see, we are not that great at "making adjustments." Between the first and second half, only tech did not improve in their defense. Also, while it seems that our fourth quarter numbers are low relative to our first quarter numbers, this isn't unique to us, and, I think most disturbingly, speaks more to how terrible our first quarter numbers are. This little exercise has not helped my confidence. Cripes!!"
Two points I'll agree with David on: First, "Cripes" is a great thing to yell in situations like this. Second, Georgia's first quarter numbers (and really, the numbers overall) are pretty bad. Again, there have been no cupcakes on the Bulldogs' schedule like Tech, Florida and Vandy have enjoyed, but Georgia's numbers across the board are almost double what Florida and Vandy are allowing.
On the other side of the coin, I will offer this: In virtually every category for all three teams David studied, the numbers went up in the second and fourth quarters from where they were in the first and third quarters. For Georgia, however, it's just the opposite.
I'm not sure what that means, but here's one thought: Football is a game of adjustments. You come in with a game plan, and one team's is better than the others. Then coaches adjust, and you might expect a swing. Then coaches adjust again, and you might expect a swing back. Then again, and so on. These numbers tell me that for teams like Tech, Florida and Vandy, they've come into the game with a good plan, then adjusted at the half to the adjustments made by the opposition for the second and fourth quarters.
Georgia, on the other hand, has come in with a game plan that hasn't quite worked, been forced to adjust midway through each half.
Obviously that is far from fact, but it's one way of looking at the numbers, and it's a different opinion than I think most fans have of Willie.
But let's get back to the originator of this little exercise, our fine reader Jim F.
Rather than hide behind his first bit of analysis, Jim went back to find some context. To be fair, he included some delightful graphs of these numbers that I am simply not smart enough to get to format properly in this blog post. If any of you would really like to see the full standings, email me and I'll be happy to forward along the file in Excel format.
Anyway, here's Jim's explanations of his work...
What I got: The Overall QB Rating, 1st Half QB Rating, 2nd Half QB Rating and 4th Qtr QB Rating for all SEC teams. I want to get a SEC Rank of where UGA pass D adjustments stood.
Theory: Regardless of opponent, a "good DC" will make adjustments at the Half to nullify what the opponent is doing in its game plan, and within the game or late-game performance (either 'going for the throat', a trade mark of a "good defense" or coming up big in pressure situations)
Limitations: QB Rating itself -not the prefect stat, as stated the other day. If you asked, I doubt seriously not even 90% of even hard core fans, without Google, could accurately tell you what the formula is. I believe it is: ((QB age/2) + sq root of QB IQ) + (on a 10 point scale the Avg. score of cheerleader rooting him on) + TD)) - minus interceptions. :>). Suffice it to say the lower the "better" a Defense is playing.
(*Say that might be worth another prize pack: What is the formula?*)
I used variance as the indicator, again attempting to limit the argument - weak opponent vs. stronger opponent. What happened during the course of the game was what I was trying to get to. Variance is the change that happened, supposedly credited to decisions made during the game on the sidelines - adjustments. You could have used raw numbers, but I didn't go that route for reasons stated.
By using variance, it does legitimately leave some room for criticism. That is it is really measuring "Most Improved D/C during the game Award". I am taking two snapshots: One at the half and one at the end - giving out two pieces of hardware. For the halftime, I used the drop, hopefully, seen during the second half as compared to the first half. For the late-game performance, I used the variance between fourth quarter and overall.
But the truth is again that it is like "test score improvement". Well a 25 to 50 is a 100 percent improvement, but that potential "misleading" possibility is still out there. Being totally fair though three wins out of 4 is not a total failure.
Also the other potential 'misleading' variable is a) the number of games played and b) the number of BCS opponents that they played. Can other teams D stats be misleading because they played FLA Atlantic instead of a Big 12 team? After I got the QB Ratings to help minimizes that distortion or "noise" I went back and added the number of BCS opponents each team has faced on top of the graphs (on right hand side axis), and will let you decide if a team's D stat is puffed up by cupcakes or legit. But I didn't add in total games to graph, too confusing. But getting rest and playing with rested legs after 2-a-days is an important factor.
Results: UGA D Ranked fourth in halftime adjustments in making QB Rating drop, and first (best!) with fourth quarter adjustments. Auburn actually ranked No. 1 in halftime adjustments. With all the attention on the other side, I guess Chizik is taking on his D/C, umm HC, responsibilities.
OK, so Jim's additional research doesn't really vary greatly from David's, despite studying some different teams. So I think it's fair to say that, comparatively, Georgia -- i.e. Willie -- is doing a good job in the second and fourth quarters of games. But again, what does that mean?
That's the part that's open for debate, and I would guess that your explanation will likely be defined by how you view Willie as a coach to begin with. Indeed, the numbers are only a part of the story. You have to make the ending up for yourself.
Of course, we've spent all this time talking about the defense, and that's hardly fair to Mike Bobo, Georgia's offensive coordinator who has earned a share of criticism himself.
I wrote in my practice notes yesterday how Georgia was hoping to jump start its running game. Well, reader John B. decided to do some homework on the issue and thinks the problems may not be with Richard Samuel or Caleb King, but rather with Mike Bobo.
I'll let John explain his premise:
"I wanted to see how UGA's play selection and success/failure compared to other top teams on first down. My criteria was the team must be top rated and can't have more than one loss. Plus, I took the games that those teams played against their best competition. This was done because UGA has played no cupcakes yet.
"Games Selected: Bama vs VT, Boise vs Oregon, Miami vs GT, LSU vs Washington, USC vs OSU, Jean Shorts vs Coonskin Caps, TCU vs Clemson, South Carolina vs Ole Miss.
"The summary of the above winning team's first down play calling was charted to compare to UGA, then averaged to see how UGA's average over four games compared to these top programs' eight games."
Interesting premise, so let's see the results...
|1st down passes||47||69|
| Comp %||59.57||59.42|
| Pass Yards||512||522|
| Avg Yd/attempt||10.89||7.57|
|Pass to Run Ratio||45%/55%||30%/70%|
(*Remember, this is play calling on FIRST DOWN only, not overall. So while Bobo appears "balanced" you have to factor in that first is traditionally more of a running down, while third down, for example, tends to skew in the other direction.)
This is pretty fascinating, but let me allow John his thoughts first...
* UGA is passing on first down 15 percent more than other top programs
* UGA's avg yards per pass attempt is significantly higher than other top programs. More than 3 yards per attempt. Thanks AJ and Orson!
* UGA has 10 fewer yards passing on first down than the 8 top teams selected combined
* Joe Cox's completion % on first down is nearly identical to the other 8 top teams
* UGA's avg yards per rush is on par with other top teams. Only lagging by less than .25 yards per attempt
"I believe UGA's struggles with the running game is a direct result to the lack of commitment to running the ball on 1st down. If Mike Bobo doesn't make a concerned effort to establish the run from the very beginning, how can you expect to be able to run it in crucial game winning or clock eating drives? I believe if this trend continues it will be tough to compete in the SEC East.
"Success in the running game comes from a team mind-set and commitment to be a physical team. You have to practice it in order to create the mind-set and team attitude that "no one is going to stop us." If we need two yards, we WILL get 3.
"I understand you have to get the ball to AJ. He's the best player on the field (PERIOD). BUT look at the Arkansas game. UGA ran the ball on every first-down play in the first 5 drives of the game. This opened up first down passing plays later in the game of 25, 20, 50, 18, 44 and 23 yards. Cox was 6 for 8 for 180 yards after we commited the first five drives to establishing the run.
"YOU RUN TO PASS NOT PASS TO RUN!"
OK, back to my thoughts...
First, you have to wonder about the simple paradox of cause and effect here. Is Georgia's running game struggling because they aren't running enough on first down or are they not running enough on first down because the running game is struggling?
I think the answer to that has to be the former, because as John points out, Georgia's success on the ground on first down is virtually identical to the success achieved by the victorious team in those other eight games.
Still, I'm not entirely sure I agree with John's conclusion that by not running on first down, Georgia is failing to set up the proper mind-set for success. There may be some truth to that, but I think the bigger issue is a matter of situational dynamics.
I spoke with Mike Bobo yesterday about the running game's problems, and he said he thought a good bit of that had to do with turnovers and penalties. It makes some sense.
Georgia ranks 115th nationally in penalty yards (314), with a majority of those coming on offense. That means Georgia is facing more first-and-15s or second- and third-and-longs as a result. Those aren't running situations, obviously.
