Daily Archives: October 15, 2013

It’s not easy being green.

This is one of those little details that makes you blink for a second:

Since Kedric Golston in 2002, Georgia had not started a true freshman on defense under Richt until this year’s opener when Matthews, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and cornerback Brendan Langley played in the loss at Clemson.

In for a penny, I guess.

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Random afternoon question

Was Oklahoma’s loss to Texas Big Game Bob’s way of proving to the world that the Big 12 is a more balanced, and thus better, conference than the SEC?

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I cried because my team had no pass defense, until I met a blogger whose team had no play caller.

You upset about how the Missouri game played out?  That’s nothing compared to what a pissed off Brian Cook directs at Al Borges’ playcalling in Michigan’s loss at Penn State.

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Come on, baby, light my fire.

Mark Richt seeks to distill fake juice from the real thing.

Georgia is returning to Vanderbilt for the first time since the 2011 game that featured a postgame confrontation between Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.

“I don’t know how many guys are still around, but anything we can use to motivate, I’ll be all for that,” coach Mark Richt said. “Right now we’ve got to find a way to get better in blocking and tackling and doing the fundamental things that it takes to win.”

This has the potential not to end well.

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Mumme Poll rankings, Week 7

Rank Team Votes (Top pick)
1 Alabama 46 (30)
2 Oregon 46 (15)
3 Clemson 46 (0)
4 Florida State 45 (0)
5 Ohio State 42 (0)
6 LSU 41 (0)
7 Baylor 37 (0)
8 Texas A&M 34 (0)
8 UCLA 34 (0)
10 South Carolina 23 (0)
11 Miami 21 (1)
12 Missouri 13 (0)
12 Stanford 13 (0)
14 Louisville 12 (0)
15 Texas Tech 4 (0)
16 Fresno State 1 (0)
16 Virginia Tech 1 (0)
16 Washington 1 (0)

Wow, talk about your bias – Georgia loses, a third of the voters drop out this week and the Dawgs don’t get a single vote in the poll.  I’m glad we’re not taking it personally.  Other than that, can’t find too much to fault.  We’re more skeptical of Louisville than the national folks are, but we’re giving Baylor more credit.

Comments?

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Call me crazy.

One more thing I wanted to discuss after seeing the replay deserves a post of its own.  I wouldn’t exactly describe me as encouraged and I’m not going to go all Seth Emerson on you here, but I’m starting to come around to the idea this Georgia defense isn’t quite as hopeless as we feel it is.

Hear me out for a sec.

Yes, there are parts of the defense that are bad.  Horribly bad.  Bad enough to overcome what good play there is on that side of the ball.  (Is there a term for the whole is less than the sum of its parts?)  But there is good play, and I would argue that we’re seeing more of that from some of the defense as the season goes on.

Consider this:

  • This year’s defensive line has played itself into an asset.  I think you can make a legitimate argument that it’s better on run defense than last year’s line, despite losing Geathers and Jenkins.  There is true depth across the line.  Ray Drew has developed into a real factor.
  • The pass rush, minus Jarvis Jones, is ahead of last year’s pace in generating sacks.
  • Georgia has three players in the top twenty in the SEC in tackles for loss, including Jordan Jenkins, who, in an off year so far, is eighth in that category.
  • The inside linebackers have been solid in run support.  Both are in the conference’s top five in tackles, and, yes, while some of that is the result of running down busted plays, a lot of it is happening because Herrera and Wilson are doing their jobs.
  • There are other signs of player development, most noticeably with Harvey-Clemons and Wiggins.

The problem for the defense is that there are three areas which are enormously flawed and are dragging down the overall production of the unit.

  1. Safety play.  I’ve already hit on this in my last post, so I don’t need to rehash much here.  But the reality is that a good amount of time, Georgia isn’t playing with eleven men on the field.  This is bleeding into the two other problem areas.
  2. Outside run defense.  Georgia’s been very good on defending runs inside the tackles.  That’s not so much the case when it’s attacked on the periphery.  That’s a combination of several things, but largely because the secondary doesn’t do its job in run support.
  3. Passivity.  The line play isn’t soft, but the secondary plays that way.  It’s rare to see a receiver jammed at the line of scrimmage or to see routes disrupted.  Add to that the uncertain safety play, and it’s pretty easy to see why the defense struggles with third-down conversions and forcing turnovers.  Those may be the symptoms as opposed to the underlying illness, but more than anything, they’re what’s killing the defense right now.

