Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Why I generally avoid predictions

Sunday September 30, 2007

Have you ever written anything where every sentence was completely wrong? I’m talking “French benefits” wrong. This was posted on the DawgVent by me on Friday:
Three strikes

WV wins pretty easily

USF won’t win by scoring 20 or so points again. WVa won’t help again with 4+ turnovers. Emotion won’t carry USF past the 1st quarter.

If WVa doesn’t win the Big East undefeated, they should drop football.

Let’s see:

  • WV wins pretty easily. Wrong. 21-13 loss.
  • USF won’t win by scoring 20 or so points again. Wrong. It only took 21.
  • WVa won’t help again with 4+ turnovers. Wrong. There were six.
  • Emotion won’t carry USF past the 1st quarter. Wrong. It carried them the whole way. They probably still haven’t come down.
  • If WVa doesn’t win the Big East undefeated, they should drop football. Even this was wrong. Best I can tell, West Virginia is getting ready to play Syracuse.

My solace? At least I’m not this guy.

Post Georgia’s new fight song?

Sunday September 30, 2007

If it means 73 points in 3 minutes, start playing it the moment the players get off the bus.

Post Happy 85th, Larry

Friday September 28, 2007

Larry Munson turns 85 today. We welcome him back to the broadcast booth this weekend and wish him many happy returns.


Post Defensive changes continue

Friday September 28, 2007

You have to give the Bulldog coaching staff this:  they’re not proving to be very complacent this year. 

After cycling through three quarterbacks last season, the QB spot is about the only position that hasn’t been shaken up this season.  We’ve seen the linebackers turned upside-down, a freshman force changes on the offensive line, and Knowshon Moreno continues to lead the team in rushing yards and carries.

The winds of change hit the cornerback position this week. Sophomore Prince Miller might start opposite Asher Allen in Saturday’s game against Ole Miss.  Neither Miller nor Allen were starters at the beginning of the year, but they’ve played well.  Allen had 11 tackles at Alabama, and Richt was complementary of Miller’s performance.

“Prince played extremely well in the Nickel (defense), that inside receiver position. He did extremely well there,” Richt said. “Coach (Martinez) feels like he’s earned the opportunity to play there at the boundary. I think he will still be a Nickel (back).”

It should be noted that Bryan Evans isn’t exactly 100% and hasn’t started since he hyperextended his knee against South Carolina in Week 2.  He played hurt last week, and it showed.  A healthy Evans would be right there with Miller and Allen for a starting job.  Coach Richt wouldn’t commit to Miller starting (that’s Coach Martinez’s decision), so we could still see Thomas Flowers get the nod.  It’s really that close.  As it is, expect to see all four of those cornerbacks get a lot of time on Saturday.

The talk of a strong two-deep at cornerback has a lot of people asking this week what it all means for someone like Vance Cuff (not to mention linebacker Rennie Curran).  The two true freshmen were mentioned quite a bit heading into the season, and they saw playing time right out of the gate.  They haven’t played much in SEC games, and their limited role has fans wondering if their redshirts might have been wasted.  Coach Richt spoke to that point on Wednesday:

“They’re close to getting more time. They’re practicing with the first and second units, which is good. They’re not doing any scout team work. They’re preparing to play. When they get far enough along where the coaches feel comfortable enough, they’ll play and they’ll play more than they have to this point. That’s kinda where they’re at.”

The key point is that their redshirts were burned not for immediate contribution but for depth.  They must be game-tested and able to step in at a moment’s notice because they are each a serious injury away from much more significant playing time.  As Richt said, “they’re preparing to play.”  I do expect to see more of them this year.  Considering some of the concerns with depth and fatigue late in games, we’ll need the depth of players like Curran, Cuff, and Ramarcus Brown at some point this season.

Post Calling my shot

Thursday September 27, 2007

I’ve read a lot of the analysis of this weekend’s game with Ole Miss, but I can’t seem to fall in line with the "letdown" worries.

It’s true that this game sets up as a possible letdown or "trap" coming after a big emotional win and another big road test next week. It’s also true that Ole Miss played us much closer than we would have liked last year.

Why am I having trouble getting properly worried for this game? The first is that Ole Miss isn’t a particularly good road team. Zero road wins in the SEC under Orgeron. They barely escaped a bad Memphis team and lost by double-digits at Vanderbilt. If this game were in Oxford, I’d be a lot more concerned.

