Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Why so glum, chum?

Friday September 26, 2014

When the initial Georgia-Tennessee point spread came out earlier in the week, “shocked” is probably the best way to describe the reaction of many Georgia fans. Georgia was a consensus favorite, but I had a tough time finding anyone who could justify a spread of 15-20 points. Didn’t they watch last season’s game? Don’t they know Georgia can’t defend the pass?

It’s not that Georgia fans have swung to the polar opposite of their outlook following the Clemson game – it’s just the disbelief that they should be favored by that much against a name-brand SEC rival (even one with the recent struggles of Tennessee). Surely the money would flow to Tennessee and the line would correct itself. Surprise – that hasn’t happened. The line remains a healthy 17 points in most places.

So why the disconnect between this vote of confidence from Vegas and the relative pessimism that seems to be out there? I’m not among those dreading this game, but I’ve tried to understand those who are. I think a lot of it has to do with still being shell-shocked from last season’s near-death experience in Knoxville. The Dawgs not only had to go to overtime; they had to mount a last-minute drive in regulation just to get there after blowing a lead. It was the most Pyrrhic of victories, and the trauma from that game has us a little skittish.

Bernie hits on another source of worry…the start time. A raucous Georgia crowd like the ones we saw for LSU and Clemson would definitely be an advantage. A sleepy noontime crowd would tend to neutralize that edge and make life easier for a young Tennessee team. I’m hoping Georgia fans take the exhortations of Mark Richt seriously and show up for the game. If disrupting the offensive line and quarterback is a big part of Georgia’s defensive game plan, a loud crowd will play a big role. One positive I took from last week’s Troy game is that, even considering the quality of the opponent, the Dawgs came out focused and effective. They didn’t slop their way to a 24-14 halftime lead before pulling away. They’ll need to start at least that well against a much tougher challenge.

One reason I didn’t go out and bet the house on Georgia (-17) is the improvement of the Tennessee defense. It’s true that Georgia holds the advantage on both sides of the ball, but Tennessee’s defense isn’t awful. Georgia’s offense has just been that much better. The Vols did surprisingly well in their opener and shut down a good Utah State quarterback. They never got the offense going at Oklahoma, but the defense kept them within a few scores until the second half.

The cognitive dissonance around this game is more severe than I’ve seen in a while. Hopefully that goes out the window about 11:15 and we can drop the angst and do our part to get the win that most every objective indicator seems to be coming.

Post Not a Georgia point of pride

Friday September 26, 2014

Not much to say about this story, but I’ll just note this: for the second time in a year, we’ve had an embarrassing story out of the athletic department involving one of the “old guard” which might’ve been mitigated or even avoided had the leadership seen a problem coming and acted sooner.

Post Georgia’s field position advantage

Tuesday September 23, 2014

At the risk of jinxing things, Georgia’s ability to avoid turnovers through three games has been impressive. The only giveaway of the season was a questionable fumble by Michael Bennett against Clemson. Mason hasn’t thrown a pick, and the fleet of tailbacks have held onto the ball.

The benefits of not turning the ball over are obvious, but one big benefit has been Georgia’s advantage in field position. It’s pretty remarkable – only one opponent drive all season has started in Georgia territory. That happened when Barber mis-hit a punt in the third quarter of the Troy game and gave the Trojans the ball at the Georgia 45. Otherwise Georgia’s opponents have had to drive for their points.

It’s even more impressive than just forcing opponents to start in their own half – there have only been four drives all year that started outside the opponent’s 30, and half of those were by Troy. South Carolina and Clemson each had just one drive start beyond their own 30. For context, I count 20 Georgia drives through three games that have started past the Georgia 30. The lack of Georgia turnovers is a big factor in that disparity, but it also speaks to Georgia’s kick coverage, punting, and the ability of the offense to avoid getting pinned down near their own goal line.

An advantage like that in field position is often an indicator of success, and we saw the fruits of that advantage against Clemson. South Carolina was a different story – Georgia only got three points from two turnovers inside of South Carolina territory. On the flip side, the South Carolina offense was good enough (or the Georgia defense poor enough) to overcome the field position and put together long scoring drives all day.