I know Grantham’s not interested in my advice, but he’s got to start taking some steps to neutralize, or at least cut the effect, of the worst of the defense’s problems.  If it were up to me, I’d ditch the 4-2-5, at least until Matthews and Norman can make it back.  Short of that, I’d blitz either Mauger or Moore every single play.  They may not make any more plays than they are now, but they might have an effect on opponents’ pass protection that could allow other defenders to step up and affect the passing game.  Georgia’s coverage can’t get any worse than it already is.  The same goes for the run defense.

Grantham’s also got to force his kids to play with more aggression.  I’m not talking about late or questionable hits.  But more run blitzes and some press coverage might shake some of them loose.

I will also say that I think some of the heat about communication and adjustments may be dissipating.  It was heartening to see the way the defense came out ready to play in the third quarter.  It was even better to see them adjust to take away the option and some of the quick screens that burned them in the first half.  I also saw less confusion lining up against a fast paced Missouri offense than I’d seen in earlier games.  There is some coaching going on, even if it’s not generating results as quickly as we’d like or the defense needs.

I’m not trying to be Little Mary Sunshine here.  Collectively speaking, this is the worst secondary I’ve seen from a Richt-coached team.  Considering what we saw in the last days of Martinez, that’s pretty damning.  And I’m doubtful how much of that can be truly fixed this season.  But I do think with some damage control – and some better health – it’s possible for the defense to be less of a liability.  With what’s left of the regular season schedule and with Gurley and Bennett coming back, that may be enough.  Grantham needs to get to it.

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Upon further review: Georgia-Missouri

I sat down and watched the replay last night.  It didn’t change my overall impression of what happened on Saturday. The injuries certainly led to a struggle, but ultimately weren’t the deciding factor in the game.  Georgia just made too many mistakes and didn’t force enough mistakes out of Missouri.  The particulars follow.

The good:

  • The defensive line.  The d-linemen played their collective asses off for most of the game.  Ray Drew, in particular, was a real force.  (Drew, by the way, is now second in the conference with five sacks, which is three more than Clowney’s garnered.  So maybe it’s time to lay off the disappointment by comparison.)  The line controlled the third quarter, which is why Missouri was held scoreless in a quarter for the first time all season and Georgia was able to fight its way back into the game.
  • Bobo’s playcalling.  Look what he had to work with:  two true freshmen at running back, a quarterback who got a little jittery as the pass protection broke down and no depth at receiver.  Despite it all, Georgia gained 160+ yards on the ground, the most Missouri’s given up all season.  He cobbled together the first scoring drive out of bits and pieces and his move to four receivers in the third quarter forced the Tigers to drop a player out of the box and opened up the field.  He did alright.
  • Marshall Morgan’s place kicking.  He’s been drama-free for the most part all season, and nailed everything he was given Saturday.  For once it was the other team’s kicker who raised the tension.
  • Punt returns.  Admittedly, it’s a low bar to cross, but Reggie Davis turned in the best performance of the season by any Georgia player returning punts.  It’s encouraging that he exercised better judgment on his catches and that he ran north-south when he caught the ball.
  • J.J. Green.  He can run; he can catch.  Not bad for somebody who was originally recruited for the defense.

The bad:

