Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Time to sigh

Sunday October 31, 2010

On one hand, it was nice to avoid the blowout/collapse that we’ve been treated to during the last two trips to Jacksonville.  Instead, 2010 will go down like 1992 or maybe 2002 or 2003 – games in which Georgia might’ve had momentum or an even shot coming into the game but left empty-handed and thinking about a handful of plays, decisions, and missed opportunities.

Florida deserves a ton of credit for the way in which the won the game.  They made their chances, and just as Georgia did a week ago in Lexington, Florida cashed in with good efficiency.  The game might have come down to overtime, but the game was framed during the consecutive Georgia turnovers and Florida scores that made it a 21-7 game and forced Georgia to, once again, play from behind in Jacksonville. Even with Georgia’s defense standing tough for a quarter, there was only so long they could hold back the inevitable. Whether it was the pressure that caused Murray’s fumble or good recognition to jump the first pass, Florida made their luck.  Contrast that with a chance at a fumble recovery or a dropped interception by the Georgia defense – plays they made only a week ago in a much different environment.

So the "overtime game" will go down next to the timeout game and the Edwards drop and the facemask in 2006 as just another year where Georgia had its chances to do something about the dreadful record against Florida but couldn’t. Georgia was again part of a classic Georgia-Florida game and played its usual role in a game between two fairly even teams. Of course Florida’s punter-turned-placekicker would nail two out of three after his 0-fer in the loss to Mississippi State.

But to focus on the mind games and to buy into the role of Charlie Brown to Florida’s Lucy is to ignore what Florida did to win the game.  The 450 yards of offense were as many as Florida has put up against Georgia since 2004.  A team that had been held under 100 yards rushing in two of its last three games gashed Georgia for 231 yards on the ground.  They had the game’s biggest playmaker:  Chris Rainey made the most of his return with 241 all-purpose yards. If you had to guess based just on this game which team was riding a winning streak and which was struggling with its offense, you’d have a tough time getting it right. Even with the success Georgia had throwing the ball, the game was played the way Florida wanted it on both sides of the ball.

As for Murray, it’s asking a lot to put a game of this magnitude and the angst of a program on a freshman.  His shaky start was the product of something we talked about the other day.  "Urgency can lead to intensity and focus, but it can also lead to pressing…and turnovers." He was amped up and tight and played like it.  That he kept his head, adapted to the defense, and led Georgia to the brink of victory was a tremendous accomplishment.  If this is his "worst" Cocktail Party, he won’t leave with a losing record against the Gators. At the same time, he’s yet to have his first signature moment in a big game like this with the game on the line.  Will he get another opportunity in two weeks?

Georgia’s offense should take a good deal of confidence from the game.  They won’t face a defense that good as a unit again, and Murray won’t be in nearly as harsh of a spotlight as he was on his first start in his home state.  Defense is another story.  Georgia’s difficulties stopping the run and dealing with multiple looks from the backfield weren’t encouraging given who the final two opponents of the season are. The Dawgs had to come up with two great performances to get to 7-5 and a bowl game last year, and Florida’s success running the ball leaves us with a clear picture of the biggest challenge facing this year’s home stretch. 

Post Will another trip to Jacksonville heal Florida’s offense again?

Friday October 29, 2010

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  Florida is coming into the Georgia game with problems and questions on offense. We know all about the struggles they’re having in 2010, but the Georgia game proved to be a panacea for a Florida offense facing many of the same issues a year ago.

In 2009 Florida had just come off a stretch during which they scored under 30 points in 4 of 5 games. Relatively narrow escapes against LSU, Arkansas, and Mississippi State had Florida fans grumbling and asking questions not only of their coaching staff but also of the senior Heisman-winning quarterback. They had scored only 7 touchdowns in 25 red zone trips. What led to a 41-point outburst in their second-straight blowout of Georgia? Three things:

  • Put the ball in the hands of Tim Tebow.
  • Mixing run and pass, came out firing against a tentative Georgia defense.
  • Took advantage of Georgia turnovers and penalties.

Tebow. The Florida star threw or carried on 64% of Florida’s snaps. That figure is actually skewed low: eight meaningless handoffs on their last clock-killing drive padded the numbers. Removing that final drive, Tebow accounted for 74% of Florida’s plays. It was one of the better games of his senior campaign.

The start. It hasn’t taken long to figure out how a Georgia-Florida game is going to go lately.  When Georgia opened the scoring in 2004 and 2007, the Bulldogs came away with wins.  In the other games since 2005, Florida has jumped out to lead by double-digits at halftime.  Florida came out swinging again in 2009:  en route to a 14-0 first quarter lead, Florida faced a third down just once. They ended the first half with 24 points; they had scored 26 combined first half points in their previous three games.

