Fine-tuning the fourth quarter

Sounds like Georgia is still feeling its way on how to finish a game.

“When you’re in the ‘four-minute offense’ and you’re pretty much running it every time, you can’t afford to have a penalty,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We’ve been in that pretty much the last three weeks — ahead and trying to run clock.”

The reason why was evident against Mississippi State when Murray was picked off for a touchdown.

“We probably could have kept running it, used clock and punted and not scored and people would be complaining we didn’t score, but won the game 24-3,” Bobo said.

Against Tennessee, Richt said, “We pretty much said, ‘OK, we’re not going to throw the ball anymore. It was a three-and-out, it was a three-and-out and we gave them the ball. Just put more pressure on the defense to make these stops. … If we’re in that situation again, I would have to think twice about deciding whether or not we ought to just continue to play offense.”

Said center Ben Jones: “You always want to be able to come out with four or five minutes left in the game and run the clock out. When they’re loading the box up, sometimes it gets a little difficult.”

Can’t say I’m not sympathetic to Jones’ plight.  I blame Grantham.

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79 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

79 responses to “Fine-tuning the fourth quarter

  1. The other Doug

    We would never have problems like this if Willie was still the DC!

  2. Mr. Tu

    There are other ways to run clock than a sprint draw up the middle every play. You can throw short passes, screens, etc. to keep everybody out of the box, keep the clock running and not increase your chance at a turnover. I think Bobo just shuts down and runs the same plays over and over hoping they might work

    • James Stephenson

      TBH I do not think Bobo has called a Screen, since that one was intercepted by Ginger. Am I wrong?

      I think he is now thinking these QBs are not smart enough to not throw it, if they see a 300 pound lineman waiting on it.

      • Puffdawg

        He called several against I think it was USCe that Murray overthrew the first two and then IC made a beautiful one handed grab of the third for a nice gain.

    • Puffdawg

      I know Muckbeast says we shut it down halfway thru the third qtr but based on this video it looks to me like after we went up 20-6 and held them 3 and out, we were still slinging it around. Maybe I’m missing something but start watching at about the 8:30 mark in this video. That doesn’t look like a conservative offense to me…

      • gastr1

        There were no passes after the first holding penalty at about 14:00. No passes at all, and all the runs were between the tackles.

        There’s conservative, and then there’s playing as if are trying not to score because you have a 40 point lead and don’t want to embarrass the other team.

        I, for one, am glad we took the high road and did our best to let Tennessee have a chance there at the end. They were in front of their parents and families after all. Our defense is just a bunch of meanies for not letting them get their turn.

        • Puffdawg

          I don’t have video evidence of the runs you speak of and don’t really remember, frankly, so I’ll take your word for it. But me repeat what I suggested to Minnesota below:

          Thus far this season, the strategy of getting a lead a relying on the defense has proven successful. With a soph QB in a slump, a freshman RB, 3 freshmen WRs, and an underperforming OL. We were calling a wide open game plan late in the third and very early in the 4th when all of a sudden our offense – SURPRISE! – shot itself in the foot to the tune of negtive 54 yards. Maybe our coaches said “you know what, we’re on the road, Tennessee hasn’t done shit offensively on us this entire game and we have a two score lead. Why should we risk a catastrophic mistake by our offense who just had a meltdown the prior series. let’s lean on this defense to not give up 14+ in the next 14 minutes (or however many it was).”

          Maybe it isn’t a winning strategy, but we won. So, while you want to be a smartass, I want you to remember last season, when we usually found a way to lose a game exactly like we won against Tennessee.

          • Puffdawg

            Also, let me add that transitioning to a run heavy game plan with a two score lead later on in the game can be effective. Alabama did that beautifully against Florida two weeks ago. I’m not suggesting we are Alabama, but I am suggesting we’d like to be more like Alabama. So, while the results of our tempered game plan were not pretty, at least offensively, maybe it gives us some film of what we need to work on in that situation for the next time we’re in it.

            Just food for thought.

            • gastr1

              You don’t need video evidence. There’s a play-byplay at ESPN. And there is a difference between a run game and a take a knee game, IMO.

              • Puffdawg

                Why are you saying there is a difference b/t run game and taking a knee? If I’m to take that literally, I’d said we never took a knee. Obviously I’m not, so f you mean we weren’t having success to that point running the ball (taking future results/hindsight off the table), I’d say we had run the ball 11 times for 66 yards in the second half up to the point where we never attempted another pass (14 minutes left), which I’d say is pretty good success.

