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Post A 28-point rout turns on a handful of plays

Tuesday October 2, 2007

A year ago, I (and many others) left Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford thoroughly dissatisfied. The Dawgs had just escaped with a 14-9 win over a struggling Ole Miss team, the lingering quarterback question was no closer to being settled, and it looked as if Georgia couldn’t get a punt off to save their lives. The Dawgs won, but those of us looking for a strong bounceback win after the Colorado near-miss were left wanting.

Other than Georgia’s futility on offense, the one thing that stood out a year ago was the running of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Ole Miss tailback ran for 135 yards. The team had 193 rushing yards. Fortunately, Georgia was able to keep those yards from turning into points.

Jumping ahead to Saturday’s win over Ole Miss in Athens, the outcome was a bit different, but the Ole Miss running game was effective again. Green-Ellis and Hall combined for 152 yards. If there was going to be a game where Georgia’s undersized defensive line was a liability, this was it. The Rebels’ giant offensive line averages 6’5" and 321 lbs, and Green-Ellis is the type of power back who can run through tackles. No Georgia defensive lineman tallied more than two tackles.

The difference this year was the improvement in the Rebels’ passing game. Last year in Oxford Brent Schaeffer was 6-of-15 for 87 yards. This year they threw it 35 times for 228 yards. They attempted more passes than rushes. Seth Adams proved he could hit the deep pass against Florida, and it didn’t take long for him to go long against the Dawgs. After that first touchdown, the Dawg defense played not to give up the big play. The result was a couple of excruciatingly long drives but only 10 points the rest of the way.

The word of the day on both sides of the ball was "gash". Ole Miss ripped off moderate runs with regularity, and they looked damn near unstoppable in the first half. With two good tailbacks and plenty of time to pass, the Dawg defense were on their heels for much of the game. Three defensive plays might have saved Georgia’s season:

  • Seth Adams’ fumble on the goal line. The Dawgs hadn’t done much to stop Ole Miss’s first two drives until this fumble prevented a 14-0 Rebel lead. C.J. Byrd recovered the loose ball, and Georgia drove the length of the field for the equalizer.
  • Quintin Banks third-down stop. After Georgia’s first score, a long kickoff return gave Ole Miss the ball in Georgia territory with a good chance to answer. The Rebels faced a 3rd-and-3 from the Georgia 39 and again gave the ball to Green-Ellis. Reserve safety Quintin Banks was bringing pressure from the right, met Green-Ellis in the backfield, and gave the Dawgs their first big stop of the day. The subsequent punt went for a touchback, and Georgia drove 80 yards for the score that would put them on top until the third quarter.
  • Corey Irvin’s 3rd quarter stuff. Georgia gave the ball back after failing to capitalize on a successful onside kick. Still down just 7 points, Ole Miss had dodged a bullet and had new life towards the end of the third quarter. Facing 3rd-and-3 again, Ole Miss handed it to Green-Ellis. This time defensive tackle Corey Irvin fought through the line and stopped Green-Ellis for no gain. The Rebels shanked the punt, and Thomas Brown scored two plays later to finally open up some breathing room.

It’s hard to claim that a 28-point win could turn on three defensive plays, but when you consider what those three stops cost Ole Miss and that Georgia scored after each of them, there you go.

The big question of course is what all of that means for next weekend’s big game at Tennessee. The Vols passed at will last year with Georgia doing little to pressure the quarterback. Recording zero sacks against Ole Miss isn’t a good omen. Georgia will either have to get more from the defensive front or take more risks in their pressure.

Thoughts during the long walk to downtown:

  • What a difference a year makes. Last year in Oxford Thomas Brown had 4 carries for 10 yards. Now he’s SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
  • Clint Boling certainly has a lot to learn as a true freshman, but it’s fun watching him get out in space ahead of a run. With that kind of speed, you can tell he was a tight end in a former life. The speed of the offensive line overall has taken a nice step forward this year.
  • For all of the concern earlier in the year about a scatter-brained approach to the receiver rotation, a small group of players seem to be emerging. Though players like Moore, Wilson, Durham, and Goodman are getting plays and catches, the position is really crystallizing around Massaquoi, Bailey, and Henderson. They’re proving to be a solid set of upperclassmen.
  • Stafford had to have winced watching some of the open receivers on film. I don’t know if they broke open after he had already checked down to secondary receivers, but opportunities for several big plays through the air were missed.
  • The injury to Ole Miss defensive tackle Peria Jerry in the second quarter was huge. His disruption in the Bulldog backfield was a factor in the first half. Most, though not all, of Georgia’s running success came after he left the game.
  • I hate to harp on it again, but the UAB highlights during the pregame Battle Hymn have to go. By the time we have another home game in a month, let’s give Henderson’s catch at Bama the place it deserves on that film.
  • I was glad to see the defense not allow a point after the Rebels’ opening second half drive. After getting pushed around for much of the game, the defense made a difference in the late third and fourth quarters and helped to close the door.

2 Responses to 'A 28-point rout turns on a handful of plays'

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  • I agree wholeheartedly about the UAB highlights on the tribute. I also maintain that there should be no plays from games we lost.

    We have won enough games and had enough stellar plays from wins where we should not have to resort to highlights from losses.

  • Agree Judge. Those 2 returns vs. UT are good plays but they just remind us all of the horrific loss. How about Shock-Bailey vs. LSU in ’05 or Cox-Milner vs. Colorado in ’06 instead?