Georgia mistakes. It started even before the game with Vince Vance’s midweek arrest. Once the game began, it didn’t take long for Georgia to start hurting themselves with some big penalties.  There was a Georgia personal foul on each team’s first drive.  The 15-yarder when Georgia had the ball killed any chance of answering Florida’s opening score by turning a 3rd-and-1 at midfield into a 3rd-and-16.  Georgia got back in the game though and had the ball down just 17-10. A holding penalty killed that drive. The Bulldogs ended up with nine penalties.

As if the penalties weren’t enough, the second half featured four Georgia interceptions.  The Gators scored two second half touchdowns to put the game away – both came as a result of one of those interceptions.

So what?

Last year only serves to fuel the pessimism that Georgia fans usually pack next to the golf clubs for this trip.  Florida will find its offense again, all of their injured players will rise and walk (for 120 yards each), and Lucy will pull the football away again.

The biggest difference from a year ago is that Florida’s struggles on offense are leading to losses.  There’s also no Tebow to rally the troops with his own elevated play.  We mock his leadership, but there was no question that it was his team and his offense.

What does it mean for Georgia?  We know how important the start has been in this series over the past several years.  We also know how much the first few series have meant for the Bulldogs this year.  The Dawgs have come out firing on both sides of the ball during this winning streak.  It would be a big blow to the team’s fragile confidence to get into the same pattern of early Florida scores. On the other hand, a few early stops by the Georgia defense could test the patience of those on the east half of the stadium.

With a series that has been this lopsided, the mental side of the game plays a heightened role.  Urgency can lead to intensity and focus, but it can also lead to pressing…and turnovers.  It’s one thing to come out confident and aggressive; it’s another for that aggression to lead to early dumb personal fouls. 

While Georgia’s defense had its problems with Kentucky last week, the offense did a very good job of keeping its head and maintaining the team’s control of the lead. If the Florida offense continues to have its problems, Georgia’s offense can have a big impact just by not helping the Gators with a short field, or worse, a defensive score. Whether or not the Dawgs can score against a tough Gator defense, at least make the Florida offense work for what they get. Another turnover-free game would be a very good sign for Georgia’s chances.

I know this post has pretty much all been about the Florida offense, but I come back to the same thing I usually do for the WLOCP.  For all of the talk about problems on offense, they still have a formidable defense.  It’s important to make sure that Florida’s offense doesn’t have another breakout game because this isn’t Kentucky or even 2007.  Georgia’s going to have its hands full getting its own points, and Georgia’s ability (or inability) to put points on the board in this series continues to be as big of a story as any.

Post I’d rather be lucky *and* good

Monday October 25, 2010

After witnessing the horror of a -16 turnover margin last year, I’m glad to finally be on the other side of one of those games.

Maybe I’m just overreacting to the annoying habit of the CSS broadcast of pointing out Kentucky’s statistical advantage throughout the game. Kentucky was built up quite a bit coming into this game based mainly on their comeback against and upset of South Carolina. Few seemed bothered that Kentucky’s celebrated comeback a week earlier was also fueled by four South Carolina turnovers – or that the Gamecocks had the better stats. A year ago Georgia outgained the Wildcats 487 to 260. All I’ll remember is the loss.

It’s tempting to write off the turnovers as luck, and we had plenty of discussion about that last year when the ball was bouncing the other way. But for the bobbled ball on Kentucky’s goal line, Georgia had plenty to do with those turnovers. Kentucky’s offense had allowed just six sacks entering the game – tops in the SEC. They also came into the game with only six turnovers. Whether it was the sack leading to the fumble on the opening drive, the persistence that caused the second Kentucky fumble, or the huge 4th down stop at Kentucky’s 39, those were positive plays by the Georgia defense that helped the Dawgs, as they say, make their own luck.

Three points: First, Georgia could have made Kentucky’s comeback a lot easier or even unnecessary. A year ago, Georgia led Kentucky 20-6 at halftime. In Athens. It was a 14-point edge instead of the 18-point halftime lead we enjoyed this year. It would have taken a conscious effort to match or beat the four-turnover meltdown that led to Kentucky’s win a year ago, but there’s no understating the fact that Georgia’s offense got out of its own way in the second half. The running game was working, a few high-percentage passes were peppered in, and Georgia made Kentucky work for what they got.

It’s also worth mentioning that Georgia was cashing in these short field opportunities with seven points instead of three – or none. Think back to a key series at the end of the first half of the Colorado game. A Dowtin interception set up Georgia at the Colorado 38 with enough time left to widen a slim 17-14 lead going into the locker room. Instead, Georgia got nothing from Colorado’s lone turnover of the game. That happened also in Lexington as Georgia more or less wasted the second Wildcat fumble, but they got all they could out of Kentucky’s other miscues. It’s potentially a much different game if Ealey gets stood up on 3rd and 2 from the Kentucky 15 on Georgia’s first possession.

Georgia also deserves credit for not letting off the gas. Kentucky’s comebacks earlier in the season were led by defensive turnarounds in the second half that held Auburn to six points and shut out South Carolina. If Georgia fell into that pattern, Kentucky would have been in a position to win this game as well. Instead, Georgia did a great job of putting three second half scoring drives together. Those scores answered Kentucky scoring drives and made sure that the temporary swings in momentum wouldn’t snowball into another comeback. The 8:05 drive midway through the fourth quarter was a devastating use of possession to seal the win.

