(photo courtesy al.com)
I went back and watched a replay of Saturday night’s win. There weren’t many things that jumped out on a second viewing that most of us didn’t see the first time around, so what additional observations I have may be pretty apparent to most folks.
- This is a young, talented team, or, if you prefer, this is a talented, young team. Duh. There were some absolutely spectacular individual plays made by guys in the secondary (Asher Allen, in particular, looks like he’s really coming on), by Stafford (his throw on the completion to Bailey in the third quarter was incredible; so was his ability to tightrope the sideline and pick up the first down earlier) and by Moreno, but there were an equal number of dumb, careless plays and decisions to go around, too. A more experienced team would have left ‘Bama in the dust in the first half; a less talented team would have lost the game. Face it, Dawg fans, we’re looking at a wild ride for most of this year.
- Willie Martinez, or how I learned to like the blitz. He’s never going to be Jon Tenuta, but he was pretty aggressive (for Martinez, at least) and effective with his blitz packages Saturday night. One advantage to having a fast, undersized DE like Marcus Howard is that he makes it easier to zone blitz and drop him into coverage. And I loved bringing Thomas Flowers on the run blitz to stop ‘Bama from picking up the second and inches late… too bad Prince Miller got called for pass interference on that fourth down play.
- Stacy Searels may not be God, but he’s got His number in his speed dial. Just go back and look at the blocking on Moreno’s TD run. Vince Vance played something like 15 snaps at guard, after lining up there for the first time in practice four days prior to the game, and survived. Yes, the line is getting some help from Stafford and the backs – OK, a lot of help – but it’s still pretty amazing what he’s been able to wring out of them so far. One concern: Cheese had trouble handling Gilberry’s speed. That doesn’t bode well with guys like Harvey and Groves coming up.
- Go to receivers. If you look at the game stats, they confirm what I sensed watching the game – the staff is winnowing down who gets the chance to play catch with Stafford. For all the talk about new found depth in the receiving corps, only seven players caught passes against ‘Bama, and that included Chandler, Brown and Moreno. Wilson played a decent amount, but it looks like he was being called on for his blocking skills, as almost every play I saw him on the field for was a run. Goodman looks like he’s being given the chance to be the first option after the big three. Durham (not Duncan, you production mopes at ESPN) caught one ball. No other receiver made an impact. Drops have consequences, a lesson Tripp Chandler may be dangerously close to learning.
- Linebacking may be starting to sort out. I was skeptical about the rise of Marcus Washington (Ching has some good stuff on MW, by the way), but he played a solid, physical game against ‘Bama. He and Ellerbe are starting to look like contributors. Now if the coaches can just find someone for the third slot…
- Miscellanea. For some reason, ‘Bama really focused on not letting Brannon Southerland do anything with the ball… Georgia continues to get very good production out of its defensive tackles… you had to feel sorry for poor Roderick Battle, who got stuck dealing with Andre Smith most of the game… horrible non-call on what looked like an obvious push in the back by Castille on Goodman late in the game… speaking of Castille, Massaquoi obliterated him with a crushing block in the first half, just another example of how MM has improved his game this year by being much more physical… and is there a defensive formation that Saban didn’t call in that game? Give Stafford credit for not being completely overwhelmed by Saban… he got burned on occasion, but handled himself pretty well overall.
- Mike Patrick is bi-polar. Seriously, somewhere beneath the avalanche of non-game related rambling lies a fairly competent announcer. If you don’t believe me, go back and listen to the now infamous “Britney” clip leading up to Georgia’s one play on offense in overtime. After he freaks Blackledge out, Georgia trots on to the field and Patrick suddenly snaps back into game mode to make a succinct call of the winning play with just the right amount of excitement (nicely punctuated by Blackledge’s quiet “Got it”). Weird.
And if I can take a moment to indulge in some back-patting, here were my four keys to the game:
So what does Georgia need to do to win Saturday?
- Score first. Believe it or not, so far in 2007, SEC teams are 21-0 when they get on the scoreboard first. Plus, scoring first helps establish a tone for the game when a school is on the road.
- Stick with the running game. 47-24; 31-45; 34-26. That’s the run-pass ratio in each of Georgia’s first three games. Can you guess which one is the loss?
- Be patient. Georgia has more depth. Play a tough, physical game and wear ‘Bama down. It would have worked for Arkansas (which came back from 21 down) if Nutt had been a little smarter on Arky’s last offensive series in the game.
- Get kickoff coverage under control. Special teams haven’t been that bad for Georgia (4th in punt return average, 4th in kickoff return average and 1st in net punt yardage in the conference), except for kickoffs. Even Western Carolina had decent success returning kicks. In a grind-it-out type game, which favors Georgia, field position is huge, especially on the road.
Four for four, baby! Throw in my conclusion…
In the end, I think the intangibles favor Georgia. The Dawgs have a lot more to lose with this game and the staff knows it. And I have a hard time picking against a Mark Richt coached team in an SEC opponent’s stadium. Most folks see about 44-51 points being scored Saturday night. I believe Georgia will get the majority of ‘em.
… and I nailed the sucker. Feel free to ignore all of my predictions from here on out. Trust me – I’ve used up my quota for the year.