If the Dawgs can keep this up against Tennessee, it should lead to a long day for the Vols. The Tennessee offense is good enough to hit some big plays, and Georgia’s pressure won’t win every play. But is the Tennessee offense good enough to string together enough plays to drive the ball 70+ yards consistently? It’s especially tough to sustain drives with the nation’s #95 rushing offense getting just 3.33 yards per carry. For Tennessee to have success, they’ll have to either reverse Georgia’s field position fortunes (the Vols have forced six turnovers through three games) or protect the passer well enough to keep drives going.

Post Georgia 66 – Troy 0: Youth is served

Tuesday September 23, 2014

I know a lot of hardcore fans dread games like this. The win is a sure thing, the competition isn’t interesting, the stars you come to see are done by halftime, and you just hope to come out on the other side without injuries. And, yes, things got slow in between nine Georgia touchdowns. A game like this gives you plenty of opportunities to look around. I saw families taking kids to their first Georgia game. I saw fans who had been given tickets by friends making a rare visit to see their favorite team in person. To them, this was the biggest Georgia game they’ll see this year.

It was a little bit of the same on the field. Gurley and Mason had early exits, but this was the most important game in the lives of some of the players either making their debuts or showing their coaches that they deserve more opportunities. Take Tramel Terry and his difficult path to this moment. Since a knee injury at the tail end of his high school career, Terry hadn’t played in a game in nearly two years. He’s switched positions and gone from the next great receiver to a rookie safety trying to learn and earn playing time. So even though the score was 52-0 at the time, Terry’s third-quarter interception in the end zone meant the world to him.

For the sake of those fans or players for whom this game was a big deal, it was a great day. Otherwise there’s not much to take away from such a lopsided win in terms of what it means for the rest of the season. One thing we did get a good look at was the future of the program, and Georgia fans have to be happy with what they saw. Michel and Chubb are hardly secrets after the first two games, but even then Michel was able to raise some eyebrows with his play. McKenzie had also contributed this season, but he had his first big highlight with one of what’s likely to be several scores on kick returns.

Other newcomers we hadn’t seen yet had their moments too. Ramsey shook off nerves to show nice arm strength and led several scoring drives. There’s no need to spend much time debating it, but the backup quarterback order seems fairly certain. Bellamy came off his suspension with an impressive second half and ended up being Georgia’s second-leading tackler. Several defensive backs got a look, and Shaq Jones might’ve been among the best. If the encouraging 2015 recruiting class holds up and pans out, there’s going to be a very solid foundation for this program going forward.

The downside to playing such an overmatched opponent is that you might not get an opportunity to work on the specific things you’d like. We had hoped Mason might get a few more attempts, but when Gurley and Michel are ripping off long runs down the sideline, what’s the point? When the line between running it up and playing ball starts to blur before the end of the first half, the focus shifted more towards experience for younger players rather than reps for the first team.

It was a laugher of a win over a bad team. Other Georgia teams have looked much worse before pulling away from similar opponents. We won’t get too carried away with the big win or the shutout, but credit to the team for coming out reasonably well-focused and aggressive considering 1) the post-South Carolina hangover and 2) the early start and subdued crowd.

