Observations from the 45, Georgia-North Texas edition

Well, combine a talented team that sleepwalked through three quarters, a less talented, but well-coached and motivated opponent, a day with less than ideal weather and what do you get?  Over 600 yards of offense – 400 more than the other guys – and a 24-point win that should have been much bigger, but for the third straight game marred by special teams snafus.

It’s fine that Richt pulled Theus after the high snap that led to North Texas tying the game in the third quarter, but, good grief, it does make you wonder what the coaches are telling themselves when they review game tape and watch practices. If even a unserious tyro like me was fretting about special teams before the season started and a botched snap cost you a shot at avoiding a three-point loss in the opener, why does it seem like there’s such a lackadaisical approach taken to special teams still?

I say that because the high snap wasn’t the only flaw that led to the blocked punt.  North Texas overloaded one side of the line and Georgia never adjusted the protection.  Maybe they were admiring North Texas’ gumption at that point.  Maybe they were daring the Mean Green to try.  Maybe it was another Fabris challenge.  I don’t know.  But you have to think it was something the North Texas coaches picked up in their game study coming in. That’s troubling.

But that’s not what drove me craziest yesterday.  That award goes to whoever decided that short kickoffs are a swell tactical move.  The way the rules are set up now, there’s an easy way to cut angst in a football game:  kick the ball into the end zone.  Either you’ll be rewarded with a touchback, or a returner will start a return deep against a coverage team that five yards closer to him than they used to be.  I simply don’t get the mindset of a head coach who thinks punt returns are a significant risk but is willing to take the chancier route on the other team’s kickoff return game.  Kick the ball in the damned end zone – rotate the kickoffs to keep kickers’ legs fresh, if need be – because it works.  If North Texas could do it consistently, I have a hard time understanding why the Dawgs can’t do it.

Bullet points, my good man, and be quick about it.

  • Let me say it again:  North Texas is one very well-coached bunch.  In fact, Todd Grantham ought to spend a bit of time after the season is over consulting with whomever is coaching the Mean Green defense how to tackle.  They put on a clinic in that department.  (They can cut block a little, too.)
  • Speaking of tackling, I did see Kolton Houston tackle his own running back, didn’t I?
  • Yes, the Murray interception was a dumb, dumb decision.  And I bet Murray would be the first one to tell you that.
  • You know that thing about biggest improvement coming between first and second games?  Josh Harvey-Clemons was that guy yesterday.
  • Tray’s interception was helped by the receiver running the wrong route, but I’ll take it.
  • Leonard Floyd is really going to be something, at least when they don’t drop him into coverage.
  • On the sack front, Jordan Jenkins was oh, so close on several occasions.  He still made the NT quarterback pay plenty.  He also had a fine game with tackles for loss.
  • In fact, maybe the most heartening thing I took from the game is how well the defensive front/OLBs generated pressure.  Remember, NT was the team that led D-1 in sacks allowed last season and was tied for fifth coming into the game.
  • I’m paraphrasing here, one of the beat writers – Emerson, I think – described the offensive line as not being overly talented, but being good enough to produce when it was motivated to fight and scratch on every play. Yesterday wasn’t one of those days.  Gates and Andrews, in particular, had tough times.  I get struggling with SEC defensive linemen, but it’s tough to understand when it’s C-USA guys making for a hard time.  And, yes, I get that North Texas sold out to stop the run.  (Pass protection was spotty, too.)
  • Nice first catch, Reggie Davis.  It’s all downhill from there.  But isn’t it amazing how they keep developing receiving depth?
  • Along with the line not blocking consistently, the receivers, aside from Conley, had their worst game of the season in that respect.
  • Which is why it’s hard to get upset with what little Gurley and Marshall were able to get out of the running game.  There just wasn’t much there most of the day.
  • Hey, dad sitting behind me with the ten-year old son who wanted to know why Richt wouldn’t take Murray out and put Mason in the game in the third quarter, you must be so proud.
  • I know it’s an exceedingly small sample size, coming on North Texas’ last drive of the day, but Shaq Wiggins really caught my eye when he was in the game.  Good instincts and a quiet confidence.
  • It really sucked seeing Rome hurt his ankle again.
  • It’s apparent from yesterday’s comments that clock management at the end of the first half was a little strange.  My theory was that Richt was pissed at the lack of intensity he saw and wanted to get to the locker room to straighten things out, but then suddenly realized he could maneuver the clock to get one last shot.
  • Maybe Penn Wagers figured if the Dawgs were mailing it in, his crew could do the same thing.  And you’ve got to give him credit for consistency – no offensive line ever holds Georgia.
  • Also, I question that sideline catch on North Texas’ one scoring drive. Sure looked like the receiver dragged his feet before he caught the ball and went out of bounds.
  • Aside from Mason, the biggest losers from the game not being put away earlier were the backup ILBs.  I don’t think Herrera and Wilson missed a snap.