The main reason for my mindset is the effect of the Bama win. Some emotional wins are draining, leaving you empty and unable to get back up for the next game. But others have a way of lifting pressure and getting a team on a roll. We saw that after Auburn in 2002. Georgia was a completely different team in those last three games of 2002 once the pressure of winning the SEC East was removed. It’s impossible to predict, but I think that the Bama game will have that kind of effect on this team.

There was a lot of doubt and pressure on the team after the South Carolina loss. While the season will surely still have other tests and struggles, the step forward in Tuscaloosa was significant. Not only was it a big shot of confidence for the team, but the win also got rid of a lot of the woe-is-us mentality from a fan base badly needing an SEC win. The crowd will be into the game. Is it enough to start the Dawgs on a more consistent roll into October? I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say it is. If you want solid reasoning, others have that down much better than I. This is strictly gut-feel stuff today.

You’ll notice I don’t do predictions very often. Some of that’s a result of superstition, but I figure it’s usually a crap shoot most of the time anyway. But for some reason I think the Dawgs start building on that Alabama win this weekend, handle an opponent they should beat, and cover the 15.

Post SAY IT!!! SAY IT!!!

Thursday September 27, 2007

No one is surprised by a recruiting story coming out of left field. Coaches will go to most any length to secure a commitment. Out-of-control boosters are a dime a dozen. 17-year-olds appear on national TV to pick which hat to wear. Fans who get sucked into the recruiting world are often obsessive and have their day made or ruined by the latest comment from a prospect.


I thought I had seen it all, but now we have Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com getting on the case of one of the nation’s top basketball prospects because the prospect isn’t making up his mind fast enough. No – really. Greg Monroe has committed the crime of not trimming his list of eight schools.

But I have to tell you that the way the top-rated high school player in the nation is stringing along his recruitment baffles me to no end, nice kid or not.

…Shouldn’t he be further along in the process than this?

Doesn’t it seem excessive?

Because so many other top prospects have committed, Parrish "feel(s) safe suggesting Monroe should have a better idea of what he’s going to do." That’s right, Greg. Won’t someone think of those poor, poor coaches?

The byproduct is a recruiting process that has strung too many programs along for way too long, while giving false hope to coaches who are waiting for a definite rejection before moving on.

My heart breaks for Kansas, Duke, USC, LSU, and the other members of the Angry Eight. When Monroe’s decision (finally) comes giving blessed release to Parrish and one lucky school, I truly hope the others are able to put the pieces back together and face another day.

By the way, Parrish can stop hyperventilating. Monroe will name on Friday the five schools which will receive an official visit.

Post Offense not blameless in late-game situations

Wednesday September 26, 2007

One of the negatives from Saturday’s win was another late-game drive against the Georgia defense. Twice this season and going back to some disasters last year, "finishing the drill" hasn’t been a hallmark of the Bulldog defense. Coach Richt discussed that point on Tuesday and said,

"It might be just an attitude thing," coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. "I’m going to challenge the defense this week on that very point and really the rest of the season that we’ve got to finish."

It’s unfortunate that this element of the defense gets the most attention. They played very well on Saturday and are second only to LSU in SEC total defense. Not bad for a unit replacing all but a couple of starters. Still, the late drives are a glaring and not isolated problem.

It’s fine to challenge the defense, but let’s not gloss over that the offense could do much more to put games away. The Bulldogs had that chance at Alabama. Up 7 with 6:24 to go, the Bulldog offense moved the ball just 15 yards in 4 plays before punting to set up Alabama’s game-tying drive.

It’s not the only time that the offense has wasted a chance to close the door. Most glaring is the Vanderbilt game in 2006. Trailing by a point, Vanderbilt muffed a punt and gave Georgia the ball on the Commodore 33 with 7 minutes remaining. Georgia moved the ball 13 yards in 5 plays over two minutes and then missed a short field goal. Vandy got the ball back still down just one point and drove for the winning field goal.

We can go all the way back to Richt’s first season in 2001. Munson’s favorite call, the "Hobnail Boot" play, only happened because Georgia couldn’t seal the win on offense. Late in the game, Jermaine Phillips intercepted a Tennessee pass near midfield. All the Dawgs had to do was get a single first down to end the game as Tennessee ran out of timeouts with little more than a minute left. Of course Georgia didn’t convert, Tennessee scored on a screen pass, and the offense was forced to be aggressive needing a touchdown with less than a minute remaining.

I don’t have a problem with Richt and the defense doing a little introspection because the need for them to make plays, stops, and turnovers is there. Let’s just evaluate the entire team’s approach and attitude to closing out games. It all could use some work.