  • Fun day for the special teams. Morgan got back in the saddle with an accurate field goal from intermediate range. Kickoff coverage was more disciplined than it was towards the end of the South Carolina game. About the only negative was a shaky punt. Then there were the punt returns. You could tell McKenzie was itching to scoop an early short punt that bounced in front of him, but he wisely let it go. When the bounce went his way on the next punt, he exploded through it and showed why the staff took a late risk on a return specialist. As Troy started punting away from McKenzie, Georgia adjusted by having Reggie Davis drop back as a second returner. Davis got to show his own return skills on a late return made possible by an impressive block by McKenzie.
  • I’m really concerned for Keith Marshall. It’s not just the injury during the third quarter – fortunately the news seems to be good on that. We all remember how devastated he looked on the Tennessee sideline a year ago, and he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. He’s not there yet. The pressure has to be incredible with one half of the former “Gurshall” duo mentioned for the highest honors while a pair of talented freshmen begin to earn their carries. I doubt Marshall will play against Tennessee, so the staff has a couple of weeks to think about it. With Gurley performing well, the freshmen looking more than capable, and Douglas able to do his part, do they consider a medical redshirt for Marshall? As a junior, would Marshall be receptive to the idea?
  • Marshall might not have much faith in his knee yet, but his competitiveness hasn’t suffered. He had to make a quick adjustment against a pass rusher to make a key block on a long pass play to Conley.
  • Troy had open receivers all day, and Trojan incompetence had about as much to do with the shutout as anything Georgia did. It’s worth noting that we saw a lot of man coverage from the Georgia secondary. Since Georgia was able to clear the bench, was this Pruitt’s method of finding some answers in the defensive backfield while he had the opportunity? We’ll see if the rotation looks a little different against Tennessee.
  • If there’s one newcomer in the secondary well on his way to a regular role, it’s Dominick Sanders. With Swann sidelined and Green ejected, Sanders had plenty of time as the nickel back. He’s a favorite choice on corner blitzes, and he’s started to pick up on receiver screens and flare passes.

Post Georgia 35 – South Carolina 38: If all you have is a hammer…

Wednesday September 17, 2014

When you write something like I did last week, the natural thing to do is to use the outcome of the game as a verdict on Georgia’s toughness. I don’t think we can though. Georgia wasn’t unprepared or unfocused, they didn’t lay a 2012-style egg, and the crowd didn’t do much to rattle the Dawgs. We saw resiliency when the team unfortunately had to battle back several times from double-digit deficits. We saw a struggling defense make a play that set the offense up with a chance to win the game.

But they didn’t win the game. Georgia’s deficiencies, particularly in the defensive backfield, have been well-documented since spring. The route to success for the Bulldogs depended on some combination of 1) multiple defensive players having a breakthrough season, 2) Jeremy Pruitt working magic with smoke and mirrors, and 3) the offense performing at a high enough level to outscore opponents. We saw that at work in the opener as the offense broke open a close game and the defensive pressure began to compensate for some earlier Clemson success down the field.

That formula was less effective in Columbia. The defensive standouts among the front seven were less effective. Pruitt’s scheme was exploited by the same approach that worked against it in 2010 when Pruitt coached at Alabama. The offense nearly did enough to carry the team, but missed opportunities in the first half kept the offense from keeping up on the scoreboard, and the Dawgs had to play from behind most of the game.

Georgia’s defense faltered in the first half against the pass and then in the second half against the run. South Carolina built an early lead by finding gaping holes in a pass defense that simultanously struggled to cover receivers and pressure the passer. Georgia adjusted by bringing more pressure, but the open receivers remained. Georgia’s defensive backs did little to disrupt receivers at the line, so even under pressure South Carolina was able to move the ball with quick-release passes. The effective pass rush that helped to turn the Clemson game never materialized, and the pieced-together secondary proved to be the liability we feared it would be.

The defense didn’t fare much better after the Gamecocks turned to the running game in the second half. Georgia used different personnel – Toby Johnson in particular – to try to counter South Carolina’s big offensive line and tailbacks. The Dawgs actually did fairly well against Mike Davis, but Brandon Wilds did the bulk of the damage, coming up with 93 yards and 6.6 yards per carry. South Carolina was able to bounce runs outside as Georgia tightened up against the interior passing plays. South Carolina didn’t pass for 50 yards in the second half, but they were still able to post two touchdowns and put the game away with their running game.

But as helpless as the defense was, it’s the offense that most people are talking about thanks to the playcalling on Georgia’s final possession. As important as that moment was, the game might have been lost in the first half. Georgia’s offense started well enough with a lightning-fast response to South Carolina’s opening score. We had a deep pass put right into the hands of McKenzie, and Michel scored on a perfectly-timed inside receiver screen. It seemed as if we were poised for a shootout, but that turned out to be Georgia’s only touchdown of the first half. The Dawgs had a chance to gain momentum when Lorenzo Carter recovered a fumble, but Georgia only got three points from the great field position. Georgia also had to settle for field goal attempts on their two other scoring opportunities in the first half. The final field goal attempt proved to be an omen – Marshall Morgan broke his SEC record streak of 20 consecutive field goal makes by missing a 44-yard attempt. Worse, South Carolina was able to take that miss and drive for their own field goal at the end of the half which ended up being the decisive points in the game.

