Daily Archives: December 29, 2009

One last bowl game thought

I like cocknfire’s summary of the Indy Bowl, including his conclusion.

… But it’s hard to pronounced the Georgia defense “fixed” when it allowed 471 yards, even if the total is a little bit deceptive because of the number of plays that were run and the number of pass attempts (58) by Jerrod Johnson as the Aggies tried to catch up. The task of truly improving that will fall to whomever takes the now-vacant defensive coordinator position in Athens. As nice a win as this was for Mark Richt, the future of his tenure at Georgia will be decided more by how well he does in that search than by how good his team looked in Shreveport.

When you break down the numbers on a yards per play basis, you can see what he’s talking about.  On the season, TAMU averaged 5.8 ypp.  Georgia held the Aggies to a 5.12 ypp clip.  That’s middle of the pack by A&M’s opponents’ standards (but check that Texas number out – Boom MF, indeed!)

It’s on the other side of the ball where the more disappointing story appears.  Georgia averaged 5.9 ypp on offense this season; coincidentally, that’s the average rate yielded by the TAMU defense in 2009.   Yesterday, the Dawgs gained a half yard less per play than their season average, their worst showing since the Florida game – against a team that finished the year ranked 89th in defensive ypp.

Bottom line:  special teams made a huge difference.  And not losing the turnover battle helped.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

A few (more) words in praise of Rodney Garner

I posted about this before, but I don’t get the vitriol I’ve seen tossed in Coach Garner’s direction on occasion.  Sure he has ambitions to be a head coach at some point and he’s been able to leverage the market place to obtain a raise for himself more than once, but I don’t see how that does him a disservice.

I’ve never met the man, but this can’t have been an easy month for him, especially given those ambitions and that it clearly looks as if Richt is looking outside the program for a new defensive coordinator.  Yet Garner has done nothing but conduct himself with class and get his job done.  His charges played hard for him yesterday.

Say what you will, Garner cares about those kids.  Here’s a quote that David Hale shared, about advising Reshad Jones on deciding to turn pro early:

“We’re asking him to take his time, go through the process, look and see who Coach Richt hires and have an opportunity to sit down and visit with that guy and get a feel for his system, his scheme,” Garner said. “And if there’s a guy coming in here who can feature you like Tennessee does with Eric Berry, I think it would be very beneficial for him to come back.”

That’s loyalty.  To both the player and the program.

And here’s some more.  Talking about the current recruiting class, Garner had this to say:

“Obviously we have a lot of guys committed, but we have to do a good job of holding on to those guys that are committed,” Garner said. “In the next month, it’s going to be a critical month for us in the process. We need to hold on to the guys we’ve got committed and there a couple more guys out there we’re still targeting. We need to be able to close on those guys.”

Apparently, there’s some friction between Garner and Evans.  I hope it’s nothing that can’t be overcome if Garner indicates that he’d prefer not to leave.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Indy Bowl recap

As we were watching the scrubs duke it out in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter last night, my friend turned to me and asked, “do you think they (the defense) would have played worse if Martinez had been coaching?”.  I thought about it for a moment, and said “no, but I don’t think they would have played any better.” Willie, we hardly knew ‘ye.  Or missed ‘ye.

It’s been a long, strange trip this year, and somehow, the way the Independence Bowl played out seemed entirely in character.  If there’s a game that embodies the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, it’s last night’s.  From TAMU’s perspective, here’s a summary:

… Texas A&M had 92 plays and 471 yards of total offense, nearly 100 more than Georgia. The Aggies had nine more first downs than the Bulldogs and managed to move the ball with nice drives.

And the defense, which came in with lots of questions, held tough against Georgia. The Aggies made key stops on third down and held firm, even after the Bulldogs made big plays. But after giving up just 99 yards of total offense in the first half, Texas A&M surrendered 267 yards in the second. A lot of that was in the fourth quarter, when the defense clearly was tired. The Aggies also had to defend the short field too often because of the special-teams problems.

“The defense played their hearts out and rose up to the challenge,” Sherman said. “Everyone was talking about both offenses and not talking about defense. I thought the defense stepped up and played the best ball they’ve played all year long.”

Maybe it’s a step in the right direction for an inconsistent defense. The same can’t be said for special teams. Changes are clearly needed. It’s a unit that didn’t fare well on kickoff returns all year, allowing touchdowns at the absolute worst times. Monday’s return near the end of the first half was a crusher. So was the return for Texas after the Aggies had made it a three-point game midway through the fourth quarter. Texas A&M then missed a late field goal.

The Aggies ran 24 more plays on offense than did the Dawgs, held better than a four-minute time of possession advantage… and got smoked.

Here are a few random observations:

  • Rennie Curran, suspended.  Rennie Curran?
  • After a season of disappointments, it didn’t surprise me that there were issues with discipline this week.  What did surprise me was how well many of the players who ran afoul of the coaches performed.
  • A.J. Green looked rusty out there – not so much in his route running or his blocking, but in seeing the ball.  It looked like he misjudged the flight of two passes pretty badly.  Of course, his job wasn’t made easier by erratic QB play.

