Thoughts from the 35: Georgia-South Carolina

Obviously, just like everyone else in the college universe, I had no clue what was in store for us fans last night.  That was one of the wildest, weirdest games I’ve ever lived through at Sanford Stadium.  How weird?  Weird enough that the concept that the game would come down to a defensive stop – something that ordinarily would have been just that in this series – seemed out of place, almost.

And just how big did that blocked extra point turn out to be?

A few other observations:

  • If that wasn’t the longest first half I’ve ever experienced, it was damned close.  It wasn’t just the sheer time it took to play, but also the frustration from that ridiculously long stretch in the first quarter when the Dawg offense couldn’t get its hands on the ball.
  • The crowd needed lithium.  The mood swings were significant and intense.  The place went dead after the early turnover and South Carolina score, only to erupt with the Boykin return.  It then got quiet as the Cocks took a ten point lead, only to build back up emotionally as Georgia went on its second quarter run to take the lead back.  And so it went the entire night.  On the last two defensive plays, it was as loud as I’ve ever heard the place.  Rennie’s play was cathartic, literally.
  • It bears repeating:  I heart Rennie Curran.
  • Say what you will about the OBC, but he’s still one of the best ever at calling a game.  He basically ditched everything that wasn’t working on offense and took what Martinez would give him.  It went a lot farther than I would have thought, mainly because he got the best game of Garcia’s career last night.  But it didn’t go far enough because he doesn’t have enough talent.
  • You may mock me for saying this, but I thought Martinez’ game plan was pretty sound, 400+ yards yielded or not.  The tough part was that it’s very clear that the South Carolina offense loves it some zone defense.  The problem for Martinez was that the rest of the game – the turnovers in particular – never allowed Georgia to put the game on a footing where Spurrier would have been forced to abandon the short passing game to keep up.
  • On the other hand, I still can’t figure out what Mike Bobo is up to.
  • The run that the Dawgs went on when they were down 17-7 to take the lead was fueled by the best blocking I’ve seen out of the offense and special teams in a while.  Nobody laid a finger on Branden Smith on his big TD run.
  • Given that, the timeout Carolina called after the pass to Charles after the interception was very effective.  Georgia’s offense seemed to lose some of its energy and focus after that and wound up settling for a 50-yard field goal.
  • Speaking of which, Blair Walsh looks like he’s starting to come into his own.  Two long, clutch field goals and some depth on his kickoffs all impressed.
  • As for those kickoffs, I, like everyone around me, noticed the success of abandoning the directional kicking game.  But you almost felt like the coaches were waiting for one bad “I told you so moment”, which they got.  So you got this little finger shaking moment from Richt post-game:  “… I do want the fans to understand this: The one kick they returned the farthest, he drove it trying to drive it in the end zone the way everybody wants, kick it as far as you can and don’t worry about hangtime – he drilled it flat, and they returned it to the 50. If you drill it far enough, it’s great, but if you come up short and they decide to return it, that’s the result and we’ve got to understand that.” Gee, it was still better than what they got out at Oklahoma State – and that game only had three kickoffs, Coach.
  • The player who took what happened in Stillwater most noticeably to heart was Richard Samuel, who ran tough and did a much better job of keeping his feet against a good defense.  And I loved the emotion he played with.  He ran like he was pissed off.
  • And that’s how AJ looked when he got going, too.
  • Yes, it sucked to see that Houston-OSU result on the scoreboard during the game – the 45 points Houston racked up against that vaunted Cowboy defense stung even more than the fact that OSU lost.
  • Joe Cox?  Well, he certainly looked healthier this week.  And he didn’t fade the way he did in the opener.  But he lacks a certain field sense that’s both surprising and troubling for a fifth year senior, mainly in holding the ball waaaay too long in spots – the sack/fumble and the intentional grounding plays being the most obvious examples of that.  And the pick six was inexcusable.  I thought he simply didn’t see Norwood when he made that throw, but his post-game explanation was even worse:  “I knew we were going to throw the ball, and it was one of those things where I could work either side. I kind of saw Norwood and was like, hmmm, but I decided to throw it anyway and he made a good play.” Next time you get a “hmmm” feeling, Joe, throw the ball some place else, OK?
  • I said after the OSU game that Georgia wasn’t special enough to survive a -3 turnover margin against a quality opponent.  So last night it won despite a -2 turnover margin and a special teams snafu that led to a safety.  I guess they’re just calibrating the margin for error.

