Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. Yes, Georgia is 9-2 now. Yes, it’s likely headed back to another top ten finish at season’s end. Which means, yes, I much prefer the season the Dawgs are enjoying to those of about 100 other schools.
But that was one strange game yesterday. Oops – make that another strange game yesterday. It’s tempting to chalk up a close call to a now 5-6 Auburn team to the rivalry, until you recall that Georgia’s previous game ended in nearly the exact same fashion. And I don’t think any Dawg fan is willing to stretch the definition of rival to include the Kentucky Wildcats.
This is a team that can dazzle you in one moment – like the brilliantly called, brilliantly excuted screen pass to Moreno that resulted in the first (!) touchdown reception of his career – and drive you up the wall the next – witness the inept play from both safeties that led to Auburn’s first half touchdown on a 52 yard pass to Mario Fannin. If you’re like me, you go from wondering almost series by series how a team that looks this good can have two losses (two bad losses) to amazement that a team that’s this undisciplined can win nine games playing the schedule it has.
These kids don’t need better coaching. They need therapy. And before you think I’m exaggerating (okay, maybe I am a little), take a look at these quotes gathered by David Hale after the game:
“We’re being aggressive, but a little overaggressive,” linebacker Darryl Gamble said. “We just need to be smarter about that.”
“Guys are just not using their head,” defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. “They want to be too aggressive. When guys are running out of bounds or when the whistle is blown, they still want to hit.”
“That’s always going to happen when you’ve got guys playing aggressive and just scratching and clawing with their backs against the wall,” Curran said. “You might get a hand up or get a personal foul when you’re trying to intimidate, and that’s what we were trying to do.”
“I’m glad I see that guys are trying to hit and trying to punish,” Irvin said. “I’m glad they’re not being soft out there, not trying to wrap up. We got some penalties, and we’ll handle them on Monday and get back to the chalkboard.”
Great. Maybe if they call another players-only meeting, they can get the penalties back up into the double digits. And the thing is, if the point to all this macho aggressiveness was to intimidate the other team into wilting, it didn’t work. Auburn’s offense got more productive as the game wore on. Of the 303 yards that the Tigers gained on the day, they accumulated 195 of them on their last three series.
As much as it pains me to say it, there’s a glimmer of truth in what the AJ-C’s Jeff Schultz writes when he notes…
Nine wins? They are more the residual of sheer athletic talent than actual performance, or discipline, or plan.
It’s equally painful for me to admit that there may be something in what Urban Meyer said about his ’07 team – that it was too immature and maybe a bit too selfish to win a championship – that also applies to these 2008 Bulldogs. The good news is that I don’t think this team is on track to lose four games this year, unlike those Gators of last season.
A few random observations about the game:
- Whoever decided it was a good idea to put Prince Miller back out there for punt return duty needs to have his head examined (or their heads examined, if this was some sort of committee decision). Especially for the second return, after he misjudged the first punt.
- Is there anyone on the coaching staff that actually, you know, coaches Blair Walsh on his mechanics kicking field goals? You read quotes from the kid and you realize he knows what’s going wrong, but it doesn’t sound like it’s up to anyone else to help him get out of his rut.
- That all being said, it’s ironic, but ultimately Auburn lost the game because of its special teams. The missed extra point led to Tubby’s unfortunate decision to go for it on fourth and three on the Georgia 21 in the fourth quarter (and you knew he was going to change his mind during the time out, didn’t you?). Kick the field goal there, and Auburn’s last drive – and there would have been a last drive, given Georgia’s propensity for going into an offensive shell in those sorts of situations – would have been to win the game with a field goal instead of a touchdown.
- Omitting the incompletions, Georgia ran a total of forty eight plays on offense yesterday. Figgins caught one ball, Chapas ran one play and Samuel carried the ball three times. Everything else remained in the hands of Stafford, Moreno, Massaquoi and Green.
- As much as Schultz wants to sneer at the coaching staff for yesterday’s results, he’d best not be pointing any fingers in Stacey Searels’ direction. Another offensive line shuffle due to injuries resulted in zero sacks and a 4.1-yards-per-carry day rushing the ball. While it seems downright miraculous to me, it’s just another day in the office for Searels.
- While we’re on the subject of coaching, it seemed like the players on defense went out of their way to validate their comments earlier in the week that the problems the Dawgs have been experiencing on that side of the ball weren’t because of scheme or Martinez. The defensive game plan yesterday was solid and if it had been executed consistently my level of angst during the game would have been lessened considerably. Without naming names, I’ll just say that the defensive line played a much better overall game throughout than did the back seven.
No doubt this second bye week comes at a most opportune time. Time to get healed up…