Post Poor journalism on display in Oklahoma

Wednesday September 26, 2007

Now that the games have come and gone, the big national story is Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy going off on local columnist Jenni Carlson for a critical piece about quarterback Bobby Reid.

Gundy’s sin was losing his composure. By doing so, he becomes the story in a clownish sort of way that’s up there with John L. Smith losing it last year or Jim Mora’s famous "PLAYOFFS!?!?!" meltdown. That’s too bad because he has a valid point, and it will likely never resonate because of his histrionics.

The issue isn’t a coach trying to stamp out dissent or criticism, though some would have you believe that every time a coach questions a reporter he’s trying to control the press. There’s nothing wrong with critical opinions, and I think that there were more than a few critical pieces after Oklahoma State’s 1-2 start and the loss at Troy.

The problem here is the journalism. Carlson, in her response, states that her goal was to tackle the question "why have the Cowboys, who so adamantly backed Reid, suddenly switched course, benched the biggest recruit to ever sign with the program and jumped full speed ahead with Zac Robinson?" That’s a clear and reasonable focus; Reid was considered a key element of the Cowboy offense, and his benching raises some questions (and eyebrows). So how should one approach getting the answer?

Let’s think this through. There are a handful of people with some very good insight into the attitude of the quarterback. The first is the quarterback himself. Who better to respond directly to questions about his state of mind? The head coach might be a good person to talk to. The decision of the starting quarterback ultimately rests with him, and he can also evaluate how Reid has played through injuries before. Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora might also get a phone call. He is the mastermind of this high-powered offense, so he might be able to provide some technical analysis of Reid’s struggles as well as a comparison of Robinson and Reid. Of course teammates and other coaches could help, but they are secondary sources in this story.

Isn’t it a little strange that of those three only Reid is quoted in her original piece? And those Reid quotes were taken from other reporters in different contexts. Carlson doesn’t offer a single sourced quote in response to a question that she asked. Unnamed sources and Carlson’s personal observations are of course appropriate and can be sprinkled into the story, but are they really the substantial stuff around which to build a column that reaches such a harsh, personal, and definitive conclusion?

A few weeks ago, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz penned a controversial column suggesting that Mark Richt needed to show a little more toughness and fire. Many, including myself, disagreed strongly with Schultz’s position. Others found it spot on. My biggest problem was a distortion of the historical record. But as much as I disagreed with Schultz’s conclusions, he at least got Richt on the record about the subject. He asked Richt on-point questions at the weekly press conference, and he based his column in large part on his evaluation of Richt’s responses. Even though I found fault with Schultz’s reasoning, Richt’s comments on the topic were right there for evaluation.

Carlson claims that she stands by her sources and observations. But she is about as forthcoming with additional information as Gundy seems to be about specific disagreements. Is "trust me" really what journalism is all about now? In both her original piece and her response, Carlson never claims to have asked Gundy or Reid for comment before the original piece ran. Her "show me what was wrong" sideshow is the kind of journalistic legwork she should have done through Reid, Gundy, and other primary sources before the fact.

After a column full of whispers and rumors, she opened the final paragraph of her orignial column by asking "Who knows?" Ms. Carlson, you’re the journalist with the press pass. You have access to these people. Throwing rumors out there to see what will stick and extrapolating from watching the guy eat chicken is amateurish message board territory. Columnists often rely on speculation and opinion, but they are usually backed up by something much less flimsy.

Now let’s look at a few responses from the community of sportswriters:

Football Writers Association of America president Mike Griffith issued a statement about the incident on Monday. "I consider Coach Gundy’s behavior completely inappropriate. It shows a lack of respect for the media and doesn’t speak well for the university and the fans that he represents. Coach Gundy’s actions have brought national attention and further scrutiny to the situation that could have been handled in a more private and appropriate matter."

Association for Women in Sports Media: "The Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) is alarmed at the unprofessional manner in which Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy chose to take exception with a column written by AWSM member Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman. Gundy has the right to express his opinion, just as Carlson has the right to express hers. But his decision to air his objections in the form of a personal attack shows a lack of respect for all journalists."

It seems to me that the expectation of respect is one-way here. The two statements didn’t have much to say about the appropriateness, professionalism, or respect demonstrated by a piece that all but called Reid a mama’s boy.

The refrain that the response "could have been handled in a more private and appropriate matter" has popped up in a couple of places since Gundy’s outburst. Writers can splash their columns in front of tens or hundreds of thousands of readers, but objections and responses should be handled out of the public view through the back channels. This kind of column needed and deserved a public response if only to illustrate the lack of professionalism and respect that the FWAA and AWSM demand from the people they cover but not from their own.