The biggest impression I came away with from last night was how much talent, speed and athleticism there is on Georgia’s squad.  But it’s also clear that a lot of it hasn’t meshed for a variety of reasons and that the coaches are still feeling their way around because of that.  Georgia is a work in progress.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this team finds itself somewhere in the middle of the season and really takes off.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if there are a few more wild games in store for us, either.

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40 Comments

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40 responses to “Thoughts from the 35: Georgia-South Carolina

  1. Smitty

    Wild game. We gave them 18 points and Joe Cox scares me. He’s a 5th year senior and has freshman moments. Thank goodness we had better atheletes when it came down to it. Looked like Samuels was about to take over the game then we abandoned him. Can’t figure that out.

  2. Frank M. Davis, Jr.

    I entered the game relatively sane—if graded on a curve. But, I ended up at Piedmont Hospital at 3 AM this morning seeking treatment for behavioral issues.

    Diagnosis: early on-set bi-polar disorder caused blunt-force cranial trauma and Dawg howls.

  3. Turd Ferguson

    1. Should I be as worried as I already am about Arkansas? By my lights, they’ve got a more talented (though less mobile) QB, a better running game, and another clever, offensive-minded head coach.

    2. Why isn’t Richard Samuel getting more carries? Right as he was getting hot, we basically abandoned him. He looked a TON better last night than he did last week, … and so we gave him FEWER carries? I don’t get that.

    • There were hints last night that the front four could generate a pass rush.

      Two things to keep in mind as to Arky: Mallett isn’t mobile like Garcia and the Dawgs get Houston back from suspension.

  4. Farsider

    Several questions—-Did the defense may any adjustments during the game? What happened to that D-line that was supposed to be so much improved? Is the disconnect between what Bobo calls and what Cox executes a O/C problem or a QB problem?

    • Turd Ferguson

      Yeah, I’ve had the same thoughts about the D-line. Granted, the DEs have been a concern for a while now. But I kinda expected the Owens-Atkins duo to be more dominant than it’s looked so far.

      Hopefully, the addition of Justin Houston next week makes a big difference.

    • D.N. Nation

      Cox seems to alternate between quiet game manager and October-2006-Stafford. It’s a head-scratcher, if not -puller.

    • Derek

      Early in the game it became clear that Garcia was able to take advantage of us when we blitzed and played zone behind it. We adjusted by blitzing a lot less and putting our LB’s in passing lanes which helped. (See Curran’s game saving play.) We rushed 4 most of the game and the front was able to flush Garcia out of the pocket a lot. A less mobile QB would have been sacked seveal times.

      In sum, the adjustment was to blitz far less. Given the three short fields that we gave USC due to Smith’s fumble, Green’s fumble and one big return, and the fact that we forced 5 FGS and one shut out in red zones opps., I think the defense played very well. If Houston comes back like the beast he was in the spring, this D can be a very good unit. Also notice that Evans didn’t give up a TD. That’s got to be a first and hopefully a trend.

      Give CWM credit here. We shut the run completely down and beat a team whose QB had a very good night, a career night in fact.

      • Will Q

        You’re wasting your breath, Derek. Few are going to give Martinez credit, even when the D was gassed from all the O’s and ST’s miscues in the first quarter. It was, as others have said, classic bend-but-don’t-break. It might have bent a bit farther than we were comfortable with, but it worked.

    • JasonC

      We did get pressure, but Garcia is mobile. And we were playing short-handed at DE: Battle- out, Tripp was coming back from an injury and Houston- out. It left us with Williams (LB), Dobbs, Tripp and maybe one other young guy.

  5. D.N. Nation

    Was in the 600 section, and for a fleeting moment, actually felt sorry for the USC fans around me. They outgain us by 120, run 30 more plays, have 10 more first downs, and hold the ball for 10 more minutes (the ratio in the first half was ridiculous), and still do that one little screw-up they always do and lose. We’re truly the Roadrunner to their Coyote. It’s ridiculous.

    The first half was two-and-a-half hours. I had absolutely nothing left in the tank on that last drive. Lousy victory cigar on the walk back through North Campus. Fun night.

    The biggest impression I came away with from last night was how much talent, speed and athleticism there is on Georgia’s squad. But it’s also clear that a lot of it hasn’t meshed for a variety of reasons and that the coaches are still feeling their way around because of that. Georgia is a work in progress. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this team finds itself somewhere in the middle of the season and really takes off. But it wouldn’t surprise me if there are a few more wild games in store for us, either.

    My thoughts exactly. No one around me could quite figure this team out, and the team itself doesn’t seem like it has. Ah well. Here’s to a win. #1 in the SEC East!

