Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post The future will be streamed

Saturday October 22, 2022

Earlier this season many Georgia fans were sent scrambling to find out just what the SEC Network Plus was and how to get it on their TV *. Georgia’s home game against Kent State was exclusively available on the SEC’s streaming outlet, and there were no over-the-air, cable, or satellite options to watch the game. This is an experience common to fans of each SEC team: under the SEC and ESPN’s most recent broadcasting agreement, “each SEC football team will have one non-conference home game each year that is only available via streaming.”

Notre Dame’s broadcast partner NBC is also leveraging its streaming platform. This weekend’s Notre Dame-UNLV will be streamed exclusively on the Peacock subscription streaming service.

While streaming games might be a once-a-season annoyance for college football fans, it’s a way of life in other sports. Diehard soccer fans know to jump from service to service to find their games. NBC’s Peacock has the English Premier League. ESPN+ has Spain’s La Liga and Germany’s Bundesliga. If you want to watch Europe’s best compete in the UEFA Champions League, you must subscribe to CBS’s Paramount+. With each service costing between $5 and $10 per month, subscribing to multiple services can be costly on top of a traditional cable or satellite bill. There are partnerships that help lower the cost for some customers. Comcast and NBCUniversal merged, so Peacock access is included for many Xfinity customers. T-Mobile cellular customers have access to Paramount+. For most, though, the monthly subscription (after a free trial) is the only way to access these services.

Tech companies have joined the broadcast networks with their own streaming services, and they are beginning to acquire rights to the major American professional leagues. Amazon is broadcasting Thursday night games over its Prime Video service, and fans are tuning in. While the numbers might not yet match traditional broadcasts, the NFL is blowing away other streamed content. Apple broadcasts a Major League Baseball game each Friday night on its Apple TV+ service as it looks to become more involved in sports.

The big prize is the NFL. The NFL Sunday Ticket package is up for bids as DirectTV drops out, and Apple is a player in the negotiations. Apple previous acquired the exclusive rights for all Major League Soccer games to expand its sports operation, but the conflict between the Apple way of doing things and the NFL’s preference to have multiple broadcast partners is complicating the Sunday Ticket deal.

Whether or not Apple is able to complete the deal with the NFL, it says enough that companies see enough value in the future of streaming sports to enter into negotiations worth billions of dollars on behalf of their streaming services. Even with the large deals being announced as college conferences grow and realign, college sports is still small potatoes next to the amounts paid for the NFL.

For now the broadcast rights of most college sports – whether over the air or streaming – are in the hands of traditional broadcast partners: FOX, NBC, CBS, and ABC/ESPN. The first conference to look at a more nontraditional approach might be the Pac-12. The broadcast rights of the Pac-12 are up in the air, and the chaotic state of the conference with USC, UCLA, and perhaps others leaving has the Pac-12 unsatisfied with the offers they’re getting. That might open the door for a partnership with Amazon. Fans haven’t (and won’t) beat down the door just for Pac-12 content, but perhaps when bundled with the other benefits of an Amazon Prime subscription it might mean some more Prime subscribers for Amazon.

Well-rounded fans of college sports are probably already used to navigating the streaming world. The SEC Network Plus has been a godsend to follow Georgia and SEC sports other than football. It would have been unthinkable 15 years ago to be able to tune into nearly every SEC baseball or softball game, but they’re all streamed now. (We can gripe about the costs of multiple streaming services, but that really doesn’t apply here – if you have access to the SEC Network as part of your cable or satellite package, you likely have free access to the SECN+ once you authenticate in the ESPN app.) Football games, other than the mandated one game per year, have mostly remained on the broadcast channels, but even basketball has seen a fair number of games moved to streaming. It’s an issue of inventory – there are only so many channels and broadcast slots, and those slots are increasingly overlapping and running into one another. That’s not an issue in the streaming world, and you’re set once you get the technology down and find the local manpower to produce and present the games.

We should expect more college sports – even football – to find their way to streaming platforms. As with any technological change there will be a rough period of transition. Younger and more affluent viewers are more likely to be heavily immersed in streaming already. For older viewers navigating streaming options or even cutting the cord from traditional cable and satellite can be confusing and challenging. The conceptual model of channels, networks, and the TV guide don’t apply. Costs, whether for programming or the streaming devices themselves, can also be prohibitive for those whose entertainment budget is stretched. The services and the companies who own them will consolidate, merge, disappear, or even just get out of the streaming business. It’s one thing when SEC games move down the dial from CBS to ESPN. It’s another when you have to add another $9.95 per month service because the league you follow jumped to a competing platform.

