You can ask.

So Mark Richt wants to get some “good, honest feedback” about a couple of calls last night?

Good luck with that, Mark.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football

What’s with the passing game?

It’s weird to say when you’ve got a quarterback completing over 70% of his passing attempts and who hasn’t thrown an interception yet, but something seems missing from Georgia’s passing offense.

It just feels anemic.  Mason’s average pass attempt yields a paltry 6.7 yards.  That’s considerably down from last season’s 8.9 ypa.  And before you attribute that to Aaron Murray, Mason’s ypa last season was 8.8.  And before you attribute that to the lack of a deep threat in the starting lineup, keep in mind that the bulk of Mason’s 2013 work came long after Mitchell and Scott-Wesley were lost for the season.

So, what’s going on this season?

  • Execution.   Bennett drops an easy third down toss on Georgia’s second series, forcing the Dawgs to settle for a field goal.  Mason does a poor job selling play action on the disastrous first-and-goal that resulted in the intentional grounding call.  The offense as a whole has done a poor job selling the screen pass to Gurley.  Now, passes get dropped, so that’s gonna happen.  But it’s worrying that Mason, who came out of a high school passing system very different from what he’s playing in now, isn’t more consistent with the most bread-and-butter play in Georgia’s offensive arsenal.  You’d think a guy with four-plus seasons of coaching from Bobo would have play action down pat.
  • Transition from Murray to Mason.  Honestly, I’m not sure why this should be an issue, since Mason took over as the starter last season, but it is.  It’s not the arm strength I’m referring to as much as it is a difference in approach by the two.  Both get their reads in before the snap, but where Murray was the kind of guy who would read through the defense after the snap and throw to second, third or even fourth options, Mason is more direct in his approach.  I have the sense that Mason knows where he wants to go with a throw before the ball is snapped and knows he wants to get the ball out as quickly as he can.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing – so far, he seems far less prone to being sacked than Murray was because of it – but it seems like his receivers sometimes have issues adjusting to the change of pace from last season.  There have been at least a couple of occasions in both games when the receivers have seemed surprised by the timing of the pass.
  • Play calling.  Bobo is trying to establish a run-first mentality this season.  Given the depth at tailback, it’s hard to blame him for that.  But the run-pass ratio against Carolina was 38-22; that was in a game where Georgia was in scramble mode for much of the night trying to catch up to a double-digit lead.  Is that leading Mason to press to make the most out of his limited opportunities?  Or is it giving the coaches a mind set where what’s expected out of Mason is game management über alles?
  • Health.  Okay, now let’s talk about arm strength.  But I’m not talking about a Murray-Mason comparison here.  I’m talking about a Mason 2013-Mason 2014 one.  Remember, we were told that Mason had worked on his mechanics with Bobo’s dad with an aim at improving his ability to drive through his throws.  If that’s the case, it’s hard to see so far that it’s borne fruit, as he’s still having an issue with some of his throws lacking velocity.  (That cost him at least one completion I can think of last night.) Which makes me wonder – and this is pure, baseless speculation on my part – whether Mason is still suffering from the tired arm issues we heard about in the preseason.

A lot of this seems fixable over time.  But a couple of things, maybe not so much.

Is it just me, or do you guys see it, too?

**************************************************************************

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention this.

“We tried to run a little fake-boot,” said Mason, who passed for 191 yards and 2 TDs in his first SEC start. “We felt really good about it. Obviously everyone in the world knew we were probably going to give the ball to Todd. We had two more downs to try to punch it in. But they played it really well. The D-end got in my face and I couldn’t really get it to Quayvon with a wet ball. [Emphasis added.] So I just threw it at his feet. I didn’t think it was intentional grounding because he was right there.”

I’m not sure why Mason’s struggling so much with bad weather, but it’s a repeat of the bowl game performance.  Two out of four games isn’t a small sample size.  It’s a problem.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Observations from the end zone, Georgia-South Carolina

Damn, I hate mornings like this.