  6. Walter Sobchak

    I agree, D looked good. I don’t care how good D is, if you are on the field 2/3 of the game and given numerous “short fields” to the opponent you will give up points. I thought going into this season we’d be tough running playaction team (Bama last year). I still think that’d be what we’d be best at, but we seem to abandon the run and rarely playaction. Shotgun…for large portions of game? Really?
    That said, for spotting SC like 16-20points with shooting ourselves in the foot, a big victory is a victory.

  7. NebraskaDawg

    Just a reminder. I picked Georgia 42-35 in my prediction on Friday (check Ga/S.C. preview tread). Dang near hit it.

  8. Connor

    Great comments Senator, my thoughts almost exactly. Next week is another big game, lot’s of areas of improve but lots of things we can build on. If we limit mistakes and get our playmakers the ball, we may look back at this game as a turning point. If we keep making the mistakes and don’t get the big plays, we may only remember that we were a batted pass away from 0-3.

  9. Jordan

    Is Bobo one of the worst OC in college football or just the worst?

  10. NCT

    Yeah, I’m still not sure what to make of the crowd. I’m still not sure what to make of my feelings during the game. For a night game, it seemed eerily staid for much of the time. I reckon it was because USC was leading or, later, kept getting back in it (or getting let back in).

    Things were way too quiet (I guess I should say loud, but not loud enough) during USC’s last drive until the final few plays.

    I think everyone had a general sense of caution going into this game, and like it or not, we as a stadium full of fans were steeling ourselves for a big let-down. Add to that the fact that their offense was on the field for 20 years during the first quarter, and things just felt downright weird.

    Even so, it was great (as always) to be back in Athens for a game.

    One more thought: people who tailgate on North Campus and don’t clean up their messes should be flogged at the 50-yard line during the next game’s halftime. It’s disgraceful.

  11. DawgBiscuit

    The good: We scored 41 to win our SEC opener, and the offense seemed to look better, even though we had only 51 more yards and the same number of first downs as last week. Samuel looked like a completely different person than last week, and Joe Cox made some miscues but he was good enough to buy himself another week at starter.

    The bad: We allowed 37 points, 427 yards, and 26 first downs to South Carolina. Yes, the same South Carolina that was held to 7 points, 256 yards, and 16 first downs by NC State. Willie definitely has some work to do on the D before we get into the meat of our schedule.

    The ugly: Okie State gives up 45 in a loss to unranked Houston. While I was thrilled to see the Pokes exposed for the average team they are (as I wish we could have done last week) this is not a good sign for us.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      We now know that Okie State is not really that good. The reason why Okie State won the game against Georgia is that the game was a set-up. The Okie State people wanted a signature win to celebrate their new stadium and announce to the world the “coming out” of their new winning football program. T. Boone Pickens invested $300 Million into making his alma mater into a winning program and they needed a win against a nationally known team. They sent their team to Athens to get drilled by the Dawgs in ’07 just to set this up. The purpose was to get the patsie (our Dawgs) into their stadium to be homecooked by their crooked refs. It would have been the same for Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Bama or LSU. The difference is those schools (and as best I can tell no other first rate football school–except for UGA) do not have an idiot running things in the Athletic Department. Face it, we got tricked. I figure the Dawgs beat Okie State 17-10 or so in an honestly officiated game, 10-10 and into OT worst case. Every time Okie State needed help they got it from the refs. The goal line stand was one of the greatest in UGA history but will never be talked about with the admiration it deserves because the ref marking the ball pushed it forward to give Okie State a first down which led to a touchdown. When Okie State needed an insurance score they got a personal foul call on a legit hit by a defensive back on a receiver whose hands actually touched the ball (worst call I have ever seen). There was just too much of that sort of thing for it simply to be bad, but honest, ref work. It came out publicly after the game that Okie State had been offered $8.5 Million to move the game to the new Dallas Cowboy stadium in Arlington, Texas–a neutral site. The normal gate at the Okie State stadium is $2.5 Million. That means that Okie State gave up $6 Million just so they could get the Dawgs in Stillwater. Why would anyone do that? The only possible reason would be that we were going to be homecooked–which is exactly what happened. It is the job of the AD not to let things like this happen to his team. Damon Evans was asleep at the switch and the Dawgs got a black eye on national TV because of it. If I had been AD I would have insisted that Okie State take the Arlington offer. If they refused I would have pulled out of the game and filled the slot with another team. There are plenty who would come to Athens for $500K or so. I have been preaching that this game was a trap for over a year. It was painfully obvious. This has to do with that crazy “branding” idea that Damon Evans has. But he does not understand what branding really means. You “brand” by winning championships like Florida, USC and Texas. Getting beat on national TV because of homer refs only gets you embarrassed. Someone might say “so what, it’s only one game.” Well that one game may be the reason the next Herschel or Knowshon decides to go somewhere else instead of UGA. And it got us off wrong for the season. I am concerned that everybody will simply forget about it as the season progresses. But even if Coach Richt rights the ship Damon Evans needs to get the ax for this. He’s a dope who thinks he’s a genius and will screw up again if given the chance.