Had Georgia scored at the end, we’d be praising Hutson Mason for his steady play and noting everything that the offense accomplished. Georgia rushed for over 200 yards and outgained a very capable backfield. They didn’t turn the ball over. The Dawgs were a tidy 16-of-22 through the air. Mason, with a few missed center exchanges and throws behind open receivers, wasn’t stellar but also wasn’t Quincy Carter in 2000. After weeks of hearing about the woes of Georgia’s offense in Columbia, the Dawgs scored 35 and left even more points on the table.

I’ve heard a lot of people deflect criticism of the offense by saying that 35 points should have been enough. It wasn’t enough – any more than 35 points would have been enough for South Carolina or Clemson in their openers. 35 points or 200 yards rushing or any arbitrary cutoff you choose is meaningless. On this day with the defense struggling as it was, Georgia needed more from its offense especially in the first half when the team fell behind by deficit that eventually reached double-digits.

As for the playcalling on 1st and goal at the 4…we forget how Georgia had scored its previous two touchdowns. The fourth quarter opened with a nice play-action pass on 1st and goal that found Jay Rome. Georgia’s next drive featured an inspired use of Quayvon Hicks as the ballcarrier which caught the Gamecocks a little off-guard. Gurley was key on both of those drives, but the Dawgs found the endzone by other means.

With that success in their pockets, I can understand why Richt and Bobo thought they might try some more misdirection. This was likely Georgia’s last scoring opportunity without the frenzy of a two-minute drive, and they weren’t going to get a better chance to take the lead. As a friend so brilliantly put it, this was a Jimmy Chitwood “I’ll make it” moment. No matter what else had happened earlier, this was the game distilled down to four yards and three downs with the best back in the nation on your side. You let Jimmy take the shot.

So while I appreciate Richt admitting “if we had to do it again, we would have hammered it,” it’s frustrating to hear. There were reasons why that call was made. Hindsight is fine, but it doesn’t absolve you from having a critical look at the process that led to that decision in the heat of the situation. Even though the play called was reasonable and defensible (outcomes don’t necessarily determine a good or bad play call), that doesn’t make it the best decision.

  • With the fake punt in 2011, South Carolina’s punt return in 2012, and Georgia’s onside kick in 2013, you expected there to be a special teams twist that figured in the outcome. Marshall Morgan missing two field goals would’ve been way down on my list of ways that special teams could have affected this game.
  • As positive as special teams were against Clemson, they didn’t go nearly so well this time. Gurley was a non-factor on kick returns by design, though Georgia ended up with decent field position on the short kickoffs. Each team had two uneventful punts, but a Gamecock personal foul on their second punt set the Dawgs up to pull within 3. Kickoff coverage became an issue late in the game. After Georgia scored to start the 4th quarter, the Gamecocks returned the ball to their 42, requiring Marshall Morgan to make the tackle.
  • With Chubb and Michel both settling into roles, Keith Marshall was conspicuous in his absence. We have to keep reminding ourselves that even though cleared to play he is still working back from a major knee injury. Hopefully Marshall can get some work against Troy and build confidence in his rebuilt knee.
  • While the first down on Georgia’s final series will be brought up for years, the Dawgs missed a chance to score on third down. Mason tried to complete a pass to Bennett that would have been short of the goal line. Gurley ran an angle route out of the backfield and appeared to have left his defender on the break. Had Mason thrown to Gurley, Gurley would have had a few yards to build up a head of steam before he met the next defender near the goal line. It wasn’t a clear path to the endzone, but it would have set up one heck of a collision at the goal line, and my money would have been on Gurley. He was visibly frustrated that the pass went elsewhere.

