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Post Tennessee bullets: adjustments, milestones, and an upset trap?

Monday October 10, 2011
  • Ugly, incomplete, whatever. Georgia held the Vols to -20 yards rushing and their fewest points in the series since 2000. Georgia won on the road in Knoxville after two alarming blowouts in their past two visits – the last of which was against a Tennessee team not much better than this one. A win that ugly would have put the Dawgs in the 2007 SEC Championship game. We’ll take it, congratulate Mark Richt on his 100th win as Georgia’s coach, and get on with winning.
  • I think the game was as ugly and slow to develop as it was because of the injury to Crowell. Georgia’s offense just isn’t as effective without him. It was a good job just to sustain two long first half drives without him. It was disappointing that Georgia couldn’t get more from those drives, and it was frustrating not to be able to punch it in after stalling on the UT 5 yard line. Crowell was able to suck it up and give Georgia just enough to be the difference in the third quarter. His second touchdown run to the right off the sprint draw was a thing of beauty.
  • As we expected, tight end Mychal Rivera was a focal point of Tennessee’s passing attack. He led the Vols with 85 receiving yards, and his five receptions were second behind only a tailback – more on that in a second. The Vols used Rivera well in the first half to challenge Georgia’s linebackers, and it worked well. Rivera also made a heck of a catch on that 4th-and-17 to set up Tennessee’s only touchdown.
  • Why were a tight end and a tailback Tennessee’s top receiving options? Georgia did a great job of taking away the UT vertical passing game. That element is admittedly diminished with the absence of Hunter, but Bray has shown an ability to get the ball downfield all season. The Bulldogs allowed only one pass play longer than 20 yards – it was a short throw to Marlin Lane that Lane turned into a gain of 27 yards, slicing through a series of missed tackles to convert a 2nd-and-25 and keep alive the drive that tied the game going into halftime. Rivera’s longest reception was the 19-yarder that converted 4th-and-17 late in the game. You rarely heard a defensive back’s name in pass coverage – the plays weren’t there.
  • Though Georgia wasn’t putting up touchdowns in the first half, they were at least moving the ball. That and zero Georgia turnovers meant that Tennessee spent most of the game with average-to-poor field position. The Bulldogs did too, which is why the snap over Bray’s head and the subsequent poor punt changed the game.
  • With unfavorable field position, an ineffective running game, and downfield passes more or less shut down, Bray and the UT offense had little choice but to move down the field in smaller chunks, getting what they could through short and intermediate passes. That worked some in the first half, and the Georgia defense did well not to break on those drives. But as the game went on, the Georgia defense was able to tighten up to take away even those shorter passes. Pressure was increased, and the Vols – who had no drive shorter than 8 plays and 46 yards in the first half – had no second half drive longer than 5 plays or 20 yards until their last gasp scoring drive late in the fourth quarter. Credit to the Georgia defense and staff for adjusting while maintaining what they were already doing well.
  • They weren’t especially long or challenging kicks, but it was still good to see Blair Walsh have a 2-for-2 night. Those six points at least bought Georgia some time to figure things out with a hobbled Crowell.
  • Credit also to Murray for avoiding the killer turnover this week. The beards are safe for another week. Tennessee’s best chance at an interception was broken up on an alert play by Marlon Brown. Brown ended up nearly making the catch himself.
  • Kudos also to Tennessee for becoming the first team to recover a fumble with an ankle. I’m still unclear as to what went on in the replay booth during that early review.
  • Georgia is two games over .500 in the SEC for the first time in over two years. The Dawgs began the 2009 season 2-0 with wins over South Carolina and Arkansas but soon dropped consecutive games to LSU and Tennessee.
  • Moving on, I don’t expect the Vandy game to be a thing of beauty. Mitchell is out at receiver, and hopefully Crowell can be used sparingly. The goal for this weekend shouldn’t be aesthetics. The Vandy offense is dreadful, so if Georgia can avoid turnovers again, they should be able to get out of Nashville with a win. Some rest for our banged-up players would be nice, and then we get the bye week to really recover.
  • The Vandy game will also be the first time in a while that Georgia has faced what could be called, with a straight face, an upset trap. At Ole Miss, Georgia was determined to get in the SEC win column. Last season’s result was more than enough motivation against Mississippi State. Vandy’s defense is good enough to frustrate, or even score against, teams that are sleepwalking on offense. Georgia has a bit of momentum now, people are talking about them in the SEC East race again, and it’s tempting to look ahead to Florida with the division at stake. It’s been a long time since we’ve had to approach a game this way, but how will Georgia handle their success against a big underdog?
  • With Mitchell out, it might be a good week for Murray and King to work on their timing. We’ve seen King be an effective deep weapon before – even as far back as his freshman season at Arkansas. King might not have the speed of Mitchell (few do), but he did have a step on his defenders at Tennessee such that better passes would have gone for big gains. This is an element of the passing game that could stand to get a lot better, and when it does, watch things open up for Crowell and underneath routes for the tight ends and running backs.
  • With a win this weekend and Kentucky still left on the schedule, the Dawgs can just about guarantee the very minimal goals of a winning record in the SEC and bowl eligibility. So that’s nice.
  • Just as things are starting to get good, the regular season is half over. Can you believe it?

3 Responses to 'Tennessee bullets: adjustments, milestones, and an upset trap?'

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  • Nice rundown. I’m a little antsy about the Vandy game as well. But, even with our boys that are injured, we still out-man them across the board. Let’s hope we can get out of there with a W and not sustain any major injuries. We need everybody back for 10/29!

  • Other than Crowell the guys I am hoping we can rest the most is the OL. Some of Crowell’s decline in the second half of games is on him some of it on the line. I worry as the season goes on about the number of snaps they are playing and if they are going to have dead legs. Hopefully they can rest some against Vandy, the bye week, and in games against New Mexico State and Kentucky. This will keep them fresh for the games we need them and start grooming some of the freshmen for next year.

  • Some fun at Vandy’s expense: