Daily Archives: November 14, 2010

A tale of two coordinators

Given the points and yardage yielded, it’s strange to say, but I thought Grantham did a pretty good job yesterday, given what he had to work with:  a defensive line that lacks a dominating player, a group of players that haven’t been able to shake years of bad habits defending misdirection plays and substandard safety play in pass coverage.

Indeed, I’ll go farther than that.  In the first half, Grantham coached his ass off.  For a considerable stretch, he had Auburn’s offense looking tight and confused.  In Auburn’s first five series, he came away with three stops, including a turnover that set up Georgia’s second score.  Unfortunately, Malzahn, like any good offensive coordinator, honed in on exploiting the flaws in Georgia’s defense and stuck with it.  Beginning with their last drive of the first half, Auburn’s offense never looked back.

So yesterday was a confirmation of what I’ve seen from Georgia’s defensive coordinator for the past few weeks.  I think he’ll get the defense back to a level we’d like, but it’s going to take time and better personnel in certain key spots than he’s got right now to reach that.

Yesterday was also a confirmation of sorts as to my impressions of Mike Bobo, who remains a study in frustration for me.  There’s the sharp Bobo, the guy who’s obviously studied the opponent, found the holes in the defense and used the talent he had on hand to exploit them.  The fourth-and-one call that resulted in Georgia first touchdown was a distillation of every good instinct in Bobo’s brain:  a well designed play (between Orson and A.J., the safety was going to leave one of them in single coverage) that was called at a perfect moment.

But then there are the times when Sharp Bobo defers to Dogmatic Bobo, and we saw that yesterday when the Dawgs got the ball back in the second quarter leading 21-14.  That’s the Bobo who reminds himself about things like time of possession, balance and number of plays run and forces his offense into an ideological straightjacket, because there’s a book on what an offensive coordinator is supposed to do to be successful and it’s important not to stray from those principles.

The thing is, Auburn’s defense has its flaws, too.  The single worst unit I saw on the field yesterday was the Tigers’ secondary.  As Danielson noted, they literally couldn’t cover A.J.  There were several pass plays during which you could see on replay that Georgia had multiple receivers running open.  And Murray was getting decent protection for the most part.  The strategy there should have been to stick with what was working in the first quarter (at one point, Murray’s average yards per completion was an eye-popping 21.3) and damn the time of possession and number of plays stats.  But that’s not what Bobo elected to do, and Georgia’s scoring pace slowed considerably from that point forward through the rest of the game.

I’ve always believed that the first rule of being a good offensive coordinator is to take what the defense gives you.  In his heart, I think Bobo believes that as well.  The difference is that he doesn’t trust his judgment enough to stick with it for an entire game.  That’s what separates him from a coordinator like Malzahn.  In the end, I think it’s the biggest (although not the only) reason for yesterday’s loss.  And the question for Mark Richt is whether he can get Sharp Bobo to convince Dogmatic Bobo to take a hike.

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Cry “bullshit”, and let loose the dogs of war.

Under NCAA rules, the two Auburn players who were ejected will have to sit out the first half of the Tigers’ next game, which is against Alabama.

“Just really disappointed in that,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “That’s a lot of reflection on us as coaches, and I’m embarrassed by it. That’s not who we are. That’s not the way we carry ourselves, and we will address it tomorrow. . . . I am not happy about it at all.”

Funny… he didn’t seem that upset while it was going on.

As a general rule, I’m not big on the Corch Meyers “We’ll handle it, and it’s going to be a big deal” approach to motivating the troops, but I think I’m ready to make an exception in this case.

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In their own words… a few more thoughts on the Auburn game

Some of you probably aren’t of a mind to listen right now, but Coach Richt made a few comments in his post-game presser worth citing as points of reference to why Georgia wound up on the short end of a 49-31 score.

On Auburn’s on-side kick to open the second half: “We alerted [the players] at the half. The dilemma for our special teams is if they sit at the tee and watch the ball too long when all those guys are flying down the field at 100 miles an hour and they’re supposed to get in position to block, they can’t make the block. Auburn’s kickoff coverage team was one of the bigger differences in the game. And with them getting the on-side kick to start the second half and take the lead . . . we were hoping to get the ball first and put them in a position to be behind. We didn’t get good field position off our kickoff returns, and their kickoff coverage team tonight was the best we’ve played all season.”

It didn’t get much attention from the broadcast crew, but I think Richt is spot on about this.  Georgia blocked very poorly for Boykin and didn’t seem prepared for the speed of Auburn’s kickoff coverage team.  Given the number of times Auburn kicked off, that was kind of a big deal.  And I’ll get back to it shortly, but the halftime alert about a potential onside kick highlights a problem that has plagued this team in every loss this season, poor focus.

On biggest differences in the game: “We just couldn’t stop them. That was the biggest difference. We didn’t continue to score, and that’s all there is to it. Auburn was very efficient in what they were doing on offense. It’s very difficult to stop a quarterback who can run like that. The only way to outnumber a run game like that is to bring both safeties to the line of scrimmage. When you do that, he throws the ball too well. Cam (Newton) is a true dual threat and a tough kid. They have other good players that played well today, but he’s the difference.”

Newton is the best player in college football and I don’t think Auburn wins yesterday without him.  (Neither did they, obviously.)  But the reason that Richt and Grantham were faced with the bad choices they had in defending Cam is that their defense lacks a presence in the middle of the d-line.  That hurt them repeatedly throughout the game.  I don’t know if Geathers or Bean will make a difference next year, or if the staff needs to be out beating the JUCO bushes to find a nose tackle, but finding a difference maker on the line has to be Job One in the off-season.

On Auburn playing well despite the week’s distractions: “As a coach and for players, when you go to practice and the meeting room and you’re in your complex, it’s kind of a haven for you. It’s a place where you can focus on the task at hand. When you’re surrounded by guys focused on the same task it’s a good medicine. When there are things swirling around that you cannot control, you have a chance to enjoy playing the game you love.”

I touched on this last night, and for a game that went much like I thought it would, it sure had its sense of the surreal, courtesy of Cam and Cecil Newton.  (Danielson made much the same observation, in the middle of all the tongue bathing he and Uncle Verne were lavishing on Cam.)  I confess that I don’t understand the “no comment” approach Auburn took in the last two days before the game.  Was it gamesmanship?  If so, I doubt the Georgia coaches were taken in by it.  Was it simply a case of the school trying to get control of the story by refusing to respond to every question or rumor, as Ivan Maisel suggests?  If that’s the case, good luck with that.  The story is only going to get bigger with every Auburn win and the school stonewalling the media isn’t going to tamp down on the frenzy to get to the bottom of the story.

But what you have to give Auburn’s coaches big, big credit for is something Georgia lacked at key moments in the game.  And I’ll let Justin Houston have the last word on that.

“They had over 100 yards of rushing just by running the reverse,” Georgia linebacker Justin Houston said. “That is us blowing our assignments. We weren’t where we were supposed to be, and they capitalized on our mistakes.

“Some guys aren’t as focused as they need to be. That hurt today and has hurt us all season.”

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Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Georgia Football