Daily Archives: November 17, 2013

The second worst thing about yesterday’s loss

Woeful Mizzou fan here.  Would it help if we apologized?

By the way, does anybody else find it ironic that Spurrier’s pinning his hopes for getting to the SECCG this year on a Missouri loss to a Western Division squad?

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Coaching ‘em up, part two

I get the fury being thrown in Todd Grantham’s direction.  What I don’t understand is why Will Friend doesn’t seem to be a lightning rod for a similar amount of anger.  Unlike Grantham’s defense, the offensive line is experienced.  It’s also the only unit on the team that hasn’t suffered from injuries and suspensions this season.  And yet it has been as maddeningly inconsistent over the course of the season as the defense has.  The one thing the line has going for it is that Georgia’s skill position players, at least when healthy, make the line look far better.

But this is what really gets me this morning.

… The turnover was costly, but tackle John Theus said the offensive struggles started long before the pick.

“We came out a little sluggish the first half,” Theus said. “I think they kind of caught us by surprise. They came out with a lot of energy and they were playing really hard.”

Georgia’s first few offensive series presented some changes to the offensive line’s rotation, including the substitution of junior offensive tackle Kolton Houston for Theus. Houston played a few series as a result of Theus’ costly mistakes early in the game.

“I realized it the first drive. I don’t know about everybody else,” Theus said. “I got beat off the edge and I realized they ain’t no joke. No. 30 (Dee Ford) was a great rusher and had a lot of speed. I realized then I had to pick it up and as the game went on I thought I did better and better.”

Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle… you come out in a big game on the road against a team that’s 9-1, in the hunt for the SEC title game, fourth in the conference in sacks and you’re surprised they’re playing hard?  Honestly, words fail me.

Well, except for this:  why doesn’t Will Friend have his linemen better prepared?

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Coaching ‘em up, part one

I gotta tell you, this is getting to be mighty thin gruel at this point.

“We had two guys in position, but we’ve just got to finish on the ball,” Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “It’s a situation our guys go over all the time. They were in maximum protection, and we were in a five-under, three-deep kind of deal. It’s fourth-and-18, and we needed to knock the ball down and get off the field.

“We’ll move on and learn from it. I’m proud of the way we fought.”

And when I say “at this point”, I mean at the point when we’re looking at one of the shittiest Georgia defenses of the past two decades.

… So much for Georgia’s defense climbing back into respectable statistical air. After reaching fifth in the SEC in yards allowed, the Bulldogs plummeted to ninth, and are 53rd nationally. They’ve yielded 386.9 yards per game, which if the season ended now would be the worst for Georgia since 1994. (Last year’s season average of 357.8 was the third-worst, surpassed only by 1999.) Yes, the game has changed over the past few years. But bad stats are still bad stats.

7. Georgia has now allowed 30.2 points per game. That’s on pace for the worst in program history, far surpassing the 25.9 points per game in 2009, the final year of Willie Martinez’s tenure.

8. And the worst stat of all: Georgia now ranks 121st nationally – ahead of only Air Force and Eastern Michigan – in turnovers forced. The Bulldogs have forced nine turnovers in 10 games.

The stats don’t lie.  Neither do my eyes.  This defense missed as many tackles yesterday as it did in the season opener.  It still can’t consistently defend the edge against the run.  There is no shutdown corner in the secondary.

It’s not that Grantham doesn’t know his stuff.  I’ve seen too many quotes from him to think he’s an idiot.  And it’s not even that the defensive play is uniformly bad.  It’s frustratingly inconsistent.  All of which indicates to me that all this “move on and learn from it” talk is just that – talk.  For whatever reason, Grantham can’t get his kids to absorb and take to heart what he’s teaching them.  And that’s a big part of how you wind up with the kind of season Georgia’s defense is suffering through.

You guys know me; I’m not the kind of person to call for somebody’s head.  (Nobody’s listening to me, anyway.)  But as I’ve joked before, what do you call a Georgia head coach with a defensive coordinator who’s not getting it done?  An ex-coach.  And Mark Richt’s always been up on his Georgia history.  I don’t see how this can continue as it has for much longer.

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Penn Wagers is real and he’s ridiculous.

I’m not about to stoop to blaming yesterday’s loss on the officiating – you don’t play sixty minutes of consistent football against a team on a roll like Auburn is, you generally don’t win – but as far as I’m concerned this is beyond the pale when you’re talking about how a SEC official should behave during a game:

Wagers steps into an argument with Richt, which is bad, but then steps back into it after Richt turns away to continue complaining, admittedly in a heated way, to another official.  The sense of satisfaction when Wagers throws the flag is almost palpable.  It’s also inexcusable.  It’s supposed to be the official’s responsibility to calm the waters, not to stir them even more.  Well, at least if you’re referring to competent officials, it is.

The other bizarre thing I noticed was the number of times Georgia players tried to lobby Wagers after he’d thrown a flag.  You see players asking officials to call penalties routinely, but discussing calls with a referee after they’re made isn’t the usual thing.  You tell me what that indicates.

I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist, but there’s obviously some bad blood between Wagers and Georgia.  I expect that Richt will get some sort of public reprimand for his behavior.  I’d be shocked if the same happened with the officiating crew.  That, of course, will only serve to empower Wagers even further.  Lovely.

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Observations from the goal line: Auburn-Georgia

Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Once again, Aaron Murray can’t win the big game.  If only he played defensive back, too.

