“We can get to what they did.”

We argue a lot here about whether the offense or defense should shoulder most of the blame for this year’s disappointing season, but I think Mark Richt hits closer to what the systemic problem is with this comment from last night’s Bulldog Hotline (h/t, as always, to Jim from Duluth):

… Dale in Glendale wanted to give a shout out to one of the guys on the scout team. He asked CMR for his top 3 ways we can get back to where we are.

CMR – In the big games, we’ve got to play the entire 60 minutes. If you turn the ball over at a key time or make a penalty at a key time .. bottom line is we’ve got to win these close ball games. Even like an Arkansas game .. we fight and scrap to get back in the game, then 2 min. left and a chance to run the clock down and kick a FG to win.. one of our guys misses a protection he’s done 5 times already in the game.

In our offseason program, we’ve got to train our guys to make these plays at the moment of truth…

Speaking of that Arkansas game, you’ve got to train your coaches to make the right calls at the moment of truth, too.

But I think his larger point about focus is well taken.  It’s hard to think of a single loss this year when there wasn’t a stretch in the game where the team got its act together on both sides of the ball and made a game of it.  The good news is that they haven’t had any of those soul numbing performances where the team disappears that plagued Georgia in the past three or four seasons.  The bad news is that this season they weren’t able to sustain those periods of excellence long enough to salvage a win against the better teams on the schedule (and, ugh, Colorado).

Which makes this quote from Richt a good reminder about the effort needed from the defense Saturday night.

… Asked if his defense gained confidence from keeping the Yellow Jackets in check last year, Georgia coach Mark Richt instead talked about 2008.

“I think two years ago anybody who’s still left over realized how crucial it is to be focused every single snap,” Richt said. “Every single snap, You just can not think you’ve got ‘em, because you don’t. You might have got ‘em one play, but you don’t have these guys unless you are focused every single snap and you do exactly what you’re supposed to do and then it gives you a chance.”

And it’s why I share Paul’s concerns.  One thing I like, though, is that Grantham’s been looking at tape from last year’s game.

… Grantham said he has watched some of Georgia’s defense against the Yellow Jackets last year.

“We can get to what they did,” he said. “You’ve just got to be sound on those guys. They’re going to make you defend everything. They’re going to make you defend the fullback. They’re going to make you defend the quarterback on the edge. They’re going to make you defend the pitch and you’ve got to be able to handle those and you’ve got to understand they’re going to try and get angles on you different ways.

“They’re going to test your support system and we’ve got to be able to handle that stuff.”

It’s not that I expect him to take much from Martinez’ scheme.  But that game from a focus and preparation standpoint was easily the best effort the staff and players turned in against a quality opponent in the last two seasons.  It’s worth reminding everyone in the program that they’re capable of playing a solid 60-minute game if they put their minds to it.

Honestly, if they do, I don’t see how this one stays close.

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40 Comments

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40 responses to ““We can get to what they did.”

  1. kckd

    Dude, we didn’t even make them punt once last year. I’ll admit, at least aside from the DT reception, we didn’t give up the big play and made them drive the field. But we can play better defense than we played last year. If we can’t, then the future doesn’t look too bright.

    Our offensive line won that game last year.

    • I always love the “we didn’t make them punt once” line. It conveniently ignores the two turnovers and the two stops on fourth downs.

      I’m not saying the defense played a perfect game, just that the effort and focus was much, much improved from what we’d seen.

      • Brandon

        Turnovers are mostly a function of luck, the vast majority of the time they result from the offense making a mistake not the defense “forcing” anything, the question usually is when the offense makes a mistake can the defense capitalize? First they have to be in the right place at the right time, and then they make the play when they are (i.e actually fall on the loose ball, catch the errant throw or tipped pass). I think you also have to admit that one of those “stops” last year was a complete gift (Bay Bay Thomas dropping the pass at the end of the game) it sure as heck wasn’t caused by our defense. I don’t remember what it was, the offense won that Tech game last year, we didn’t punt either.

        • Normaltown Mike

          I dunno, seems like we had a lot more “luck” when guys like TD, Odell, Pollack and Tim Jennings played for us.