Post How to find the Kentucky game on TV

Friday October 22, 2010

Throw a big SEC game on a regional cable station, and it’s likely to produce a bit of confusion. Most of us with CSS are used to catching edited game rebroadcasts during the week, but this is something unusual for Georgia fans: CSS is handling the live broadcast. I’ve already received a few questions about availability, and the message boards are full of them this week. So here’s what you need to know:


You probably already know whether or not your cable system offers CSS. Even if you don’t have Charter or Comcast, there are a number of cable systems throughout the South – including Cox, Time Warner, and Bright House – which will have the game. Here’s a guide from the SEC if you’re unsure.

For those with CSS, the game will be available in HD. I only know the details for my cable provider, Comcast of Atlanta: the game will be on channel 805 (in addition to ch. 45 in SD). Yes, that’s the CSS-HD channel that always shows a test pattern. But it will be activated for the SEC games.

If your cable provider is one of the few not on the list (such as AT&T Uverse) or if you live outside of the southeast, ESPN Gameplan and ESPN3 are your alternatives. See the sections below for more information.


No satellite system carries CSS*, but you will be able to order the game as part of ESPN Gameplan. Call your provider for details and to order. There will NOT be any kind of a blackout for this game. As per the SEC, CSS games are "distributed on ESPN Gameplan with no blackout restrictions."

  • Dish: If you order Gameplan on Dish Network, the game will be on channel 463. 
  • DirecTV: If you order Gameplan on DirecTV, the game will be on channel 790.


You’ll also be able to see the game online via ESPN3. Whether or not you get access to ESPN3 depends on your ISP. You can see a list of participating ISPs here. If you really want to make sure, just go to espn3.com and try to watch something ahead of time.

* – there is a possibility that those Dish Network subscribers around the Gulf Coast who have the appropriate package to receive Cox Sports New Orleans on Ch. 421 will get the game for free.  I figure the number of interested people that applies to makes it barely worth mentioning.

Post UK and UGA starting tailbacks to miss Saturday’s game

Thursday October 21, 2010

Chip Cosby of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports today that Kentucky RB Derrick Locke will definitely miss the Georgia game this Saturday. Locke, dealing with a shoulder stinger, missed Kentucky’s game last weekend against South Carolina and had been doubtful all along for Georgia.

Locke burned Georgia for 160 yards of total offense last year – 80 on the ground, and 80 on just two receptions, both of which were short screens that ended up going for touchdowns. He was by far the leading rusher on the team with 574 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, and he also was the team’s 4th-best receiver with 225 yards out of the backfield. The Wildcats managed just 52 yards rushing last week in their win over South Carolina without Locke.

Donald Russell, with 41 yards on 18 carries, was Kentucky’s top rusher last week. Russell is just as dangerous as Locke as a receiving option; he caught 7 passes for 70 yards against the Gamecocks. Randall Cobb of course will be another option to run the ball for Kentucky whether out of the Wildcat formation or on handoffs.

Georgia will also be without their starting tailback Caleb King. King is serving the tail end of a two-game suspension. Washaun Ealey, Carlton Thomas, and Aaron Murray helped Georgia rack up 232 rushing yards in King’s absence last week against Vanderbilt.

Post Another photo finish coming in horse country?

Thursday October 21, 2010

If there’s a game on Georgia’s schedule each year which gets fans looking forward to / dreading a nail-biter, it’s probably South Carolina. The competitiveness of those games is a favorite preseason storyline, and the next game in the series usually doesn’t fail to deliver. But trips to Lexington have often been as tight and back-and-forth as any destination on Georgia’s schedule. Georgia is 5-2 against the Wildcats in Lexington since Jim Donnan took over in 1996, but the Wildcats have led well into the game in all but one of those meetings. Another close game is expected on Saturday between two teams with tons of potential on offense, but it will take a lot to top some of these recent Commonwealth Stadium visits.

1996: It was a miserable night to be a sports fan from the state of Georgia. On the same night that the Braves’ World Series hopes circled the drain, the Bulldog defense was helpless against Kentucky’s freshman tailback. Robert Edwards fumbled on Georgia’s opening possession, and it was going to be one of those nights. SEC Freshman of the Year Derick Logan had a school-record 41 carries, gained 140 yards, and scored two touchdowns in a 24-17 Wildcat win. Georgia rebounded from an 0-2 start in 1996 under new coach Jim Donnan to enter the Kentucky game at 3-3, and the Wildcats had yet to win a conference game. The unexpected loss in Lexington all but knocked the Bulldogs from bowl contention in 1996.