It’s an interesting time. There are more sports than ever available to watch, an audience that keeps demanding more, and technology emerging that can deliver it all. The money involved keeps growing also, and that has attracted new competitors to the broadcast marketplace. Some of these new entrants are changing the metrics involved – subscribers matter more to them than viewership. The potential Apple/NFL and Amazon/Pac-12 deals could be signs of what’s next as the broadcast rights of other leagues and conferences come up for bid. For now it’s just the Kent State game, but have that Apple TV or Roku ready for what might be ahead.

Post Georgia 55 – Vanderbilt 0: The Ballad of Cash Jones

Monday October 17, 2022

Blowout wins against heavy underdogs tend to blur into each other. The outcome is expected, many fans leave or lose interest after the game is well in hand, and often you only have something to talk about if a team like Kent State plays you a little too close. Conference blowouts are nice, shutouts are even nicer, but we’re on to the next game before the fourth-string quarterback takes the victory formation.

While a second-straight shutout of Vanderbilt might seem like one to file away so that we can move on to the meat of the schedule, there was enough to enjoy in this game that it’s worth a moment to savor it:

  • Vanderbilt’s offense is decent enough that shutting them out is pretty impressive.
  • Georgia managed to get out ahead and put a game away in the first half for the first time since South Carolina.
  • Darnell Washington continues to be used in fun and exciting ways.
  • Carson Beck can run the offense.
  • Georgia’s defense has some talent waiting in the wings.
  • Arik Gilbert, Dominick Blaylock, and Cash Jones scored!

It’s no slight against an efficient offense that scored on four of its first five possessions, but I think the defense should lead the story in an SEC shutout. Georgia’s defense gave up 22 points in consecutive games over the past month and looked a little more dominant in last week’s win over Auburn (even with their late touchdown.) That improvement continued against Vanderbilt. Before you “but Vandy…” this is an improved and somewhat competent Vanderbilt offense. Their offense came into the game averaging 5.83 yards per play – better than Kentucky, LSU, Texas A&M, Missouri, and Auburn. They put up over 20 points against two current top 15 teams and led Ole Miss at halftime. Their defense, as we saw, has been their undoing, but it was impressive to hold that offense to 150 total yards and zero points.

In most shutouts you need a combination of good defense and a bit a luck. Georgia had both. The Commodores had two good scoring opportunities in the first half and came away empty both times. Tykee and Christopher Smith combined for a forced fumble recovery inside the Georgia 20 in the second quarter. Just before halftime Nolan Smith pressure forced an intentional grounding penalty that led to a missed 44-yard field goal attempt. That drive featured Vandy’s first empty red zone possession of the season as well as their first missed kick. Georgia did catch some breaks. Kelee Ringo mistimed his jump against a 50/50 ball and left a Vandy receiver with a clear path to the endzone had he made the catch. Vanderbilt also got a receiver open down the sideline past Robert Beal and couldn’t connect. The Commodores weren’t able to convert any of the few openings that presented themselves downfield and didn’t have a reception longer than 22 yards.

Actual scoring opportunities were few and far between though for Vanderbilt and nonexistent after halftime. Vanderbilt’s first four possessions of the second half were all three-and-out and gained a total of 12 yards. They managed one first down in the second half. What’s most impressive is that most of those second half possessions came against Georgia’s reserves. The young depth on the Bulldog defense gave fans another tantalizing glimpse of the future. A well-timed corner blitz by Nyland Green on 4th-and-1 ended Vanderbilt’s only second half drive of any length and ensured that the shutout wouldn’t be in jeopardy.

Georgia’s offense had their most complete and well-rounded performance since the September trip to South Carolina. They also matched the season-high 14 first quarter points from the South Carolina game – a welcome development after consecutive games with scoreless first quarters. If the Bulldog passing game was a little muted against Missouri and Auburn, it bounced back well against a struggling Vanderbilt pass defense. Stetson Bennett threw for an efficient 289 yards in fewer than three quarters and completed 80% of his passes. Bennett was especially strong on third downs and had two big conversions through the air on Georgia’s opening drive. As usual the receiving stats were diverse with 11 Bulldogs catching passes. What might be more interesting is that it wasn’t McConkey or Bowers leading the way. Darnell Washington and Dillon Bell were Georgia’s leading receivers, and Washington had two more jaw-dropping catches to feed his growing legend.