I don’t expect the team to show up every week with the same level of intensity on display against South Carolina.  And even when North Texas tied the game in the third quarter, it was hard to get very alarmed (irritated, sure) because it was clear the offense would be able to use the passing game to score enough to win. Plus, the defense was holding the Mean Green to negative rushing yardage then. But it’s getting awfully old to hear talk week after week about needing to clean up the special teams mess.  The offense is prolific; the danger is tolerating the mistakes in the belief that the offense can overcome anything.  Ultimately that didn’t work at Clemson and you can’t expect it to work against LSU.

The offense left points on the table yesterday and special teams gifted fourteen to the visitors.  A Georgia team clicking on all cylinders would have slammed North Texas by forty-plus.  All I can hope is that the embarrassment of a third-quarter tie in a home game against a C-USA team is enough to get everyone’s attention and focus this week.  We’ll see.

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74 Comments

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74 responses to “Observations from the 45, Georgia-North Texas edition

  1. JRW7

    That’s what you get with a CMR coached team, you never know what you’re going to get, you never know if the players will be motivated or not! And why not just kick the kickoff deep into the endzone every time?

  2. Chuck

    I love my Dawgs, but our special teams are, well, special, as in ride the short bus to school. The thing is we don’t need great special teams, just average special teams that are consistent. I can overlook mistakes; everyone makes them, but this is every game so these aren’t isolated mistakes to me.

    And kick offs. CMR is on record as saying too many injuries occur on kick returns. You can solve that, coach, by kicking it into the end zone. If Marshall didn’t have the leg, it might different, but he does. Let him do his community service by planting a few kicks deep.

    All that said, the offense and even the defense looked very, very good in a game that they could have mailed it in.

  3. AthensHomerDawg

    Goodness …. who Ghost wrote this piece?

  4. TennesseeDawg

    Dallas Lee was absolutely horrendous. Hopefully Kublanow will take his job this week

  5. Dog in Fla

    “special teams snafus….lackadaisical approach taken to special teams still…. special teams mess…. special teams gifted fourteen to the visitors.”

    Special teams?
    You’re talking special teams?

    “That’s not us. That’s not our program. That’s not what we do.”

  6. uglydawg

    To Penn Wagers…having both arms wrapped around a defensive players head isn’t holding if the defensive player wears red…And on the kickoff return, go look at all the blocks in the back that were near the ball. Andre Ware may have a man-crush on Wagers, but he’s still a piss poor excuse for a referee.

    • S.E. Dawg

      I kept screaming my head off during the game about all the blocks in the back. If we can see it in the stands surely they can see it on the field.

      • Mudcats Impala...

        With all the emphasis on protecting the players on the offensive side of the ball from harm, I see Offensive holding going the way of the Dodo bird…

    • Dawgfan Will

      Seriously, I have never heard any announcer fellate a ref the way Ware was Wagers yesterday. It was beyond ridiculous.

  7. saildawg

    Senator,
    Great recap, I think you hit the nail on the head with the special teams review.
    ” I simply don’t get the mindset of a head coach who thinks punt returns are a significant risk but is willing to take the chancier route on the other team’s kickoff return game”

    No explanation for the kickoff strategy, you risk a return for big yardage, points,and injury for the reward of maybe stopping them before the 25?

