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Monday, September 27, 2010

Fleeting thoughs: After Mississippi State

Normally this feature would run the day after the game. But my Sunday was spent driving back to Athens through a driving rain that made the day even more pleasant.

The lingering memory I’ll have from this trip is Mark Richt’s postgame press conference: The unflappable coach looked, for the first time I can remember, a bit rattled. He was still polite, but for him, he was short on some questions, with some clipped responses. He looked like a man searching for answers.

He should, as Georgia has a lot of problems. One of them, or possibly more, will be fixed this week by the return of A.J. Green. But all the issues were once again on display in Starkville.

The rundown, grades and observations:

QUARTERBACK: Aaron Murray remains a bright spot, which makes the struggles of the offense even more confounding. No, he’s not going to be an All-SEC pick, but once again he was what Georgia was asking him to be before this season started: Turnover-free, and a good manager of the offense. The freshman had 274 passing yards and was the team’s second-leading rusher. On the other hand he was still a bit off on his throws, especially in the red zone. … B.

RUNNING BACKS: It may be time to admit that the Bulldogs’ tailbacks are just average. At least that’s the conclusion we have to take from the first four games. Caleb King’s return, making the first time he and Washaun Ealey have both played, didn’t spark the running game. Ealey had another costly fumble inside the 5. King, Ealey and Carlton Thomas averaged only about three yards per carry. And no one is exhibiting any breakaway ability. I’m sure the blocking isn’t much of a help, but the tailbacks aren’t creating much on their own. … C-.

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: Kris Durham (four catches for 64 yards) had almost exactly the same stat for the fourth straight game. The Bulldogs can only hope his neck stinger isn’t so serious he can’t team with Green this weekend. Tavarres King had a 40-yard touchdown in garbage time, and a 39-yard catch early in the game – but nothing in between. Marlon Brown was once again pretty quiet, while Logan Gray (three catches for 42 yards) was a factor, but not a major one. And once again, the tight ends were largely absent: They were targeted a bit more, but Orson Charles had the lone catch. One factor that hasn’t been talked about: The run-blocking of the receivers. Apparently the coaches don’t have a lot of confidence because they’re not calling a lot of sweeps, and not a lot of screens either. ... C+.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The pass protection was a bit better, allowing just one sack. But Murray was still pressured, and saved a sack or two with his feet. As for the run, there wasn’t much in the way of gaping holes for the tailbacks. Nothing changes here: The line remains one of the most disappointing facets of this year’s team. … C-.

DEFENSIVE LINE: The second half looked a lot like the South Carolina game, with the opposing offense staying on the field and converting a ton of third downs. It wasn’t all up the gut, and a lot came on short-range throws, unlike in Columbia. But MSU was still able to run more than it should, with Vick Ballard averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Chris Relf had 97 rushing yards, most of it on the edges. No sacks either, and through four games the front three still don’t have any to their credit. … C-.

LINEBACKERS: The main task for this unit was to stay on their keys and shut down the option. They did only an average job of that, largely failing on the first drive, and throughout the second half. So the contain was a miss, for the most part. There were also only two tackles behind the line – both by Justin Houston – and the lone interception, on the halfback option, was forced by pressure. So it wasn’t all bad. But Mississippi State had its best offensive showing in the SEC so far, and a lot of that falls at the feet of Georgia’s best defensive unit. … C-.

SECONDARY: There were only 135 passing yards allowed, but there were also only 14 pass attempts. A lot of them came on third down, and were completed. The passing game was supposed to be a huge problem for Mississippi State, but for one night Relf looked like a legitimate SEC quarterback. … C-.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Bacarri Rambo can’t catch a break. It was his leg that came in the way of a bouncing punt, even as Branden Smith was waving his teammates off. Luckily for Rambo, that didn’t directly lead to MSU points. But it did rob Georgia of what should have been good field position at a key time. On the plus side, Georgia finally got a big return, a kickoff by Brandon Boykin for 39 yards. Blair Walsh remains perfect (and also had two touchbacks on kickoffs). Punter Drew Butler looks to be rounding back into form. The punt and kick coverage were also pretty good. … B.

COACHING: A team that struggles in the red zone clearly is a reflection of a weak running game, but also not having the right plays called. Mike Bobo faced the media and took the blame for the team’s execution, so he deserves credit for that. Todd Grantham’s defense was once again inconsistent: For a third straight game the opponent scored a touchdown on its opening drive, which isn’t good. And clearly the second-half adjustments by Dan Mullen were better. … C.


Anonymous said...

No disrespect, but your grades are a joke. The University of Georgia lost a football game to Mississippi State University, and you didn't give a single unit anything less than a C-? The COACHES got a C? The same coaches who have given up hope of returning punts and who started running formations that they wouldn't even put in FANTASY football when they crossed midfield? "Marlon Brown was mostly quiet"?! Really? Because I thought his complete absence from the game save for wiping out a touchdown with a horrible holding penalty spoke pretty loudly. It matters very little in the grand scheme of things, but you're the media and your job is to ask tough questions and hold feet to the fire. Saturday was a failure. While there were a few bright (less dark) spots, the team failed, and the coaches DEFINITELY failed.

Keese said...

Offensive line should get an F. They weren't staying with blocks, weren't opening lanes, you name it.

Until they get it together and quit playing weak nothing else is going to improve.

The whole team is playing like a team that's defeated. This is not bulldog football. They can still prove a lot of people wrong and play for pride and respect but right now, I just don't see the player leadership out there.

Anonymous said...

Just the fact that you give the coaches a C grade is laughable. How do the coaches walk into a MUST WIN game against a VASTLY inferior team (talent-wise) and have their team come out a perform at that level?? Did you even watch the same game?

Please try to take off the homer glasses once in awhile and analyze the games for what they truly were. You're better than this.