Also look at the Bulldogs' turnovers. They have 12 already this year. Two occured on special teams, which cost the team a drive. Add in the fake punt by South Carolina, and that's another drive that Georgia lost. Then look at when the other 10 turnovers occurred:
Against Oklahoma State, Georgia had three turnovers -- one on the second play of a drive, one on the third and one on the fifth. That last one occurred on Georgia's last drive of the game when the Bulldogs were in pass-only mode as they tried desperately to play catch-up.
Against South Carolina, Georgia had two more offensive turnovers -- one on the second play of a drive, one on the first.
Against Arkansas, Georgia also had two offensive turnovers -- one the first play of a drive, one on the third.
And last week against Arizona State, Georgia had three offensive turnovers -- two on the third play of a drive, one on the first.
So that's essentially nine more drives that last three plays or fewer before ending with a turnover.
Then go back to John's numbers again. Georgia is throwing on first down 45 percent of the time. Those throws fall incomplete 40 percent of the time. That means that 18 percent of the time, Georgia is facing a second-and-10, which again is hardly an optimal running situation.
The bottom line is that Georgia's running game hasn't been given a chance to succceed yet. If 18 percent of its drives result in a second-and-long, 12 drives have been cut short by turnovers in three plays or less, and the team ranks among the worst in the country in penalties, there is simply no way for the running backs to get in a groove because the situations rarely dictate that being a possibility. Georgia has run the ball as much as they have because Bobo is insisting on it, not because the game has allowed it.
So while I think John has some serious merit in his analysis, I also think that if the Bulldogs can hold on to the ball and cut down on the flags, there's a good chance we'll see some improvement in the running game without any other factors being considered. Add to that improved play by Samuel and King, some more efficient play calls by Bobo and better blocking by the disappointing offensive line, and Georgia may really have a nice ground game going by the end of the season.
ADDENDUM: There's really nothing like tying two unrelated thoughts together, right? And while the analysis of Willie and the analysis of Bobo may not seem related that closely, here's some food for thought:
Georgia has 53 offensive drives so far this season (*not including drives to run out the clock before the half or to end the game).
A poor running game or poor play calling can result in short drives and lots of three-and-outs.
Twelve of Georgia's drives have ended in turnovers in 5 plays or fewer.
Eight have been scoring drives that lasted 5 plays or fewer.
Nine have been three-and-outs.
Seven more have been four or five plays before Georgia was forced to punt.
So far this season, Georgia has had possession of the football for a total of 113 minutes, 45 seconds out of a possible 240 minutes (i.e. 47 percent of the time).
But, add in South Carolina's fake punt, and on 37 of 54 possible possessions (69 percent) Georgia has run five plays or fewer before either scoring or giving the ball back to the opposition.
Since the defense cannot give up any yardage when the offense is on the field, and since the offense has not been on the field nearly as much as it could have been, it's fair to say that there's been a bit of an extra burden put on the D this season.
If Georgia was even moderately more successful in avoiding penalties and short drives, that time of possession number could swing wildly in the other direction, which by definition, would reduce some of the ugly numbers going against the D right now.
To be clear, Rennie Curran was not happy to see Tim Tebow carted off to the hospital in the middle of Florida's win over Kentucky last weekend. There's nothing fun about that.
But the medical issues aside, the Georgia linebacker absolutely loved the hit delivered by Wildcats defensive end Taylor Wyndham.
“That was a vicious hit," Curran said. "Those are the kind of hits you dream about as a defensive player where the guy doesn’t see you coming and you get him right under his chin. There’s no better opportunity than that. It sucks that he had to go into the hospital. You never want to see that happen to any guy, but those are the kind of hits that you just lick your lips for those opportunities as a defensive player.”
Curran's not trying to sound like a bad guy, it's just the mentality that a good linebacker has to have. You're not looking to kill a guy, but you do want the quarterback to fear for his life. It's a fine line.
“Defensively you want to go out there and have fun," Curran said. "The greatest thing in the world for the defense is to intimidate, for the offense to have that fear and to let them know that they’ll have to look around and watch their back. Especially for that quarterback, when you’ve got him rattled and wondering if his line can hold up, that’s a great feeling as a defense. You never want to put a guy in a situation where it can affect the rest of his life, but at the same time you want to play fast, you want to play physical and you want to play hard-nosed.”
That's all Wyndham was doing, Curran said, and in a similar situation, the Georgia linebacker would have loved to deliver the same type of hit.
The really good shots -- the memorable ones where everyone takes notice, regardless of the presence of medical personnel on the field -- those hits are what make football great.
“I’m just like, ‘Oh, boy, this is going to be beautiful,’" Curran said of the lead-up to a big hit. "As a player, that’s what you dream about. That’s what you play for is shots like those where you can make everybody go, ‘Oooh.’”
Curran said he hopes to have a chance at one of those hits in this week's game against LSU. With quarterback Jordan Jefferson willing to roll out of the pocket and freshman Russell Shepard occasionally entering the game at QB to run the football, there should be plenty of opportunities. And should one of those send the QB to the sidelines, Curran won't be too upset about that either.
“We look at it as an opportunity to get a good hit on him and hopefully take him out of the game," Curran said. "We’re going to be hungry no matter what quarterback is back there taking snaps.”
A few links for today...
-- I have a story in the Telegraph on the intriguing matchup of A.J. Green against LSU's Patrick Peterson and Chad Jones.
-- Green got some serious compliments from Arizona State's safeties coach following last week's game.
-- Idaho State has lost 19 of its last 20 games and has been outscored so far this season by a combined tally of 191-42. They'll be headed to Athens next year, and Blogging Pantsless offers a few reasons why that's a good thing.
-- Eric Zeier remains awfully confident about this Georgia team, and while I'd argue he's probably playing the role of company man a little bit, I tend to agree with him. There's a lot of room for improvement, which means you can complain about the past or be encouraged about the future (or both).
-- Three players from Georgia will be looking to impress in their home state for LSU this weekend.
-- Bleacher Report finds three areas of concern that Georgia must improve if the Dawgs hope to beat LSU.
-- Mark Richt says it's still too early to say if Washaun Ealey will redshirt. I say if he were close to playing, they'd have used him by now. Either way, Ealey is eagerly awaiting his opportunity.
-- Leonard Pope found a new home with the Kansas City Chiefs.
-- And finally, I thought this was interesting: The New York Times recently ran a story on former Georgia basketball player Tim Bassett, who talked about the racism he faced while playing for the Bulldogs in the 1960s. Bassett was among the first black athletes to play at Georgia, and his stories underscore how bad things were -- particularly from former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. It's a really interesting read.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Georgia knew replacing Knowshon Moreno would be tough, but four weeks into the season, coaches hoped the results would be a bit better.
The Bulldogs rank 11th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging just 112 yards per game on the ground – down nearly 40 yards per game from last season.
Richard Samuel opened the season as the Bulldogs’ top tailback, but since Caleb King returned from a hamstring injury two weeks ago, the two have shared the load. That’s a trend head coach Mark Richt said he expects to continue.
“Right now in my mind they are 50-50 in my thinking,” Richt said. “One guy might be running a little bit better than the other, and he may get more. We’re not to the position where we saying 75 percent of the totes here and 25 percent there. We looking to more let’s play them both, keep them fresh, see how they’re doing and kind of go from there.”
That’s Richt’s plan, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo isn’t convinced that a timeshare is the best alternative.
Before Tuesday’s practice, Bobo said he hoped one back could impress enough during this week’s workouts to secure the bulk of the work and, in turn, improve the floundering running game.
“We’ve got to get somebody in a groove, and we’ve got to get the running game going,” Bobo said. “I’d say right now, (they’re even), but if somebody has a great day (in practice), they might be the starter. We’ve got to find somebody to jump start our running game.”
Samuel is averaging 4.5 yards per carry so far this season, but aside from an 80-yard run against Arkansas, the sophomore tailback has tallied just two yards per rush on his other 26 carries in the past two games.
King has looked like the better runner overall, picking up 114 yards on 22 carries since returning from a hamstring injury that cost him the first two games of the season. In addition to his rushing exploits, King has also been the better all-around back in practice, running backs coach Bryan McClendon said. But that doesn’t mean King has secured a more significant role in the offense.
“I do think both worked extremely hard, but Caleb did a little better in pass protection than Richard did,” McClendon said. “Hopefully one way or another it will shake out, but as long as we get the production, it wouldn’t hurt me if I had to play them 50-50 again.”
Richt has been impressed with King's strong outings in his first two games as well, but a fumble last week against Arizona State and two drops on screen passes make the task of identifying a clear starter a bit hazy.
“He’s been progressing as he’s been able to play," Richt said of King. "I think he’ll certainly get a good share of (the carries), but I’m not going to sit here and try to predict if he’ll get more than Richard."