          Not so much with CJ Byrd, Brandon Miller, Rod Battle and Prince Miller.

          • kckd

            checkout the 2004 stats. Willie M., going into the 2005 season put a stress on INTS, cause the numbers were so low. Great defenses don’t always get a lot of turnovers. Takeaways fluctuated quite a bit in Richt’s glory years. The constant was the offense took care of the ball.

        • W Cobb Dawg

          Not sure about turnovers being “luck”. Pollack, for one, had a knack for getting the ball. Of course, Pollack was attacking all the time and never let up. Although I don’t feel the D attacks as much as we were led to believe before the season, they certainly have created more turnovers than the bend-but-don’t-break.

          • Bill Stanfill

            You make your own luck in football.

          • Brandon

            I did say “mostly”, there is some skill involved sure, as far as defensive backs reading routes and breaking on the ball when a QB locks in a receiver, or players stripping the ball from somebody carrying the ball carelessly I admit that but at least 85-90% of the time turnovers are a result of the offense making a mistake. If you don’t believe that you are kidding yourself, why else do coaches/players/fans harp on the offense “taking care of the ball” that is the key element, that is what we did when we had David Greene, D.J. Shockley, and the elder Matt Stafford. Not so much with the younger Matt and the Ginja Ninja. AM’s done a good job this year, unfortunately our RB’s have had the dropsies.

      • Gen. Stoopnagle

        Regardless, I’d like to see them punt this year. PJ is going to go for it on 4th and 3 pretty regularly. If tech is punting, then we’re holding on those 3d and longs.

        I suppose the comment to be made about last year is that they obviously were in a lot of 4th/3rd and short (<4) situations.

      • kckd

        From what we’d seen? Yes senator. But from what we want? No.

        And you are the first to conveniently say over and over turnovers are more to do with luck (regression to the mean sound familiar) than actual intense defense.

        Had a much more intense defense in 2004 that couldn’t buy an INT.

        • You’re reading way more into my post than was intended. I’ve never said anything more than that this year’s defense is a work in progress.

          Last year, I thought the defense played its most focused, consistent game against Tech. At home, Tech averaged almost five and a half yards per rush; Georgia’s defense held the Jackets to 4.0 yards per carry. That helps win games.

          Luck or not, a turnover is still a stop. So is a change of possession on downs.

          • Brandon

            A turnover is not something I’m going to give a DC a whole hell of a lot of credit for, that’s the opposing offense making a mistake usually and an individual player or two on the defense making a play by falling on the loose ball or snagging the errant or telegraphed throw.

    • Biggus Rickus

      The defense did force a field goal after a turnover gave Georgia Tech a short field and got a couple of turnovers. For last year’s defense it was a yeoman’s effort. They should be able to play them better this year, but I’m not banking on it considering the number of blown assignments they’ve had throughout the season. Not to mention the weakness they’ve displayed up the middle at times.

  2. Russ

    There was another point in the article about defense. Once we get back to playing good defense, we’ll be fine. The overriding problem with our team is that we can’t make the crucial stop or takeaway. We’re better than last year, but we still have a ways to go. Glad to hear Richt agrees, and that they’re looking at JUCO help as a short term fix.