    As for the punt return, I wonder if it stems from being victimized with fake punts i,e florida multiple times, West Virginia in the sugar bowl etc at critical times in the game that ultimately led to a loss. We have done better in stopping fake punts, but I just don’t see how you can once had so many good returners, like Sean Jones, Damien Gary etc and now just have nothing. Ultimately I think special teams is a good measuring stick of how well coached a college football team is, because it shows attention to detail, getting players to buy in, and ultimately scheme and strategy. I love the job Richt has done, and I wouldn’t want anyone else leading the program. We are great at recruiting talent, developing quaterbacks and recievers, that is a direct reflection upon him. However when you watch a team coached by Meyer (ugh) his special teams do everything well. Not just returning and flashy plays, but they can consistently punt and pin the other team inside the 10 by having their gunners go down and catch the ball, and are solid in all aspects. I really think the meticulous attention to detail is the only thing preventing us from that next step, to a MNC. Thoughts?

    • hailtogeorgia

      I thought Damian Swann looked pretty good on punt returns yesterday. Sure, he advanced after signaling fair catch, but he made a few guys miss several times. I’d like to see more of him out there.

  8. Rebar

    I thought North Texas played inspired ball in the first half; not taking anything away from them, they played hard and disciplined. Downing the punt at our 2 was a thing of beauty by their special teams unit, and Murray answered with his 100th touchdown pass. Our lack of attention to detail on special teams is going to bite us on the ass this year. I like our offense against LSU’s defense, but our defense against their offense leaves me weak kneed, and our special teams make me shudder.

    • ZeroPointZero

      Will cost us? Has cost us.

    • The Lone Stranger

      I’ve been dreading the Mettenberger vs. Dawgs’ secondary for a few days now. That damned serial buttocks fondler has the weapons in Doucet and the other guy to slash some holes in the UGa back end. Still, Murray et. al. can out score ‘em if pushed.

      • Dawgfan Will

        Doucet? Hasn’t that guy been there for like 8 years now?

        • hailtogeorgia

          Ha, Doucet hasn’t been at LSU since the 2007 season. Their main threats are Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry – other than that, they don’t really have any receiving options that scare me. Quantavius Leslie has talent, as does Kadron Boone, but they haven’t put it together on the field yet.

  9. NRBQ

    I noticed the red-on-red tackle from behind too, Senator.

    At the time, it looked like Gurley had some space in front of him.

  10. Clown Wagers – Exhibit A

  11. Rp

    It was good to see our bigger D liners getting time (Mayes, Taylor, and Johnson). They will be needed this week. Speaking of size, did anyone notice Deloach getting any PT? We may want him instead of Floyd on some of those 2 TE I formation sets from LSU.

  12. Confused Wagers
    Exhibit B

  13. W Cobb Dawg

    But brother Bluto: So you thought the short kickoff was by design and not a screw-up by Morgan? Didn’t I read where Morgan said he was trying to kick using the wind or something. I thought Beless did a pretty capable job during Morgan’s suspension. Not sure Morgan deserves the job based upon performance.

    • adam

      Barber was handling kickoffs, I believe. Not sure why he didn’t get to keep doing that. Hopefully he’ll be back at kickoff next week.

  14. Colin Barber needs to concentrate on catching snaps from center !

  15. Biggus Rickus

    What was so odd about the end of the first half? Richt had two timeouts, so after they took the first knee, he let the clock run. After the second, they used the first timeout, and after the third down play, they used the second. This allowed them to get the ball back, prepare the punt return team and know exactly how much time would be on the clock when the ball was kicked. It seemed pretty smart to me, and I feel confident that it WAS smart because Andre Ware thought it was not.

    • Macallanlover

      Exactly right, those babbling fools announcing the game didn’t understand that we would have had the same amount of time on the clock. Now here is where the big mistake was made on that situation (and I thought this was what CMR had in mind):

      On a fair catch, the receiving team has the option of taking a free kick from the spot of the fair catch. That is seven yards closer and is uncontested by a rush, and doesn’t involve a snap, hold or risk of a block….similar to the way Morgan kicks in warm ups before the game. I thought Richt had instructed Swann to fair catch the ball, assuming that was possible based on the kick. I have yet to ever see that actually occur in a game but that is the rule, unless it has changed in recent years.

      For those of us old enough to remember, it is exactly what Dooley should have done in the Citrus Bowl against FSU at the end of the game. Kevin Butler tried a 70 yard FG that came so close the refs under the goal posts had to get down and look up to see if it was going to cross the bar……was short by about 2 feet I believe. I remember yelling at the TV set that we should kick it after the fair catch and not try to run plays to get closer, but VD couldn’t hear me through the TV set and cell phones didn’t exist then. non productive plays, and 30 seconds later later we tried the 70 yarder as time expired. I have always thought he would have hit the 63 yarder giving us a win, instead we tied that game……17-17 I believe.