                Now, the next few run plays were indeed unsuccessful, but how would you know that beforehand, considering you were averaging 6 yards per carry in the second half? And do you know how many back breaking intereceptions we threw down that 14 minute stretch? Zero.

                I am not saying I wouldn’t have called a play or two differently. But I am also not crucifying Bobo and company, with the benefit of hindsight, for a strategy the ultimately worked. Yea, they certainly could have been more aggressive. But they felt that they could play it vanilla, minimizing the chance for a catastrophe, and ride the defense to a win. And you know what? They were right. There is no way to prove you could have been right, because who knows if we keep passing. But there is a way to prove the coaches made the right call by going conservative: we won the ball game.

                • AusDawg85

                  Give it up, Puff. Better to fire Richt, hire Mullen, have a crappy O, but buy the next Cammie (lesson learned to not self-report) and win a MNC. You just don’t get it man.

                  • gastr1

                    Who is crucfying anyone, Puffdawg? The coaches themselves are talking about this. It isn’t as if the chattering classes are bitching about something Richt doesn’t want to deal with. What is it that you want? You want everyone, including the coaches and players, to just shut up? No one talk about the game at all? This– “Now, the next few run plays were indeed unsuccessful, but how would you know that beforehand, considering you were averaging 6 yards per carry in the second half?” –uh, yeah, you would know that your chances of failure would be greatly increased by factors such as down, distance, time of the game, and defensive alignment. Just like you’d know that if you took a knee you would run clock but not stand much chance of gaining any yards. And running the ball into the tackles with the box stacked like that is, as Ben Jones pointed out, “difficult.”

                    I did at first think your point was that running the ball ineffectively and predictably simply to run out the clock was an ok strategy, even with 14 minutes left. Mark Richt himself doesn’t seem to be at all sure what he thinks of that approach. If that’s not what you were on about, my apologies, but that is MY concern–and it appears it’s on the mind of the coaches and players too! Remind me again–what’s you concern with my concern, exactly? I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

                    • gastr1

                      Of course, I want to mention that any concern I have about any part of the last three games is resolutely minor. I’m nitpickingly concerned with the offense at the end of games, but absolutely delighted about the improvement of the team and recent results. That is all.

                    • Mayor of Dawgtown

                      The real reason why the Dawgs went to the run game was to avoid the inevitable holding penalties that would have backed the Dawgs down the field and let the Vols back in the game.

      • When you try to speak for someone else, you often look like an idiot.

        We shut it down with 8.5 min to go in the Tenn game.

        I never said we shut it down in the 3rd quarter vs. Tenn.

        We shut it down in the 3rd quarter in previous games this year.

        Awaiting the apology…

        • Puffdawg

          Muck, my apologies for misquoting you. I thought I remembered you or somebody else saying we dialed it back halfway thru third qtr against UT. Thanks for pointing out my mistake.

    • Cojones

      “Whenever you put the ball in the air,Three things can happen and two of’em are bad.” I think it was Woody who said that first.

      • AthensHomerDawg

        I concur, although a lot of writers give credit to Darrell Royal. However, Royal himself credits his friend Woody with that statement. Game-Set-Match! ;-)

  3. yurdle

    There’s a difference between killing the clock and controlling the clock. The first is good for 2 minutes a possession and consists of manifest futility. The second is driven by run-heavy, low-risk play calling that produces first downs. Nothing destroys an opponent’s 4-quarter comeback like an 11-play, 42-yard drive that ends in a field goal.

    Is it really all that risky to throw to Figgins in the flat or run Murray on a zone-read?

    • MinnesotaDawg

      Exactly. Or just once in a while run a first-down, play action pass to Charles when there are nine guys in the box all playing the run up the gut.

  4. paul

    So when the box is loaded, how hard is it to complete short, safe passes that get you the first down and enable you, well, run more clock?

  5. reipar

    When you throw the ball three things can happen—and two of them are bad. Just sayin.

    • yurdle

      I know the Bear is supposed to know everything, but also let it be said that when you run, three things can happen and two of ‘em are bad: you can run for no gain or less, fumble, or run for positive yards.

      • Dawgfan Will

        In defense of the Bear (ugh), the clock keeps ticking if you don’t have a gain on a run. Not so on a pass.