Beyond the work of the tailbacks, Bobo said Georgia needs to improve in other areas in order to get the running game going. Blocking by the offensive line has been problematic at times, and Georgia's continued propensity for turnovers and penalties have hindered the team's ability to get its tailbacks into any sort of rhythm.
The bottom line is productivity, Bobo said, and the coaches are happy to employ whichever lineup will maximize that, whether it means playing one tailback the majority of the time or splitting up the playing time between Samuel, King and freshman Carlton Thomas.
“If you ask any running back, they’d like to have it 25 carries themselves a game, but what’s going to give us the best chance to win the game?" Bobo said. "We’re not going to give it 25 times a game if we’re not getting but a yard or two yards every time we run it.”
BACK TO WORK
Two weeks ago, Brandon Wood wasn’t expecting to play this season. His shoulder was feeling better after offseason surgery, but he had all but decided to accept a medical redshirt in order to preserve an extra year of eligibility down the road.
Still, Wood missed being a part of the action, and when Richt approached him about returning to work following Georgia’s win over South Carolina earlier this month, Wood jumped at the chance.
“It’s hard just sitting there and watching the boys play and I can’t do anything, and then I saw we had injuries and I didn’t want to be selfish, I wanted to be a part of the team and help out,” Wood said.
With starting defensive end Rod Battle out, Wood saw a chance to make an impact. And despite the surgery that held him out of the first three games, he said his shoulder is actually feeling pretty good.
“I felt good going through the drills and stuff,” Wood said. “The (coaches) had been looking at the film and seeing what I was doing. They asked me what I was thinking about it, and I said I was ready to play.”
The junior saw significant action at defensive end last week against Arizona State despite having played defensive tackle each of the past two seasons. The transition hasn’t been particularly tough, Wood said, but it has tested his conditioning.
“You cover a lot more ground at defensive end than you do at tackle,” Wood said. “That’s the tough part about it. But it’s better going against a tight end than a guard and a center.”
FILLING OUT THE SCHEDULE
Georgia announced Tuesday that it had finalized a deal to add Idaho State to its 2010 football schedule.
Georgia had two open dates available on the slate, needing one more non-conference home game to fill out the schedule. The Bengals will visit Athens on Nov. 6, one week after the Bulldogs’ annual date with Florida. Georgia’s lone open date will be Nov. 20, meaning it will play 11 straight games before its 2010 off week.
Idaho State plays in the Big Sky Conference and is 0-4 so far this season, including a 50-3 defeat to Arizona State, which lost to Georgia last week. The Bengals finished 1-11 in 2008, losing their first 11 games before beating Sacramento State to close out the season. Overall, Idaho State has lost 19 of its last 20 games.
Georgia’s remaining non-conference slate in 2010 includes the home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, a road date at Colorado and the annual regular-season finale against Georgia Tech.
LSU will be the second team Georgia faces this season with a new defensive coordinator, but unlike the mystery that surrounded Bill Young’s defense at Oklahoma State, the Bulldogs know what to expect from John Chavis.
The Tigers’ new defensive coordinator is a familiar adversary for Richt, having spent 14 years as Tennessee’ defensive coordinator before moving on to LSU when Philip Fulmer was let go at the end of last season. From what Richt has seen on film, not much has changed in Chavis’ new location.
“They are doing the same thing and for good reason,” Richt said. “Coach Chavis has been one of the finest defensive coordinators in the SEC for years. … What they do is very, very sound, very difficult to deal with. When you insert the type of athletes that Tennessee and LSU have, they’ll have nothing but success.”
WAITING ON MARLON
While fellow freshman Rantavious Wooten has enjoyed increased playing time in each of the past two games, Marlon Brown is still waiting his turn on the sidelines.
Brown said he thought he had a good preseason and has been surprised by the lack of action so far, but he isn't letting it get him down.
"It's been real tough, real tough," Brown said. "When the season started, I wasn't playing and I was kind of down a little bit. But after a while, I just said, 'Forget it,' and keep grinding in practice."
Brown was highly recruited coming out of high school, waiting until National Signing Day to confirm he was headed to Athens. After announcing his decision, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin suggested Brown only chose Georgia to make his grandmother happy.
So the slow start to his career could certainly have Brown questioning his choice, but when asked if he had any regrets, he was pretty emphatic in his response.
"Never, man," he said. "Never."
Richt said Tuesday that he expected linebacker Akeem Dent to miss a second straight game and said defensive end Kiante Tripp was likely to sit out of Saturday’s matchup against LSU as well.
Dent's hamstring injuries have been an ongoing problem since the preseason, with his brief return to the lineup earlier this season only setting him back further.
"It's one of those things you can't really explain," linebackers coach John Jancek said. "At first he had a high hamstring pull, and now this one's a little lower. I think it's an issue of time and once he gets back of just rehabbing it and maintaining. For me, it's hard to explain, but I just know we need him out there."
After spraining his knee against Arkansas and missing last week’s game, however, cornerback Vance Cuff is expected to be ready to play this weekend.
Asked about the big hit that sent Florida’s Tim Tebow to the hospital with a concussion last week, Georgia receiver A.J. Green said he was more concerned about the lineman responsible for the sack.
“Whoever on the offensive line gave up that block is about to get it,” Green said. “It’s not good to be him right now.”
A few bits of news and notes from Georgia's early afternoon news conference…
-- Georgia is at the bottom of the SEC in turnover ratio. LSU is at the top. But Richt said he's not concerned about those numbers. "Turnover ratios are important, but what's happened in the past I don't think is very important at all," Richt said. "The turnover ratio that's most important is what happens in this game. So I'm more concerned about the turnover ratio Saturday than what we've had to this point."
-- Speaking of turnovers, it will be interesting to see how Georgia approaches the matchup between A.J. Green and Patrick Peterson. Richt said that the combination of Peterson and safety Chad Jones gives LSU the best matchup against Green of any team Georgia has faced, but he also said that won't prevent Joe Cox -- he of the 5 interceptions in four games -- throwing Green's way. "You have to throw the ball, but every time you throw it there's a risk," Richt said. "So you've just got to play ball and work on fundamentals of ball security and good decisions. The better we block -- run block and pass block -- the less chance of us having turnovers. That's going to be a big part of it, too. We can't say, 'Gosh let's not throw it because we could throw a pick,' because we've just got to play."
-- Richt said he hasn't seen enough of either Caleb King or Richard Samuel to decide one needs to be the primary ball carrier. Looking ahead to Saturday, he said he expects it to once again be close to a 50/50 split on carries between the two, with a dash of Carlton Thomas mixed in.
-- Some injury news: Akeem Dent and Kiante Tripp will not play this week. Vance Cuff likely will play.
-- Talked with Brandon Wood. He didn't make his decision to play this season until a couple of days before the Arkansas game. He said his shoulder is about 80-90 percent healthy now, and he plans to be at defensive end the rest of the year.
-- Richt said from watching film of LSU, the defense looks extremely similar to what John Chavis did at Tennessee.
-- Richt said among his biggest concerns for this game is the matchups of LSU's tall receivers (Brandon LaFell is 6-3 and Terrance Toliver is 6-5) with Georgia's undersized corners.
-- Richt was asked how involved he is in offensive play calling this season. His answer: Not very much. He said he suggests some plays during the week, but on Saturdays, it's all Mike Bobo, with the exception of Richt's decisions on whether to go for it on fourth down, kick field goals or punt, etc.
-- Richt said he's not concerned with Georgia's poor showing in many statistical rankings because the Bulldogs haven't been able to "pad their stats" against weaker opponents.
-- Joe Cox on Marlon Brown: "Physically, he's close, and I think he could get in games, but I'm not in their meetings and I don't know exactly where he is in their process. I think he can definitely contribute, but there's a reason why he hasn't got in a lot so far, and I don't know what that reason is." I asked A.J. Green what hurdle he thought Marlon most needed to overcome in order to find playing time, and his answer was "confidence."
-- Both Georgia and LSU have struggled to run the ball so far this season with any consistency, but that doesn't change the game plan, Cox said. "They're going to be ready to come in and do what they do best, and I'm sure they're going to want to run the ball on us just like we want to run the ball on them."
-- Cox on what this game means in terms of public perception for Georgia: “If we play a great game and beat them convincingly, I’m sure everybody would say Georgia’s for real. If we struggle and eek out a win, it might not be that big of a deal. And if we lost, I’m sure everybody’d want to say, ‘Well, I knew that was going to happen because Georgia’s horrible.’ It just depends on how the game goes, and that’s why we try not to get caught up in it. People’s opinions are specifically based on your performance, and we know it can fluctuate each week. We’re just worried about getting in a good week of practice, getting a good game plan and executing on Saturday.”
