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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28 Comments

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28 responses to “Indy Bowl recap

  1. baltimore dawg

    didn’t cox get hit just as he released the ball on that int? i’ll have to look at it again, but my recollection is that he had aj behind the defense, got hit as he was throwing, and the ball died out of his hand. just saying–that wouldn’t qualify as a head-scratcher, imo.

    • I’ll have to go back and look at the replay, too. I thought Joe did what he’s done too often this year – lock in on a receiver and wait too long to get rid of the ball.

    • Silver Creek Dawg

      Bmore, you are correct. Cox was hit under his right arm as he released the pass and was not able to follow through.

      Additionally, AJ had inside position on the A&M DB and, I believe, would have caught the pass.

  2. Bulldog Bry

    Yes, Cox got hit on that play.

    And, it’s not that I’m unhappy with two interceptions, but day-um. How many did we miss? Three? Four?
    And before Cuff recovered the blocked punt, I was convinced that Richt was right about the ball not bouncing our way this season. There were several that bounced away from us.

  3. Darryl Strawberry

    Cox was definitely hit on the release. Not a head scratcher at all.

    And I am all for rounding up Pam Ward, Ed Cunningham, Bob Davie, Mark Jones, Thom Brennanman, Andre Ware, and Bruce Feldman (who doesnt call games…yet. But they should have never put that guy on TV) for a nice gassing.

  4. Brandon

    Heck, I think we were better last night without Willie, we were at least attempting to harass Johnson throughout the game not just laying back and waiting for him to pick us apart, at least one of the interceptions could be chocked up directly to pressure. All in all (as it usually is with bowl games) it was more relief that we didn’t lose that exultation that we won, I am proud of them though for finishing strong beating Tech and winning there bowl game, with Willie gone I look to the future with a measure of hope. Go Dawgs.

  5. Ubiquitous GA Alum

    More random observations …

    1. TAMU going for 2 was no big deal; Keeping your starters in while down 30 & attempting an onside kick with 73 seconds to go was stupid — tear and ACL and the teaching moment becomes an opportunity for the 2nd string QB/RB.

    2. As for the 2nd string QB (Tanneyhill?), he was knocked out in the first half and played WR the second half … never caught another pass. Wonder why?

    3. I never saw Branden Smith on offense. Guess his fumbling carried through into practice.

    4. Coach Fab probably lit up like a Christmas tree when we did the squib kick!

    • Per Branden Smith, he was on the field in the first half on one play, came in motion like we were going to run a speed sweep with him, but Charles and one of the linemen jumped. Got a penalty and changed the play call.

  6. Scooter

    Congratulations Georgia fans. Your team really made the SEC look great. I have a few comment though: I thought that you guys would not have a new mascot for the rest of the year or was I mistaken?

    From an Alabama fan’s perspective, Georgia looks too loaded with talent to have lost 5 games. It’s scary how loaded with talent you guys are. If you get the right coordinator in, you have the talent to win the East next year. That is if Richt has the team more disciplined.

    • Ubiquitous GA Alum

      Scooter, the mascot (Russ) was the second string walk-on. He is not the new Uga so you were not mistaken.

      A new Uga will be introduced either at or before the first home game next season.

      Good luck in the BCS Champ game. I think you guys will gob-smack them. They cannot run the ball and Saban/Smart will tormet Colt all night long with a sundry of blitzes and stunts.

      • rbubp

        They also only have one really good receiver, Shipley. UT is the most offensively challenged team I’ve seen in an MNC game in the last several years. (Can’t think of a worse one.) If they had played competent defenses instead of the two that exist in the Big 12 (Nebraska and Oklahoma), they would have lost three games easily.

        TCU would have beaten them. I have almost no doubt of it.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          +1. Agreed. Which points out how bad the BCS really is.

        • Macallanlover

          +2.

          I don’t think Texas is even in the Top 10. This doesn’t mean they cannot put up a good fight when inspired, but they have not looked impressive to me all year long. There have been warning signs scattered throughout as they came from behind against: Wyoming, Colorado, Texas A&M, and Nebraska. An “off week” is one thing, but struggling this much is an indication you just haven’t got the talent to make it through a tough schedule. McCoy and Shipley isn’t enough talent to win against the Bama defense unless McElroy lays an egg. Bama to roll.

  7. Scooter

    The defensive line was really great last night. Particularly in keeping their rush lanes on TAMU passes. Their running QB never got in his comfort zone very often of scrambling around and creating something out of nothing. Garner clearly coached em up last night.

  8. Farsider

    You’re 100% right about the talent of this team. That’s what makes the play so frustrating at times. The inconsistency. How could a team look so bad one minute and so great the next? But moving forward I think all Dawg fans have a lot to look forward to next season, if Richt and the new coaches can get a fire lit under this bunch.

  9. Pingback: He’s A Fightin’ Texas Aggie « The Grit Tree

  10. LD

    The dumbest comment of the night came from Cunningham earlier in the game, after TAMU pooch punted after calling a timeout on 4th and long deep in UGA territory. Cunningham said “great call there by Sherman and they caught the Dawgs napping.”

