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Post Georgia 45 – North Texas 21: Dawgs float on

Monday September 23, 2013

Georgia football: the team with a long-snapper controversy.

Credit a letdown, looking ahead, the weather, or whatever works for you – not many of us expected North Texas to take possession of the ball in the third quarter with a chance to take the lead. It wasn’t a disaster and really wasn’t ever in danger of becoming another UAB game. The offense was moving the ball well enough and the defense was stingy enough that things came fairly easily, even as the rain grew steadier, once Georgia stopped shooting themselves in the foot.

But there’s the rub. Georgia’s mistakes could be explained away as typical for the opponent and conditions if they were isolated to this game. Some were, others weren’t. The offensive line looked more like what we saw at Clemson than against South Carolina. Linebackers in pass coverage still scare you a little. Then there are some others:

  • In all three games, Georgia has had a special teams mistake cost points. I don’t think we need to say much more.
  • The Dawgs have had the first possession of the second half in all three games. They’ve had a net loss of nine yards on those three possessions, all of which ended with a three-and-out. The high point was a six-yard gain against South Carolina. The blocked punt by UNT was the cherry on top of a series that saw Murray bounce two passes to open receivers.
  • We’ve also seen the second quarter become a bit of an adventure in all three games. The Dawgs have given up less than 20 total points in each of the first (17), third (17), and fourth (13) quarters, but they’ve given up a total of 42 second quarter points. Even in the Clemson game where Georgia only gave up 7 points, that was a stretch when the Dawgs missed a chance to build a lead and instead saw Clemson pull even.

I’ll stop dwelling on the negative because it shouldn’t overshadow some positive developments. It was just another day at the office for Aaron Murray. 400+ yards, over 70%, a slew of touchdown passes, and grumbling fans. Now Murray wasn’t as sharp as he was two weeks ago. The intercepted pass was forced, and he had another shaky pass into coverage intended for Lynch. There were some unforced errors like the short-hopped passes to start the second half. Still, with North Texas using their safeties in run support, Georgia’s senior quarterback had few problems carrying the offense to an extremely productive day.

Georgia’s offense handling a mid-major opponent didn’t surprise anyone. Could the defense? The Georgia defense put an emphatic stop to a streak of poor performances against the run and held the visitors to negative rushing yardage until garbage time. Chris Mayes did well on the inside in his first opportunity, but it was truly a team effort to stuff the run and create pressure. We saw our first interception and the first sack by an outside linebacker.

The defense had two important moments in the second half. Georgia had scored to re-take the lead at 28-21, but UNT responded with a 30-yard pass to the tailback and were in position to get some points back. There was fortunately some miscommunication on a pass play, but Tray Matthews had to make a really nice play on the errant pass in order to claim his first interception. The Dawgs preserved their lead, and the offense took over for another scoring drive that gave them some much-needed breathing room.

The second moment came a little later – early in the fourth quarter. Gurley fumbled, and UNT took over on Georgia’s 34 trailing by two scores with plenty of time left. Georgia’s defense stood firm, forced two incompletions, and actually drove UNT back a yard in three plays. The visitors lined up for a long field goal but ended up with an awful 12-yard pooch punt. That was the last serious challenge by the North Texas offense, and the Dawgs used the rest of the fourth quarter to put the game away.

There’s still a lot to work on before Georgia faces another SEC opponent. Third down defense was better (UNT was 4-of-16), but several of those conversions came on their lone scoring drive. Georgia was also fortunate that a couple of open seam passes and one wheel route in particular fell incomplete. But on the whole it was encouraging to see the defense gain confidence and make plays against an opponent with an experienced quarterback and an offense with couple of weapons. Floyd continues to get comfortable, and you could start to see things clicking for Harvey-Clemons and Matthews.

A few short points before we move on to bigger things this weekend…

  • If there’s one thing to be disappointed in from Saturday, it’s that the way the game unfolded didn’t allow Georgia to pull the starters until very late. We saw a pretty good rotation along the defensive line, and Quincy Mauger saw time at safety early in the game. There was less of a rotation at linebacker. Wilson and Herrera played quite a bit at inside linebacker again, and we didn’t see much of Carter or Kimbrough. Carter’s most significant moment was an unfortunate one as he got out of his lane on UNT’s kickoff return touchdown.
  • Special teams were generally poor, but I was encouraged to see Swann take a few more risks on his punt returns. The fair catch signal on his first and best return of the day was a mistake, but he did make some things happen on other returns.
  • It was one of those days for the stadium operations crew too. Stats on the scoreboard were useless for much of the game, sound was in and out and sometimes WAY TOO LOUD, and of course the malfunctioning clock meant that we spent the last few minutes in heavy rain with narration by Penn Wagers.
  • Wooten the ballthrowa! Wooten did several things well to make that trick play come off. He had to scoop up an underthrown pass that messed up the play’s timing, he had to avoid a UNT defender leaping at him, and he threw a nice-looking pass deep enough that Lynch could go up for it. There was interference on the play, but credit Lynch with a nice catch too.
  • I’d like to see Reggie Davis, Justin Scott-Wesley, Chris Conley, and the receiver of your choice on a four verts route. (Also…it was only used as a decoy on a run play, but the sight of Davis coming on an end around got my attention.)
  • Jenkins was active behind the line and was a big factor in Georgia’s pressure, but the lack of a sack has to be eating at him. I look for him to be very aggressive against LSU – and hopefully under control.

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