Sometimes after a loss we’ll get a comment from a coach claiming that the plan was sound but that the execution was lacking. Go back to the 2007 loss to South Carolina, and Mark Richt deflected criticism of Mike Bobo by saying, "I think we had plenty of opportunities to score touchdowns. We’ve got to execute." Other times it’s the plan that’s lacking. A timid attack in Columbia last year didn’t do much to stem the Gamecocks’ explosive start.
On Saturday we saw what happens when a good plan is executed well. Georgia’s plan certainly tipped its cap to the abilities of Jadeveon Clowney* – the passes were usually quick and short, and runs often went away from him. But any plan would have failed without good blocking, tough running, accurate throws, and big catches. The execution we saw from the Georgia offense was what we had hoped for and expected from such a loaded and experience unit. It was a high level of performance from everyone from the backs to the line to the quarterback to the receivers. And it’s a good thing – this was a battle between two very good teams that came down to inches in the fourth quarter. Georgia had very little room for error when it had the ball, and fortunately the errors were few.
* – The Clowney backlash has been something to behold. I get why fans relish getting the best of someone like Clowney – sticking it to Tebow was one of the joys of the 2007 Florida win, after all. But Georgia’s success had a lot more to do with the rest of the defense than it had to do with a sub-par performance from a great player. Georgia was magnificent at frustrating him, and other teams will try to do the same until the rest of the defense can respond. That doesn’t diminish Clowney as a player or pro prospect, but it does show why the Heisman was never going to happen.
Any talk about Georgia’s execution starts with Murray. He set the tone on the opening series. With Clowney hanging on to him, Murray was somehow able to launch a pass in the general direction of Michael Bennett. It wasn’t, and it couldn’t have been, right on the money, but it was a strong response by a quarterback who was supposed to be in fear of the guy hanging off of him. Murray’s stats – even with the drops – were as good as it gets, and his numbers through two games are even ahead of last season’s pace. As important, he avoided any kind of mistake that could have turned such a close game.
When I heard that Murray had watched the Clemson film six or seven times, I was a little worried about the psychology major. Was he overthinking things? When you’re so analytical and obsessed with perfection, it can be easy to press, and that can lead to some of the mistakes and early jitters we’ve seen. South Carolina’s pass rush might’ve been a blessing for Murray in that he didn’t have much time to think. The plan called for a large helping of slants, passes to the backs, and other plays that showed that Georgia’s offense was very aware of timing. Some of Murray’s most successful passes – the first lob to Bennett, the touchdown to Gurley, and the last toss to Justin Scott-Wesley – were improvised or rushed. Murray’s talent and instincts are just fine, and he turned them loose in one of the best performances of the year.
More from a bright and sunny home opener:
- Was anyone else surprised that Spurrier ended the game eating two timeouts?
- The trend of booing injured players is on the rise, and I’m disappointed that it showed up at Sanford Stadium yesterday. It wasn’t to the degree that we saw at Clemson last week, but it was there. It’s ridiculous that we had to spend time last Sunday producing video evidence of a legitimate injury. Whether or not these stoppages are meant to slow momentum, the benefit of the doubt used to be with the injured player. It needs to be that way again.
- The wonderful closing drive meant that the defense never had to take the field after its crucial goal-line stop, so we won’t know for a while whether it’s going to mark a turning point for the defense. South Carolina found success with that speed option from their opening drive, and they kept going back to it. It’s the play that they scored on early in the fourth quarter. In fact, Herrera had a chance to stop the pitch on that scoring play and couldn’t complete the tackle. After Ray Drew’s stop on third down just inches short of the goal line, the Dawgs were ready, and South Carolina went to the well one too many times. Shaw was met immediately by Jenkins and forced the quick pitch. Herrera was up to the job this time and slowed Mike Davis long enough for Wilson and several other defenders to finish the job.
- Speaking of Herrera and Wilson, what a test for them. You had a tough runner in Davis, an elusive quarterback to contain, and Wilson in particular was picked on almost as much in the passing game as Langley was. But they had enough left in the tank to suck it up for the big stop. The next few weeks will be about developing depth across the board, but few positions could use depth as much as inside linebacker. It’s a big three weeks for Kimbrough and Carter.
- And on Langley, be patient with him. He’s out there for a reason, and he’ll continue to learn and improve. It’s said that offensive line and cornerback are two of the toughest positions for freshmen, and we saw a master probing the weak spots of Georgia’s defense yesterday.
- Jordan Jenkins through two games has six solo tackles, two tackles for loss, and zero sacks. Is that representative of Georgia’s pass rush so far?
- I could go overboard gushing about Gurley, Hicks, and the rest of the backs. It’s enough to say that, with Murray and the backs, Georgia is deploying an NFL backfield in the college game.
- I wasn’t down on Marshall after the Clemson game, but his impact was limited. You can’t say that about this game. Keith reminded us of what he can do running the ball, but his speed on those swing passes was magical. What a weapon.
- All hail Sol. The third-quarter sun saved Georgia at least once.
- The Dawgs were a little better at third downs in this game (6-14 vs. 4-14 a week ago). Georgia’s success at sustaining drives was helped by two fourth down conversions. That early 4th-and-13 pass to Scott-Wesley was both important and outstanding.
- With Morgan available going forward, you wonder if we make the same call on 4th-and-13 from the opponent’s 31. I hope so.
- South Carolina got zero points directly from its defense or special teams (excepting placekicks of course). They had the short field thanks to the botched punt, but that’s as much help as Georgia gave them. It’s been a few years since that’s happened. Georgia forced the game’s only turnover, but it came at an important time in the third quarter. It stopped a promising Gamecock drive and led to a field goal that put Georgia out in front for good.
- The game day experience was generally pretty good. The ticket scanning made for a logjam at entry, and I hope people keep that in mind for the LSU game. The only big disappointment was that the score came down off the scoreboard immediately after the game. If ever you wanted a few shots at a scoreboard picture, this was the game.
- And the crowd. Wow. Even with the problems at the gates, the fans showed up. The second quarter rally by the visitors put a damper on things, but the fans had an impact through the end of the game. It helped that the Dawgs, as they did at Clemson, were outstanding at answering scores.
What a difference a week makes. That’s not just a comment on the progress made since the Clemson loss. It’s also a reminder that with 10 games still left, each win has to be earned all over again.