Addressing a few reader comments…
From Gregg in Albany: There has been some confusion on whether the refs in ASU game were a SEC or PAC 10 crew. I am fairly certain they were an SEC crew. Agree? Regardless, it is amazing to me that the SEC, which has the BEST players, most attendance, unbelievable fan passion, and the MOST money, has the WORST officials in college football!!!!!!!!!!!! Simply amazing.
DH: Yup, I looked it up (which I probably would have been wise to do earlier) and the refs were from the SEC, led by Matt Austin and highlighted by umpire Wilbur Hackett. You'll remember Mr. Hackett from this play…
From Anonymous: I also think we are shortchanging the extent of the challenge we had with these 4 teams, each of which basically prepped for us solely all winter/spring and summer and then tuned up with cupcakes (NC State TEN days prior excepting).
Add 3 GREAT college coaches (and Gundy not too shabbby offensively) and that was a meatgrinder opening month.
LSU will be the first game where they haven't prepped for us exclusively. (Imagine, even in Game 4 the opponent had 2 scrimmages and a bye week with a 2 time National Championship winning calibre coach prepping to play us!)
Hunker down even 2 of the next 3 more times and this may get interesting!
DH: This was in addition to my minor defense of the coaching staff in the wake of a particularly negative comment about them, which insinuated Richt & Co. were the worst unit in the SEC so far this season.
I'm not saying Richt, Mike Bobo and Willie Martinez have been perfect this season. They haven't, and they certainly have not always put their players in the best situations for success, but they have faced a particularly tough test, too.
In addition to what Anon writes -- which really cannot be overstated -- Georgia also has used at least a dozen players in significant roles on offense or defense this season who had zero or one career start prior to the Oklahoma State game.
I'm not saying the coaching staff deserves an 'A' for their efforts this year, but they're nowhere near an 'F.'
From Preston Jones' Indifference: Question--can you elaborate more when you say that you don't necessarily agree with some of the choices the staff makes from Sunday to Friday?
DH: Sure, but first off, let me say that we see remarkably little of practice and I'm far from qualified to be a football coach, so my criticisms are really not worth much, and mostly based on speculation derived from the game day results.
What I was referring to with that rather broad comment, however, were the little things that continue to crop up at key moments in close games that essentially have to be based on coaching decisions made long before the game begins. Examples: The focus on penalties during the week, the philosophy to employ directional kicking rather than kicking deep, the desire to limit the number of top players working on special teams, the continued reliance on some struggling veterans rather than giving youngsters a chance, the handling of conditioning, which was supposedly tough but didn't exactly show up during the Okie State game.
There are other examples, but those come to mind quickly. But the upside is that several of them -- such as giving playing time to Marcus Dowtin and Baccari Rambo and giving Blair Walsh a few more chances to kick deep -- seem to be changing.
Again, I'm not saying I'm right on any of these comments. It's just my opinion mixed with my observations. But given the fact that the coaches do seem to be making some adjustments that lean closer to my take on the aspects I've noted, I think there's probably more I'm right about than not.
From Todd: I enjoy reading your blog. I'm a UGA alum who lives in Colorado. I'd like to see some comments about the polls this year. The inconsistency of the voters just begs for a play off in my opinion. Three examples...
1) How is Penn State ranked ahead of Iowa after Iowa crushed them in their own stadium at night?
2) How is USC back in the top ten after Washington loses to Stanford?
3) Ole Miss loses to South Carolina (which isn't a top 25 team now?) and drops to #21. USC loses to a Washington team that was winless last year and only drops to #12?
The polls are becoming laughable. And this is how we want to pick the BCS?
DH: You might also ask how LSU is ranked fourth in the country despite the fact that its fans want Les Miles canned for doing such a terrible job coaching.
The polls are a joke right now, and the worst part is that the ridiculous aspects of this week's rankings will have a carry-over effect the rest of the way. There's no way LSU is where it is now if people weren't just voting based on where the Tigers were in the preseason.
Of course, all this leads me up to a reminder that I'll be a contributing writer on the new Mumme Poll blog. Senator Blutarsky from Get the Picture and the fine folks at 3rd Saturday in Blogtober have set up the Web site, and anyone interested in participating can register and help us find a better way of creating a college football poll.
The first vote will take place after Week 6, and I should have lots more info to share with you in the next few days. So stay tuned...
From Anonymous: First I'd like to say, as a Maconite, that I thoroughly enjoy reading both your Telegraph write ups and your blog. Always highly informative. So thank you for that. Secondly, I'd like to call you out on your Marlon Brown prediction last week saying you "guaranteed" MB's first catch of the year against ASU. What were you basing that on? I am dying to see this kid in action! Thanks again.
DH: Ah, I'm glad someone called me on this. I did guarantee Marlon's first catch during my chat session last week, and sadly, he didn't come through.
My thought process was this: We saw more of Rantavious Wooten against Arkansas, so how far behind could Brown be? Then I figured Georgia should the win over Arizona State wrapped up by the fourth quarter, giving guys like Brown a chance to finally get some playing time. Given that the Georgia coaches have to be as curious to see him in action as many of us are, they would undoubtedly find a way to get him a catch during garbage time.
Well, to say the least, I was wrong.
Joe Cox and Mike Bobo have both given Brown their endorsements, so I'm certain we'll see more of him at some point this season, but at this rate, we may be waiting until Tennessee Tech.
In the meantime, what's a fair punishment for me for not coming through on my guarantee?
This info is from Jim F., the A.J. Green of Bulldogs Blog readers. I figured it was definitely worth sharing...
There is a cliché in football that says “Good coaches make halftime adjustments; Good Coaches excel at 'in game' adjustments.” The theory is that coaches are doing what they are suppose to be doing – scheming, whether on the fly with clock running or at the break, once the game starts to unfold.
Note, I know that QB rating is one of the most overused, misunderstood and misleading (at times) stat, but it is quick to find. With that limitation stated look at the table below for the UGA Defense:
| 1st Half||554||136.57||23||15||6|
| 2nd Half||418||115.29||18||8||3|
| 1st Quarter||305||165.19||13||9||4|
| 2nd Quarter||249||106.33||10||6||2|
| 3rd Quarter||302||147.00||13||6||3|
| 4th Quarter||116||75.8||5||2||0|
* stats courtesy of CBS Sports.
Compare QB rating 1st half to 2nd half, 136 to 115. But other indicators drop dramatically as well -- first downs, the “Big Plays" which UGA has been most susceptible too, and most importantly TDs are cut by one-third. Ditto for opponent passing yards allowed.
And once the game gets rolling, look at the second & fourth quarter stats compared to first and third. The fourth quarter defense has been outstanding all year long. IMHO, after all the Xs & Os coaches can think to do, on both sides, talent takes over and UGA players are coming through. No Big Plays over 25 yards allowed, just one TD and 36 percent pass completions. That’s doing SOMETHING right on D.
With the cliché as the criteria, the data says that Willie Martinez is coaching his silver britches off and his scheming has paid dividends.
Back to Dave's comments...
First off, I wish I had enough extra salary to hire Jim on full time. Seriously, great work, Jim.
Secondly, this so clearly underscores what is wrong with knee-jerk reactions by fans that it's almost a shame to have to post it. I'm not saying Willie Martinez is the second coming of Erk Russell. Clearly he has his faults, and at the end of the day, he has to take as much responsibility for what has happened in the first and third quarters as he takes credit for the success in the second and fourth quarters.
But one of the biggest knocks I hear about Willie is that he's incapable of making adjustments, and the truth is, the stats simply don't bear this out.
Now, to use my second "Simpsons" quote of the day, you can find stats to prove anything. Fourteen percent of all people know that.
But these numbers seem pretty convincing, and they aren't inflated by just one or two screwy games. Georgia's defense has been amazingly successful late, and when you consider how much they've been on the field -- Georgia has won the time of possession battle just once this year -- it's hard to argue that the best explanation for that is anything other than some good coaching adjustments by Willie and Co.
Oh, and these stats weren't the only intriguing find by Jim this week. He also noticed an odd similarity, courtesy of Sports Illustrated...
Here's what the typical reactions I've heard following Georgia's 20-17 win against Arizona State have been so far:
"Well, we won... But man we looked bad... But A.J. Green is really good... But we'd probably be 0-4 without him... But the players really kept spirits up to make that comeback... But man did they shoot themselves in the foot too many times... But the defense played better... But the offense looked awful... But Blair Walsh had a nice game... But what are the coaches doing?"
Actually, I think this clip from "The Simpsons" sums it up well…
Anyway, the bottom line is that emotions following the game are all over the place. So what better feature to roll out on this fine Tuesday morning than the much-loved "Good News, Bad News"?
As always, we start with bad news first...
Bad news: Georgia ranks 11th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging just 112.5 yards per game on the ground. That numbers has been made worse by Richard Samuel's 2 yards-per-carry average in the last two games, if you exclude his one long run.
Good news: Justin Houston earned Georgia's first SEC defensive lineman of the week honors since 2006 and played spectacularly.
Bad news: The Bulldogs still had just one sack last week against a mediocre-at-best offensive line.
Good news: LSU isn't any better. The Tigers are tied for last in the SEC with Georgia with just five sacks this season. And they have games against Vandy and Louisiana-Lafayette under their belts.
Bad news: Mike Bobo's play calling remains as mysterious as the conclusion to "Lost." It's almost as if he can't get beyond the big picture. He wants "balance" so he'll call four straight passes to even things out. He knows the toss-sweep is a winner for Georgia, so he calls it with a notoriously vertical runner from the 1-yard line. It's like he calls what looks best in the big picture rather than deciding what play has the best chance of working at that moment. Here's a test: If I've tossed a coin 99 times, and it always came up heads, what are the odds that the next toss is a tails? If your answer is, "pretty damn high!" then you're of the Mike Bobo school of playcalling. If your answer is, each toss has the same 50/50 chance of turning up heads and is no way dependent on what happened before or what might happen after, well, you a.) might have better luck than Bobo in play calling and b.) would have done better than me in my probabilities course in 1997.
Good news: Georgia is 20-5 all time under Mark Richt against the SEC West and has won three straight against LSU.
Bad news: Georgia's turnover ratio this season: 12 giveaways, 3 takeaways. LSU's? 10 takeaways, 3 giveaways.
Good news: With Trindon Holliday returning kicks for LSU, you might think kickoffs would be an even bigger concern than usual for Georgia this week. As it turns out, however, LSU is actually 12th in the SEC in kickoff returns and 117th nationally, averaging just 15.67 yards per return. In fact, LSU's special teams have been a disaster so far this season, highlighted by last week's narrow win over Mississippi State in which the Tigers missed a 19-yard field goal.
Bad news: Back to the turnovers for a second… Six different Bulldogs have turned the ball over already this season, including all three of Georgia's primary tailbacks. This quote from Mark Richt says it all: "The problem is, if every guy takes a turn, that’s a whole lot of turns. That’s a whole lot of issues."
Good news: A.J. Green will be around for a while. I had a few inquiries about Green's potential draft eligibility because he was 19 when he enrolled. Doesn't matter. NCAA rules require a player have been out of high school for at least three years before they are eligible for the draft. So no worries.
Bad news: While Green has made opposing corners look silly, Georgia's corners haven't been much better. The Bulldogs rank 11th in the SEC (and 90th nationally) in pass defense, allowing 243 yards per game through the air, with a particular vulnerability to the big play. Despite its offensive struggles last week, LSU completed passes of 39, 40 and 58 yards against Mississippi State. Oh, and MSU has been allowing, on average, 71 fewer pass yards per game than Georgia. And yes, I know Arizona State only mustered 116 yards through the air last week, but Danny Sullivan's arm makes Joe Cox look like Matthew Stafford. In fact, despite playing two nobodies prior to Georgia, ASU still ranks 89th nationally in passing offense.
Good news: Back to Green for a second. Through 17 collegiate games, Green has 81 receptions, 1,391 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. That averages out to nearly 5 catches for 82 yards per game. Now, it's safe to say he'll get better as he gets older and more experienced (heck, he's already a much better player than he was last year), but assuming he stays just three seasons, his career numbers if he continues at this pace will be 186/3,198/28. The 186 receptions would place him second all time at Georgia, 18 behind Terrence Edwards and four more than Brice Hunter. The 3,198 receiving yards would blow away Edwards' career mark of 3,093. And the 28 touchdowns would be just two shy of Edwards' mark of 30 and a full eight better than Fred Gibson's second-place total of 20. Keep in mind, Edwards, Gibson and Hunter all played for four years. Those numbers for Green are projected through three years. Is it already safe to call Green the best receiver Georgia has ever had? (Just as a side note, if by some miracle Green stays for four years, here's what his projected totals would be: 248 receptions, 4,264 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns.
Bad news: OK, Green is good, we know that. But how about LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. He's just a sophomore, but he has already established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the country. He's essentially the SEC's defensive equivalent of Green. OK, maybe not that good, but Peterson will easily be the best corner Green has faced this year. Of course, the matchup won't even be so much about Green vs. Peterson as it is Joe Cox vs. Peterson. Cox threw two picks against Arizona State's Jarrell Holman trying to force the ball to Green and the senior QB has five interceptions already this season. He'll need to play a lot smarter this week and find a way to maneuver that delicate balance between getting A.J. his touches and not giving Peterson an easy chance at a turnover.
Good news: Remember Darryl Gamble's breakout game against LSU last year when he returned two picks for touchdowns? Well, this year's up-and-coming linebacker, Marcus Dowtin, has put together four good games in a row but is still looking for a breakout performance. Hmm.
Bad news: Georgia's offensive line has looked downright bad in two games so far, and has been less than impressive in the other two.
Good news: LSU's line is even worse. Despite having a trifecta of returning talent at tailback, the Tigers are just 74th in the nation in rushing offense and 10th in the SEC.
Bad news: Georgia still ranks 119th in Division I in total penalties with 41.
Good news: The Bulldogs had just one flag in the second half against Arizona State -- an offensive holding call in the fourth quarter.
Bad news: LSU's defense stopped Mississippi State three straight times from the 1-yard line last week. Coincidentally, Georgia was stuffed at the 1-yard line last week by Arizona State and also came up short on a fourth-and-inches. Dawgs fans might want to hope this game doesn't come down to too many short-yardage situations.
Good news: "Mustache Marshall" was a new "How I Met Your Mother" highlight last night. Absolutely hilarious.
Bad news: I'm not sure if "Flash Forward" is going to stay on my DVR list for long. It wasn't awful, but it was much as I feared -- a watered-down "Lost." The opening scene, in particular, was virtually a complete knockoff of the opening scene from "Lost," just replacing a plane wreck with a car wreck.
Good news: It's not supposed to rain on Saturday.
Bad news: The last time Georgia hosted a top-10 ranked team, Alabama went to the half with a 31-0 lead. This stat absolutely stunned me, however: Did you know this is just the third time since Richt has been head coach that Georgia has hosted a top-10 team? The only other time was an 18-13 win over No. 6 Tennessee in 2002. LSU, which is ranked fourth in both the AP and Coaches' poll, will be the highest-ranked opponent ever to play at Sanford Stadium during the Richt administration.
Good news: I'll have more than 12 minutes to write my story after the game thanks to the early kickoff. So here's to having a more delightful live blog, more time to get quotes after the game, and a game story with fewer than seven grammatical or spelling errors!
Monday, September 28, 2009
The reaction to Georgia's win over Arizona State has certainly been a mixed bag, ranging from elation to outrage to utter confusion. What are we to make of this team?
In truth, I'm not sure. I think we can clearly say there is a lot of potential there. I think we can also say that the mistakes are going to catch up to them sooner than later -- and maybe this week. But I'd argue there's a lot of reason for optimism.
I said before this game that if Georgia struggled with Arizona State, it would be catastrophic in terms of what fans could expect the rest of the way. It seemed to me like it should be a cake walk for the Dawgs, and another close game would be a pretty damning endorsement.
But after watching it play out in nail-biting, heart attack-inducing style, I'm actually feeling exactly the opposite about Georgia.
For one, the weather played a factor. A portion of the game plan had to be tempered because of the conditions, and all the rain essentially demanded a close game.
Secondly, Georgia continues to show a ton of grit in the face of adversity. Listen, as someone writing on deadline, I'd like to see an easy one as much as any of you, but the fact that the Bulldogs have continued to come back in tough games says a lot about their character.
Third, the defense did everything it was supposed to. No, I wasn't encouraged by the early success ASU had in the running game, but overall the D played spectacularly. They allowed just 204 total yards of offense and they were a brick wall in the fourth quarter. The way the D responded following Joe Cox's final interception was a revelation. Where has this been for the past two years?
Foruth, A.J. Green is a special player. I don't mean that in a "Matthew Stafford was a special player" sort of way, when you look at a guy's talents and think he's capable of anything. Green is special in the way Herschel Walker was special -- the type of player who simply changes the complexion of a game simply by being on the field. When that third-down pass went up on Georgia's final drive, everyone in the stadium -- including the Sun Devils -- knew who was coming down with it. There's an invaluable quality that Green brings. It's the knowledge that, no matter what else is going on, Georgia has a chance to win because it will always, in every game, have the best player on the field. It's an intangible bit of confidence (or concern if you're the opposition) that cannot be accounted for but changes how the game is played. He's one of a kind.