  • Receiving.  To some extent, this had to be expected.  At one point early in the first quarter, Georgia had three walk-ons on the field together, two of whom had never caught a pass in a college game before.  There were miscommunication issues.  Murray was off with some of his throws, again, understandable given the spotty pass protection.  But there were some crucial drops that really hurt.  And as good as Conley and Wooten were at times, there were also times when they struggled to get free from coverage.
  • Turnovers.  The last one didn’t matter, as the game was already out of hand, but, man, the first three were all killers.  Douglas’ fumble was probably the most forgivable of the three.  There was no excuse for the shoddy blocking by Lynch and Gates (and, yes, contrary to Lynch taking all the blame, it was both) that led to the sack/fumble/touchdown that proved to be the deciding score.  Murray’s pick proved again that the conventional wisdom – that you have to trick him into making mistakes – is correct, as he got baited by a defensive switch that he didn’t read properly.  The Dawgs could have survived one of these mistakes, but three, especially when the defense is incapable of generating turnovers of its own, were way too much to overcome.
  • Herrera’s roughing the passer penalty.  I’m obviously having a hard time getting past this one.  Jeez, it was dumb.  It negated a great play by Harvey-Clemons and let Missouri hold on to the ball for a few more crucial minutes at a time when Georgia really couldn’t afford that.
  • Kickoffs.  I don’t know whether to blame Morgan for inconsistency or the coaches if it’s a deliberate strategy, but somebody needs to realize that short kickoffs are riskier than blasting the ball into the endzone.
  • Punting.  Evidently with Barber, you can have a quick punt or you can have a long punt, but not both.  I was a little surprised that Missouri didn’t come harder with its pass rush.  At least Georgia didn’t give up any return yardage.
  • Red zone offense.  Sure, the inexperience didn’t help, but plenty of little things went wrong, too.
  • Pass coverage.  As I mentioned Sunday, the ILBs were exposed when Missouri ran a play to exploit them, which was quite often in the first half.  Swann grows less confident on a weekly basis.  And Wiggins showed me enough to make me think he’ll be a steady cornerback with more experience (and a little more strength), but he had his share of misses.  Basically, if the pass rush can’t generate pressure, Georgia’s defense is going to give up a completion.
  • Pass protection.  Occasionally, it was good.  But when it was bad, ugh.  Georgia doesn’t have a tackle who can handle speed rushers.  Unfortunately, Missouri has two.

The ugly:

  • Safety play.  I knew it was bad when I watched the game live, but the replay made me appreciate how atrocious it really was.  It’s amazing to see how little Mauger and Moore contribute.  Every touchdown had a breakdown from either or both.  Mauger’s a freshman, so I can understand if not excuse some of what I saw, but Moore’s been in the system, for what, three years now?  He was literally a passive observer on two of the touchdown passes and failed to make the last-line-on-defense tackle on Murphy’s touchdown run.  And don’t think that’s lost on their teammates.  Swann is playing like somebody who knows that he can’t count on safety support.  Also, in that last clip, watch Herrera’s body language after the play – I don’t think you have to be a mind reader to figure out what he’s telling Moore.  Honestly, injuries or not, I don’t see how Grantham can keep these guys on the field together.

The random:

  • It’s hard to get too upset with Murray’s day.  The first interception hurt and his mechanics weren’t always the best, but he played tough, made some great throws when it counted, got in a couple of heady runs and cobbled together a functional game on a day when he was missing many parts.
  • Sorry, but I don’t get Pinkel’s concern over the unfortunate play when Franklin injured his shoulder.  Yes, the tackle was completed after he got rid of the ball, but it was a fairly bang-bang play with a running quarterback who dumped the ball off in an unorthodox way with no receiver in the area.  I just didn’t find it particularly egregious.
  • That Missouri linebacker made a fabulous play in pass coverage, batting the ball away from Wooten in the red zone.  Color me jealous.
  • Something else that made me jealous was the fine job Mizzou’s receivers did with their blocking.  That’s another area Georgia’s hurting in with the injuries.
  • Bobo called plenty of screens.  I wished he’d have called even more.

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Licking their chops

James Franklin may rub me the wrong way on occasion, but I think he’s assembled a smart coaching staff.  Of course, I don’t know how brilliant you have to be to conclude that this has to be a major component of your defensive game plan against Georgia:

“After watching the film of the Missouri game, the defensive ends did not win their one-on-ones to get pressure on [Missouri quarterback James] Franklin,” Vandy defensive end Kyle Woestmann said at Monday’s news conference in Nashville. “Our defensive tackles were getting pushed around and getting hung on blocks. We have a good opportunity this week against a good SEC offensive line to pick up where we left off against Ole Miss.”

I don’t know whether Vandy’s defensive ends rely on speed or power when they rush.  If it’s the former, Aaron Murray had better grow some eyes in the back of his head this week.

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