This year’s version of Georgia football isn’t for the fainthearted. On the one hand, you can only shake your head as you watch silly mistakes compound defensive lapses to put the team in an eleven-point hole on the road in front of a hostile crowd. On the other, you watch the same group of players and coaches maintain their poise and go on a seventeen-point run of their own to quiet that same crowd. From that point on, it was simply a question of whether the Dawgs could stay out of the way of their own formidable talent long enough to win the game.
At least they managed to put their opponent away a minute earlier than they did the week before.
Joe Cox is turning out to be one of the most interesting stories of the season. His week to week improvement has been staggering. And his team has needed every drop of it. For him to wind up outplaying Mallett is just remarkable.
The other big story from last night is the rapid emergence of playmakers all over the offense. King, Charles, White and Moore all had big plays to complement another huge game from AJ. King and Samuel combined for more than 150 yards rushing.
Line play is still not what you’d expect, given the talent and Stacy Searels. Some of it, like the run blocking, can be explained by Arkansas’ decision to sell out to stop the run by loading the box (I swear I thought I saw ten in the box at least twice last night). But Arkansas got a better pass rush than I expected, which was disappointing. On the other hand, when the offense rolls up well over 500 yards and 52 points, the line must be doing some things very well.
Bobo, overall, did well, I thought. Despite the numbers Arky put out to shut down the run, he refused to abandon it, which was good once he also decided to let Cox take his shots exploiting the coverage in the secondary. And he didn’t panic with the crazy lead changes in the third quarter. He also did well going back to the run when the Hog defense started backing players out of the box as Georgia’s passing game took its toll on the scoreboard. His offense earned every one of those 52 points.
Martinez and his charges are challenging one of the axioms of football defense before our very eyes. We’ve all been taught that it’s a primary goal of a defense to shut down the run and make an offense one-dimensional. Georgia’s succeeded in making teams throw the ball in its last two games. Unfortunately South Carolina and Arkansas have both happily embraced the opportunity.
Martinez had good game plans in the first two weeks, but last night was a different story. The lack of a consistent pass rush continues to plague the defense (Houston sure had a quiet night from that standpoint, for the most part), but his defensive backs looked completely lost on several occasions. There were receivers running free on almost every play that Georgia ran out of its base defense. And it seemed like everybody in the stadium knew the play action call was coming on Arkansas’ last touchdown, except for the Dawg defense.
You can’t hope that dropping eight men into coverage against a quarterback who grew increasingly erratic with his throws and decision making is going to be a successful strategy every week. Martinez also needs to figure out why his line is so good at stuffing the line of scrimmage in stopping the run, but remains feeble at getting after the quarterback – even a relatively immobile one like Mallett.
The punt exchange in the fourth quarter was huge. And it capped a very good night for Drew Butler (55+ ypp average, with three kicks inside the 20). Walsh was flawless on extra points and field goals.
But kickoff returns were nothing special. Georgia was erratic on kickoff coverage. And two directional kickoffs went out of bounds (I await the lesson for the fans on that).
Punt returns, meh. After the disaster of the first one, it seemed like all the Dawgs cared about doing after that was staying out of the way of any more screw ups.
— To win by eleven on a night when you go -2 in turnover margin and rack up an astounding 14 penalties, most of them not of the “that’s what happens when you play aggressively” variety, is amazing. It helped considerably that Arkansas had penalty problems of its own – particularly that spectacular meltdown after Cox’ interception that wound up negating any momentum or field position advantage from it. Georgia is now -7 in TO margin on the season, yet is 2-1 (2-0 in the SEC!) after playing its third game in a row against BCS conference opposition. I don’t know how you do that. I also don’t know how you can expect that to hold up over the course of a season.
— From the department of early season stats: Georgia is now averaging 46.5 points per game in conference play. All of you who expected that, raise your hands.
— Given the smack talk, AJ’s touchdown catch over Broadway was the most satisfying play of the season to date.
— I cannot begin to express the words of gratitude I have for swapping Brad Nessler for Mike Patrick on play-by-play.
— UGA VII is one mellow bulldog.
— Arkansas sure likes whining to the officials. Speaking of which, given the pace and the sloppiness, I thought last night’s bunch did a good job calling the game. Both of the turnover replay calls were made correctly.
— Arkansas has an impressive receiving corps and Mallett’s got one hell of an arm. Still, Georgia managed higher yards per catch and yards per attempt numbers on the night. Not too shabby.
— For all of the offensive fireworks, both teams were less than stellar on third down conversions.
— Georgia won the time of possession battle for the first time this season, so there’s that.
— I loved the cojones Richt showed on both the fourth down conversion and the two point play after the penalty. Shades of Les Miles…