  3. Brandon

    I understand the lack of focus point of view but this was primarily a problem that began afflicting the defense under Martinez. Our offense is actually better than it was before Bobo took over. I went back and looked at the media guide this weekend and there were a couple of years there 2001-06 where we averaged less than 300 yards a game on offense, (Bobo started calling plays in the 2006 GT game). If you transposed the defense from the post-Van Gorder era and paired them with the offenses of the early Richt era we wouldn’t have won nothing in those years, likewise if we’d have had a Van Gorder class defense since Bobo started calling plays we’d have won a hell of a lot more and would probably have SEC Championships maybe more in 2007 and 2008. Since BVG left our defense started disappearing for stretches of games it gradually got worse and worse, I believe this is a result of: 1) After BVG left we didn’t have a good motivator and 2) the players lost faith in Willy Mo because they stopped seeing results even when they did what he told them to, he had them conceding 6-7 yard passes 2/3 of the time, when teams started wising up (David Cutcliffe was the trailblazer) and realizing those dumps were always going to be there they just started hammering away on us, the players quit on him. You add to that the fact that he (unlike BVG) ran a seniority based system vs. a meritocracy and you have more player discontent. Thank God that guy is gone. Bobo has and can continue to get the job done, you give him a good defense and we’ll win championships I guarantee you.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      “Bobo.. can.. get the job done”. Bobo had 10 returning starters going into this season, a deep bench and a talented new QB. And the D was improved from last season. If the O had outscored scu, arky, msu, colorado, flo, or awbie, I’d be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Truth is, Bobo is mediocre. But you’re right about the D – they are going to be responsible when Dawgs improve. CMB’s O can’t be depended upon to take us to a championship.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        The best thing that could happen to UGA football would be for Bobo (whom I like as a person and as a QB coach) to get an offer from a college somewhere (maybe D-IAA or a smaller conference like the MAC) to be HC. I do not see Richt canning him ( he hasn’t done badly enough to get the ax) and that is the only way we will get an opening to fill with a top-notch OC.

        • JBJ

          So sad but true. Accepting mediocrity seems to be the standard these days. I think our problems run much deeper than Bobo.

      • Brandon

        We are currently 26th in the nation in scoring offense, that is in the top 20% of FBS teams. We allowed four of those six teams to score more than 30, you’re going to lose a lot when you do that and it ain’t the offense’s fault, especially when your offense averaged 28 points a game in those four losses. In the case of the other two games we also had a freshman QB making his first two road starts in the SEC against two teams that have turned out to be pretty good despite the color of their helmets (the last time we had a freshman QB we averaged 285 yards a game on offense and had double digit picks, that was pre-Bobo by the way), throw in the fact that A.J. was suspended and neither is a bad loss. We were in the game until the final minutes in both cases. I also seem to remember a couple of fumbles and dropped passes being a big deal in both of those losses (not to mention the CU game), the OC can’t hold onto the ball and catch passes for players. We haven’t been blown out of a single game this year, in every game if you flip a couple of plays we are anywhere from 9-2 to 11-0, we are probably 8-3 if A.J. is merely not suspended the first third of the season. Offensive coaches and players get too much of the glory when we win and too much of the blame when we lose, its because its the sexier side of the ball for fans I suppose, but the real difference between the early Richt years and the last few have been our defense. If you pair the post Van Gorder defense with the early Richt year offenses, David Greene, Fred Gibson, Musa Smith, etc. would not be remembered so fondly by our fans, if you gave the guys the last few years BVG’s defenses many of them might be remembered more fondly. Generally, as a fan if you’re going to legitimately criticque coaches your criteria has got to be a little broader than merely whether we won or loss, that’s just ignorant and leads to poor decision making for your program.

  4. Dante

    I’m glad to see Richt laying off his “finish the drill” mantra and instead talks about playing “the entire 60 minutes.” Because quite frankly, the problem is just as often that they didn’t really start the drill until somewhere near the middle of the second quarter.

  5. The Original Cynical in Athens

    If Grantham thinks we can do what the defense did last year, I have serious concerns about his intelligence.

    We had 3 NFL DT’s that absolutely abused Gtu’s interior line last year.

    Unless Grantham is planning on actually playing our best NT for more than 6 snaps on Saturday, we simply don’t have the personnel to stop the basic dive play. Once Gtu is able to get the dive going, that offense sings.

    Seems I am the only one concerned about this game, but it is not setting up well for us.

    • You think Tech is going to do a better job shutting down Georgia’s offense than the last six opponents the Dawgs have faced? Based on what?

      • Scott W.

        The fact that he wants Richt fired.

        • The Original Cynical in Athens

          I don’t want Richt fired, I want him to win football games.

          I see this game as a 42-35 type affair, and as Coach Richt says above, we are too mentally weak to win close ballgames.

          It would be nice to run them out of the stadium, but if it becomes a 4th quarter game, you have to dislike our chances of finding a way to win.