Post Georgia, South Carolina, and toughness

Thursday September 11, 2014

Just the mention of Steve Spurrier is enough to send many Georgia fans to the analyst’s couch. Whether the reaction is rage, hatred, scorn, or even begrudging respect, he signed a long-term lease in our heads sometime around 1992. I’m not much of a fan of using history to break down a game, but Georgia’s coaches and players will hear plenty this week about Georgia’s two-game losing streak in Columbia, the traumatic loss two seasons ago, and the offense’s baffling futility over the past 20 years.

If you need a recent example of this mental block, think about the reactions you saw among Georgia fans to South Carolina’s first game. I lost count of the people I saw on Twitter, Facebook, and message boards moping that South Carolina losing to Texas A&M – an actual conference loss that has real benefits for Georgia in the standings – would just rile up the Gamecocks that much more for our game. Don’t want to do anything to get them mad, you know.

There’s a difference between that warped pessimism and actual analysis of the game. There are many reasons to be concerned about the game, especially with a healthy Mike Davis available to South Carolina. Georgia is far from a perfect team. It’s an SEC road game in one of the league’s most difficult venues.

Mark Richt expects a physical game, and he’s described the challenge as a “fistfight” that “could get a little bloody.” He’s probably right. Both teams run the ball well, and if you watched either in its last game you know that both Georgia and South Carolina would love nothing more than to end the game on a long, punishing drive that breaks the will of the opponent as the clock runs down.

But there’s more to toughness than that. Jay Bilas’s outstanding book on toughness looks at some of the specific characteristics of tough players and teams – characteristics like preparation, persistence, and resilience. While Mark Richt correctly expects a test of physical toughness, the mental toughness of both teams will be as important. South Carolina has had a shaky start, especially on defense, and they know that a loss to Georgia puts them in a deep hole in the standings. Are they resilient? Georgia knows its recent history in Columbia and must set aside its success in the opener. Can they be persistent?

One of the storylines of the past two weeks has been how Georgia has dealt with the attention earned from the win over Clemson. They’re now the favorite in this game, ESPN is in town, and the star tailback is on a lot of way-too-early Heisman lists. This much attention and praise can be distracting. Jon Gruden told Bilas that success can be just as dangerous as failure.

“Whether it is complacency from having a big lead, getting loose with details because you have won and experienced success, or making mistakes, getting penalties, missing blocks, or fumbling from a lack of concentration due to complacency, it all comes down to toughness and staying in the here and now. Don’t fool yourself. You can be victimized by both failure and success.”

An overconfident team isn’t a tough team. Tough teams continue to prepare even after some success. They prepare harder. Most teams know enough to pay lip service to that reality, but few do it. This is part of the culture change we hoped that Jeremy Pruitt would help bring to the program. We all enjoyed the Clemson win, but it’s one game.

“We’ve played one football game,” said Pruitt. “I hope our expectations here are to win and dominate our opponents each and every week. I hope that’s the expectation here at Georgia. Now you look at them and we’re all excited because we won a game. That’s one football game. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

It’s an approach Drew Butler noticed from the defending Super Bowl champions.

Hype isn’t a bad thing. If Georgia is ever going to have a championship quality season, hype will be a by-product of that success. If we want the recognition for Gurley and other standout players that they deserve, the team is going to have to be tough enough to handle the cameras and interviews and high expectations without all of it derailing their focus on the next game.

Pruitt maintains focus by focusing on processes rather than outcomes. “I don’t think you can be results-oriented,” he explained. Win or lose, his focus is on improvement from game to game. Even with the win over Clemson, he welcomed the bye week to continue to work on his new defense. “They can see themselves and where we’re at and where we’ve got to go, which is a long way.”

I know this post is close to “man enough” territory, but it’s more than that. We’re talking about the ability of the team to approach each game with the same high expectations and the toughness to work to meet those expectations. I was encouraged to see some of that toughness in last season’s South Carolina game. The Dawgs shook off the Clemson loss and started off the next game sharp and efficient on offense. They responded to counter-punch after counter-punch from a team that had beaten them three straight times. Finally with the lead in hand, they finished the game with an impressive and physical drive. The challenge is the same this year, but this time it’s on the road in the role of the favorite. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team handles the situation.

Post All about that bass

Tuesday September 9, 2014

Most of you have already seen this great video of the Clemson pregame from the perspective of a Redcoat snare drummer.

But the drums weren’t the only ones filming. The UGA Sousa Vision channel has four more videos from the game from the sousaphone’s perspective. There’s pregame and halftime, and a must-see for anyone who’s wondered what it’s like to be in the middle of the Dawg Walk.

My favorite? A sousa’s view of the 4th quarter Krypton fanfare.

Post Georgia 45 – Clemson 21: They may never throw the ball again

Tuesday September 2, 2014

Georgia used 298 all-purpose yards from Todd Gurley and opened up a close game with touchdowns on three consecutive plays to win its rematch with Clemson 45-21.

It’s one thing to see the preseason honors for Todd Gurley. We know he’s a special player, and we’ve seen some unbelievable moments from him. It’s another to see him play an entire game as if it’s the first quarter of the 2013 Florida game. No matter what your expectations were before the game for Gurley, I can’t imagine that anyone saw that coming. Enjoy watching him this year.

But even as impressive as Gurley was, we knew – or at least anticipated – that the offense and the running game in particular would be the strength of the team. Other areas of the team were much less certain. So as awe-struck as I was by Gurley’s performance and credit him as the difference in the win, I’m especially pleased to see the role the defense and special teams had in a big win.

The defense showed us the reasons for so much preseason concern but also enough showed progress and improvement to leave us with quite a bit of hope for the future and faith in the change Jeremy Pruitt is leading. Georgia’s inexperienced secondary showed itself early on with a few missed tackles and long receptions. The defense gave up 21 points in a quarter and a half. Adjustments included a little more zone to lessen the exposure of individual members of the secondary, but the biggest difference was pressure taking its toll. Clemson initially held the Georgia pressure at bay

Likewise, Georgia was superior in just about every element of special teams. They were instrumental in creating a field position advantage. The special teams didn’t just avoid the back-breaking mistakes that cost Georgia so often last year; they made a positive difference in the outcome. It wasn’t just Gurley’s return. Coverage was solid, Morgan was automatic, and each punt return sent a little buzz of anticipation throughout the crowd. Last year at Clemson, it was a botched field goal that kept Georgia from tying the game. This year a pair of special teams plays went Georgia’s way to keep the Dawgs from facing a 24-14 halftime deficit.

Georgia’s players are going to hear a lot of good things about themselves over the next two weeks. Fans remember Tennessee 2004 or Auburn 1997 or another game where a celebrated win was followed up with a flat effort. The coaches will spend the bye week drilling in the need to keep improving and focus on the next challenge. When the division and conference titles as well as a spot in the national playoff are your goals, the next game becomes even more important than the last. Georgia will soon turn its attention to the SEC opener, but I’ll spend just a few more minutes savoring a very enjoyable win.