1998: This is apparently one of the three games in the “College Flash Classics” library. If you ever want to catch this game, just tune into Sports South on most any summer afternoon. Kentucky came into the game led by star QB Tim Couch and had a host of weapons on offense including receiver Craig Yeast. The Wildcats, en route to 530 yards of total offense, jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and threatened to put the game away in the first quarter. With the ball on Georgia’s 1-yard line, the Bulldog defense held. The play of the game might have been Georgia linebacker Orantes Grant recognizing and stopping Couch on a naked bootleg on 4th-and-goal. Grant’s stop changed the game’s momentum, and Quincy Carter finally got the Georgia offense going with a long touchdown run and eventually a couple of touchdown passes to put Georgia up 28-20 in the second half. Kentucky scored late but couldn’t complete the conversion. Georgia just had to run the clock out, but a Ronnie Bradley fumble gave the Cats new life. Kentucky lined up for a potential game-winning 49-yard field goal, but holder and coach’s son Matt Mumme bobbled the snap. Georgia escaped with a 28-26 win.

2000: Carter might’ve been one of the heroes in the 1998 win, but an injured shoulder kept him out of the next trip to Lexington. Carter’s absence cleared the way for one of the best pinch-hit performances in Bulldog history. Backup QB Corey Phillips torched the Wildcats for 400 passing yards and four touchdowns in a wild shootout that saw both teams combine for four touchdown passes of 40 yards or longer. The Dawgs once again fell behind early and trailed by as many as 13 in the second quarter. Jared Lorenzen lit up the Bulldogs with 528 yards on 39-of-58 passing. The Dawgs took control with 17 points of their own in the third quarter to erase a halftime deficit and take a 27-20 lead into the final period. Kentucky pulled level on a 75-yard strike just two plays after Georgia’s 85-yard touchdown reception by Damien Gary, but Georgia answered less than two minutes later with Phillips tossing a 27-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Edwards. Kentucky got within four on a field goal but couldn’t get the go-ahead touchdown. Lorenzen was intercepted inside of the final minute to end any comeback hopes, and Georgia came away with a 34-30 win.

2002: Georgia came into Lexington undefeated and riding high with a #5 ranking after surviving its early-season tests. The big news though was the buzz going around about Kentucky fans making plans to tear down the goalposts when the Wildcats pulled the upset. An enthusiastic Homecoming crowd had plenty of reason to be excited as Kentucky took a 24-21 lead into the locker room at halftime. The eventual SEC champions responded with 31 unanswered points in the second half and breezed to a 52-24 win, sparing the goalposts for at least a few years. One storyline entering the game was the injuries to starters Musa Smith and Fred Gibson. Georgia’s other receivers picked up the slack for Gibson. Terrence Edwards, Ben Watson, Damien Gary, and Reggie Brown all had at least five receptions, and Edwards put up 127 yards and three touchdowns. The injury to Smith gave Tony Milton his first start. Milton had a respectable 78 yards, but his biggest and most memorable play would be a crushing block on a blitz pickup that allowed David Greene to get off a long touchdown pass to Edwards.

2004: This was the lone game in this look back that wasn’t ever in doubt. Georgia’s national title hopes were derailed earlier in the year against Kentucky, but they shook off a slow start to unload on the Wildcats in a 62-17 rout. It was Georgia’s highest point output since 1994. The Dawgs led just 3-0 after one quarter, but they took a comfortable 20-3 lead into halftime. The blowout was punctuated with 28 fourth quarter points thanks in part to a long punt return from Thomas Flowers and a Kelin Johnson interception, both of which set up short scoring drives. The Dawgs exploded for 589 yards of offense and probably could have scored more if not for three fumbles. Thomas Brown led the way on the ground with 130 yards and three touchdowns. The game was noteworthy as David Greene set an SEC and NCAA record with his 40th win as a starter.

2006: The Wildcat fans finally got a chance to go after those goalposts. Georgia and freshman QB Matthew Stafford had dropped 3 out of their previous 4 games, and a narrow escape from a bad Mississippi State team was the lone victory. Crushing turnovers had played a role in Georgia giving up leads against Tennesssee and Vanderbilt, and they’d show up again in Lexington. The Bulldogs took a 14-3 lead thanks in part to a Tra Battle interception deep in UK territory. Stafford was bailed out of an interception deep in his own end by a Tony Taylor pick, but Georgia was unable to open up their lead as Stafford was intercepted again right at the end of the first half. That missed opportunity would prove costly. Georgia’s slim 14-10 lead held until the fourth quarter and the pivotal play of the game. Stafford completed a middle screen to Mario Raley. Raley took a fierce hit from Kentucky DL Myron Pryor that dislodged the ball and knocked Raley out cold for several minutes. Following a tense delay to tend to Raley’s scary injury, the Wildcats took over on Georgia’s side of the field and soon scored for the lead. The Bulldogs were able to answer with a score of their own, but the Wildcats came right back with their second scoring drive of the fourth quarter. The Dawgs had a chance to mount one final drive, but Stafford’s third interception of the day sealed the outcome. Georgia’s four turnovers as well as a missed field goal and extra point were just enough for Kentucky to emerge with the 24-20 win.