So, there it is late in the game.  Georgia comes up with a big play and seemingly has a win within reach.  As the offense comes out with the ball on the Gamecock four, I’m struck by an acute sense of déjà vu.  It’s just like last year’s Auburn game after Murray completed the big pass to Bennett to set up the go-ahead score:  how is this team in position to win this game?  That thought was instantly succeeded by the obvious:  Gurley, Gurley and more Gurley.  You’ve got the best back in the country, who’s played the game with more heart than any other player on the field.  If you pound away, the worst that could happen is that you go for it on fourth down, fail and leave the ‘Cocks with terrible field position.  It’s a no-brainer.

Well, evidently, Mike Bobo’s definition of no-brainer and mine were different.  Georgia didn’t win the game.  In fact, Georgia couldn’t even convert the situation into a tie.  As a result, Georgia is back in what seems like the SEC East version of Groundhog Day.

Damn, I hate mornings like this.

  • No, Mike Bobo isn’t a moron.  Nobody who opens a game with those two perfect play calls the way he did is a moron.  But that first and goal on the four call was a major brain fart on his part.  What I am most curious about is the motivation behind the call.  In any event, given that he was dealing with an offensive line that had its ups and downs and a quarterback who had his share of timing/communication problems with his receiving corps, both of which contributed to red zone breakdowns, it’s hard to get too upset with another night of 35 points and 400+ yards of offense.
  • Calls for Jeremy Pruitt’s head?  Seriously?  Face facts.  This is the least talented secondary of Mark Richt’s tenure.  Take Aaron Davis, for example.  He’s fundamentally sound. He knows how to tackle.  But he’s never going to be a consistent cover corner.  He got burned early and was moved inside to safety for most of the night.  If Georgia doesn’t generate a pass rush out of its four-man fronts, the DBs are going to take it on the chin.  They aren’t talented enough to play man-to-man extensively and with time, any decent passing attack is going to find holes in zone coverage.  And that’s what we saw.  Add to that poor games from Mauger and Moore and that’s how Dylan Thompson looked all world in the first half.  Keep in mind that when Georgia had to get a stop to have a chance late, Pruitt dialed up enough to get a stop and a turnover.
  • If you want to bitch about a coach, how about looking at Will Friend?  The offensive line looked like the same inconsistent mess we saw plenty of last year.  They got bailed out by Gurley’s play and Mason being quick on the trigger to some extent, but overall did not enjoy a very good night.  Part of me wonders if that’s what was behind Bobo’s ill-fated first-and-goal call.
  • Gurley’s run to pick up a third-and-sixteen in the third quarter was one of those I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it moments.  But for sheer determination, it might have been bettered by his nine-yarder in the next series.  How big were they?  Georgia scored touchdowns on both drives.  Gurley probably drops out of the Heisman conversation for now, which is a shame, because he put on a show against a defense that keyed on his every move.
  • I think Herrera and Wilson are playing better this year than they did last year.  But they’re still liabilities in pass coverage.
  • Quiet nights from Floyd and Jenkins.  Georgia couldn’t generate consistent pressure on Thompson without blitzing.  That hurt, because Thompson is a different quarterback when he’s pressured.  Jenkins also had a hard time defending the run.  (He wasn’t alone in that; the line struggled big time in the second half with alignment against the run.)
  • The one exception on the line when it came to pressure was Ray Drew.  It’s a shame Atkins couldn’t come up with the pick the time Drew forced a bad throw, because fat guy touchdowns and all…
  • Keith Marshall is the invisible man at tailback.
  • What a great one-handed catch from Blazevich!
  • How do you go +2 in turnover margin and still lose?  Only getting three points total from the takeaways will do that.  It really bites that Swann’s interception went for naught.
  • Marshall Morgan setting the SEC record for consecutive field goals and then missing two seems like the perfect metaphor for Georgia’s special teams play, which, after all the promise from the Clemson game, didn’t make much of a contribution last night.  Morgan did start out with four touchbacks, but the kickoff team was gouged for several big returns late.  Barber was serviceable, nothing more.  Brandon Douglas did get to throw a shoulder last night; unfortunately, it was into Todd Gurley on a kickoff return.  South Carolina did a good job of making Gurley a non-factor in the return game.
  • What was up with all the huddling on offense?  And why didn’t McKenzie get more touches?
  • So much for Steve Spurrier grinding it out.  It was clear from Carolina’s first play from scrimmage, a sideline screen, that the OBC had studied the Clemson game and decided to go after Georgia’s pass defense. Thompson is a good quarterback, given time, and he’s got a good group of receivers to work with, guys who know where to find the open spaces in the zone.  He got a bonus when the running game began clicking in the second half.  Spurrier also deserves credit for having his team ready to play.
  • I’m not sure why there’s so much carping about Williams-Brice.  I thought it was one of the better venues for visitors I’ve attended.  The sight lines are good from the upper deck, it’s fairly easy to get to your seats (for both, try Auburn as a comparison) and – wonder of wonders! – the benches have seat backs.  What I thought was a little overrated was the crowd.  Don’t get me wrong, it was raucous.  But not any more so than your typically rabid SEC home crowd.  Maybe the weather had something to do with that.  And, yeah, I won’t miss hearing “Sandstorm” for a while.
  • The officials?  Poor, but not biased.  The holding call on Gurley’s TD run that was called back sucked, of course.  (I don’t think they called the penalty on the right lineman, though.)  But what really bothers me about holding calls is the inconsistency, which was there in spades all game.  But to be fair, I thought at least one of the chop block calls was questionable.