      • AthensHomerDawg

        Good stuff AND my youngest a one time kicker with records and future consigliore agrees.

      • Biggus Rickus

        I was unaware of that rule, probably because as you say I’ve never seen it happen. They may or may not have changed it. That game did end in a tie

      • The984

        The fair catch kick doesn’t exist in the NCAA rule book. That’s a high school and NFL only option.

        • Macallanlover

          Thanks for the info, that is pretty rare for HS and pros to have a rule that skips over college football totally. Not that the NCAA knows crap about rules, or enforcement, anyway.

    • NRBQ

      Coach let 39 seconds run off before calling the first time out. Seems to me if he was confident enough that his D would get the ball back, he could have used that time when UGA recovered with only 3 seconds to run a play.

      • Biggus Rickus

        He let 39 seconds run because the time was either going to run after the first down play or the third down play. Georgia only had two timeouts, and North Texas had three plays before they had to punt. It’s not that complicated, and Richt got exactly what he wanted out of it.

        • hailtogeorgia

          This. I was saying the same thing during the broadcast yesterday…it’s basic math. Three plays, only two timeouts…the clock is going to run somewhere.

  16. MoodyDawg

    Was it just me or did we not use QH much yesterday at FB? I can only remember a few instances of him being in as a lead blocker.

  17. Nashville West

    In the North Texas game 20% of the plays were on special teams. That means that we have no coach responsible for 20% of the game. Why does that seem like a bad idea? Is it any wonder why 2/3 of North Texas scoring occured on special teams.
    BTW- NTU has a designated special teams coach, Tommy Perry. CMR ought to see if he wants a new job in Athens when the season is over

  18. I have no problem keeping Morgan benched for kick off’s. Who was it were were using at Clemson/S. Car? Barber? It seems he has more leg for kickoffs.

  19. americusdawg

    Just my opinion … Please don’t tell me that a program like Georgia can’t get a good enough kicker to kick the ball into or out of the end zone every single time. If you don’t allow the kick returners a chance to return it, then you can have the messy, stumbling, bumbling return defense and not really have to worry too much about it (as it appears our coaches already do). Plus, you’ll have less injuries occurring on kick returns as CMR is concerned about. If Marshall, et al, doesn’t have the leg to do this any longer then recruit someone from the soccer team that can. Our “special” teams play is embarrassing and if it continues as it has then we’ll never get that MNC.

  20. Ausdawg85

    So “Jimmy” sits behind you. Creepy!

  21. TomReagan

    This is only a suggestion to explain Richt’s thinking on the short kickoffs, and not an endorsement of it — but I think it’s entirely consistent for a coach so concerned with fumbles in the punt return game that he often instructs returners to fair catch under any circumstance to kick it short on kickoffs. If fumbling is such a huge risk in our punt returns, then it should be a huge risk for other teams’ kickoff returns, too. At least I believe that’s the logic behind it.

    I’ll also speculate that the fair-catch policy is less about muffed punt returns or fumbles during returns than it is about getting burned on fakes.

  22. ScooBoo

    I say that because the high snap wasn’t the only flaw that led to the blocked punt. North Texas overloaded one side of the line and Georgia never adjusted the protection. Maybe they were admiring North Texas’ gumption at that point. Maybe they were daring the Mean Green to try. Maybe it was another Fabris challenge. I don’t know. But you have to think it was something the North Texas coaches picked up in their game study coming in. That’s troubling.

    I either read this morning or heard on the radio show this morning that the players on the field switched OUT of protection that may have slowed that punt block rush down. X’s and O’s/Jimmys and Joes and all that.

    • It wasn’t rocket surgery. We have 3 dudes that form a “gate” with Lynch (I think) being one and the “captain.” The middle of our line is spread out with the center being the only dude. They put 4-5 guys in the middle. The snapper isn’t really in on blocking. 4-5 guys hit the gate, Lynch whiffed, and they blocked it. I saw the whole thing develop and didn’t understand what we were doing.

      Good news is that, presumably, should be fixed by Saturday.