2008: By the end of the 2008 season, Georgia’s defense was reeling after a disappointing outing against Florida. We were already talking about issues with kickoff coverage. The offense featuring Stafford, Moreno, Massaquoi, and Green was Georgia’s strength, but even it had some problems with consistency. The Bulldogs outgained Kentucky 520-331, but they’d need every yard plus an heroic game-saving interception by Demarcus Dobbs to escape with a 42-38 win. Georgia was introduced to all-purpose wonder Randall Cobb in this game. Cobb was still a quarterback at this point, but his future as a playmaker became clear. Cobb was an ordinary 12-of-20 for 105 yards passing, but he did his real damage on the ground. Kentucky gashed Georgia all afternoon for 226 yards on the ground. Cobb was responsible for 82 of those rushing yards and scored three rushing touchdowns. Cobb’s handoff options of Tony Dixon and Alfonso Smith combined for 121 yards and two more scores. The Bulldogs were able to keep pace thanks to a 17/27/376 performance from Stafford and 123 yards rushing from Knowshon Moreno. Stafford and Moreno each accounted for three scores. Georgia’s 21-14 halftime lead soon evaporated as Kentucky combined a field goal and a Cobb score following a blocked punt to take their first lead. The teams traded scores in the third and fourth quarters, and Kentucky found themselves up 38-35. Two late Massaquoi fumbles put tremendous pressure on Georgia’s defense to keep the Cats from adding to their lead. After a few huge stops, Georgia was finally able to complete a go-ahead drive as Stafford evaded pressure and unloaded a perfect pass to A.J. Green in the end zone. Kentucky had one last gasp and drove inside the Georgia 20 before Dobbs’ interception preserved the win.

Post Death, taxes, and Chris Rainey’s return

Wednesday October 20, 2010

The rehabilitation of Chris Rainey continues:

The Gators should get a boost from the return of suspended slot receiver Chris Rainey. Rainey missed the past five games after an arrest, but has met the terms Meyer set for him to be able to play again.
“Chris Rainey is eligible to participate in the Georgia game, but I’m not saying he will,” Meyer said. “That hasn’t been determined.”

Anyone want to lay odds on how that determination will go? On the Meyer rubric of discipline, we have to guess that “eligible-to-play-but-might-not-play” is a big step forward from Rainey’s “he’s-not-off-the-team-but-he’s-not-a-part-of-the-team” status of a few weeks ago.

Post Preseason picks reflect increased expectations for Hoop Dawgs

Tuesday October 19, 2010

We’ll have a much deeper look at basketball in a couple of weeks, but yesterday’s media preseason picks deserve some mention.

Highlighting the news is the selection of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the preseason first team. Thompkins was also tabbed the preseason SEC Player of the Year, receiving 18 of the 20 first-place votes cast.

The outlook for Georgia in 2010-2011 can be summed up by this fact: despite two first team all-conference players on the roster, Georgia was picked a distant third in the SEC East. While there’s a lot of excitement entering Mark Fox’s second season, Georgia’s top players will only go so far as the rest of the supporting cast allow. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the newcomers, but there are many important roles for them to fill right away.

Georgia should be better than last season’s team that finished 5-11 in the SEC, but the preseason picks remind us that climbing through the standings towards an NCAA Tournament bid won’t be easy. Florida returns all of its starters. Kentucky emptied its chamber and has reloaded with another talented roster. Picked just below Georgia is a Tennessee team that went deep into the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

RELATED: Georgia lands third commitment for 2011 basketball signing class: 7′ JUCO C John Florveus

Post Music to soothe the savage Dawg

Thursday October 14, 2010


By now you’ve read all about Georgia’s newest mascot, but this Redcoat alum particularly liked this part of Uga VIII’s upbringing:

The new dog grew up with marching band music piped into his kennel, said Swann’s brother Charles Seiler, who has been handling the dogs on the field since he was 15 years old.

He’ll get to hear the real thing on Saturday. Hopefully he’s not conditioned to fall asleep to the Redcoats. His face will continue to fill out over the next year as he matures, but this pup already very much looks the part.

Bulldog logo

I’m looking forward to being down on the field during pregame…maybe I’ll get within 100 feet of Uga VIII. Meanwhile Dawg fans, just give thanks that you’re not having this mascot discussion today.

Post Georgia’s offensive identity turned on its head

Wednesday October 13, 2010

If you sampled preseason previews of the 2010 Georgia football team, most would contain a sentence like this: "Georgia hopes its talented tailbacks and experienced line can take the pressure off an inexperienced quarterback." This was, after all, the team of "we run this state" and Phil Steele’s top-rated offensive line.

It’s not really worth debating the severity of Caleb King’s suspension, but the midseason two-game suspension of Georgia’s starting tailback only underscores the reversal that’s taken place with Georgia’s identity on offense.  The offensive line has had to go back to the drawing board, and the tailback position has suddenly become very thin.  King is suspended, Thomas is injured, Dontavious Jackson was dismissed, and Ealey has ball security issues. 

