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.