In fact, I think this anonymous commenter said it best: "If you were to create a receiver on NCAA and gave him 99s on everything, I still think AJ Green would be better."
And finally, in the credit where credit is due department, I'm going to say ASU isn't simply a mediocre Pac-10 team. No, Danny Sullivan isn't a game-breaking QB, and if the Sun Devils had Ryan Mallett on their side, they probably would have won that game. But Arizona State's defense was a lot better than I expected, led by a ridiculously talented corps of linebackers. That was a far tougher test than I assumed it would be, which alleviates a lot of the concern I might otherwise have about Georgia's performance.
And while folks will no doubt find plenty of flaws in the 20-17 win, I think it's worth posting this note from bnwdawg14, who provided us with this little reminder:
Scores from the '02 SEC squad
UGA 31 - Clem 28
UGA 13 - USC 7
UGA 27 - BAMA 25
UGA 18 - TENN 13
UGA 24 - AU 21
Scores from the '80 NC squad
UGA 16 - TENN 15
UGA 20 - Clem 16
UGA 28 - Ole Miss 21
UGA 13 - USC 10
UGA 26 - UF 21
It's a good point. The great teams don't always win easily, but they win. So with that, let's hand out some grades...
QUARTERBACKS: Well, you've got to hand it to Joe Cox, he's not one for the middle ground. One week, he's tying a school record for touchdowns, the next, he has you checking whether your health insurance covers a quintuple bypass surgery.
I'm not here to make any excuses for Cox. In fact, I'm pretty much in agreement with I'm-Thinking-19, who says Joe is who he is -- a decent QB who needs help along the way. Outside of A.J. Green, I'm not sure how much help he got against Arizona State, whether from the line, from the running game or from the play calling.
And if you've ever seen Cox in person, you know his measurements in Georgia's media guide probably are a bit generous. He's far from the biggest QB, and when you combine his smaller hands with a lack of great arm strength, it's obvious why the wet conditions could make throwing the ball difficult.
But let's get down to the bottom line here: Cox has started four games this season, and he has turned the ball over six times (and it would have been seven if not for Carlton Thomas' heads-up dash to cover up a fumble against South Carolina). Not all have been Cox's fault, but after all the talk about his MENSA-level knowledge of the playbook and instinctual decision making this offseason, that number is simply too high. Way too high.
Both of Cox's picks against Arizona State came on the exact same play call. In fact, it was the only two times that play was called the entire game. What it came down to, Mike Bobo said, was an idea to do whatever it took to get the ball into Green's hands, and Joe forced two throws that weren't there.
You can look at that in one of two ways. On one hand, a fifth-year senior should know when it's time to force a throw and when it's not -- and it definitely wasn't time when he threw those two picks. On the other hand, Cox is playing with confidence -- maybe a little too much, but that's better than the alternative.
Following the loss to Oklahoma State, Cox said what held Georgia back was a fear of making a mistake. They allowed worries about bad plays to prevent them from rolling the dice on a good play.
Following the Arizona State game, I asked Joe if they'd be scrapping the play that went 2-for-2 to the other team from the call sheet for this week's game. No, he said. It was a good play, and looking on film, his tight end was wide open both times. It was his execution that lacked, but he said he'd make the throw again and again -- just hopefully with a bit better decision making preceding it next time.
Confidence has its drawbacks, but I think this Joe Cox is far superior to the one who trudged off the field down and dejected following the loss in Week 1.
Another note on Cox, which I think cannot be overstated enough: He has seen significant action if six games in his career. In four of them, he's led Georgia to come-from-behind wins. When players and coaches talked about his leadership during the offseason, I don't think that was remotely oversold. The kid really does know what it takes to help a team win. In fact, I think this quote from tight end Aron White sums things up perfectly:
"Joe bounces back really well after a turnover. Just the presence he has on the field and when he comes to the sidelines, keeping everybody's mind right. That really helps our team. Last year, we might have gone in the ditch a little bit after turnovers. This year, we’ve had some turnover issues early on, but we take it in stride and come out the next series with something to prove."
I noted in my post yesterday that Georgia would probably be 0-4 right now without A.J. Green. That's true, but I think it's fair to say the same might be true of Cox. He has changed the personality of this offense, and while his skill set doesn't match that of Matthew Stafford, I think what he does bring to the table has been far more important to this team than anything it lost in terms of arm strength.
A few other quick notes on the quarterbacking:
-- Cox had two screen passes that should have been caught that may have made his numbers look a good bit better.
-- I would have loved to have seen some key short-yardage situations become play-action passes rather than runs. Why you take the ball out of the hands of your veteran leader and put it into the hands of a guy with three career carries is tough to explain.
-- That pass to Green in the end zone should have been a TD and probably would have changed the perspective on this game quite a bit if it had been called properly.
-- If Georgia is going to use Logan Gray, give the kid a fighting chance. His role, along with Branden Smith's, was intriguing early, but has quickly become excessively predictable. Remember Tim Tebow's freshman year? Gray is no Tebow, obviously, but it was the handful of throws that Tebow was able to make that kept defenses honest enough to open up running lanes. Bobo would be well serves to throw a few different looks in the mix to keep opposing coaches guessing.
Final Grade: C+
RUNNING BACKS: I'm not saying I know the answer here because I don't. But what I do know is that Georgia is not utilizing its running game to its potential. Just 92 yards on the ground against Arizona State is testament to that.
First off, if you have a tailback with Richard Samuel's size and strength, and an experienced fullback like Shaun Chapas, why is Fred Munzenmaier getting four short-yardage carries in a game?
Second, if Samuel is averaging less than two yards per carry during the past two games (not counting his lone 80-yard TD when he went down the middle untouched), why is Caleb King still getting just 11 carries in a game in which weather conditions made throwing the ball particularly difficult?
The only answer I can come up with for either question is ball security, and I suppose it's a reasonable concern.
But here's the catch: Georgia has three primary tailbacks, and all of them have fumbled at least once this year. So what do you do? Do you bench them and let Munzenmaier be your primary ball carrier or do you get back on the horse and give them another shot?
Again, I don't know the correct answers, but I do know that the Bulldogs need more consistent productivity from their running game if the offense is going to function at full speed, and right now they're not getting that.
Setting aside Samuel's 80-yarder last week, he has just 52 yards rushing on his last 26 carries -- in other words, two yards per touch.
King, on the other hand, is averaging well over five yards per carry and has looked much better at shedding tacklers and picking up yards when space was at a premium.
Of course, King also fumbled in a crucial situation against Arizona State, and he dropped two open screen passes that could have easily gone for big gains.
Of course, King also has six carries of 10 yards or longer on 22 carries in the past two games. Samuel has one on 27 carries.
It seems pretty obvious at this point that either a.) King is the more dynamic back and deserves more touches, or b.) Samuel is the type of back who needs to get in a routine and needs more touches. Or maybe I'm way off on both.
But here's what Cox had to say: "We definitely didn't run the ball this past game like we wanted to. With the backs we have and especially with our line, we could be a really good running team. We've had flashes of really good plays, it's just a matter of consistency."
Consistency has to start with having a consistent approach, and I'm not sure that's been there for Samuel or King so far. Again, I haven't the foggiest idea what that consistent approach should be, but giving the ball to the fullback in key situations clearly isn't it.
I also mentioned last week that I though Chapas would likely see more action against ASU than he had all season. That turned out to be true, but not by much. Instead it was Munzenmaier who got the majority of the touches at fullback. Munzenmaier had some success -- scoring once and picking up a first down near the goal line on his second carry. But the decision to give him a crucial fourth-and-one carry was inexplicable. Even if you want to make the argument that the risk of a fumble by King or Samuel was too great to give them the ball, then that inherent risk should have been factored into the decision to go for it on fourth down in the first place. In a tie game, Blair Walsh should have been on the field to kick the go-ahead field goal there. Of course, that's more of a coaching issue than a running backs issue.
Final Grade: C
RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: Let's start with the non-A.J. contributors.
Rantavious Wooten took another big step forward, catching two passes -- both for first downs -- and looking really good doing it. His first catch, which he made a nifty move to stay in bounds for -- was particularly impressive, and you can see why coaches praised his skills coming into the season.
Wooten didn't come as highly acclaimed as fellow freshman Marlon Brown, but he did arrive in Athens with two big assets: Polished route-running skills and a ton of speed. He demonstrated both against Arizona State, and the successful results probably mean we'll see a lot more of him in the coming weeks.
Mike Moore didn't do much to follow up on his impressive performance against Arkansas, but he didn't have a lot of opportunities either. Still, as the lone senior in the group, he needs to be more consistent in providing Georgia with a reliable second option opposite Green.