The Bulldog running game had a decent follow-up to last week’s breakout game. McIntosh, Edwards, and Robinson all averaged over 4 yards per carry, but it was clear that Georgia’s game plan was to attack the soft Vanderbilt pass defense. Only Edwards had at least ten carries and had the longest run (20 yards) of the main group of backs.

Things slowed down somewhat for the offense in the third quarter. Georgia had two long drives of over 5 minutes each in the third quarter but only came away with a pair of field goals. Bennett seemed frustrated with the playcalling on those drives, and there was clearly some confusion and delay in getting lined up and communicating the play from the sideline at critical moments on those drives. Bennett took a hit along the sideline on his final snap of the game as a pass play broke down. The offense got back into rhythm with Carson Beck taking over at the end of the third quarter. Beck smoothly led Georgia on a pair of scoring drives and finished the game 8-of-11 for 98 yards. There was a good zip on his passes, and he showed good patience to let Dillon Bell break open across the middle for a 24-yard scoring strike. Beck later found Arik Gilbert in close quarters to convert on third and goal and get Gilbert his first touchdown reception as a Bulldog. The good feelings continued on Georgia’s next possession as walk-on tailback Cash Jones broke a tackle and reeled off Georgia’s longest run of the day for the final score.

  • One of Beck’s more impressive plays wasn’t a pass: he recognized an opening and scrambled 13 yards across midfield. He has a level of comfort and awareness in the offense that you hope to see after a number of years in the system. I’m glad the staff continued to have him run the offense even with the outcome settled. It was valuable experience for Beck, the reserve linemen, and the young receivers.
  • Christopher Smith had a fantastic game. He led the team with five tackles, recovered a fumble, and fought through a block for a physical tackle for loss.
  • Warren Brinson blew up a reverse or trick play before it could even develop. The play should have gone for a loss but was stopped a few yards downfield.
  • Ringo made perhaps the play of the last 40 years of Georgia football, so it seems a bit ungrateful to ask the cornerbacks to please start making some plays. With the exception of Trezman Marshall’s late pick at South Carolina, Georgia’s interceptions have all come from the safety position. How well we know that turnovers can change games or end comeback attempts. It’s more than just interceptions of course – missed tackles, mis-played balls, and unnecessary penalties can also cause problems. To be fair, we don’t talk about all of the plays on which good execution leads to a failed play or the ball going somewhere else, and these negative plays are just footnotes in an overall outstanding defensive effort. Georgia will face better offenses with potent passing attacks in the next four games, and these individual plays, and whether they’re made or not, will matter.
  • Quiet day in terms of the pass rush. Smith’s well-timed sack was big, and Vanderbilt hasn’t allowed many sacks this year. Georgia still got some pressure and played solid defense behind the rush to limit Vanderbilt to 4.6 yards per attempt.
  • We know there’s much, much more to the story, but LOL at Arik Gilbert being your mop-up tight end. The reaction to his score from fans and teammates showed how much people are pulling for him to succeed.
  • Speaking of welcome returns, Dominick Blaylock tightroped the sideline for his first touchdown reception since 2019. It’s been a long way back, and Blaylock’s role is growing.
  • Georgia’s rush defense was stifling. One of Vanderbilt’s usual tailbacks left the program last week, and the remaining backs weren’t able to get a gain longer than 8 yards on the ground.
  • Brett Thorson didn’t have much to do, but look at that – another punt dropped inside the 20.
  • It might be frustrating to see Brock Bowers stats lower than you might expect, but the attention he draws on the field opens up so much of what Georgia is doing. His underneath route opened up an early third down completion to Rosemy-Jacksaint, and of course his blocking is essential to the running and screen games. As Mitchell and Smith return and Washington’s profile takes off, there’s only so much defenses can do against Bowers. He’ll have many more big plays this season.

For the first time in four years we were able to take part in pregame festivities as members of the Redcoat Alumni Band. It’s an incredible rush to be on the field as the team comes out, and even for a warm low-profile game against Vanderbilt, it was simply deafening down there. Homecoming might seem like a trite anachronism sometimes, but celebrating our connections to the University, its student and alumni organizations, and the people we met along the way is a big part of what makes college football unique.

Post Georgia 42 – Auburn 10: Much obliged!

