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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).

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