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Post A needed double-digit win? Yeah, but…

Monday September 26, 2011

Saturday’s game at Ole Miss was one of those classic Mark Richt games that lets you read into it what you want. Fans who were looking to the game as some sort of benchmark for the rest of the season were left wanting. Had Georgia escaped at the last minute or, God forbid, lost to Ole Miss, the prognosis would have been easy. Had Georgia put up a number in the 40s while holding the Rebels scoreless, we might have enough data points to buy into the belief that the team was getting its act together for a strong push through the rest of its schedule.

But, no, progress is rarely linear. This was hardly a regression, unless you’re talking about some very specific special teams plays. Some of the most important aspects of the team – the defense, Crowell, Murray’s efficiency – were as good as they’ve been all year. There’s definitely much to build on. It’s a double-digit SEC road win, and those are rare even against what might be the worst team in the conference. At least we can say with some certainty that Georgia won’t hold that distinction.

I imagine a few fans had this discussion with themselves after the game…

Georgia was able to hold Ole Miss to 183 yards of offense and outgained the Rebels by nearly 300 yards while holding the Rebels at arm’s length all day.
Yeah, but… You’d hope to get more than 27 points and three touchdowns out of such a statistically dominant performance.

Still, they needed trick plays to even make it a game.
Yeah, but… Those points still counted. It’s one thing to fall for a fake or turn the ball over, but it’s another for those errors to put points on the board. Two of Georgia’s four opponents to date have successfully used gadget plays for scores, and it’s been a sore spot for the program going back to the 2005 loss to West Virginia.

Ole Miss had two touchdowns called back due to penalties. This game was uncomfortably closer than it should have been.
Yeah, but… Georgia’s decisions on offense, especially in the third and fourth quarters, were guided by the situation. We would have liked to have seen more points result from those drives, but Georgia ate up clock and yards, didn’t shoot themselves in the foot, and finished with a second-half shutout.

So Georgia ran over 50 times and dominated the time of possession. Classic ground-based way to manage an inferior opponent, right?
Yeah, but… Georgia still showed some punch through the air. Charles’s sideline touchdown reception was pro-quality. White’s route down the seam was perfect, and then he showed a nice move to bounce off the lone defender and turn the play into a score. Mitchell continues to become a player for defenses to worry about. Most encouraging was the continued use of passes out of the backfield. Samuel had a couple of quality catches. Murray’s recognition of a blitz and finding Samuel releasing outside in the fourth quarter is something he needs to file away for future use.

Crowell put up 150 yards – well, at least until he went backwards on those last few carries.
Yeah, but… Are we going to have to start a Crowell Durability Watch? He’s playing with injured ribs, then he wasn’t in the right pads, and now 30 carries leaves him winded. Is that good news for a guy who’s clearly a difference-maker when he’s on the field?

Georgia has proven stars in almost all areas of special teams.
Yeah, but… With the exception of Butler’s leg, it was not the best day for Georgia’s special teams. There’s no shortage of amateur shrinks trying to figure out what’s wrong with Walsh. Punt coverage was burned once and got bailed out a second time on a penalty. Branden Smith’s Nutmeg Technique of fielding a punt was very nearly a disaster. Poor Marc Deas was all but helpless to defend the onside kick against three or four oncoming Rebels. Even Boykin couldn’t do much of anything with two kickoff return opportunities.

A few other things:

  • The defense is coming on without two of its most talented players. It will be huge to add ‘Tree and Robinson back to the mix. That said, Williams, Gilliard, and Herrera have done nice work holding down the middle. Noticing a player doesn’t always mean the guy is playing the correct assignment, but you saw a lot of Herrera’s #52 jersey around the ball on Saturday.
  • The same can be said for the receivers. The emergence of Bennett and Mitchell has been a boon, and the trio of King, Bennett, and Mitchell are a good first group. But the group is still missing a starter (Brown) and an experienced reserve (Wooten). On the other hand, if a depleted receiving corps leads the staff to look more at the tight ends and backs in the passing game, it’s not the end of the world.
  • I appreciate the late-game strategy to salt it away with the running game, but the offense showed it’s not really built for that. The line is mangled and struggled to make consistent holes against a defense that gave up 281 yards on the ground to Vandy. Crowell is a freshman still building endurance. Thomas isn’t a power back, though he ran well on Saturday. Samuel is often stopped for little gain. Boykin was inserted a couple of times but saw no carries. I guess Ogletree and Figgins aren’t options to carry the ball – if they are, the staff doesn’t act like it.
  • I have to credit Ole Miss. After the awful loss at Vandy and going down 17-0 to Georgia, they didn’t fold. Of course Georgia was culpable in getting the Rebels back in the game, but the execution on the gadget plays that defined the second quarter and framed the closer-than-we’d-like second half was sharp. There is of course a lot of talk about Houston Nutt’s future, but I saw nothing to show me that he’s lost his team.
  • Only one Ole Miss player caught more Rebel passes than Bacarri Rambo.
  • I’m crazy for referencing one of Georgia’s greatest wins, but Crowell’s second quarter run out of the end zone on third down had me thinking back to this run by Musa Smith at Auburn in 2002. Both runs bailed Georgia out of horrible field position, and both sparked long scoring drives.

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