      • reipar

        True, but not just the Bear. Add in Woody, Royal, Daugherty, and the General. That is a lot of big time coaches who quite frankly are a lot smarter than me when it comes to football.

        Not to mention clock running and likelihood of fumble v. interception may not make your analogy totally apples to apples.

        • DawgPhan

          Those guys that tote the rock typically see 100-150 carries in between fumbles…maybe not our guys, but most guys. QBs typically go 60-70 attempts between picks. Murray hasnt proven to be Aaron Rodgers this season with the ball.

          • The rewards of passing in the meantime are generally higher than rushing, though. It is nothing special to average 7 or 8 yards an attempt when you pass. That’s worth the added risk of a turnover.

            Football evolved to a heavy dose of passing a lonnnng time ago. Gen. Neyland was grouchy in the 50s when the new passing “fad” had a lot of teams throwing around 15% of the time. That was too much for him, because “when you pass only three thing can happen, and…” Let’s lay this one to rest, folks.

            All that said, in the Tennessee game we did a whole variety of things, until the penaltypalooza bogged down our drive in the 4th quarter. That drive was still a net winner, though, as it chewed up over six minutes of clock and left us in a very good position up two TDs in the 4th quarter and their O having no luck against our D. Yeah, once UT punted it back to us wit h8 minutes to go, still up 2 TDs, we went super conservative. But given that our OLinemen appeared incapable of not holding all of a sudden, I can live with that.

            Getting a lead on the road in the SEC and then leaning on your D because you have a D that can be leaned on is not a supposed to piss us off, people.

      • Cojones

        “when you pass”, not “when you run”. If it’s a pass and a completion, you have the same possibilities as a run. Add incompletion and interception to those run possibilities.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      I can only hope that a 50 year-old turn of phrase isn’t how we coordinate our mid-to-late game offensive strategy–especially when it doesn’t apply well to our football team. Ohio State ran a power running game well in the 1960′s. The 2011 Georgia team doesn’t.

      It is far more “dangerous” and ineffective for an offense to be predictable in its play-calling–such that a defense can anticipate you running a particular play and act aggressively against it, thereby causing a turnover. Simply running the ball doesn’t make you immune to this danger (see Colorado 2010). Moreover, most “dangerous” pass play is the predictable one, usually one on 3rd and long, set up by running the ball up the gut for no gain on first and second down.

      Conversely, first down play actions in such a fourth quarter scenario would kill and as a further bonus, keep defenses more honest going forward.

      • Puffdawg

        What was the reason you turned down the OC job when they offered it to you? Not enough money?

        • MinnesotaDawg

          Exactly, not enough money.

          I can’t help it that I actually think instead of using out-dated conventional wisdom to understand football. Sorry.

          • Puffdawg

            What is outdated about running the ball instead of passing when you’ve got a late two score lead on the road and you’ve got a stout defense and a wildly inconsistent offense prone to catastrophic errors. That is not outdated. It is a winning strategy, as evidenced by the last three games.

            • The other Doug

              Nothing as long as you can run the ball 3 times and get a first down.

              • Puffdawg

                You’ve got to love hindsight. We should find an OC who can see the future.

                • gastr1

                  Puffdawg, you’re massively oversimplifying the playcalling. All runs are not the same. Nor are all passes. Dumb calls exist for both, believe it or not.

                  But hey, if you take simple off the table I guess Woody’s maxim is a bit less accurate.

                  • Dawgfan Will

                    But a call often is seen as dumb (or smart) around here only after the fact. As Orl Dawg points out below, that long pass on 1st down to Mitchell that set up the first (?) TD seems like genius now. If they blocking had been there for one of those runs by Crowell and he’d busted it for 40 yards, would anyone be complaining about how conservative it was?

                    • Dawgfan Will

                      I say this, by the way, having seen Richt’s comments about the drive. And I agree that it would be good to keep running the offense and trying to score. My only point is that it’s becoming a habit around here to criticize Bobo for every single call he makes that doesn’t result in a first down, much less a touchdown.

  6. Spence

    The key is to run 3 plays then punt but take up 8 minutes in the process. We’re getting close.

  7. Matt R

    That Grantham!!! He’s done it to us for four straight games. If Grantham keeps doing this, well, Bobo is going to be out of a job! … or maybe Richt just makes Grantham the O coordinator!

  8. Dawgfan Will

    What’s the over-under that the first time a player drops a screen pass or pass out on the flat and stops the clock when we’re trying to finish a game, the fans begin complaining that we need to stick with the run to chew the clock up instead?