Tavarres King and Aron White combined for three catches and 34 yards, while Orson Charles had just one grab for zero yards.
And yet, Charles might have had the second-biggest impact of any offensive player in the game for Georgia.
Clearly the work Charles had done during the past few weeks made an impact on how Arizona State game planned defensively. While he was limited to just one grab, it was because he garnered a lot more attention than usual, and that impact was felt in two crucial situations.
The first came on a deep pass thrown his way in the first quarter on which ASU's Terell Carr was essentially forced to shove Charles out of the way and take a pass interference flag. That allowed Georgia to convert a third-and-28 and set up the Bulldogs' second touchdown.
But the biggest play of the game for Charles was one on which the ball didn't even come his way. On Georgia's final drive, the Bulldogs faced a third-and-6 from their own 42. The play was a go route, and Cox had two options -- Charles or Green. This was easily the most critical defensive play of the game for Arizona State, and the player they chose to double wasn't the superstar sophomore. It was Charles.
The result was man coverage for Green, and Cox connected with his receiver for a 36-yard gain to set up the winning field goal.
"It's tough for defenses to double (Green) because they know they'll have matchup problems with other guys, and that was probably something that came from how well we threw the ball last week," Cox said.
Of course, Charles work as a decoy was important, but the star of the show was no doubt Mr. Green.
He recorded his second straight 100-yard receiving day and, if the officiating had been a bit better, would have had two touchdowns in the game.
Regardless, here are the stats A.J. is on pace for this season: 80 catches, 1,380 receiving yards and 13 TDs. All would be school records.
I'm not going to relive all the drama that Green provided Saturday. It's all been said and written. But I thought I'd share this quote from White, who recollected the best catch he's ever seen Green make.
"It was probably in preseason practice his freshman year. He ran a post and broke it hard. I think it was Stafford threw it behind him. He jumped, but when he jumped he kind of like stopped all forward momentum and twisted his body backward and caught the ball, completely parallel to the ground behind him with both hands. But then, somehow, he twisted in the air, got his feet back under him, landed and took off running. Everyone was like, wow."
Luckily, I was able to track down some footage of Green making several similar moves...
One other thing: I mentioned in my Sunday post that there were still shots of A.J. getting his foot in bounds on the second TD reception that was ruled incomplete. That elicited a few emails like this one: "I also thought it was a terrible call on A.J.'s catch in the end zone, but that was based only on the TV pictures I saw. Do you have links to the still photos you mentioned that show his right foot down in bounds?"
To answer your question: No, I don't have links. I saw them after the game from photographers. I have no idea where they are though. If anyone comes across a shot, let me know. Of course, A.J. also swears he was in bounds, and at this point, how could you not take his word for it?
UPDATE: Daniel Shirey from the Red & Black sent me THIS, which if you look and see that the tip of Green's foot is hidden behind the grass, provides some good evidence that he made the catch. Either way, it was a heck of an effort.
Final Grade: A (and it's a shame they don't make grades higher than A to give to A.J. He should really get his own symbol -- sort of like Prince.)
OFFENSIVE LINE: I asked Mark Richt why he thought the offensive line wasn't playing up to the standards many of us had for the unit in the preseason, and here's what he said:
"The loss of Trinton (Sturdivant) and Tanner Strickland certainly didn't help us, and we're just now beginning to get Josh Davis back, which will be another piece of the pie. There's been some games they've played beautifully, but this game in particular wasn't one of the best ones of the year. We've just got to get after it and play smart."
After the fourth word of that sentence, I'm fairly certain the rest of the explanation isn't relevant. I'm sure Strickland and Davis are good guys, but their losses haven't set the O line back, and "getting after it" should sort of go without saying, right?
But despite the overall irrelevancy of Richt's statement, there actually is some truth in there.
For one, Sturdivant's loss does hurt more than we probably noticed at first. It has been two years since Georgia has been able to trot out the same starting lineup on the O line for four consecutive games. While consistency was supposed to be the key for this year's unit, Georgia has already employed four different starting lineups in four games. The starting five Georgia spent all preseason working with already looks nothing like the one the Bulldogs are using now.
Mike Bobo warned during the preseason that the O line wasn't going to be quite as impressive as everyone assumed. It seemed at the time like typical coachspeak, tempering expectations despite a lack of evidence for doing so. But it turns out he was right, and the growing pains have played out on the field so far this season.
Saturday's game showed why there were high expectations for the O line but also underscored just how far the group is from achieving those expectations.
First, there are the penalties. A week earlier, Georgia had six false starts and three holding calls against Arkansas. The unit improved dramatically on that this week (just two of each) but back-to-back false starts will likely overshadow any of the overall gains.
But why so many flags from a veteran unit?
"It's something we can easily fixed," right tackle Clint Boling said. "It's just about being more focused. It has nothing to do with not being able to hear or anything, it's just going out and not focusing."
OK, easily fixed. That's good. But raise your hand if you ever expected to hear lack of focus as a rationale for failure from a Stacy Searels-coached unit.
Then there's the blocking.
Against Oklahoma State, the pass blocking was abysmal. It has improved each week since then, and the line -- namely new left tackle Cordy Glenn -- did a nice job against Dexter Davis, who is a legit NFL prospect. Joe Cox wasn't sacked in the game, although Richt said his first INT came as a result of excessive pressure that forced him to get rid of the ball too soon.
The run blocking, however, seems to have gotten worse. In that first game against OSU, Richt said it was simply about finishing blocks -- keeping the defender at bay for an extra half-second. But the line seems to have backslid from there. Yes, there was the 80-yard run by Samuel last week that was all about the big gap opened up by the line. But that's been the exception. Georgia's backs have not had much room to run the past two weeks, and while Caleb King has done a nice job of creating some yards, the short-yardage problems against Arizona State were particularly obvious.
The frustrating part is that there are times when the line shows flashes of the dominance so many expected. It just hasn't been consistent. And perhaps that's a function of the lack of consistency in the lineup (with Justin Anderson probably the least consistent, and Vince Vance not far behind). Vance, by the way, played at left guard Saturday, rotating with Chris Davis.
Boling isn't giving up on the unit yet. While Bobo wanted to temper expectations in the preseason, Boling said there's no reason the fans or the players should think that way.
"We expect that out of ourselves, too, just with the potential that we have the talent that some of these guys have along with the experience," he said. "We all know we can be playing better right now, we've just got to go out and do it."
Final Grade: C
DEFENSIVE LINE: This was easily the best performance Georgia's defensive line has had all season, and it began with the SEC lineman of the week -- Justin Houston.
To give you an idea of how insanely important that is for Georgia: The last time a Bulldogs defensive end was named the SEC's D lineman of the week, it was Charles Johnson, and it came in the same game Joe Cox started against Ole Miss in 2006. That's a long time to go without a dominant performance by a D-end.
In his second game back from suspension, Houston was dominant off the edge. He had four tackles, two for a loss and a sack and helped limit Arizona State to just 88 yards rushing -- including a net loss of four yards on the ground in the fourth quarter. Houston was in the backfield all night, and his performance clearly opened up some lanes for interior lineman Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens, who both had their best games of the season.
In all, Georgia recorded nine tackles for a loss (six from D linemen), which was a particularly impressive feat considering the Dawgs had just 12 in their three previous games.
ASU tailback Dimitri Nance had a lot of early success on the ground, particularly running up the middle, but Georgia put the clamps down in the fourth quarter, essentially halting the Sun Devils' offensive attack, given that quarterback Danny Sullivan was unable to stretch the field with his arm.
Cornelius Washington was noticeably absent from the stat sheet following the game, but Brandon Wood did make a surprise appearance. A week ago, Wood appeared headed for a medical redshirt following offseason shoulder surgery, but coaches decided they needed his help at D end and he was on the field -- although not on the rosters distributed to media -- for the game. He finished with one tackle, playing about 20 snaps.
Arizona State clearly won't be the toughest opponent Georgia's D line faces this season, but it was a good step forward. Houston appears ready to make an impact, and if Atkins and Owens could get a bit more time on the field together, it's fair to assume they will, too. The other defensive end spot remains a mystery, however, and it's a position Georgia needs to find an answer at. If Wood can become a factor or if Washington can continue to step up with Demarcus Dobbs handling a share of the reps as well, this line has the potential to become a strength of the defense.
They're nowhere near that yet, but for the first time in a long time, it at least seems like a possibility.
Final Grade: A-
LINEBACKERS: I've been less than impressed with Georgia's linebackers the past two weeks, but against Arizona State, the unit played well.