Tuesday October 11, 2022

Last week at Missouri we saw how early turnovers and field position could help an underdog hang around long enough to have a decent change at an upset. Saturday against Auburn we saw how the same advantages can help a heavy favorite take control of a game and roll to a lopsided win. If this young Georgia team is still finding its way, their rival from the Plains helped by making enough mistakes to help Georgia muddle through a slow start without repercussions before the Bulldogs kicked into gear.

Auburn’s not a very good team, and they’re reaching down the depth chart for a quarterback. They’re at the bottom of the SEC in turnover margin and have shot themselves in the foot all season with unforced errors. They stayed true to form in Saturday’s game. At times Auburn looked like a team playing its first game of the season, let alone its first road game. Penalties, errant throws, fumbles from out of nowhere, and missed tackles are trouble even if you’re the favorite. If you’re a 29-point underdog those same mistakes will lead to the series’ most decisive win in a decade.

The trick though is being able to capitalize on those mistakes. If a team is going to hand the game to you, let them. Missouri couldn’t pull the upset last week because they managed only one touchdown on six scoring opportunities. Georgia, for the first time in a while, was nearly perfect in turning its opportunities against Auburn into touchdowns. A failed fake punt and a punt return into Auburn territory set up Georgia’s only scores of the first half. The Bulldogs were not nearly as generous with field position as they were a week ago: with the exception of Bennett’s fumble that led to an Auburn field goal, most Auburn drives started with no better field position than their own 25. Podlesny was his usual reliable touchback-booming self, and Brett Thorson did well to pin the Tigers deep.

A failed Auburn fake punt in the first quarter opened things up after a scoreless opening period. South Carolina and Kent State executed fake punts against Georgia, but those came with both teams facing double-digit deficits and nothing to lose. Auburn tried their fake during a scoreless tie, helping to kickstart a Georgia offense that hadn’t done much in the opening quarter. Georgia only had to go 36 yards for their first score. The fake itself wasn’t a bad play, but it was poorly executed with several missed blocks. Nolan Smith made a great effort to elude a would-be blocker and make the tackle that blew up the play.

The return of Georgia’s running game was the highlight. The maligned running game and offensive line showed signs of life at Missouri by featuring more of a gap blocking scheme, and that success continued against Auburn. It wasn’t just a question of scheme – overall execution in the running game was better regardless of gap or zone blocking. It was also a breakout day for Georgia’s reserve tailbacks. With Kenny McIntosh still a little hobbled by a thigh contusion and Kendall Milton sidelined early in the game with a groin injury, Daijun Edwards and Branson Robinson combined for 181 yards and four touchdowns. Both showed patience, a burst through the hole, and toughness to break contact. Several runs ended with Georgia exerting their physical dominance and pushing the pile forward for extra yardage.

Unfortunately the story hasn’t changed much for Georgia’s passing game. The vertical passing game remains MIA and might continue to be without AD Mitchell and Arian Smith at full speed. 25 first half passing yards is the definition of playing offense in a phone booth, and Georgia didn’t really take a shot downfield until the attempt to Bowers at the end of the half. Auburn’s defensive front wasn’t as effective as Missouri’s either against the run or pressuring Bennett (though their lone sack could have been costly), but the Tigers were physical and disruptive at the line of scrimmage against Georgia’s receivers. Georgia’s screen and perimeter passing game was limited and had to find most of its passing success with intermediate routes in front of deeper safeties. Georgia didn’t need much from its passing game, but it will soon enough.

Georgia’s defense played well after allowing 22 points to consecutive teams. The poor tackling that led to Auburn’s lone touchdown was a blemish, but the defense deserves credit for forcing a three-and-out field goal attempt after an early third quarter Stetson Bennett fumble could have opened the door for an Auburn comeback. To be clear, Auburn doesn’t have a good offense. Ashford is still learning the ropes at quarterback and struggles with accuracy and decision-making. His scrambles were Auburn’s most productive plays, and he had a lot of room in front of him when he improbably dropped the ball. Georgia never sacked Ashford, but they did flush him often – I wonder if he had more throwaway passes or completions. The Bulldog defense didn’t break down and allow the kinds of big plays that Auburn used to score on LSU. If there was a disappointment, it was that Georgia couldn’t turn Auburn over more than once. Starks came close on another great play on a 50/50 ball. You’d hope for better than break-even against a team dead-last in the SEC in turnover margin.