Okay, Georgia isn’t out of any of its goals.  And the East is anything but settled.  But from here, it’s hard to see how Georgia’s defense matches up with Auburn and maybe Missouri without some improvement.  (I’m leaning towards the latter defending its division title now.)

Did I mention that I hate mornings like this?

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Filed under Georgia Football

Shoot yourself in the foot until you run out of bullets.

I can’t say for sure that the Gamecocks deserved the win, but Georgia sure as hell deserved to lose.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Into the belly of the chicken

I’m getting ready to head out to Columbia, rain gear in tow.  It’s my first trip there since 1988, which may still rank as the hottest football game I’ve ever attended.

I’m hoping that “Sandstorm” doesn’t get burned into my brain.

Consider this your invite to a game day thread in the comments section.

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Final thoughts on Georgia-South Carolina

Randomness, in no particular order:

  • Woody Allen’s famous quote that “eighty percent of success is showing up” keeps running through my head.  It’s important for Georgia to show up today, mentally and emotionally.  One thing you have to say about last season was that the team learned a lot about fighting through adversity to stay in a game.  You have to hope that’s a lesson that’s carried over in the event that South Carolina and its home crowd get some early momentum.
  • The other part of the mental aspect for today is that I think the bye week gave the staff and the players the chance to reset after the Clemson win.
  • A fifty percent chance of rain in Columbia could make the jobs of two vulnerable secondaries even tougher.
  • What makes Steve Spurrier more desperate – losing to Georgia as a general proposition, or being buried in the SEC East race after three weeks?
  • I still can’t figure out how the chess game between the four coordinators plays out.  On the one hand, both offenses want to put the ball in the hands of their best respective players, both of whom are tailbacks.  But the defenses will probably be stacked to clog up the running game.  On the other hand, those shaky secondaries sure look tempting.
  • You know, if opponents refuse to kick off directly to Gurley, that kind of does away with the whole “don’t risk getting your best player hurt on special teams” concern.
  • I hope Brendan Douglas gets to use his shoulder today.
  • I also hope Richt lets Isaiah McKenzie return another punt today.
  • It’s a shame Mitchell and Scott-Wesley aren’t part of the game plan, but Georgia can survive that.
  • Given the coverage skills South Carolina’s linebackers have displayed in their first two games, I’m keeping an eye on Jay Rome today.

If the Dawgs can avoid turnover problems, I like their chances.  I do think there will be some scoring – both secondaries are going to give up yards and points – so I’m thinking something like Georgia 31 South Carolina 24.

And you?

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Filed under 'Cock Envy, Georgia Football

It’s not just how much you run…

in the Georgia-South Carolina series.  It’s how well you run, too.

In the last nine meetings, Georgia averages 4.3 yards per carry in wins against South Carolina and just 3.8 yards per carry in losses. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, average 4.6 yards per carry in wins; 3.4 in losses. The team that cracks 4.0 yards per carry wins.

It’s worth noting that last year South Carolina averaged 6.3 yards per rush, but still lost.  (Georgia averaged 4.3 ypc.)  So it’s better just to say that the winning team averages over four yards a pop on the ground.

In any event, Georgia needs to run the ball well.

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Filed under 'Cock Envy, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!