Seriously, as crazy as the game was, in the end it was a neat encapsulation of everything that’s gone on, good and bad, with this year’s Georgia team.  You can say that these Dawgs have played four top ten teams and come excruciatingly close to beating all four.  But the reality is that this team has never been able to shake the flaws that made all four of those games close (and contributed mightily to the Missouri and Vanderbilt losses).

There is one other thing to take away from what happened yesterday.  “They never quit” is a clichéd saying, but I’m at a loss to describe what happened in the fourth quarter – after playing some truly wretched ball, mind you – in any other way.  And that’s what makes the loss the most painful of the season.  About the only thing good I can say about it is that at least it didn’t happen to a Georgia team whose SECCG chances weren’t on life support.  Poor consolation, I know.

On to the bullet points:

  • It seems like we got the very best and very worst of Mike Bobo yesterday.  Ellis Johnson came out of the gate with the goal of shutting down Todd Gurley and the running game and Bobo’s playcalling in the first quarter played right into that.  With the defense struggling from the get-go, it didn’t help and the Dawgs found themselves in a deep hole at halftime.  But the second half playcalling was virtually flawless, Johnson proved to have no answer for what Bobo was throwing at him and the Dawgs found themselves on the good end of a 38-37 score.  And even the desperation drive after Auburn retook the lead was more effective than I expected, given the circumstances.
  • At this point, it’s impossible to be critical of Aaron Murray.  Given what he had to work with yesterday – an inconsistent offensive line, limited options at receiver (no deep threat and Conley was clearly at less than 100%) and the absence of a running game due both to Johnson’s strategy and the deficit Georgia faced most of the game – he did an incredible job lifting the team on his back as he’s done so many times this season and almost succeeded.  I’m not sure we’ll ever see a Georgia quarterback play at a higher level than what we saw out of him during that 21-point fourth quarter run that got his team the lead for the only time in the game.
  • Given what Auburn was doing on defense, it’s easy to overlook Gurley’s game.  He couldn’t run much until Georgia’s reliance on the pass finally dropped Auburn out of run blitzing, but he still wound up getting key yards late.  He was also a very effective receiver on checkdown plays.  And he’s very much improved picking up blitzes when he’s asked to stay in and block on pass plays.
  • There is something legitimately thrilling about watching Georgia’s offense get on a roll and realizing that the opposing defense has no answer for Murray and Gurley.
  • The receiving corps had a couple of glitches – Rumph turned the wrong way on one throw and it looked like Bennett never saw the ball on Murray’s interception – but by and large turned in a very good game.  Conley, as I mentioned, wasn’t at full strength, but had a couple of catches and threw a helluva block on a screen pass to Gurley.  Lynch, Wooten and Bennett were solid.  Rumph had the best catch of the day, but was unfortunately out of bounds when he pulled it in.
  • It’s amazing that teams have yet to figure out that you can’t bring Brendan Douglas down around the shoulders.
  • Offensive line struggles continued.  The line couldn’t handle Auburn’s run blitzing, Theus was abused with speed rushes early and there were a slew of false start penalties.
  • The good news is that special teams didn’t cost the Dawgs many points this week.  But with a couple of exceptions, there wasn’t much to get excited about either.  Barber was mediocre at best.  Morgan hit his field goal attempt, but failed to put a single kickoff in the end zone (every Auburn kickoff resulted in a touchback).  There was a blocked field goal, but there was also a bizarre penalty on a punt – a Georgia specialty this season – that kept a scoring drive alive.  It’s fair to note that Georgia’s coverage units played well against an Auburn return game that absolutely torched Tennessee the week before.
  • Admittedly the defense didn’t get much help from their offensive mates in the first half in terms of staying off the field, but it’s not like the defense brought much to the table, either.  Edge defense was as bad as I feared – that jet sweep is the new wheel route – the DBs struggled to keep up with an Auburn receiving corps on deep throws and even the defensive line wasn’t as good as it had been over recent weeks.  Shoddy tackling was the biggest problem on the day.  I still can’t figure out how Drew didn’t wrap up Marshall on that one play where the quarterback finally broke away for another fifteen or so yards.  They did step up their play in the second half when the offense finally got untracked and the team got its energy level back, but in the end it was too little, too late.
  • I will say Swann got burned a couple of times, but turned in a good game overall, with some key pass break ups.  Matthews was solid (and was in position to shut down Auburn’s last play on offense).  Wiggins will become a better defender with more upper body strength, but he’s got a ways to go until then.  He does have great instincts, though.  It’s a shame he couldn’t convert that play he made on Auburn’s last fateful scoring drive into an interception.
  • That was the finest game of Ramik Wilson’s career, and no, I’m not damning him with faint praise.  He may have been the only player who I didn’t see miss a tackle.  Plus, the huge sack of Marshall that should have been the defensive play of the game.
  • I keep thinking Todd Grantham will learn that three-man rushes on fourth-and-long aren’t his kids’ strong suit.  He keeps proving me wrong.
  • If anything, Penn Wagers actually exceeded my expectations.
  • Which probably explains why I’ve never seen a more animated Mark Richt on Georgia’s sideline.
  • I still can’t believe Auburn scored the winning touchdown on that play.

I’d say it’s worth worrying about how the Dawgs rebound emotionally from such a crushing way to lose, but I think Aaron Murray’s got too much pride for that.  It also helps that Kentucky is the next opponent.  Speaking of which, if you’ve got tickets, you should attend, if only to give Murray the appreciation he deserves at Senior Day.  He’s earned it.

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