  23. Bright Idea

    I agree that kickoffs should go into the endzone but that return was aided by a clear block in the back on Blake Sailors. My question is if Richt designated a special teams coordinator would that guarantee improvement? Lou Holtz says bring back Fabris. He was the “unofficial” coordinator when he was here. What’s with the Theus brothers? OLine is out of shape IMO.

    • hailtogeorgia

      Fabris was the very person who used to prefer directional kicking because it was more of a ‘challenge’.

      Under no circumstances should Fab come back. Our special teams were the best they’d been in years when Warren Belin was here and run them. If we hire a dedicated ST coach, we lose a coach elsewhere. That’s your trade.

  24. sUGArdaddy

    9/18/04: UGA 13 – Marshall 3

    9/25/04: Open Date

    10/2/04: UGA 45 – LSU 16

    Those games mean nothing. We’ll look entirely different on Saturday. Just win and stay healthy.

  25. RomeDawg79

    Early line is Dawgs -3 / -4

    Vegas should come up with the rankings. Not AP.

  26. John Denver is full of shit...not this time though.

    Senator, I must have been sitting behind you, because I was sitting next to a 10yr old that said those exact words and wouldn’t shut his trap the whole game, but it was clear dad taught him how to flap his lips…

    I had to move and sit a row in front with my buddies and let my wife endure the noise with her friends.

    It was a tough game to watch in the rain, but was much more difficult sitting next to them.

  27. Wonder if a special teams coach would have had the last punt of the half fair caught so Marshall could have lined up for a “free kick” FG attempt he could have line drived instead of popping one up to keep it from being blocked. I think Fabris was a puppet and whoever is pulling the strings was afraid of Warren Belin.

  28. Only because i am a total and complete contrarian by nature, I submit that without a special teams coach we blocked an Alabama field goal and returned it for a touchdown and pulled off an impressive fake punt Lynch to Cummings in the biggest game of the year. against the best team in the nation and the Satan. Add to that, we pull off a kick ass on side kick against USC and the evil genius and totally set the tone for that game. The point I am attempting to make by example is that a) we only notice special teams play when it goes bad and b)maybe whoever is in charge of ST’s play saves it for when it counts.. Clemson for the record didn’t and won’t in the end.

    • sUGArdaddy

      Stop using all your logic, jdjrip. We can’t have a special teams coach. WE. CAN’T. WE. WON’T. Just as the idea of Murray-bashing idiots, the same goes for the special teams coach stuff. I find it annoying that people can be so passionate about something they know so little about.

      We were lazy yesterday, but that’s just what happens with these games. I also think we farted around and did some dry-run testing against a team we knew we’d beat anyway. People don’t understand that. I don’t like that we did it, but I don’t see the bigger picture. I think we were seeing if Morgan could hang it high on the goal-line and we tackle them at the 20 or inside consistently. With the rate we score, we’re going to kickoff a lot, so if we can save 5 yards everytime and average 35 points per game, that’s 25 yards. That’s 2 first downs. Do you know how big 2 first downs in a big game is?

      But, I think we learned our lesson and you’ll see us boom it into the endzone. The snapper thing is head-scratching, but I’m guessing the kid’s just not a gamer. I can guarantee you they picked the one that looked best in practice. That’s kind of what coaches do.

      As for the anti-Murray crowd, it is to the point that if someone complains about him I can only ascertain that this person has never actually watched a football game in its entirety. It’s the only explanation. They are from another country and this is new to them. Did they see the heisman ‘frontrunner’ thursday night? Murray is a blessing. Hutson’s going to be just fine, too. But if that kid could win us more games this year, he’d be in there. People who make $3 million per year have a tendency toward wanting to keep those jobs.

    • I Wanna Red Cup

      Well put, especially since NO one posting has sat in on any meeting of the UGA coaches discussing special teams and hasn’t the foggiest clue what is really intended. I can guess that some of the short kicks are just bad kicks- sometimes you just hit it bad and it does not go into the end zone. Artie owned up to making a mistake on calling the blocking on the blocked punt I believe and even Mason could not have prevented that. Let’s all blame Bobo and Grantham for that. At times the other team is trying to make a play and actually are able to do that. Sometimes our guys do not execute. And that goes for the Tide also. See last week and this weeks games.