Meanwhile, the return of A.J. Green has served to highlight the rapid development of freshman quarterback Aaron Murray.  Murray accounted for four of Georgia’s five touchdowns against Tennessee last week,  and the Bulldog offense showed signed of life spreading the field, getting Murray into space, and distributing the ball to a diverse set of receiving options.

You still have to be able to run the ball in the SEC, so King’s suspension and the depth issues at tailback are still significant.  They’re just much less of a concern than they would have been two months ago. The role of the tailback in the offense has changed – out of necessity, of course.  Georgia’s tailbacks combined for around 90 yards against Tennessee.  There were some key carries and first downs from the position, and the Dawgs are going to at least need one guy like Ealey to make those runs.  But he doesn’t have to carry the ball 30 times for Georgia to be successful.

The immediate question now is whether Ken Malcome’s redshirt should be burned.  For the time being, he and Ealey are the only available tailbacks.  The Bulldogs are also looking at occasionally using a fullback like Fred Munzenmaier.  Malcome was a tough power back in high school, but the concern is this:  so much of the offense now depends on Murray and the passing game, and Malcome has admitted for a while that pass blocking is a real weakness of his game.  If he’s still a liability in protection, he’d have to be used sparingly in order to limit Murray’s exposure. 

If I had to take a guess, I’d say that Malcome’s redshirt stays on.  He has to be ready to go in, but I expect Georgia to see how far they can go against Vanderbilt with Ealey and Munzenmaier.  The state of Thomas’s hamstring in a week will determine whether we revisit this question before the trip to Kentucky.

One more thing…this doesn’t have to be a permanent transformation. If Sturdivant continues to come along and Gates gains experience with the starting group, there’s still hope for the line to improve in its run blocking.  More strong performances by Murray and the passing game should loosen things up around the line of scrimmage.  We know that King and Ealey can be an effective tandem.  Georgia doesn’t have to bail on the running game for the rest of the year, but for the time being they can at least start to lean on the passing game during these lean times at the tailback position.

Post Taking it all in – thoughts from the weekend

Monday October 11, 2010
  • When Phil Steele and Vegas tell you top expect a big win, listen up. Steele predicted a big afternoon for Murray and the Georgia defense as well as a 21-point win. His computer predicted “just 17 pts and 240 yds for the Volunteers.” The final numbers? 14 points and 269 yards.
  • If there was any doubt, this is Aaron Murray’s team now. That’s not to take anything away from what A.J. Green means to Murray and the offense, but Murray is coming along at a pace that’s ahead of even Greene and Stafford. We’ve come full-circle from the preseason expectation of running a fleet of tailbacks behind a veteran line, and we’re watching Murray make plays with his arm, his legs, and his head.

    Late in the third quarter, Murray completed a 20-yard pass to Tavarres King which set up Georgia’s final score. You’re not going to get a better-looking pass this year. It was placed in stride perfectly beyond the cornerback and in front of the safety and along the sideline. Finding that spot in the coverage 25 yards downfield is a skill many seniors don’t have. One of his best passes was an incompletion – the across-the-body improvisation into the end zone that King couldn’t control.

