I didn’t see any shocking truths revealed in the broadcast that weren’t apparent watching the game live, but there are three points worth reiterating/expanding upon.
- Fundamentals and coaching credit where credit is due. There’s been a fair amount of hoopla over Bobo leaving the booth and coaching down on the sidelines, but to me the significant coaching effort came in the week of practice leading up to the game. It was very apparent that there was a renewed effort at giving attention to fundamentals that showed up with the very first punt and defensive series by Georgia. Kickoff and punt coverage was solid the entire day – as I mentioned, Vandy’s longest return on kickoffs was 20 yards and its longest punt return was 11 yards. (And before you ask, yeah, the ‘Dores field the 11th-ranked punt return team in the conference, but their kickoff return average is the same as Georgia’s.) Defensively, it wasn’t as consistent as the special teams’, but we saw players doing a much better job of staying in their lanes, not overrunning pursuit and not letting receivers run wide open for ten or fifteen yards. Tackling wasn’t perfect and they still have a problem with an offense which changes pace (good luck with Auburn on that), but all in all it was a solid effort, one you hope they build on in the next two weeks of practice.
- Coaching and the fear of results. I’ve already seen at least one player quote to the effect that all of the pressure will be on Florida in two weeks and that Georgia can go in and play as if it has nothing to lose. That’s all great, but somebody needs to tell the Dawg coaches that. There are still scads of inexplicable calls and decisions by them that reveal their uncertainty about everything except their fear of getting burned. That’s why we see Logan Gray continuing to receive punts in the middle of the field (after the horse is already out of the punt fake barn) on a day when Prince Miller distinguished himself in that department and why Walsh, who continues to lead the SEC in touchbacks and who got excellent support from his coverage team throughout the game, angles a kickoff towards the sidelines with a mere seven seconds left in the half. That’s why Martinez played soft zone against a quarterback who is likely the worst at his position that Georgia’s defense will see all season and who showed very early that he had no ability whatsoever to complete a deep pass against even Georgia’s single coverage. There are plenty of playmakers on Georgia’s roster. The coaches need to quit playing what’s the worst that can happen and start trusting the talent more. Will there be bumps along the way? Sure, but it’s not like it’s ever going to be any more embarrassing than what we witnessed in Knoxville two weeks ago.
- Offensive strategy, or, in which your humble blogger finds himself in agreement with Andre Ware. Yeah, it’s kind of sad when even a hack like Ware stumbles on the truth, but it’s that painfully obvious Mike Bobo needs to man up and realize that establishing the run early isn’t a successful strategy with the personnel hand he’s been dealt this season. I understand it’s been Georgia’s bread and butter under Richt to use the run to set up the pass, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. The reality is that right now, all of Georgia’s offensive playmakers are on the receiving corps and that’s where the majority of plays needs to be going until a running back truly steps up as a legitimate option that opposing defenses respect. It’s not a sin to use the pass to set up a running attack. And there’s another reason why Richt and Bobo need to yield in this area. Joe Cox is a quarterback who gets much better once he establishes a rhythm. That’s easier to do when you’re throwing frequently on first and second downs; it’s a much tougher task when you hand off on those early downs, get your patented 2.5 yards per carry at best and leave Joe facing third-and-fives or worse on a regular basis. None of Georgia’s backs have shown an ability to get tough yardage consistently running between the tackles and they’re getting little help from the line, the tight ends and the fullbacks. Ditch the I-formation at least early in the game, spread the defense out to get more room for your backs (especially Carlton Thomas) and throw on the early downs to keep the defense from crowding the line. If you’re worried about tipping your hand on run/pass calls due to personnel, what’s stopping you from playing two tailbacks in the backfield together? Caleb King is proving as solid on pass protection as either Chapas or Munzenmeier, so why not pair him with some of the other tailbacks in a split backfield? After all, it’s not like Bobo hasn’t seen offensive formations with that before. In Bobo’s defense, I think he knows in his heart what needs to happen – witness his playcalling in the only successful drive of the Tennessee game and the fact that he didn’t put in the power package on Caleb’s touchdown run – he’s just reluctant to admit it. Use the Force, Luke.