  • The fans were outstanding. On a day where many of us were surely sapped by the oppressive weather, the crowd was involved from beginning to end. When I got to my seat about 40 minutes prior to kickoff, the student section was almost full.
  • One of the things I had hoped to see this year – particularly from the defense – was the ability to overcome a setback. We saw potentially good defensive performances crumble last season after turnovers and special teams mistakes. One of Georgia’s best defensive series was its second. The defense allowed a scoring drive on Clemson’s first possession, and the Georgia defense was put right back on the field after a quick three-and-out by the Bulldog offense. Thanks to a tipped pass by Sterling Bailey, the defense was able to force a three-and-out of their own and set the offense up with good field position for Georgia’s first touchdown. Punter Collin Barber deserves a mention here – his 60-yard punt flipped the field. The Dawgs had only one turnover in the game – Michael Bennett’s questionable fumble. Again, the defense got right back to work after the setback and finished off another three-and-out with a sack. Georgia’s offense got the ball back at the Clemson 36 and scored five plays later.
  • Much was made over the past few weeks about Ramik Wilson’s spot on the depth chart. Wilson ended up on the field during Clemson’s opening series and ended up, as usual, as one of Georgia’s leading tacklers. But Kimbrough and Carter showed why there was competition for playing time at inside linebacker. Carter’s speed made the difference in breaking up a deep pass down the middle. Kimbrough’s hits were nasty, and he nearly caused a fumble on a kick return.
  • We were told to not pay much attention to the depth chart. For once, coaches meant it. You can examine all three levels of the defense and see play after play by guys who weren’t part of pregame introductions. There was Drew’s role in stopping the inside runs. It didn’t matter which of Wilson, Kimbrough, or Carter started – each contributed. If it was an obvious passing situation, it was Lorenzo Carter’s time. Moore and Davis were steady at safety, but there’s Mauger making several big pass breakups.
  • That rotation played a big role in the outcome. As Clemson wore out, Georgia’s defenders thrived in the sweltering conditions. It also sent a message to Georgia’s defenders – if you’re prepared and put in the work, they’ll get you on the field regardless of who starts. That’s an important concept for guys like Drew who have been frustrated by position and coaching changes and who have been trying to break through on the depth chart. The defense needs these players, and knowing there’s a role for them has to be a tremendous motivator.
  • Georgia’s overall conditioning was a welcome advantage. A lot of us griped when Gurley was used sparingly in the first half (on one drive in particular), but the approach paid off. Georgia’s fleet of fresh tailbacks was unstoppable. I doubt if that few carries for Gurley in the first half was the plan though.
  • Mike Bobo surely must enjoy the talent he has available at the skill positions. Sony Michel’s first carry had him lined up in the slot, and he ran a jet sweep. Georgia then ran the same play with a freshman receiver, Isaiah McKenzie. We saw two tailbacks in at once. We saw a four wide set. But the most effective formation of the day was the one we saw on the decisive fourth quarter sweeps – a tight end, fullback, and an H-back in motion combined with a pulling offensive line to pave the way for Gurley and Chubb.
  • As impressive as the tailbacks were, they got some outstanding blocking. How cool was it to see David Andrews busting his tail to help Chubb finish his scoring run? We thought the preseason focus on the fullback spot was a little overdone because of how much Georgia used one-back sets a year ago, but everyone watching knows the name Taylor Maxey now.
  • Run blocking predictably improved as Clemson wore down. Pass blocking was a little more of a mixed bag. Georgia’s plan used short, quick passes to counter Clemson’s speed up front, and it more or less worked. There was a sack, but there weren’t the costly breakdowns that helped to swing last season’s game.
  • Hutson Mason won’t get many glowing reviews for his first home start, but he won’t receive much condemnation. People are using the dreaded “manager” label to describe his performance, but he completed nearly 70% of his passes and didn’t turn the ball over. The short nature of the passing game shows in the 5 yards per attempt – about half of what we had in Murray’s best outings. The Dawgs didn’t get much downfield though they did draw a few interference penalties. Whether or not Georgia needed to be better throwing downfield is easy to say in hindsight. This was still a close game entering the fourth quarter, and both offenses went stagnant during the third quarter.
  • If there’s one area where Mason still can improve, it’s trusting his protection. After the Tech game last season Mason admitted to being a little too quick to give up on plays. I think we saw a little of that tendency against Clemson. The protection wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t as bad as some of the hurried throws made it look.
  • Finally, only a performance like Gurley’s could overshadow how well Floyd and Herrera played. As with Gurley, you’d better enjoy Floyd this year while we have him. (Seeing Floyd, Jenkins, and Lorenzo Carter overloaded on the same side of the line has to make any quarterback nervous.) Herrera was left off some of the preseason lists that featured his teammates, and he responded with one of the best games of his career. If the same motivation can fuel him for the next 11+ games, he’ll be on plenty of postseason lists.

Lots to work on for both offense and defense, but it was a much better start across the board this year. The next game is even bigger as it counts in the conference standings. We’ll be on the road in a stadium where Georgia hasn’t posted three touchdowns in a game in 20 years. On Georgia’s last trip to Columbia, Gurley was held to 39 yards. To build on this big win over Clemson, Georgia has two weeks to figure out how to do some things they haven’t done in years.