Remember that Carlson states that her subject was the question "why have the Cowboys, who so adamantly backed Reid, suddenly switched course, benched the biggest recruit to ever sign with the program and jumped full speed ahead with Zac Robinson?" Did her column do a good job of attempting to answer that question?

Post Lines make the difference

Tuesday September 25, 2007

Georgia’s performance against Alabama was a pessimist’s nightmare. They lost the turnover battle. They were outrushed. Their golden placekicker missed two kicks. They twice lost 10-point leads. Dropped passes hurt them at key times. Missed opportunities abounded. Yet…the Dawgs won. They won on the road against a red-hot favored opponent brimming with confidence.

Georgia won for a reason that is at the heart of so many football victories: they won up front on both sides of the ball. While no one will mistake the current Bama defense with the Copeland and Curry unit of the early 90s, Georgia’s performance up front Saturday was nothing short of a miracle. A starter, Scott Haverkamp, missed the trip entirely due to injury. The Dawgs started three freshmen (including two true freshmen) on the offensive line. His replacement, Clint Boling, was injured for much of the week.

Despite all that, they blocked for two backs who went for over 70 yards apiece. They allowed zero sacks. Of course they had their moments – there were missed assignments and penalties. On the whole, Coach Searels had his guys ready, and Wallace Gilberry will have to hold onto that FTD Pick-Me-Up bouquet for another week.

The Dawgs got timely blocks when they needed them. There was Sturdivant leading the way on Thomas Brown’s screen reception for the first score, and then there was this nice example in the second half.

But the success wasn’t limited to the offensive line. Georgia’s defense got pressure. Marcus Howard was a noticeable factor. Rod Battle survived against Andre Smith which is all you can hope for. Jeff Owens nearly took John Parker Wilson’s head off. Though the Dawgs failed to tally a sack themselves, the results showed up in the stats. Bama’s explosive tailback Terry Grant was held to his lowest rushing total of the young season.

Some more random notes:

  • For the first time this season, Thomas Brown had more carries than Knowshon Moreno. Both backs finished with 74 yards. Though many fans want to see more of Moreno, experience might have been the motivation in this game. Brown is a seasoned senior, and it was Moreno’s first SEC road game. Brown was effective on Georgia’s opening scoring drive, and he was also in at the end of the game where he had a key third down run on Georgia’s final drive of regulation. Moreno was most effective when the Dawgs needed a spark following Bama’s equalizing score in the third quarter. Both backs delivered in their roles, and as we watch and enjoy Moreno’s rise, we cannot forget about the value of having the #9 guy on Georgia’s career rushing list.
  • Asher Allen played his guts out. Though Bryan Evans did the best he could on a bum knee, the rest of the secondary really stepped it up. A passing game that torched Arkansas the week before was held to 185 yards.
  • Is there a bigger anonymous contributor on the team than Geno Atkins? He gets into every game, makes plays, gets props from the coach, yet he’s completely off the radar. I don’t know if it’s a question of playing behind Owens and Weston, but he’s not going to remain unknown much longer.
  • Alabama’s overtime series showed off the entire Georgia defense. You had the line and linebackers combining on first down to stuff the run. You had pressure affecting the pass on second down. Then you had coverage make the difference on third down and nearly get the interception. After a demoralizing series to allow the tying score at the end of regulation that left the defense gassed and banged up, pulling it together for overtime was an incredible show of toughness. Still, you do have to get a little nervous about these late-game drives going back to last season.
  • It turns out that the closed practices did have an impact. Though the injury to Haverkamp was becoming less of a secret late in the week when the starting offensive line was announced, the extent of Boling’s similar injury went unreported. Had Boling not "made a good turnaround Friday and Saturday," the offensive line situation could have been much more dire, and we wouldn’t have known a thing about it.
  • How do you know punter Brian Mimbs is doing a good job? No one is talking about him. For a position that was unsettled right up to the first game, he has been consistent, overcome a few bad snaps, and is actually leading the league in net punting.
  • Georgia’s defense is tops in the SEC when it comes down to opponent third-down conversion, and holding Bama to just 3 conversions in 15 attempts Saturday was a big part of the win. For most of the game, Bama just couldn’t get anything going. The Dawgs converted 9 of 19 chances, a good bit above their 39% season average. As a result, Georgia had 15 more plays on offense in regulation this week than they had against Western Carolina (75 vs. 60).
  • The Dawgs finally had a strong showing in kickoff coverage. Bama averaged just 16 yards per kickoff return (Georgia averaged 21 yards).