Though losing containment of Ashford was concerning, Georgia shut down the rest of the Auburn rushing attack. No other Auburn player had a gain longer than nine yards or had over 20 yards rushing. Tank Bigsby, capable of creating tough yards of his own after contact, had just 19 yards and 1.9 yards per carry. Auburn’s fate was left in the hands (and feet) of Robby Ashford, and he wasn’t going to lead Auburn to an upset win. The state of Auburn’s offense makes it difficult to cite this performance as evidence of growth for the Georgia defense, but it would have been a sign of trouble if Auburn were able to mount a more consistent scoring threat.

  • Georgia’s response to Auburn’s field goal more or less out the game away. You weren’t uneasy at 14-3; it was more frustrating than anything that Georgia couldn’t put points on the board just before or after halftime. The 11-play, 81-yard answer was a nice mix of passes and then runs that took up nearly 5 minutes of clock. With half of the third quarter in the books, there didn’t seem to be a path back into the game for Auburn down 21-3. The only question left was the final margin. That drive was the first of four Georgia touchdowns in the final 22 minutes of the game.
  • It seems a different defensive lineman steps up each week. This time it was Zion Logue’s turn. He recovered Auburn’s fumble and, along with Stackhouse, led defensive linemen with three tackles. It was impressive watching Stackhouse trying to track down Jarquez Hunter on Auburn’s breakaway touchdown. He never had a chance, but the effort was there.
  • Oscar Delp scored his first touchdown at South Carolina, but he was involved more in this game with some nice catches – holding onto a tough pass while taking a hit from behind is a bigtime play. He was also in early as a blocker. Yes, Georgia even trotted out three tight-ends on the goal line in the second quarter.
  • It was nice to see Bennett lead the final scoring drive – he looked as much at ease running the offense with reserve players as he would with the starters. He spread the ball around to Meeks, Delp, and Bell, and Robinson added 25 yards on the ground behind various combinations of linemen.
  • Georgia’s second series showed how constrained the passing attack was early in the game. Bennett completed passes of 5, 0, and -1 yards. His first attempt longer than ten yards was a third down pass to a tightly covered Bowers. The first completion longer than ten yards didn’t come until a 16-yard play-action rollout to Washington in the third quarter.
  • Rian Davis was another player who saw more than his usual playing time due to injuries. Davis, himself slowed by injuries over his Georgia career, filled in for Smael Mondon at inside linebacker. He was active and finished second on the team with four tackles. His inexperience showed though as he was unable to make a stop on an Ashford keeper, and he got crossed up in pass coverage on a play that would have led to a big gain had Ashford been able to hit an open receiver. Overall not a bad day for Davis, and Dumas-Johnson continues to be impressive.
  • Podlesny’s missed field goal didn’t look right from the start. Bennett seemed to get the ball down, but something was off with the operation. An extra point later in the second quarter was also hooked left, but Pod looked solid the rest of the way.
  • Thorson’s 41.4 average isn’t going to win him any awards, but landing 5 of 5 inside the Auburn 20 with no returns is exactly what Georgia needed from its punt unit.
  • Cool to see Georgia use an unbalanced line for their fifth touchdown. Broderick Jones flipped to the right side of the line to give Georgia two tackles behind which to run. Jones seemed a bit confused in his assignment, and it was amusing to see a tackle go in motion, but Edwards followed the beef for an easy score.
  • Auburn’s late score was unfortunate by itself, but it was also Auburn’s first second half touchdown in Athens since 2009.
  • No question that McConkey has had his issues with ball security, but we saw why coaches keep putting him back out there for punt returns. He looks to make things happen, and he can be a big advantage in the return game. He was also, quietly, once again Georgia’s leading receiver.
  • Bennett’s long run to start the fourth quarter was a fantastic play. From my seats in the East endzone, the hole opened up as soon as Auburn’s safeties split towards the sidelines. With a nice block from McConkey, Bennett had no intention of sliding and took it all the way. The team’s reaction showed why Bennett is still out there even after a subpar first half and perhaps affected by a sore shoulder. He seemed even more in control after a little oxygen and was 8-of-10 for 86 yards on two subsequent scoring drives.

Post What leads to a Georgia field goal?

Wednesday October 5, 2022

Georgia’s so-so red zone offense has emerged as one of the top concerns for an offense that otherwise is performing quite well. The Bulldogs are among the lower half of the nation in getting touchdowns from their red zone possessions. Fortunately Jack Podlesny’s accuracy has allowed the team to come away with points on nearly every trip, but of course you’d rather come away with 7 points rather than 3.