      • Anonymous

        Forget about what?

      • chg

        If Georgia plays a patsy in Week 1 and cruises to a 3 touchdown win, I don’t think they beat South Carolina. That team played with a focus and intensity you don’t usually see this early in the year, and they needed every bit of it.

        Come in off a 40-20 win over Georgia Southern, and the RB doesn’t know how hard D-I players hit, Cox isn’t trying to save his reputation, and the team isn’t playing like madmen to avoid an 0-2 start.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          So losing in week 1 because of getting homecooked was a good thing? I guess the Gators’ AD is a real dunce ’cause the Gators played not 1 but 2 walkovers the first 2 weeks. And they played them both at home. They’ll probably lose every game the rest of the season now because they were so ill-prepared by their softy first 2 games.

      • The Realist

        MoD, I hope this was 600 words written in jest. Otherwise, your meds should be adjusted.

  12. Richt-Flair

    We are bi-polar. I can’t decide if this is a good thing. The only image comes to mind is of a linebacker who crashes through the line and wrecks a Qb on a big play, then knocks himself out head-butting his teammates on the sideline. We are BAT crazy.

  13. Hogbody Spradlin

    As a historical comparison, how many yards did Kerwin Bell pass for in the ’85 Florida game?

  14. mykiesee

    The few times that we went with man defense, we looked very good. Then we kept going back to zone. I think we had the talent last night to run man all night long. Or at least most of the downs. I would tell those around me, “OK, we’re in man D now. We’ll stop them this play.” And it almost always was the case. If I see it, why can’t the coaches?

    • Derek

      You mean like the play where Miller got scorched, but was saved by a holding call? I’m not sure I would have called a lot of man D when my best corner got beat by 4 yards either.

  15. X-Dawg

    As a minor observation, I was happy to hear Baba O’Riley re-installed as the pre-kickoff motivation song.

  16. JaxDawg

    As another minor observation, someone please tell them to stop ringing the fake chapel bell after a win.

    It’s cheesy and obnoxious.

    It’s just fine when some drunk rings it ’til 4am.

  17. Joseph

    I liked alot of what Bobo did- the reverse, not abandoning the run entirely, but I did not like the switch to Gray for one play. It seemed like it killed the momentum and was not effective. If he had tucked the ball and ran around the end for a big gain then I would probably have a different attitude. Overall I am glad that we won and hope we can get better as the season progresses.

    Go Dawgs!

  18. Xon

    The play with Gray was a zone read, and Gray SHOULD have kept it and run around the end. He made the wrong choice (no bid deal, it happens), and the play lost yards. They probably had a longer package intended for him, but it was also probably contingent on the first play doing better than that. Once it was 3rd and long, they were better off just going back to the “normal” offense.

    Since I am a Dawg in exile (Kentucky), I saw the game on tv and I can tell you that our offense looked a lot better than most in this comment thread are giving it credit for, even despite the skull-slapping mistakes (those speak for themselves, and Senator’s assessment–high talent but still finding ourselves and our focus–is as good an explanation as any). Remember that turnovers are largely “random.” The odds that we’re going to keep going -2 or -3 every game are not high. The odds that Green and Branden Smith are going to commit unforced fumbles again are virtually nil, I’d say. Cox will still throw some picks, just like every great Georgia qb has done even as experienced seniors (Stafford threw some pick sixes last year, and so did Greene in 2004…I remember the South Carolina game that year, in fact). It’s not that they aren’t a concern, and we can drill on holding onto the ball better or whatever. But ultimately it’s football. Very large and very fast people are hitting each other very hard. Balls will be dropped. Bad decisions will be made. It ultimately hopes to balance out, roughly. If we are getting all of ours out of the way early, then so be it. :-)

    But as to the offense, all of the following are very good things:

    A. We ran only 52 real plays (a knee at the end doesn’t count), and we averaged 6 yards per play. 6 yards per play is pretty darn good. It means that if we had had a “normal” game with 70-80 plays then we would have had 400-500 yards of offense. Our O looked “off” this game in the same way that Florida’s offense looked “off” at the start of last season (remember that meme?). They had a string of games where opposing teams tried to ball control them to death and UF would run a very low number of plays on offense (I think they were even in the 40s against Tennessee?). Florida would win, and fairly handily, but they weren’t getting any style points and people were asking stupid questions like “What’s happened to Tebow?” But really their offense was always there, if you broke it down in terms of what they actually were given an opportunity to do. (