  9. Orl Dawg

    It’s way too easy to second guess after the fact. What if Murray hands off to IC and he gets free up the middle and takes it to the house? Everyone will say brilliant call. Let the darn coaches do their job and call the plays. The players should worry about execution. What if Murray was sacked on for a safety on that long pass to Mitchell last week? Everyone would be saying stupid call that far backed up to the goal line. However, the pass was complete and turned the game around. So, everyone says brilliant call. Yes, it was a good call that the PLAYERS executed perfectly.

    • DawgPhan

      Season tickets and a pint of crown royal makes everyone an expert.

    • Dawgfan Will

      +1 on that beautiful long pass to Mitchell last week. Seems like there aren’t very many giving Bobo credit for that call. (Which, as you say, would’ve looked a lot stupider if it hadn’t worked…)

  10. Irishdawg

    An offensive line as gargantuan as ours should be wearing people out by the 4th quarter, meaning clock killing runs should be easier than they have been. I know the lack of depth hurts, and Crowell’s new and not in whole game shape yet, but damn, our starters are HUGE. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be grinding away late in the game.

    • Cojones

      Yeah, they are big, but they hurt like we all do if you are flat on the ground and spikes run up your back, i.e., athleticism and muscle make the difference, not flab.
      The Big10 used to recruit big cornfed lines when it was “Three yards and a cloud of dust”, but one conference demonstrated that flab wasn’t the answer when you have the speed and athleticism to go around’em. That would be the SEC.

    • dean

      You answer your own question yet you don’t want to hear your own answer.

      We need more quality depth. Not just warm bodies, which is what we have right now due to lack of experience.

  11. Cojones

    It makes me feel better as a fan to see the replies to the Sunday Morning QBers, would be Bobos and HCs. Lambasting good coaches seems to be a sport born from frustration of low “Ws” in their lives. Perk up,kids. Lay off the hooch and horseshit and you may get to like and appreciate our team and college football again.

  12. MinnesotaDawg

    I see Bobo seems to be responding well to fan frustration with the offense. That frequent combination of defensive self-righteousness and condescension in his responses to just criticism makes me feel like he’s on top of the problems. Or not.

  13. Puffdawg

    What makes the criticism “just?” Because it is your opinion? We won the games didn’t we?

    Would you prefer him to just come out and say, “Well, we just still don’t fully trust our offensive skill players right now, including our soph QB, three freshmen WRs, and freshman RB, and underperforming OL from making that catastrophic mistake that has killed us the last few years, so we’d prefer to lean on our reliable defense a bit more right now.”

    • MinnesotaDawg

      Frankly, I’d be happy if Bobo said nothing and actually coached to improve an offense that has suffered from the same inconsistent, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot, bog-down-in-the-redzone, shut-down in the 2nd half with a lead problems that have plagued this team for the majority of Richt’s tenure.

      I’m happy that we are winning a few games again, but the improvement is on the defensive side of the ball. And I’ll wait until we play a complete game or actually beat a team that will finish over .500 before I start feeling giddy about the future of this program. You have to be a real optimist (or haven’t watched UGA in the fourth quarter the last couple years) to believe that we’re suddenly going to be able to flip the fourth quarter switch on when we need it in a tight game. And we will need it. You get better at playing a complete game against good teams by playing a complete game against not-so-good teams.

      • AusDawg85

        “…improve an offense that has suffered from the same inconsistent, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot, bog-down-in-the-redzone…”

        Just curious, what % blame do you assign to coaches vs. players for your observations above?

        • MinnesotaDawg

          Given that these breakdowns and inconsistencies have been the hallmark of Richt’s offenses over his entire tenure (even during his most successful years), I’d say a majority of the blame falls on him/his offensive coaching staff.

          • Puffdawg

            MD, the one thing I agree with you on is the fear that if we need to turn it back on we may not be able to. That said, I still stand by my opinion that with the offense as young as it is and as inconsistent as it is, we are better off leaning on the defense late in games. Most of you are afraid this strategy will eventually backfire and we’ll lose because of it. And it might. But I would pose that if we stay aggressisve on offense, that could backfire in the form of a huge mistake by one of our talented young guys and cost us the game. So, of the two options, I’d say keep trying to run the clock out conservatively (and maybe we’ll get better with enough practice!) in place of aggressively trying to get first downs.