Post Where does Nick Saban think he is?

Monday September 24, 2007

Alabama coach Nick Saban had a few admonishments Monday for the same fans who waved palm branches upon his entrance to the stadium on Saturday.

“I don’t think it’s classy to throw something on somebody else,” Saban said. “I don’t think it’s classy to call somebody’s house at night and complain about something. I don’t think any of that’s classy.”

“If anybody out there that’s our fans and our supporters don’t think all the coaches here … work hard and want to win as bad as anybody, as well as the players, trust and believe in that. Trust and believe in doing it right. If you want to do something, do something positive to support the program or don’t do anything at all.”

Are you kidding? Phone calls in the night are play bites. We just hope that the brick-proof windows have been installed. For all the fun Bama fans had with Auburn during Gameday, part of me wants to see the Tigers extend the streak just to see the resulting trainwreck in Tuscaloosa.

A Huntsville writer asks if Bama fans need such “guidelines and instructions” about how to conduct their business with class. When showing up sober to greet the new coach is a problem, I’d have to say, yeah, a nice glossy brochure is probably in order.

Post From the news room…

Monday September 24, 2007

UGA-UT time and TV set

The Saturday, Oct. 6, SEC football game between Georgia and Tennessee in Knoxville will be televised by CBS with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

Moreno is SEC Freshman of the Week

University of Georgia redshirt freshman tailback Knowshon Moreno has been named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week, according to an announcement by the league office on Monday.

Through four games, Moreno leads Georgia with 342 rushing yards for an average of 85.5 yards per game, which is ninth in the SEC (second for freshmen) and 56th in the nation. Also, Moreno is second on the team with 120 receiving yards and was part of a Georgia offense that generated 377 total yards against the Crimson Tide.

Post Growing up

Monday September 24, 2007

Many of us, myself included, read a bit too much into the convincing win over Oklahoma State. The young Dawgs had bested a quality opponent, and they were going to be just fine. Stafford was brilliant, the defense was up to the job, and receivers caught the ball. That’s how it would be all season, right?

The win over Alabama means many things, but in the end it simply means that the Dawgs get to move on to the next challenge. It gives us a push to be forward-looking. Had the Dawgs lost, the future would be on hold as we scrutinized everything that could be wrong with the program. Not many people are talking about 0-5 vs. the SEC East this morning.

There are a lot of teams who can look impressive on a given weekend. I don’t mean to downplay the significance of the win, but I find myself hesitant accepting the common chorus that the Dawgs "grew up" at Alabama. Certainly winning in that type of environment takes a certain level of maturity and pride from a team still licking wounds from the South Carolina loss. Avoiding the ups and downs from week to week will tell us much more about how "grown up" this team is than a single week’s result.

As teams like Louisville, Florida, and Nebraska so graciously demonstrated on Saturday, the toughest part of being a top team isn’t getting up for the big games. It’s maintaining that level of play each week and being able to come down from the big wins as quickly as you bounce back from the disappointing losses. ESPN called this weekend’s games "Hangover Saturday," but Georgia’s hangover test will come a week later as we welcome the Rebels to Athens. Their performance against Florida was more than enough to make sure that the Alabama celebration was brief.

Georgia has shown twice that they are capable of playing good football against a diverse set of challenges. The question going forward is how many more times this season they can meet or exceed that level of play.

Post Future watch…

Monday September 24, 2007

2008 opponent Arizona State has moved into the top 25 under first-year coach Dennis Erickson., The Sun Devils are the fourth program that Erickson has coached into the national rankings. Junior quarterback Rudy Carpenter already had 11 touchdowns and a 64% completion rate.

A trip to Tempe is scheduled next season, and the Dawgs have additional games against LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and South Carolina. Call me crazy, but I don’t mind if Georgia fills its remaining 2008 schedule slot with Athens Academy.

Post A “70-yard cup of shut-up”

Monday September 24, 2007

ESPN’s Pat Forde has a nice column on Georgia’s win.

After hearing “Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Michigan Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban what’swrongwithNotreDame Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban Saban” all day on Saturday, Georgia’s win at Alabama was a statement that Georgia won’t be so easily removed from the top tier of the SEC. Alabama might be on the way back, but they’re not there yet.

The Bulldogs’ pride got a big check in Tuscaloosa, and there are still signs of a healthy pulse.

Post Audio of Howard’s overtime call

Monday September 24, 2007

Surprisingly, no reference to Britney Spears.

Listen to Scott Howard’s “one and done” call here.

Courtesy of ugahairydawgs on the DawgVent.