    Really? Great call by wasting a timeout just to give the ball away? Especially when you could’ve taken a 5 yard penalty and had more room to corner the punt? And the Dawgs were “napping”? They were 100% protecting for the fake kick (which was probably a better playcall). The kick went directly out of bounds and could not have been returned. There was absolutely nothing Georgia could’ve done differently, except line up in a way that allowed TAMU to audible a fake at the line. Georgia played it exactly right, and lost nothing because of it.

    Oh, and that timeout that they burned just to hand over possession… that might’ve been useful at the end of the half. Otherwise, it was a “great call”.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Exactly right. Wasting that timeout cost A&M an easy field goal at the end of the half. It was a bonehead call to do that not a “great call” as Cunningham said.

  11. Rennie Curran was suspended for the first quarter for missing a running session……… because he was at the dentist. (according to Hale)

    Even when he is bad, he is good.

  12. Refreshed

    I thought the defense was better with out Willie. We actually made some adjustments during the game. The defense also seemed to be more aggressive. We could have tackled a little better though. I believe with the right DC and added coaches we could really turn some heads next year. I do wish CMR would take over special teams. This would do two things, 1- make him be more engaged with the game and players 2- free up space to add another coach or instead of a coach a recruiting coordinator that does nothing but study recruits and recruiting rules and make sure we get the best recruits. Finishing in the top is one thing getting the players that make a difference in another. This guy could research, set schedules, make initial contact, and then assign the right coach to visit the players. CMR could still close the deal if he needed to, but this would free up the coaches to spend more time coaching and planning and less time on the road.

  13. Mayor of Dawgtown

    I am more optimistic about UGA football now than I have been for quite some time. This team is loaded with young players who are terrific athletes. The team survived this season and, except for the hiccup at the end of the game against UK (a team the Dawgs clearly outplayed), played well down the home stretch of the season. We beat Auburn, Tech and won the bowl game. That ain’t all bad. The coaching problems on D and special teams have been ferreted out and are being dealt with and I, for one, feel absolutely confident in CMR’s ability to make the right hires. I can barely wait for next season to begin.

  14. Watching the replay of the game now while I “work” and TAMU’s 1st drive of the second half was an absolute disaster for our defense. In a microcosm, it was our season. Missed tackles, horrible coverage, lost TO opportunities, and allowing long 3rd and longs

  15. NRBQ

    Actually, Senator, UGA had possession for 32+ minutes, not TAMU. Hard to believe after that first quarter-and-a-half.

    And just who the hell IS (or was) Ed Cunningham?

    • Sheesh. Bad editing on my part – I rewrote the comment and forgot to change that.

      Thanks for the catch.

    • Dog in Fla

      “who the hell IS (or was) Ed Cunningham?”

      Wondered the same thing. Thought because he was color man, that must have meant that he used to be somebody. And if he’s the same Ed Cunningham who was a producer of ‘King of Kong’, the Best Documentary ever on Donkey Kong (because we all should know that the info posted on this blog is generally more accurate and trustworthy than what is in the Wiki), he should stick with producing because he’s better at that. However, Ed should get some credit for having to be in the booth with Ron ‘Early’ Franklin who somewhat sadly has forgotten how to read a roster in the latter part of his announcing career.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Cunningham

  16. Lee

    The thing on defense that impressed me most was the in-game substitutions. The most obvious one: Johnson had some big running lanes up the middle early, and quickly you could see a concerted effort by the D line to stay in their middle lanes while they rushed. Johnson did get some more middle runs later in the game, but for the most part, the *early* adjustments shut that down. The apparent lack of adjustments by the D was my biggest gripe with CWM coached defenses.

    The TV crew, obviously not the WWL’s A-Team, had quite the love affair with TAMU. They were quick to point out bad plays by UGA (which there were plenty to choose from), but when things went bad for A&M, it was, “Oh, they are so young.” If I had $5 for every time I heard that… And they were drooling over Von Miller. While he did get some pressure and good tackles (unblocked) in run blitzes, I thought he was pretty well handled. From their coverage though, he had an all-star performance. Taken nothing away from his accomplishments, the NCAA leader in sacks had, um, 0 sacks in this game. All that said, I’d still rather listen to them than Bob Davie. Hiring him as an announcer was a Y-UUUUUUGE mistake :)

    Final random thought. Rennie’s stand-up first-down-denying tackle of Johnson to set up the 4th and 1 where we got the pick, in my mind, sums up Rennie as a player in a single play.

  17. Russ

    Fun time in Shreveport, and the Dawgs looked pretty good. I was disappointed in the O-line. I thought we could run on them, but never took control. D-line play was very good, and I agree that we (finally) took away the QB draw. If the next coordinator teaches tackling, and uses a more aggressive scheme, I expect a big upgrade in results.

    All in all, it was a nice win and helps give a little momentum going into the next year.