October’s a lovely month in Georgia. It’s what we picture when summer gives us a cruel tease of football weather: Low humidity. Pleasant afternoon temperatures. Crisp mornings. Fall color.
But over the past three seasons October has been the most bitter of months for Georgia football. Whether it’s been bad losses on the field, heartbreaking injuries, or scandals off the field, Georgia fans would prefer to forget the tenth month. October 2015 is proving to be no exception. We got off to an early start with the McKenzie distraction and followed it up with two losses that have us asking familiar questions and looking for signs of hope in the SEC tiebreaker scenarios. Oh, and everyone’s favorite player is now out for the rest of the season.
At Tennessee Georgia found itself up 24-3 thanks to big plays from all three units, but it quickly turned into 2006 again. Georgia couldn’t sustain the things that built the lead, and a Tennessee team that moved the ball well all day turned momentum in its favor and rolled to 28 straight points and the lead.
While several of Georgia’s biggest contributors tried to step up and take responsibility for the loss, it took the entire team to drop this game. The offense and defense could spend some time pointing fingers…
Offense: 38 points seems to be the magic number, huh?
Defense: To be fair, we were on the field for over 90 plays. Over 34 minutes. It didn’t help that you were 4-of-14 on third downs and put us right back out on the field time after time.
Offense: Be real. You had plenty of opportunities to get off the field. The Vols had 26 first downs. Tennessee converted eight third downs and had two killer fourth down conversions on top of that. And we were going on about 4th-and-Willie? Make a stop.
Defense: We did more than make a stop. We gave you great field position with an interception right off the bat. And for the second straight week, what did you do with an early turnover? In fact, you had three first half possessions in Tennessee territory with only one field goal to show for it. Yes, we were up 24-3 at one point, but the offense contributed only 10 of those points and didn’t take advantage of some very good chances to put the game away.
Offense: Let’s talk about 24-3. In the first half! We put them in a position to have to throw to come back – right where we wanted them. You’re going to be seeing curl routes in your sleep. Hopefully you will tackle them better there.
Defense: We wouldn’t have been at 24-3 without the defense and our weird special friend over there. The offense only managed 17 points all game against a defense that had struggled against both the run and the pass. And what a mixed bag in the passing game. Some great deep balls and an 8.7 yards-per-completion but a completion rate under 50% that made it impossible to sustain drives. Can we get any kind of consistency on offense?
Offense: And you launched the Josh Dobbs for Heisman campaign! Good job to hold Jalen Hurd under 100 yards, but damn – 312 yards passing by a team that averaged under 200 per game? They had that nearly by halftime. And it’s not as if you took away the run. What Hurd didn’t get Dobbs did. Over 400 yards of total offense and five touchdowns. I know we had been nervous about a QB like Dobbs since signs of weakness showed up in the season opener, but we never imagined you’d turn him into Joshy Football.
Defense: Well what happened to our running game? Sony looked great in the first half, but there were diminshing returns. In the second half we ran the ball 11 times for a whopping 34 yards. The longest carry was a 12-yard run by Marshall. Michel had 9 carries for 21 yards after halftime. So it was up to the passing game to shoulder the load in the second half. Where was our dominant line?
Offense: Don’t bring up lines. You got pushed around by a Tennessee OL forced to use two reserve freshmen. There was next to no pass rush even with the Vols throwing the ball down 21. Don’t we have a fleet of NFL-bound pass rushers? Wasn’t Floyd moved back outside for this game to give us more of a presence on the edge?
Defense: Well, didn’t you notice Jordan Jenkins was limited with an injury?
Defense: Oh – right. Sorry, buddy. Look, here comes special teams…
- You wonder where Reggie Davis goes from here. It was simultaneously his best game and his worst moment. It looked as if Godwin had emerged as a second receiving threat, but Davis’s big plays in this game gave Georgia something they had been lacking. His ability to get open deep should give him (and those calling plays) confidence, and you hope that drop doesn’t haunt him.
- So too with Sony Michel. It’s clear that he’ll have to be the feature back now, but his production really trailed off after the fumbled kickoff. Was that coincidence? Fatigue from a player not used to being in the 25 carries per game role? Michel has had costly fumbles in some big moments now – the Tech game last year and now at Tennessee. His longest run of the day ended with a fumble out of bounds. As he moves into the spotlight, this very gifted player will have to put some past mistakes behind him and play with confidence and toughness.
- Michel’s run load along with the rest of the running game will have to be reevaluated in the next week. Of course you want Michel to touch the ball as much as possible, but some redistribution of carries to Marshall (and Douglas) makes sense to keep Michel fresh and available for the occasional pass play where he’s proven extremely dangerous.
- Blazevich is still on the team, isn’t he? As much as we heard about Schottenheimer and his tight ends, the starter hasn’t caught a pass since the Southern game. Rome at least got a few thrown his way.
- Kimbrough was a bright spot in the Alabama game and continued to make plays in this loss. His penetration led to the fumble that got Georgia on the board.
- Credit Tennessee for setting up a big play. They went with receiver screen after receiver screen and popped a TE for a long gain when two Georgia defenders bit on the screen look.
- You can spend a while on special teams breakdowns, but two returns deserve mention. A kick return of over 40 yards gave the Vols life after Davis’s punt return, and they didn’t have far to go before scoring their first touchdown. Those fourth down decisions become much different if the ball is 20 yards towards the Tennessee endzone. Also the Vols were rewarded for an aggressive punt return on Georgia’s final punt. Many teams would have gone with the fair catch around their own 10. The Vols took a risk and got a 20-yard return out over their 30. They got some breathing room and were able to launch an amazing punt that rolled out of bounds on the one-inch line.