  • Green’s first touchdown at Colorado deserved to be all over the highlight reels. But I’ll go on record that his first quarter catch to set up Georgia’s second touchdown was better. He was hit by two defenders as he was catching the ball – one high and one low. The impact of the second defender twisted his body and snapped his head forward. If you see the replay, you’ll notice that the ball was knocked loose. Green’s direction was changing, and he was shaken up enough by the force of the hit to have to come out of the game. Yet he still had the presence and the athletic ability to regain control of the loose ball and secure the catch. I wore out ESPN’s slow replay of the play…it happened so quickly that it looked like a tough but fairly routine catch. Slow-motion showed it to be about as incredible as Pollack’s split-second strip-and-catch in 2002.
  • If there’s a difference in Green this year, it’s his noticeable increase in strength. Murray’s first touchdown scamper was set up after Green took a short pass and stiff-armed the defender on the way to the sideline and a first down. Green’s touchdown reception came on a play where he had a Tennessee defender hanging off of him for the final five yards. It’s concerning that A.J. has had to come out of both games in which he’s played, but he’s also showed the ability to
  • A year after Tennessee shredded the Georgia defense with bootleg after bootleg, it was enjoyable to see Georgia give some of it back. Georgia’s use of play action was effective, and Murray often found himself rolling out with several passing options as well as enough green in front of him to make running a possibility.
  • I’d still like to know what the coaches were thinking by lining up for the field goal so quickly after Murray’s early third quarter stab at the pylon. It was a call that was likely to be reviewed, and the outcome of the review was a possible touchdown. Even if the play clock became an issue, you’re talking about a field goal attempt from the 6 rather than the 1 if a delay penalty occurred while waiting for the review. Georgia instead came out and got the field goal attempt off with enough speed to make Les Miles’ head spin. Fortunately the officials stopped the play in time. The review spared us from talking about another questionable decision – a field goal attempt on 4th and goal from the 1? Really?
  • With plays like the acrobatic interception, Bacarri Rambo shows why he belongs on the field. But with his role in some big coverage blunders, Rambo also shows why the coaches might not have been so stupid with their handling of the safety position a year ago. He’s not alone – Georgia still has issues defending the pass. Talented Tennessee freshman receiver Justin Hunter had his first 100-yard game against Georgia. Matt Simms actually had his highest passer rating of the season on Saturday. Georgia’s job against Tauren Poole though made a big difference. Colorado was able to gash Georgia with some big running plays while hitting some big passes through the air. Tennessee’s ground game never got a chance to get going thanks to Georgia’s big lead and some nice tackling up front.
  • Georgia’s biggest defensive breakdowns came in areas we talked about following the Colorado game. Tennessee’s first touchdown came on a coverage breakdown following a missed opportunity at a sack – the same kind of improvisation with which Colorado hurt Georgia time and again. The Dawgs did a better job at getting results from their pressure for most of the rest of the Tennessee game. The Vols set up their second score with the wheel route – as we saw against Arkansas and Colorado, a player was able to get loose from the backfield and get wide open for a big pass play down the sideline. Whether coverage on those routes is ultimately the job of the OLB or the safety, it’s proving to be a consistent hole in Grantham’s scheme.
  • Speaking of Colorado, they were shut out by Missouri on Saturday. Against quality teams like Cal and Missouri, the Buffalo offense has been absent. Even Hawaii managed to shut them out for the first half. Georgia should feel good about bouncing back against the Vols, but giving up over 20 points and four touchdowns to Colorado could go down as the low point for the new defense.
  • South Carolina’s magical Saturday got even better with the result of the Florida game. Florida can still win the East with a head-to-head win over the Gamecocks, but they can’t afford to drop another along the way. Except for that showdown in Gainesville, South Carolina’s only remaining high-profile game is a visit from Arkansas.
  • At this point, you can take about five or six teams and pick any of them to win the SEC. Auburn is the only team to beat South Carolina, but the Tigers were just a field goal better than Mississippi State and Kentucky. LSU needs a miracle to beat hapless Tennessee in Death Valley but gets the job done in the Swamp. I think I’d still have to take the Tide in a rematch with the Gamecocks for the SEC Championship.

Post King arrested, faces zero-tolerance policy that doesn’t exist

Monday October 11, 2010

It’s about to become the most widely-reported bench warrant in the nation. Caleb King was arrested this morning for failure to appear in court about an unpaid speeding ticket over the summer. Because this is Georgia’s 11th arrest of the year, prepare for this story to develop into full-blown shrieking about a program spinning out of control. The ins and outs of this messy story are being updated throughout the day by the beat writers. It’s not smart of King to have let this ticket slide, and Mark Richt has to be banging his head against a wall over the thoughtlessness. But only at Georgia could the issue of an unpaid speeding ticket prompt talk about kicking a guy off the team.

There’s been message board chatter this morning about Mark Richt’s “new zero-tolerance policy” ever since freshman linebacker Demetre Baker was dismissed following Baker’s first arrest last month. Even the AJC’s Jeff Schultz is parroting the “zero-tolerance policy” line.

Let’s see what Richt actually said:

Richt said Baker “was fully aware of the possible consequences that could result from this type of poor judgment” and is “now paying a severe penalty.”

Richt also had expressed exasperation recently with player arrests, telling a caller on his radio show Sept. 13: “My patience is worn about as thin as it can wear…I can promise you [the players] know that the next guy has got himself some serious issues and anybody after that, too…We’ve all grown very tired of it.”

Asked Sunday evening if Baker’s quick dismissal indicates a new zero tolerance for arrests, Richt paused before saying: “I think all of our guys understand that they need to behave. I’ll put it that way.”

Unless someone can find quotes indicating otherwise, Richt pretty clearly doesn’t have such a policy in place. It’s clear that there’s a short leash, but there’s also plenty of room for sanity. No coach would be stupid enough to create a situation that puts him in the position of having to treat an underage DUI the same as something related to a moving violation. King will face internal discipline and could well be suspended for the Vanderbilt game, but it’s a stretch to think that his future at Georgia is in jeopardy.

Post McGarity’s look at game day experience can’t stop with Sanford Stadium

Friday October 8, 2010

I think my ears are still ringing from the nonstop music blared over the Folsom Field speakers last week, so count me among the chorus of praise for Greg McGarity’s preference for a more “traditional” game atmosphere at Sanford Stadium. It’s not even so much the piped-in music – I doubt anyone is complaining about Baba O’Riley as we’re getting ready for kickoff. There are more significant problems with the announcements and commercials that drone on eating up entire breaks in the action regardless of the flow of the game at the time. I really do appreciate learning about the Thornton Melon Professor of Applied Consumer Forestry, but it’s kind of a buzzkill after a big score.

