Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post I don’t want to talk about it.

Monday October 9, 2006

Like most, I spent most of the weekend trying to make sense of the Tennessee game. For the impartial observer, it had to be a hell of a show. Huge point swings, lots of scoring, big plays in special teams and the passing games…just a roller coaster ride. You can imagine how it was for those of us in the stands.

Obviously Tennessee’s touchdown at the end of the first half was crucial. They ate up nearly the final four minutes of the first half and turned a 24-7 deficit into a manageable 24-14 score while draining much of the momentum Georgia had built up.

From there, we entered the perfect storm of a meltdown. For a collapse this complete, everyone had to contribute. First, there were the kickoff returns to the 5. Then there were the interceptions on Georgia’s own doorstep. Top it off with a complete inability to pressure the quarterback, add in a blocked punt in then endzone, and you have a recipe for a 37-point second half.

Ching thinks Georgia got suckered into a "land war in Asia" strategy. "They let themselves get caught up in a game they had no business trying to play and it caught up with them in the second half." That is, they decided to get into a shootout with Tennessee. I don’t mean to come off like I’m sniping at Ching. He’s one of the few pros who puts something opinionated out there that’s worth commenting on, so he’s often going to be referenced here. I see where he’s going, but I didn’t see things quite that way for a couple of reasons:

  • We did throw quite a bit more in the second half as he says, but many (at least eight) of those pass attempts came when it was panic time late in the fourth quarter.
  • Though we were in a shootout in terms of the score, the Dawgs generally drove the ball with patience. They only had three (four if you count take-a-knee time at the end of the first half) drives in the first half. That’s chewing up some clock. The exception of course was the first TD drive where Tereshinski threw completions of 46 and 34 yards and nearly half of his 164-yard total. (aside…that 34-yard drive-saving pass to Massaquoi from the 15 might have eclipsed Cox’s strike against Colorado as Georgia’s best pass of the season.)
  • While the game was still in doubt in the second half, Georgia relied heavily on the effective twin-tight formation. They still threw from that formation, but the attempt to play power football was still there right up to the point of the blocked punt.
  • Poor field position (inside our own 20) makes defenses quite a bit more aggressive, especially against the run.

That said, I think it’s a valid point that Georgia might have believed a bit too much in their passing game. Tereshinski got 107 of his 164 yards on three fist-half passes, and putting the game on his shoulders in the second half led to four fatal turnovers. The rest of his nine completions only netted 57 yards – just 35 in the second half. 12-of-20 for 164 was a career night for him, but let’s never use intangible phrases like "leader who manages the game well" again. Georgia’s leadership and production on offense came almost solely from the running game in the second half when they badly needed to stop the bleeding.

Most disappointing was the lack of pressure on Ainge. Any coverage scheme, zone or man, will break down when the quarterback has all day to throw. Moses and Johnson weren’t much of a factor. If they were double-teamed, then the tackles and linebackers did nothing with the openings caused by the double-teams. Georgia’s defensive players and staff should have to see this quote from Eric Ainge until it is seared onto their eyeballs: "I can’t say that I ever felt the pressure. Football is easy when you have that much time."

I’ll stop there. Every area of the team can be torn a new one over this game. I don’t want to be the guy at your tailgate who got back into the Budweiser after the game and held court for an hour whether anyone was listening or not about who should be fired, who should never suit up again, and why we’ll never be competitive in the SEC so long as Richt does things the same way. I’ll bet we all had one of those at our tailgates. I hope for your sake it wasn’t you.

This has to be how Tennessee fans felt in 2003 after Sean Jones’ fumble return started a string of 28 Georgia points in little more than 15 minutes.

I’d say the Dawgs have two games ahead to get ready for the stretch run at the end of the season, but we know now that we can’t take Vandy or Mississippi State as sure wins. Times like this are when Richt earns his money. Tennessee showed us with the hiring of David Cutcliffe and this season’s improvement in the Tennessee offense that coaching does matter. Richt said on Sunday that "there are an awful lot of things that can happen in this race, and the race is on, and it has really just begun." That’s very true just halfway into the season, but some adjustments and improvements are called for if the Dawgs are going to be able to compete in this race.

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