So lets go through the drives that ended with field goals rather than touchdowns and see if anything jumps out. (Yes, there’s plenty of confirmation bias here since we’re focusing only on the drives that stalled. Look at it this way – if a Georgia drive stalls out in the red zone, what has probably happened?)

Right away you notice how ineffective Georgia has been on first down. The most successful first down plays in these series were a Milton run for 4 yards and a Carson Beck run for 5. There are several short or incomplete passes. Four other drives had penalties that effectively ended those drives. If you’re not successful on first down in the red zone, you’re more likely going to be throwing tough passes against more compact coverage later in the series. Sure enough, only one of these drives ended by getting stuffed on a 3rd-and-short run. The rest all ended on incomplete passes or sacks. Though the Dawgs have occasionally been able to recover, an unsuccessful first down play often means a field goal attempt will be coming soon.

Georgia’s tight ends, as expected, have been a bright spot for the offense. We’ve seen Bowers excel in the red zone running the ball on sweeps as well as coming down with a beautiful catch at South Carolina. Washington has been a fantastic blocker on some of those touchdown runs. They’ve been less involved at the end of these stalled drives though. Again, that’s not saying tight ends haven’t been active in Georgia’s red zone offense. They’ve just been targeted less frequently on the drives that didn’t get into the end zone.

1Q SAM 12:

  • 1-10: Bennett incomplete to McConkey
  • 2-10: Bennett complete to Milton for 7
  • 3-3: McIntosh run for 1

After coming up short on 3rd down, Georgia lined up to go for it on 4th and 2 and drew a delay penalty.

1Q SAM 11:

  • 1-10: Milton run for 4
  • 2-6: Bennett incomplete to Bowers
  • 3-6: Bennett incomplete to Washington

Georgia did try to use the tight ends on this series after a decent run on first down.

2Q SAM 10

  • 1-G: Bennett complete to Bowers for 2, holding penalty
  • 1-G: Edwards run for 5
  • 2-G: Bennett complete to McIntosh for 7
  • 3-G: Bennett incomplete to Bell

The holding penalty killed the drive.

3Q SAM 20

  • 1-10: Bennett incomplete to McConkey
  • 2-10: McIntosh run for 1
  • 3-9: Bennett sacked for -17

Bennett tried more of the scramble magic that led to a touchdown against Oregon, but he took the sack here. Podlesny was just short on the 54-yard FG.

4Q SAM 9

  • 1-G: Beck complete to Robinson for 2
  • 2-G: Beck incomplete to Bell
  • 3-G: Beck incomplete to Gilbert

The reserves were in to finish it off. Again two passes on goal-to-go after a short gain on first down.

2Q SC 25

  • 1-10: Bennett incomplete
  • 2-10: Bennett incomplete to Meeks
  • 3-10: Bennett incomplete to McConkey

Not really a red zone opportunity. Georgia was trying to steal points before halftime and managed a field goal.

4Q SC 10

  • 1-G: Beck run for 5
  • 2-G: Beck complete to Jones for 2
  • 3-G: Beck incomplete to Morrissette

Another late-game drive by the reserves. Morrissette dropped a touchdown pass. Zirkel nailed his first career FG attempt.

1Q KENT 14

  • 1-10: Edwards run for 2
  • 2-8: Bennett incomplete to McConkey
  • 3-8: Bennett sacked for -10

Bad protection on third down after a timeout led to the sack.

3Q KENT 19

  • 1-10: Edwards run for 2
  • 2-8: Edwards run for 3
  • 3-5: Bennett incomplete to Rosemy-Jacksaint

Not sure where Bennett was going with the pass. MRJ was open for the first down.

3Q KENT 15

  • 1-10: Milton run for 10, illegal contact penalty on McClendon
  • 1-25: Milton run for 3
  • 2-22: Bennett complete to Rosemy-Jacksaint for 12
  • 3-10: Bennett incomplete to Bowers

15-yard penalties are drive-killers.


  • 1-10: Bennett incomplete
  • 2-10: Bennett incomplete to Washington
  • 3-10: Bennett incomplete to Rosemy-Jacksaint

Three straight incompletions after two long gains through the air.


  • 1-10: Bennett incomplete to Rosemy-Jacksaint
  • 2-10: Georgia OL penalty – hands to the face
  • 2-25: Bennett complete to Bowers for 11
  • 3-14: FG to end the half

Georgia wasted a lot of time getting into scoring position, and a personal foul all but guaranteed this drive would end with a FG.