    B. Joe Cox threw the ball very well, and he threw it with good velocity. I don’t know how it looked live, but on t.v. it was obvious that he can thrown darts. The pass to Michael Moore for a TD was a dart (probably too hard, actually). The pick 6 by Norwood was ridiculously high-velocity (which is why it really was just a good play by Norwood in the end…he caught a fastball 20 feet out of the pitcher’s hand essentially). This notion that he has some rubber arm is plainly false. He did not look good against Oklahoma State, but whatever the reasons were for that, it’s not that he is just a weak-armed Quasimodo that Richt now feels compelled to play out of loyalty. He lacks game experience. He is not a bad quarterback.

    C. Cox’s line last night was 17-24 for 205, 2 TDS and 1 INT. Now compare to Stafford’s 2007 performances against, say, Florida and Auburn. Pretty similar numbers (though Staff had no INT against Auburn). These were not mediocre games for Stafford. Cox had great numbers yesterday, period.

    D. Green did his thing.

    E. Samuel showed that he might have a thing of his own.

    F. Walsh looked like Coutu (special teams, but the “offensive” side of ST in any case).

    Very very few teams look great on every possession. This team is still making some jaw-dropping mistakes. But they also show immense promise, and as a unit last night the offense actually looked pretty darn good. They actually DID great things and put up good numbers given their opportunities.

    • a now former redcoat

      in regards to C. and the comparisons to stafford in the 07 games against florida and auburn…

      matt hit some receivers wide open down the field for big plays and had few screens turned into big plays. joe last night didn’t have those big downfield plays. he wasn’t hitting open receivers in stride. his receivers were often waiting on the ball and then making plays. samuel and AJ both did that at various points. if cox had played last night the same way stafford did against UF or auburn in 07… we would’ve scored a hell of a lot more. and that first past wouldn’t have been a near-pick.

  19. Darryl Strawberry

    “mainly in holding the ball waaaay too long in spots – the sack/fumble and the intentional grounding plays being the most obvious examples of that”

    Love your blog Senator, but was very dissapointed to read this. You obviously know your football so it surprised me to read this coming from you. Cox had no chance on the fumble. It was the same play action fake sweep play that we scored on earlier and the cocks sent a corner blitz who went untouched and smashed Cox. He did NOT hold the ball too long, as a matter of fact he barely had enough time to look downfield.

  20. Joe Cox looked like he was about to die – drenched in sweat, pale grey skin. He seems like he is still very sick. If so, then that explains a lot of what follows here. If not, then we really need to be working on the replacement.

    Joe Cox has no arm. So many passes get tipped or picked because there is no velocity. 30 minutes before the pick six I told my wife “there’s going to be a bad pick before this game is over, because his slow passes are easy to pick out of the air.”

    AJ Green practically played DB all night long, coming back to passes, defending them, etc. Joe Cox cannot hit receivers in stride.

    Bobo is just picking plays at random. Thank god we have such amazing players that never give up. Why we never play smash mouth football amazes me. We have a RB averaging 5.4 yards a carry, and he doesn’t see the ball for 10 plays in a row. Retarded.

    That series where he put Gray in for one play….. wtf? Does he just hate Logan Gray? Is Bobo mad at the guy for playing special teams?

    Martinez is still the same crappy coach he always has been. Our defensive players are great, but when they come on the field after a turnover or bad special teams play, its like they think “oh woe is us, here we are again backs against the wall because of our offense.” A good defensive coordinator would have those players fired up and treating those as opportunities to prove how bad ass they are.

    We have great players. Thank god. They give their all out there and it is a beautiful thing to see. It is a shame most of our coaches suck and are really letting our players and fans down.

  21. Xon

    Muckbeast, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t true. You can watch Cox on tv and see that his passes have good velocity. He’s not Stafford, but who is? He threw some very hard balls Saturday, including the pick to Norwood, which was a fastball that simply hit the linebacker in the hands. This “weak arm” meme is just not right. His arm is fine. Strong, even. Stronger than Greene’s, I’ll bet. Not every pass is supposed to be a bullet either, of course. He is on the smallish side, and I agree that he doesn’t seem to get enough distance from the line of scrimmage when he drops back, and so some tipped balls are going to be a problem. But that has nothing to do with his arm.