            As far as % of blame for the break downs and inconsistencies, you have to consider that some of our top skill players on offense are a soph and four freshman (Crowell, Conley, Mitchell, Bennett). That’s five out of your top 6 or 7 offensive playmakers. You have to think eventually they’ll click.

    • yurdle

      Sure, but only if you’ll grant that we shut it down too much in the last three weeks. Richt all but said so.

      I’m glad we have our defense, and I’m glad the coaches are smart enough to adjust offensive calls to defensive performance. I’d be pissed if we were chucking bombs in the 4th quarter up by 14. But, at the same time, it sure looks like there is low-hanging fruit on those drives. Murray may not be making perfect decisions, but I think he can manage a roll out with a run/pass option: throw to Charles/Figgins if he’s open, run and slide if he’s not.

      I’d like to see us take more chances because I think the risk of getting blown up on one of those plays is less than the risk of some team breaking a punt block/return on us. I’m not calling for Bobo’s head.

      • Puffdawg

        No doubt we’ve pulled it back a bit in situations and there does seem to be low hanging fruit. I’d love nothing more than to see Murray out on the edge. That’s why I originally said I didn’t necessarily agree with each and every play call late in those games. But I didn’t necessarily disagree with the mindset of our coaches. The problem is they were/are dealing with a VERY young and inconsistent offense prone for catastrophic mistakes while simultaneously dealing with what appears to be a pretty darn competent defense. Given that, I’m ok with sacrificing the low hanging fruit to ensure a win. Maybe this gameplan will eventually backfire. BUt for now it’s working. Only time will tell I suppose.

  14. shane#1

    Outdated offense? It has seemed to work pretty well at Alabama and LSU.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      If this message is re my post above, you’ll note that I did not describe a certain offense or play-call as outdated, but simply said that a certain conventional wisdom about strategy (exemplified by Woody’s or whoever’s maxim) has become out-dated or simply not applicable in today’s game. During Big 10 or SEC football in the 1960′s, three yards and a cloud of dust was frequently a team’s identity, what they practiced, what they did well (for the first three quarters as well as the fourth). A power running game was the offensive philosophy of such teams–and the referenced turn of phrase was used as defense or justification of that offensive philosophy. Mind you, I have nothing against this approach to football. Of course, certain teams still do it quite well and with much success.

      Georgia, however, does not. Under Richt they have never shown much commitment to a power-running-game philosophy. It’s not his offense and never has been, despite how many of our fans would like it to be. Our OL approach and execution (whether this is designed or simply consistent ineptitude) as well as our habit of penalties and mental mistakes leading to loss-yardage plays, simply don’t support the power-running game approach. Despite our tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot, we are frequently able to move the football on most teams through a mix of passes (frequently play-action) and zone blocked cut-back runs. Of course, different plays work better against different teams. After 10 seasons, I’ve accepted this as our offense (like it our not).

      What I have a hard time accepting however is the tendency of our coaching staff to get amnesia with 2nd half leads. It seems they forget that we are not a power-running game offense that can simply grind a game out by running the ball exclusively…and so they try to do that very thing despite what has or hasn’t worked up until that philosophical switch, (despite the defensive approach and despite our offensive weapons that have to that point given us an advantage). If we were the sort of team that ran the ball up the gut well…If we had a road-grader OL that was strong in the 4th qtr…If a power running game had worked for us in the first 3 quarters, I would have no problem with a steady diet of runs in the 4th quarter in order to melt away games. Trouble is, we are not that kind of team and don’t have that kind of offense, despite what our coaches and many of our fans wish.

      • Chadwick

        I agree with much of what you wrote. I watch Bobo’s playcalling many times and come away amazed that :
        - he seems to quickly abandon plays that work
        - he has a penchant for slow developing plays
        - tries to force plays into the strategy that the offense isn’t suited to run, like between the tackles.

        Statistically, the offense over the Bobo years has been pretty consistent and on the positive side of average, but many times the strategy doesn’t seem to pass the smell test at various times in the game. For me, it’s going away for running sweeks, or flat passes against a team that pays no attention to the fullback. I’m no OC, but I come away flabbergasted sometimes over the consistent inconsistency in the playcalls.

        That written, I glad Richt is starting to give some consideration that backing off the gas too much might be a cause for concern. To me offensive football is about rhythm and putting the O in neutral could be causing issues with timing and execution. There are some games where taking your foot off the gas of the O is going to be dangerous.