  • 1-G: McIntosh run for -1
  • 2-G: Bennett incomplete
  • 3-G: Bennett sacked for -3

Georgia had two cracks at first and goal thanks to a Mizzou penalty but twice lost yardage on first down.


  • 1-10: Georgia false start
  • 1-15: Bennett incomplete to Washington
  • 2-15: Bennett incomplete to Bell
  • 3-15: Bennett complete to Blaylock for 9

Another red zone penalty and early down incompletions led to a difficult 3rd-and-long.

Post Georgia 26 – Missouri 22: A substandard escape

Tuesday October 4, 2022

“A win is a win.”

If there’s one overarching element of the culture Kirby Smart has build around the Georgia program it’s the emphasis of process over results. If “process” sounds a little too Alabama-y, we know where Smart cut his teeth and how much of that successful model he brought with him while putting his own touches on it. Smart built a program to be sustained (as he put it over the summer) by drilling his principles of physicality, toughness, composure, and discipline. Even after a decisive win the same standards drive expectations in practice.

If all of that is true and not coach-speak, then “a win is a win” is meaningless and counterproductive. It says something about how you performed relative to the day’s opponent, but it says nothing about the performance against the standards by which you measure yourself. Fans have the luxury of just enjoying the wins, and I hope we do – especially after the catharsis of the national title. After all, what do we have to do with setting and enforcing the program’s standards? It’s dangerous though within a program if outcomes begin to overshadow standards. To be blunt, it’s more in line with late Richt-era thinking. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that a change in thinking is occurring within the program or that Smart would allow that to happen. But if we are to take the coach and players at their word when it comes to how they approach building a championship program, it’s OK to recognize when the standards they’ve set and taken ownership of aren’t being met regardless of outcome.

It’s to the team’s credit that they were able to overcome the slow start, double-digit deficit, and the road environment to get the win. Composure is one of Smart’s core concepts for a reason, and if Georgia had a mild test of their composure last week, it got a serious stress test at Missouri. Bennett deserves credit for leading the offense back, but we didn’t see many players on either side of the ball making the kinds of mistakes you expect when players get tight and begin to try to force things. The defense held Missouri to just six second half points, the offense made adjustments to blocking schemes, and the coaches got the ball to the offense’s best players. When the opportunity came to turn the game around, the players stepped up.

Georgia might not have been in trouble against Kent State, but I thought that “it’s probably more useful to look at it as a profile of a game that might get Georgia in trouble later this season.” Turnovers, sloppy tackling, dropped passes, and an offense that struggled to create explosive plays made that game closer than it should have been, and we saw at Missouri that those weren’t one-off problems. Throw in some early turnovers and a lopsided field position disadvantage, and another huge underdog began to believe.

The defense didn’t play a poor game with the exception of a handful of broken plays. If you’re frustrated about Georgia’s red zone issues, imagine Missouri having to settle for five field goals. It seemed all night as if Georgia’s defense would do its job, Missouri would string together just enough plays to barely get into field goal range, and then convert the kick. Four of Missouri’s five field goals were 40+ yards, and three of them were from 49+. Credit Harrison Mevis for recovering from his nightmare at Auburn, but holding Missouri to field goal attempts kept the score close enough for Georgia to hang around. A second Missouri touchdown (especially from goal-to-go) would have put tremendous pressure on a struggling Georgia offense.

We can’t ignore the mistakes and broken plays that got Missouri most of their yardage. We saw the defense start well against Kent State, but it only took one misplay along the sideline for them to get into the endzone. Against Missouri we saw the combination of Smith not finishing a sack and Lassiter letting a man get behind him result in a long pass play. We saw a couple of dropped interceptions by safeties that could have ended Missouri drives. We saw over-pursuit that opened up big running lanes. Georgia tackled well in the first three games, but they’ve regressed in the last two games. These are things that can be worked on, yes, but we’re running out of opportunities to see improvements within games before the important stretch that ends the season.

Kent State began to challenge Georgia’s receivers, and the Bulldogs weren’t able to establish much of a vertical passing game. Stetson Bennett had been averaging well over 10 yards per attempt through the first three games, but he was a much more ordinary 7.5 yards per attempt against Kent State. Missouri likewise didn’t show much respect for Georgia downfield and was more aggressive with blitzes and tight coverage at the line of scrimmage. Bennett’s yards-per-attempt fell to 7.25 in this game, and he completed just 56% with the offense relying more on dropback passes than the screens and short passes that were an extension of the running game earlier in the season.

