Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Dawgs skunk Spurrier

Sunday September 10, 2006

For the first time in nearly 20 years, a Steve Spurrier-coached college team was shut out. It doesn’t quite make up for the 51 points in 1995, but it is a nice twist of the knife to have the 18-0 shutout come at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs.

The Dawgs grabbed control early and built a 15-0 halftime lead on a wild swing of events at the end of the first half. South Carolina missed a field goal that would have cut Georgia’s lead to 10-3. Georgia drove the field and appeared poised to extend their lead before a tipped pass was interecepted on the one yard line. South Carolina ran a slow-developing play out of the end zone which was abruptly ended by Charles Johnson for the safety. Georgia then drove quickly into field goal position and ended the first half by tacking another three points on to the lead.

The game was ugly and tough, but unlike 2002 and 2004 it wasn’t close. The Georgia defense played a magnificent game, stepping up several times at the goal line to deny South Carolina. The linebackers in particular had a wonderful game, and the defensive line was active all night – often applying sufficient pressure with just three or four men. Jarvis Jackson had another strong game in Columbia, and he was responsible for causing the game’s pivotal fumble in the third quarter as South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell tried to dive forward for a touchdown on 4th down at the Georgia one yard line.

The resourcefulness and the determination of the Georgia defense could be summed up in a play by Jeff Owens. Mitchell had eluded the Georgia rush and had scrambled forward into Bulldog territory for a first down and much more. Owens, a defensive tackle, tracked Mitchell down from behind and caused a fumble that was recovered by the Dawgs. Plays like that were made all night across the board.

The offensive line also played much better. Velasco, Jones, and Shackleford noteably had good performances. When Georgia was able to bust a nice play up the middle, Jones and Velasco were often out in front. South Carolina’s pass rush wasn’t overwhelming most of the time.

And the quarterback…Matt Stafford stepped in as a true freshman at one of the SEC’s most intimidating road venues and performed as you might expect a talented freshman: lots of glimpses of excellense but lots of shaky play as well. His overall line would get a veteran starter crucified by fans. But his especially strong second quarter was enough to get the job done. The pass he threw to Massaquoi late in the half to get the Bulldogs inside the Gamecock five was a thing of beauty.

He was much less effective in the second half – a nice pass to Ware was the exception. Timing was off on deeper passes, and you’d expect that when Stafford hasn’t worked much with the first team offense. The prognosis on Tereshinski’s ankle notwithstanding, Stafford should have three weeks or so to work on that timing and decision making with the first team before the SEC schedule resumes. He has plenty of work to do. I believe we saw last night why he wasn’t starting outright but also why he will start eventually.

Lots more to talk about later, but this is a great win for the program. The defense did what it should have done against a below-average offense, and the offense gritted out what it needed. With this win and the Spurrier drama behind them for another year, the season and its possibilities begins to open up for Georgia. How much can they improve before their next SEC game at Ole Miss?

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