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Post You can’t finish what you don’t start

Sunday September 4, 2011

“Finishing” was the theme of Georgia’s offseason conditioning efforts.  Mark Richt explained, “The difference between really good teams and average teams are how well you finish. Do you make plays, big plays, at the end of the game? That’s going to define us, really I think.”

But a team’s disposition at the end of the game is the result of what has happened up to that point.  Did Georgia struggle to finish in games last year because of conditioning and other issues that could be identified as fourth quarter problems, or were the seeds of sluggish finishes sewn earlier in the game?  This is a dead horse around here, but it’s an important point: in Georgia’s six 2010 losses that weren’t against Auburn, they scored a total of just ten first quarter points.  Why would we expect a team that wasn’t effective in the first quarter (and often beyond) to be able to turn it on just because the fans have four fingers in the air?

Georgia’s defense started the Boise State game well.  Boise’s first three drives were no longer than four plays, and each resulted in a punt.  Georgia’s offense, on the other hand, looked a lot like the one that began last season without A.J. Green.  Georgia took the opening kickoff, but whatever momentum they hoped to gain was torpedoed with three unforced errors and lost yardage.  The next drive featured Isaiah Crowell tripping during his first collegiate carry and a pair of Bulldog receivers slipping on the turf. 

In fact, only a single Georgia drive in the first half (out of eight) lasted longer than three plays. Boykin’s run was in there, but that turned out to be fool’s gold.  Georgia got 81 yards on Boykin’s run.  They netted 54 yards on their other first half drives.  Georgia’s eyes might’ve been on the finish, but they were stuck in the starting gate.

Georgia’s stagnant offense contributed to put a much better Boise offense back on the field, often with decent-to-good field position. As we anticipated earlier in the week, both teams turned to a faster pace during the game. The results couldn’t have been more different.  Georgia had very occasional success ending more often than not with drives that stalled.  Boise efficiently moved the ball in small chunks, attacking the middle of the field and flats.

The strategy to take the opening kickoff backfired in more than one way.  Not only was Georgia stuck with awful field position for much of the game, they also ended up giving Boise consecutive possessions before and after halftime.  Much like the Auburn game last year, those two scores that bookended halftime served to swing the game to the opponent.  Boise engaged its no-huddle out of halftime, ruthlessly moving down the field in 11 plays in under 4 minutes, averaging around 21 seconds between plays.  

Kellen Moore, explaining Boise’s no-huddle look last year, said, “(the defense doesn’t) have time to throw in their unique blitzes and things like that when they only have a short few seconds to call plays.” Whether it was that strategy, poor execution by Georgia, or a combination of the two, the Bulldogs couldn’t muster much of a pass rush against Moore and left one of college football’s most accurate passers free to do his surgery against the Georgia pass defense.

Once Georgia’s offense showed signs of life, the Bulldogs were unable to sustain momentum as the gassed defense couldn’t get Boise off the field.  Injuries at key positions, Kellen Moore’s effectiveness, and the failure of Georgia’s own hurry-up offense left Georgia’s defense on their heels when it came time to finish and get the Bulldogs back in the game. This was something we worried about…

There’s a down side to speeding things up on offense. If you’re not successful sustaining drives and scoring, your defense is put right back on the field. Worst case for Georgia? A reprise of two common 2010 maladies: a defense that hasn’t solved its third-and-long problems coupled with a an up-tempo offense that struggles out of the gate could have the Georgia defense sucking wind by halftime.

Georgia lasted into the third quarter, but they definitely didn’t have what it took to finish the game.  The offense took too long to find even a marginal amount of success, and the running game never got going.  The defense made some nice early stops but wore down as Boise adjusted and Georgia’s own hurry-up couldn’t move the ball consistently.  A team that had been constructed to finish close games put itself in a deep hole where “finishing” meant desperation. 

2 Responses to 'You can’t finish what you don’t start'

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  • Once again we help a team out by running an O that they practice against. When we ran the power I we moved the ball but Bobo, bless his heart, would always go back to the shotgun and stop the drive. We have met the enemy and his name is Mike Bobo.

  • I think Peterson’s gameplan was just better. Based on what I saw he and his staff watched a ton of game film to determine how to attack on both sides of the ball. The bubble screens were very similar to what Florida did a few years ago to beat us. It’s really bad when the average fan can recognize stuff like that and Richt and the assistants don’t seem to adjust.

    The offensive line was just dreadful. If they don’t figure out how to block and protect Murray we aren’t going to win very many games this year. And as good as Boise’s defense was many SEC defenses we face will be better.