That pressure disrupted Georgia’s offense. Missouri had two sacks, nine tackles for loss, and seven QB hurries. Several of those unproductive Georgia plays came on first down – especially in the red zone. On Georgia’s four drives that ended with field goals, there were three incompletions and a lost yardage running play on the first downs of the series that ended those drives. Georgia found themselves on third-and-long eight times and had a decent (given the situation) 37.5% success rate thanks to Bennett’s ability to make plays. You’d like to see better success on early downs to avoid so many long third downs. Georgia’s overall success rate was about 47% – still slightly above average, but it’s a far cry from what we saw in the first few games.

While Bennett wasn’t able to take the top off of the Missouri defense, he was able to find some success with more intermediate routes. Six players had receptions of at least ten yards. Even those successful passes were often tightly covered as Georgia’s receivers struggled to gain separation. The longest pass plays of the game came to Georgia’s tight ends. That’s great – Bowers and Washington are unique talents that need to be used, but there were no explosive pass plays (20+ yards) to receivers. It’s a little funny (or karmic) for a Georgia fan to single out two injured receivers, but players matter. Arian Smith and AD Mitchell have special skills that can help this offense, and I think we’ve seen how much Georgia needs them back in the lineup. Opponents will continue to try to constrict Georgia’s offense until they’re made to pay for it.

  • Lots of talk this week about zone vs. gap running plays given Georgia’s struggles with the former and more success with gap plays in the second half. It’s not an all-or-nothing question, and good lines should be able to block for either if the situation calls for it. It will be worth watching if this change sticks around and brings the running game to life in the next stretch of the season.
  • Is Daijun Edwards your closer? It sure felt like it.
  • One bright spot among the receivers was Dominick Blaylock. Blaylock continues to work himself back into the offense after two knee injuries, and he had three catches on three targets in this game. He is a former 5* prospect and showed some special skills as a freshman in 2019. Each of the receivers brings some valuable skills – Rosemy-Jacksaint is a fantastic blocker, McConkey can be a dangerous playmaker if he can get over the drops, and Blaylock is a reliable ball-catcher. It’s a lot to ask these guys to take over the lead in the absence of Mitchell.
  • Georgia forced a rare three-and-out after taking the lead. It was perhaps a little early for Missouri to abandon the runs that had some success, but we’ll take three passes into coverage. Tykee Smith’s well-timed breakup on third down reminded me of the big play William Poole had against Alabama in the title game.
  • Georgia has a young defense, but some of its more experienced players didn’t have a great game. Kelee Ringo was beaten for a deep completion and had an unnecessary pass interference penalty. Robert Beal was nearly invisible. Christopher Smith dropped an interception and bit on Missouri’s touchdown play. These are the guys you want to lean on as the younger players get up to speed, and they have work of their own to do.
  • Can’t imagine a more terrifying thing than Darnell Washington flying though the air at you mid-hurdle.
  • Stackhouse had a fantastic play to blow up a reverse and force a 10-yard loss following Bennett’s fumble. Missouri still ended up with a field goal, but that lost-yardage play kept Missouri from turning the fumble into anything more costly.
  • Malaki Starks got off to a fantastic start and had one of the most important tackles in this game. Teams are beginning to spread the field to isolate him in coverage and force him to defend one-on-one.
  • Georgia’s only SEC loss to Missouri came in 2013, and it featured a fumble returned for a touchdown. I had a flashback when Bennett and Edwards fumbled on a read play, and it was a tremendous response by Bennett to recover and tackle a larger defender. Bennett and Starks saved two touchdowns by chasing down Missouri players with nothing but the end zone in front of them.
  • Starks’s tackle showed why you never concede a yard or give up on a play. The subsequent false start and goal-to-go stand by Georgia averted big trouble before halftime.
  • Bennett’s toughness, experience, and leadership couldn’t have been bigger. He was clearly favoring his shoulder in the face of relentless pressure. He overcame the pain to make some precision throws and lead six straight scoring drives after his fumble.
  • If there’s one intangible to be concerned about and turn around right away, it’s the fear factor. Kirby Smart said earlier in the season that “our goal is to strike fear in every part of the game in our opponent.” Will future opponents fear Georgia, or do they see what Kent State and Missouri were able to do and see opportunity?