Rennie Curran had just six tackles and, for perhaps the first time I can remember, actually missed a tackle badly on a run by Nance in the second quarter. Beyond that, Curran was his usual self, and Arizona State avoided the underneath passes in the middle of the field for much of the game. That was key since Sullivan didn't really have the arm to go deep routinely, leaving the short out routes to the sidelines as the only successful part of the Sun Devils' passing attack.
Darius Dewberry returned from a two-week absence and looked good, making three tackles. Darryl Gamble was solid, if unspectacular. But I think the player who really needs to be talked about is Marcus Dowtin.
As a freshman last season, Dowtin saw minimal action, but he has come on strong this season. He had four tackles in the game, including one for a loss, and had a sack of Sullivan that was overturned by a Georgia flag. He now has 21 tackles on the season -- good for third on the team, despite limited playing time -- and he has yet to be exposed at any point in the passing game.
As Willie Martinez talks about getting more playing time for the younger guys on D, Dowtin needs to be at the top of the list. I like Dewberry, but right now Georgia's best linebacker set is with Curran, Dowtin and Gamble on the field.
Final Grade: B+
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Martinez says redshirt freshman Baccari Rambo needed more playing time, and he was right.
Rambo saw easily the most action of his career against Arizona State, and he responded with a phenomenal four-tackle performance that included Georgia's second interception of the season. Rambo also had a crucial pass breakup on a second-down throw by Sullivan across the middle on Arizona State's final drive following Cox's second INT. That left the Sun Devils in a third-and-long, eventually forcing the field goal attempt that Green blocked. Houston definitely earned defensive MVP honors for this game, but Rambo deserves a close second (and that's not even counting a couple of nice plays on special teams as well).
Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith both shook off shaky performances against Arkansas by playing well. Boykin had five tackles, including one for a loss. Arizona State didn't challenge the Bulldogs downfield often, but when they did, Boykin handled coverage well. Smith saw a nice uptick in his playing time with Vance Cuff out, and he responded strongly. His confidence grows by the game, and it's not unreasonable to think that he might be Georgia's best cornerback by the end of the season.
Reshad Jones added to his big-hit highlight reel during the first half on a pass intended for Jovon Williams -- this time avoiding a flag -- but he was also burned by Kyle Williams on a 30-yard bomb, the longest play of the day for Arizona State.
And finally we have Prince Miller. In coverage, he played OK, but if Ryan Mallett had been throwing those passes again rather than Sullivan, I'm not sure how good Miller's stat line might look. And then there was the botched chance at an INT when Sullivan threw the ball up for grabs, and Miller froze like a deer in headlights as it fell to the ground in front of him. Miller isn't the most talented player in Georgia's secondary, but he is supposed to be the veteran leader, and he needs to make that play.
All in all, however, it was a solid performance by the DBs, who allowed ASU just 116 yards through the air -- or nearly 300 fewer than Arkansas tallied a week earlier.
Final Grade: B+
SPECIAL TEAMS: There were no fireworks in the return game this week, and Drew Butler saw his best-in-the-nation punting average drop a bit, but I think this can be chalked up as one of the finest special teams performances of the season for the Bulldogs -- and maybe one of the finest in a couple of years.
Blair Walsh was excellent on kickoffs, and Arizona State's best starting field position following a kick was its own 33. No return was longer than 18 yards, and Walsh recorded another touchback in the game.
Of course, it was his field goal as time expired that everyone will remember. Walsh booted two kicks in the game, bringing his season total to a perfect 8-for-8 mark. The sophomore is miles ahead of where he was last year in terms of compartmentalizing his roles and keeping an even keel throughout. He's been exceptional.
Then, of course, there's A.J. Green. When asked after the game if he's a regular contributor on special teams, his answer was perfect.
"Nah," he said. "Just when we need it."
I've heard a good number of fans complain about Georgia's lack of heart this season. Quite frankly, I don't get it. I wonder if they're watching the same games I am.
If you want to complain about the Bulldogs' lack of smarts, be my guest. The play calling, the defensive fundamentals, the bad decisions -- those things have cost Georgia this season. But heart? That's been there in spades.
Green's ups to block what would have been a go-ahead field goal showed how much the Bulldogs want to win this year. The same could be said of DeAngelo Tyson's block of a PAT against South Carolina. Those are plays that are nearly automatic for the opposition, and Georgia fought the battle anyway and won. Both plays were the difference between winning and losing.
There are probably a few dozen other examples of plays like that this season -- more than a few coming in Saturday's win -- but I think the work on special teams says it best. Again, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Georgia this year, but heart clearly isn't one of them. The Bulldogs may not have gone through quite so much adversity a year ago thanks to all the talent they had, but I also have absolutely no doubt they couldn't have overcome so much of it either.
One minor complaint on special teams, however: Um, Mr. Chapas, when your return man is standing four inches behind you, go ahead and let him catch the ball.
Final Grade: A
COACHING: This game really demonstrated some of the best and some of the worst of Georgia's coaching issues. Let's take a look at a few examples:
-- Mike Bobo once again had a nice game plan coming in. Georgia went down the field and scored on its first two possessions. And then? Nothing. It was eerily reminiscent of Oklahoma State, but really, it looked so much like so many other games, too. Think back to last year's game against Arizona State. That should have been a blowout, but remained close through much of the second half. Or last year's game against Tennessee. Or Vanderbilt. Or Auburn. It's frustrating to see a team that clearly can move the ball, but manages to shoot itself in the foot far too often to establish any sort of consistency.
(EDIT: Georgia scored on two of its first three possessions -- the first drive was a three-and-out.)
-- If you look at any of Bobo's play calls in a vacuum, they all seem reasonable. Yes, the toss sweep has long been a successful play for Georgia, but why run it at the 1-yard line? Yes, Munzenmaier has had a lot of success in short yardage situations, but why run it -- for a FOURTH TIME -- in a crucial fourth-and-1 situation?
-- Give Willie Martinez some credit: He played this one exactly how most fans wanted him to. He swapped players in and out, gave a lot of PT to the young guys and he made ASU work for every yard. The flaws in the defense Saturday weren't coaching (and really, there weren't a lot of flaws to begin with). It also goes to show that Willie wasn't just rambling on about nothing when he says that pressure up front is essential. It made all the difference Saturday.
-- And while ASU wasn't the toughest test Willie's boys will face this year, 204 yards of total offense is still a darned impressive number. And once again, the D was at its best when it mattered most. The stop following the final turnover was an illustration of exactly the type of defense fans have been clamoring for. Give credit where it's due.
-- I don't get the fourth-and-1 call at all. First off, I think you have to take the points there, and that's coming from someone who almost always thinks it's a good idea to go for it on fourth-and-short. But you're midway through the fourth quarter in a tie game and your kicker has been spot on all season. Plus, your O line has looked terrible in run blocking up to that point in the game. And on top of all that, what does a first down really get you? I could see going for it from inside the 10. But even if Georgia converts, it hardly guaranteed a touchdown.
What's worse, however, was the play call itself. A play action fake and a toss to Green would probably have gone for six. ASU cheated its linebackers up and it was obvious they were ready for the fullback run. What's even worse than that is that Bobo KNEW they were ready for it. After the ridiculousness of the shoved official and the long delay to get the play off, ASU had plenty of time to read the personnel, recognize the play, talk it over and then regroup in the right formation. All of this time went by, and at no point did Bobo decide to change the play. It was telegraphed from the start.
-- The penalties have got to stop. Much like the turnovers, it will eventually become something that the offense cannot continue to overcome. Like Richt, I don't care about some of the more aggressive penalties, but the false starts, the illegal formations -- that stuff is inexcusable. And since Richt has been saying it's been a focus in practice for going on 12 full months now, you have to ask yourself whether there's a serious flaw in how the coaches are focusing on it.
-- Kudos to John Jancek for insisting that A.J. Green be playing on Georgia's field-goal block unit, and kudos to Richt for backing him up. Fans have clamored to have the best players on the field on special teams, and that's exactly what Georgia did. My guess is people would be ready to run Jancek out of town if Green had twisted an ankle on the play, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, it was a decision made by a coach a month ago that didn't get talked about at the time but turned out to be the difference in the game Saturday.
After four weeks, I'm not sure if Georgia is a really good but flawed team or a really flawed but good team. My instinct is to say it's the former. Some of those flaws have stemmed from some poor choices by the coaching staff, but a good bit of the success has come from the coaches, too. Like virtually every other aspect of Georgia's team, the coaching staff has tons of potential if they'd simply stop shooting themselves in the foot.
I don't always agree with how Georgia's coaches, including Richt, have handled things from Monday through Friday, but at this point, the past three Saturdays have all ended with wins, and the staff deserves a good chunk of the credit for that.
Final Grade: B
So, where did I go wrong? What did I miss? What worried or impressed you about Saturday's win? Are you more or less confident going into the LSU game than you were last week?