So kudos to McGarity for making this a priority. It’s attention to another detail that gives you a bit of confidence that the larger issues with the football program won’t go overlooked either.

But the biggest degradation to the game day experience has come from the combination of the early starts and the new tailgating rules. I’d throw the performance of the team in there too, but we won’t see the effects of poor play really kick in until next week. The momentum from the rivalry with Tennessee should produce a fair turnout. After that you can expect turnout to drop even with a win over the Vols. If McGarity is going to really improve the game day experience, he’s going to have to look beyond the walls of Sanford Stadium.

Of course there’s only so much McGarity can do in all of those areas. He has only macro-level control over the quality of the team. The quality of the team has much more to do with kickoff times than the influence of the athletic director, and we’re committed to early start times until the final home game of the season. And if McGarity is going to tackle the tailgating experience, he’s going to have to do it with the blessing and cooperation of the University’s administration and president. Seth Emerson reminds us that “Adams was not at Thursday’s meeting, and [tailgating] was an issue that would have to be addressed with [Adams].”

Emerson also noted a comment from Kris Durham that I hadn’t seen reported anywhere. We’ve talked about students not using all of their allocated tickets and the steps McGarity is taking to address that problem. Durham’s comment is somewhat related – the team has noticed students of road opponents getting to games early and “adding some ‘nastiness’ to the pregame atmosphere.” It’s true that the start times have pretty much killed the chances of an early-arriving crowd at Georgia, but it also doesn’t help that over 40% of the students with tickets don’t show up early, late, or at all for a big SEC game.

Post From Phil Steele’s lips…

Thursday October 7, 2010

Phil, or at least his computer, sees a big weekend for Aaron Murray and Georgia’s defense en route to the win.

My QB’s of the week are: Aaron Murray, Georgia, Zach Collaros, Cincinnati and Kevin Riley, California

Aaron Murray, Georgia-The redshirt Freshman has not been the reason the Bulldogs are just 1-4 on the year as he is avg 220 pass ypg (61%) with a 8-3 ratio. This will be the 2nd week with WR AJ Green back in the lineup and I expect them to get their timing down even more against a Tennessee defense that is giving up 254 pass ypg to FBS this year. My computer projects 313 pass yds for the Bulldogs and if Murray gets to that number, he will have a career day.

My Top Defenses of the Week: USF, Georgia and Florida

Georgia is just 1-4 this year and desperately need a win here. They are playing with legitimate revenge year after getting whipped 45-19 LY in Knoxville. Despite the tough start the Bulldogs still have my #25 defense and will take on a #75 offense that is still adjusting to the new schemes of HC Dooley. My computer projects just 17 pts and 240 yds for the Volunteers as Georgia ends their first 4 game losing streak since 1990.

Post Kenarious Gates becomes the man of the hour

Wednesday October 6, 2010

This post over at GTP kind of flew under the radar this afternoon, but by Wednesday evening many of the beat writers were talking about the midweek shakeup on the offensive line.

Hardcore recruitniks knew about Gates when he switched his commitment from Kentucky to Georgia on Signing Day once Georgia had a few last-minute spots open up. Other than what the coaches had to say about him, the most people seemed to know about Gates was that he attended the same school as five-star hoops prospect and eventual Georgia commitment Kentavious Caldwell.

But the 6’5″ Gates was a quality prospect in his own right, and he’s suddenly in the mix on Georgia’s line as a true freshman. He was one of a handful of true freshman to make the traveling roster for Colorado, so he might have been close to getting in the game before now. Anyone who saw Georgia’s final snap on offense at Colorado shouldn’t be surprised that Josh Davis is the odd man out, but there’s a lot more to talk about re: this potentially retooled line.

  • You have to like the bookends of Sturdivant and Boling at tackle. The effectiveness of that combination depends on the health of Sturdivant, so it’s promising that he’s been playing an increasing number of snaps as the season goes on. Josh Davis and AJ Harmon are available, but you really prefer Boling and Sturdivant as your tackles.
  • Glenn and Jones haven’t been dominant, but they’ve been good enough to remain unaffected by this shakeup.
  • In an ideal world, you’d expect the more experienced Chris Davis to be that right guard. Davis has been limited by chronic leg injuries though and might not be near top form yet.
  • The moves do bring up questions about other linemen. Why Gates instead of some other yout guards? Many of them are injured. AJ Harmon must be a tackle all the way. Tanner Strickland is the real question mark: he’s even listed as a potential starter on the team’s depth chart.

It’s entirely possible that the media just caught sight of an experiment or even a red herring for any interested parties in Knoxville. The thought of a true freshman getting his first taste of action in an absolute must-win situation isn’t a good one. Still, it’s not like Georgia would be the only team in this game with a true freshman on the offensive line. If Gates can give the Dawgs some minutes on the interior line and allow Boling to take over the beleaguered right tackle spot, it should be a positive for the overall quality of the line.