Juuuuuuuust a bit outside. (courtesy David Tulis/david.tulis@onlineathens.com)

  • It wasn’t Joe Cox’ finest hour, although he did have his moments, particularly with the two touchdown passes.  But he lacked control on most of his sideline throws and that interception was another in a long list of head-scratchers this season.
  • It’s easy to be critical of Mike Bobo’s playcalling in the first half, but considering that his quarterback was having trouble throwing the ball downfield, his receivers were having trouble catching the ball when he did and his offensive line was having trouble picking up some of the most obvious run-blitz packages known to man, I’m not really sure what Bobo could have done differently.  He stayed with what he thought would work, and sure enough, he was rewarded for his trouble with a 267-yard second half and another 200 plus-yard rushing game.
  • Besides, only good things seemed to happen for a long stretch when the offense didn’t have the ball in its hands.  TAMU’s special teams lived down to their billing.  The coverage on Boykin’s kick return was Gawd awful, the punt team had a block and a snap over the punter’s head lead to scores and there was a blocked field goal to add to the fun.  It was as if the ghost of Jon Fabris showed up and haunted the wrong team.
  • Great, great game from the defensive line.  For much of the start, it was they and Butler that were holding things together.
  • Whoever comes in on the defensive staff has their work cut out on teaching pass defense technique.  You watch somebody like Boykin in coverage and you realize that, if anything, he’s regressed this season.  And none of the linebackers can hold their own in coverage, either.  I refuse to believe it’s a lack of talent.
  • On the other hand, kudos to Vance Cuff, who actually managed to bring down a wide receiver with a tackle.
  • Not one of Uncle Ron’s better efforts in the booth, I’m afraid to say.  Aside from referring to Washaun Ealey as “Early” several times and referring to Chapas as a tight end, he was okay, but didn’t really add much to the proceedings.  And before you say that was due to the setting, I would point out that he called a terrific Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2006.
  • However, the single dumbest comment of the night came from his broadcast partner who, in describing Mike Sherman’s decision to go for two with his team down by 24 with only 73 seconds left to play, said that Sherman made the correct call because that’s what’s on the card that tells coaches when to go for two.  The card?  I’ve got no problem with Sherman using that as a teaching moment for his young players, but if anybody deserves a Pam Ward comparison, Ed Cunningham qualifies.  The time to look at a card was long past, my man.

In the end, it’s not worth taking too much out of the win, other than that I remain convinced that this team is loaded with talent.  Here’s hoping that the new defensive staff (as well as whoever winds up coaching special teams) is able to harness all that ability with far more effectiveness than the coaches did in 2009.  The good thing is that with the blow out, the head man has now won ninety games in nine seasons.  I like the chances that Georgia rebounds.

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Filed under Georgia Football

In Indianapolis, the perfect season hasn’t started yet.

You really didn’t think I’d pass up the opportunity to comment on this, did you?

“Ultimately, what matters the most is what happens in the postseason,” Denver coach Josh McDaniels said. “So, I think their season is going to be determined by what they do once the playoffs start, not what happened yesterday.”

He’s right, of course.  The 10-6 regular season, er, World Champion New York Giants remain living proof of that.

What’s truly awful about Caldwell’s decision to pull his starters from a 15-10 game with more than a quarter of the game to go isn’t short-changing the fans who paid to watch (although that’s pretty bad).  It’s this:

The decision also could have ramifications on the playoff race.

The Jets now have control, thanks to Sunday’s victory, and teams such as Pittsburgh or Houston could end up missing the postseason because the Colts rested key players.

When people like myself express concern about devaluing the regular season, that’s what we’re talking about.  So for those of you who continue to wax indignant about Boise State with its 98th-ranked strength of schedule not getting to play for a national title, you might want to consider how the other side feels.

“Obviously I would have loved to have seen them win that game,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “But for us it really doesn’t matter. We have to worry about taking care of our business. … They’ve got to do what they think they got to do. But we’ve got to worry about ourselves.”

Gary, rest assured that they’re settling it on the field.

The point here isn’t a simplistic “playoffs are bad” one.  It’s that careful consideration needs to go into the design of a playoff format for D-1 football should that day come.  The cure being worse than the disease, and all that…

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Not-so perverse thought of the day

You know, in the vast scheme of things, Mack Brown getting a big raise from an athletic department generating record revenues bothers me a helluva lot less than this.

… In 1996, voters in Hamilton County approved an increase of half of one percent in the sales tax that promised to build and maintain stadiums for the Bengals and the Reds, pay Cincinnati’s public schools and give homeowners an annual property tax rebate. The stadiums were supposed to spur development of the city’s dilapidated riverfront.

But sales tax receipts have fallen so fast in the last year that the county is now scrambling to bridge a $14 million deficit in its sales tax fund. The public schools, which deferred taking their share for years, want their money.

The teams have not volunteered to rewrite their leases. So in the coming weeks, the county plans to cut basic services, lower its legal bills and drain a bond reserve fund with no plan for paying it back.

Yep, politics and organized sports – everyone’s a winner.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery