As we were watching the scrubs duke it out in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter last night, my friend turned to me and asked, “do you think they (the defense) would have played worse if Martinez had been coaching?”. I thought about it for a moment, and said “no, but I don’t think they would have played any better.” Willie, we hardly knew ‘ye. Or missed ‘ye.
It’s been a long, strange trip this year, and somehow, the way the Independence Bowl played out seemed entirely in character. If there’s a game that embodies the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, it’s last night’s. From TAMU’s perspective, here’s a summary:
… Texas A&M had 92 plays and 471 yards of total offense, nearly 100 more than Georgia. The Aggies had nine more first downs than the Bulldogs and managed to move the ball with nice drives.
And the defense, which came in with lots of questions, held tough against Georgia. The Aggies made key stops on third down and held firm, even after the Bulldogs made big plays. But after giving up just 99 yards of total offense in the first half, Texas A&M surrendered 267 yards in the second. A lot of that was in the fourth quarter, when the defense clearly was tired. The Aggies also had to defend the short field too often because of the special-teams problems.
“The defense played their hearts out and rose up to the challenge,” Sherman said. “Everyone was talking about both offenses and not talking about defense. I thought the defense stepped up and played the best ball they’ve played all year long.”
Maybe it’s a step in the right direction for an inconsistent defense. The same can’t be said for special teams. Changes are clearly needed. It’s a unit that didn’t fare well on kickoff returns all year, allowing touchdowns at the absolute worst times. Monday’s return near the end of the first half was a crusher. So was the return for Texas after the Aggies had made it a three-point game midway through the fourth quarter. Texas A&M then missed a late field goal.
The Aggies ran 24 more plays on offense than did the Dawgs, held better than a four-minute time of possession advantage… and got smoked.
Here are a few random observations:
- Rennie Curran, suspended. Rennie Curran?
- After a season of disappointments, it didn’t surprise me that there were issues with discipline this week. What did surprise me was how well many of the players who ran afoul of the coaches performed.
- A.J. Green looked rusty out there – not so much in his route running or his blocking, but in seeing the ball. It looked like he misjudged the flight of two passes pretty badly. Of course, his job wasn’t made easier by erratic QB play.
Juuuuuuuust a bit outside. (courtesy David Tulisfirstname.lastname@example.org)
- It wasn’t Joe Cox’ finest hour, although he did have his moments, particularly with the two touchdown passes. But he lacked control on most of his sideline throws and that interception was another in a long list of head-scratchers this season.
- It’s easy to be critical of Mike Bobo’s playcalling in the first half, but considering that his quarterback was having trouble throwing the ball downfield, his receivers were having trouble catching the ball when he did and his offensive line was having trouble picking up some of the most obvious run-blitz packages known to man, I’m not really sure what Bobo could have done differently. He stayed with what he thought would work, and sure enough, he was rewarded for his trouble with a 267-yard second half and another 200 plus-yard rushing game.
- Besides, only good things seemed to happen for a long stretch when the offense didn’t have the ball in its hands. TAMU’s special teams lived down to their billing. The coverage on Boykin’s kick return was Gawd awful, the punt team had a block and a snap over the punter’s head lead to scores and there was a blocked field goal to add to the fun. It was as if the ghost of Jon Fabris showed up and haunted the wrong team.
- Great, great game from the defensive line. For much of the start, it was they and Butler that were holding things together.
- Whoever comes in on the defensive staff has their work cut out on teaching pass defense technique. You watch somebody like Boykin in coverage and you realize that, if anything, he’s regressed this season. And none of the linebackers can hold their own in coverage, either. I refuse to believe it’s a lack of talent.
- On the other hand, kudos to Vance Cuff, who actually managed to bring down a wide receiver with a tackle.
- Not one of Uncle Ron’s better efforts in the booth, I’m afraid to say. Aside from referring to Washaun Ealey as “Early” several times and referring to Chapas as a tight end, he was okay, but didn’t really add much to the proceedings. And before you say that was due to the setting, I would point out that he called a terrific Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2006.
- However, the single dumbest comment of the night came from his broadcast partner who, in describing Mike Sherman’s decision to go for two with his team down by 24 with only 73 seconds left to play, said that Sherman made the correct call because that’s what’s on the card that tells coaches when to go for two. The card? I’ve got no problem with Sherman using that as a teaching moment for his young players, but if anybody deserves a Pam Ward comparison, Ed Cunningham qualifies. The time to look at a card was long past, my man.
In the end, it’s not worth taking too much out of the win, other than that I remain convinced that this team is loaded with talent. Here’s hoping that the new defensive staff (as well as whoever winds up coaching special teams) is able to harness all that ability with far more effectiveness than the coaches did in 2009. The good thing is that with the blow out, the head man has now won ninety games in nine seasons. I like the chances that Georgia rebounds.