I’ve gone back and watched the broadcast and read the post-game comments, so consider my Observations post amended for the record as follows:
- Very quietly, Shawn Williams played a helluva game. In fact, outside of Jarvis, I didn’t see anyone on the defense play more consistently. He is rarely out of position, and when he tackles a man, the man stays tackled.
- Connor Norman may know the defense well, but he lacks the physicality to be an everyday SEC safety.
- Even by their usual standards, the amount of offensive holding Penn Wagers’ crew missed/ignored/tolerated was astounding.
- One bit of preseason happy talk did hold up. Aaron Murray’s fundamentals are improved. Not just his footwork, but also his effort to make sure his upper body is lined up correctly. His spiral is noticeably tighter, and better yet, it’s more consistent than last year. If he can just slow his game down a bit in the early goings and get better support in the pass protection department, he could be on his way to bigger things this year.
- The freakish thing about Gurley’s two long TD runs was that extra gear he slipped into when he separated himself from the pack each time.
- Two people pissed about the lack of effort at the end of the first half were Richt, who sounded like he was having trouble containing himself in the interview on the way to the locker room, and Artie Lynch, whose near decapitation of the Buffalo punt returner was the essence of fury.
In the aftermath, I’m encouraged by a couple of developments. One, four true freshmen who had to step up – Gurley, Marshall, Morgan and Barber – did. Running back and special teams were something we all identified as structural areas of concern before the season started. I’m not going to declare mission accomplished after one game against a MAC foe, but I’m no longer feeling Munson-esque about either. (The new kickoff rules help.) Two, as crappy as the defense looked at times, it came out in the second half and helped put the game away over the next quarter or so. The talent is there.
All is not sweetness and light, however. A third area of concern, the offensive line, came out of the Buffalo game a little shaky. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, but they’re still coming together and figuring their way along. (Although I’m really getting tired of the “the defense threw a few fronts at us we hadn’t seen before” excuse-making, fellas.) The good news is that Bobo is trying to bring them along slowly. The worrisome part of that is how much he has to compromise the playbook to do so.
But that’s not my biggest worry. Depth is. Mark Richt has made his bed there and we’re going to have to live with it. I expect everyone to be back against Missouri except Commings, Vasser and Rambo. That’s unnerving enough, but if Ogletree gets added to that list, it’ll be downright discouraging. Buffalo exploited their absences with a lot of underneath stuff. Missouri, which has vastly more talented skill position players, is hardly likely to ignore the Bulls’ success. It’ll be a relief when all hands are at last on deck, but we will be on eggshells all season worrying about injuries in key areas. Richt had better be hoping for a little luck in that department.