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Post Never have 17 points seemed so insurmountable

Monday September 13, 2010

A day later and I’m still not sure what to make of the game.  Georgia never trailed by more than 11 points, and they spent much of the game within a single score.  Still, the challenge to come back seemed as steep at times as it ever did in the blowout losses of the past two years.  Credit to South Carolina for taking it right at Georgia, and credit especially to a freshman tailback that had one of the most impressive SEC debuts you’ll ever see. To have a chance Georgia needed a spark on offense, and it wasn’t going to come from the 2005 Georgia/Florida gameplan. 

Spurrier and Lattimore can cackle about the zone read as if it were some sort of brilliant strategy, but Georgia had the players in position time and again to challenge Lattimore, and that first contact often came at or behind the line of scrimmage.  Lattimore’s more important observation was one that’s sure to be repeated and stewed over by disgruntled Georgia fans:  "Our offensive line was in better shape than their defensive line." Georgia was pushed around on both sides of the ball, especially on the lines.

It wasn’t just the defensive line.  Georgia, from the line to the secondary, put on the worst display of tackling since the 2008 Georgia Tech game.  Even a safety who came to Georgia with the nickname "Hitman" was among the many leading with their shoulders and bouncing off a more physical freshman tailback.

The lack of physical play wasn’t limited to the defense.  Georgia had trouble running between the tackles for the second time in two games.  Again the line had much better success on outside running plays and in pass protection, but the push just wasn’t there – especially in the second quarter when the game began to get away.  It’s interesting that Richt singled out the guards on Sunday.  The guards of course are key to those interior running plays.  It’s hindsight now, but I wondered how much Cordy Glenn, a solid All-SEC lineman, was knocked down by a preseason bout with mono.  He’s recovered the weight, but it takes a lot out of you. Key I think to this problem is the return of Trinton Sturdivant.  If Sturdivant is able to contribute, Boling becomes another option at guard and can really beef up the rotation there.

Yet with all of the negative things that were going on, this was a one-possession game for much of the second half.  You’re not going to win many games scoring six points, but you stand a fair chance of winning many games giving up just 17.  We’ve spent the past two years tearing our hair out over defensive meltdowns that saw opponents put up 30 points in a single half.  We can debate whether it’s better to get lit up or suffer death by a thousand cuts, but the defense did at least keep things from getting out of hand waiting, waiting for the offense to finally get going.

More positives? I liked the pass coverage. Yes, there was a longer pass completed and a few others just missed.  Generally though Garcia was at his most uncomfortable in straight passing situations, and there were even a few coverage sacks.  The Dawgs didn’t give up the big play.  For all of Lattimore’s success, South Carolina only managed around 100 yards of second half offense, so there were some adjustments. Adjustments, fewer penalties, turnovers, all of the things we’ve asked for were there, but it wasn’t enough as the basics of tackling and any consistency on offense eluded the team.

Then there’s Murray.   

Without getting into the details of the game, Murray’s effort was good enough that coaches "think he’s prepared to just run the system as we have it." In other words, opening up the offense and putting more on Murray’s shoulders.  Now much of that depends on the supporting cast.  A team that can’t run the ball effectively is going to be inconsistent no matter who’s under center.

It’s good that the staff has come to that realization about Murray, and maybe it took two games of actual experience for them to see what he can do.  But if Richt and Bobo ever end up on any kind of hot seat, their hesitancy in situations like this will prove to be central.  A friend last week joked that Bobo should be told that A.J. Green was playing anyway, referencing the Israel Troupe play against Auburn last year.  South Carolina felt more than comfortable putting the game on a freshman tailback, and I doubt they cared very much how well he pass-blocked.  I’m glad to see Murray ready to take on more, but it’s not as if he showed up on campus this August.  He was an early enrollee in 2009 and has been through two spring practices and spent over a year and a half with the team. It took an unproductive loss at South Carolina to understand his capacity for running the system?

The comments about Murray and the interior line do make me wonder if this team will struggle with an identity crisis.  Bobo put it plainly: "we were gonna play to our strength: The play-action pass and the running game." It wasn’t just the fans who anticipated a good running game to develop behind a veteran offensive line.  I don’t expect the Dawgs to go 5-wide for the rest of the season, but the promise of a more involved Murray does make me question if we, the media, and even the coaches have the strengths right.

2 Responses to 'Never have 17 points seemed so insurmountable'

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  • Good article. I’m still frustrated by the ineffective game plan. Why coddle Murray? I don’t get it. Turn him loose and turn loose all the other playmakers we have. Maybe God will send Richt a text message and tell him to get his rear in gear. I’d rather lose early than later in the season. We’ll see how it all plays out over the next few months.

  • I think the preceived weakness is not in the D line roster or the LBs. I think it is the secondary. I think that is what the D coaches are going thru now. USC had tall, talented wide-outs. For the most part they closed the vertical passing game. When USC went to 3 or 4 receiver set the NG came out. That is why they got “gashed”. USC thought the inside zone rush would work at times…but not lights out. They were surprised, too…sorry ball coach and RB…you are not that smart and talented.

    Arkansas saw a 3-3-5 scheme this past weekend. I think UA’s receivers are better than USC. Will the D staff pressure their QB with more rush and man coverage. Their QB will get the ball there on underneath plays…quick, accurate release. The LBs have to step up their play. The D players seem to look for a turnover rather than solid technique tackles. They’ll get them by 3 and out and sacks. Wingo is a talented RB. Is Lattimore better. Probably. USC O line was very well prepared…but that is a trademark line of Elliot, USC O line coach…one of the best. I’d give Elliot the game ball.

    What hurt UGA’s offense…not a full deck. That is the price you pay when kids like Green and Ealey act like kids and get suspended. My thoughts permanently take them off the roster. You plan to play your #1 TB, out with another injury; #1 FB, goes out with an injury; #2 TB plays like it is his first game…suspended for first; and your #1 receiver…well he likes an 8 game season, back to back. Your Gs get called out, but played even though they battled injuries and sickness. You have some of the best TEs in the conference…but not a word about them from CMR. So that raises another weakness question…is it the guards or the TEs. What were the sets in the red zone.

    I have said from July…Carolina, Auburn, and Mississippi State are the most dangerous conference teams in 2010. How the Dawgs play against UA & MSU are going to be tough learning experiences for a new D scheme and inexperienced QB. How well the roster ( coaching staff) learn and mature from these three games and come out on the other side will say alot about the where this team goes. Strap it on … it will be brutal if players(and coaches) do not learn you need the full roster to play in the SEC these days. Just my thoughts and observations…but a 10-11 record in the SEC East will not get you much…not even a top 25 ranking.