          • JBJ

            Around here, if you critique CMR then you obviously want him fired. The tag line of Get The Picture should be “Defending Mediocre Coaches Everywhere”.

            I have to agree, I see a close game. The turnovers are going to be magnified in this game. If it comes down to a fourth quarter fight, then I hope the guys will dig deep and overcome the coaching.

            • Around here, if you critique CMR then you obviously want him fired. The tag line of Get The Picture should be “Defending Mediocre Coaches Everywhere”.

              Eye of the beholder, friend.

              You might want to check the archives from the 2009 season. Martinez didn’t have many friends here. If any.

              • JBJ

                Precisely my point, again. The root cause of the state of Georgia football is not due to CWM. It is due to CMR and his inability to fire underperforming coaches and his ability to be content with mediocrity.

                Again this year people are calling for Bobo’s head on a platter. At some point, CMR must be held responsible for this. He is not a terrible coach. He just does not have the determination and fire to get it done.

                Maybe someone should introduce him to the concept of kaizen.

                • It is due to CMR and his inability to fire underperforming coaches and his ability to be content with mediocrity.

                  He fired three coaches after last season. Seems to undercut your point. Reluctance? Sure. Inability and contentment? If that’s what you want to believe, be my guest.

      • W Cobb Dawg

        I don’t know Senator. The O may have scored some points over the last 6 games, but they have a bad habit of letting us down when a W is on the line – and they have to man-up and take it to the house. If CTG has learned anything this year, it’s that his D won’t get much help from the O when the chips are down. Still, like a lot of others I expect the Dawgs to win handily – but ‘Cynical’ has a point.

        • Hmm. I see a team which brings back nine of the eleven guys who started and scored 30 points against Tech on the road… and the two other players are A.J. and Aaron Murray. I’m having a hard time seeing how this team doesn’t score a bunch, outside of blowing up on turnovers.

          • JBJ

            A good offense does not mean anything against Tech. Remember two years ago when we were stacked and still lost? Stafford, Moreno, MoMass, and Green. Just look at that. We still found a way to lose three games that year. Of course, we lost to the Gators yet again but nobody seems to care about that.

    • King Jericho

      The NFL game goes both ways. Since last year, they’ve lost NFL caliber DE, WR, RB, and S. And I’d say those 4 guys combined were better than the guys we lost. Not to mention their heart and soul this year was Nesbitt who broke his arm.

      We’ve got more depth than them and if you’ve watched any GTu football this year, you’ll know they don’t have the talent to match up, even losing those guys you mentioned.

  6. Macallanlover

    I think we win this game, probably by something close to the 2 TD Vegas line, but our defense is not what brings me comfort. I think their offense is weaker at both QB, RB, and receiver. Plus, their defense is much worse, particularly in getting pressure on the passer which exposes their secondary.

    I had high confidence we could contain their running game last year because we had a strong front 7, this year we do not and the falloff is substantial. Fortunately, their execution in running the option is worse, and even their passing game is less of a threat. We should be OK in getting enough stops to allow our offense to outscore them but that doesn’t mean we need to get substantially better on defense before next fall. I think the JUCO route is our best hope to accomplish that.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      We need a huge recruiting class this year. Really concerned how meager we currently are on front 7 verbals. It’s almost fortunate we’ll have an early bowl game, so coaches have more time to recruit.

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  8. Too many comments to read but writing this after the fact and game makes it apparently clear we have no defense — we went from 31st in the nation in 2009 to 30th in 2010 — Wow, look what $750K will buy you ! We gave up 500 plus yards and did we punt just once ? Who knows, I lost track of what I like to call the GA/GA Tech track meet. I especially liked the way they just let us score so they could get the ball back asap and then slice and dice our defense once more. I thought I was watching the WAC conference only GA Tech wasn’t passing (at all). Good coaches (with or without big salaries) learn to use the players they have. They don’t try to “shoehorn” their players to their system if it “don’t fit”. You must adapt your system to your players and your talent. Our defensive line is small so rotate them and please please please (as the Beatles would say) — teach any and all to wrapup and tackle.