Let’s get the easiest thing out of the way first: the better team won yesterday, no question about it.
The second easiest thing: South Carolina won because Marcus Lattimore touched the ball 38 times, while Georgia’s entire offense was limited to 47 plays on the afternoon. When you only run 47 plays on offense, your margin for error is more than exceedingly small. It’s practically non-existent. Unfortunately for the Dawgs, they were undone by mistakes (dropped passes, false start penalties and the Ealey fumble) in all three of their drives that took them into the red zone.
The third easiest thing: Georgia’s special teams weren’t special. Don’t get me wrong – they weren’t bad. But they didn’t come up with a single big play in the return game and Butler was merely ordinary. That wound up costing them field position in the fourth quarter that helped seal the deal for the Gamecocks.
That’s all the big picture stuff. As the Talmudic scholar once said, all the rest is commentary. But since this is a football blog, you get to read that anyway.
- I presume that those of you who disagreed with my assessment of Lattimore after the Southern Miss game no longer do. While Andy Staples may have been a little over the top with this assessment, the kid’s a hoss. I’m somewhat amazed that Spurrier had the discipline to run him 37 times, but Lattimore the kind of back who makes the offensive line and the defense better. He’s already South Carolina’s best player; if you’re a ‘Cock fan, you better pray he stays healthy.
- Lattimore’s excellent adventure overshadowed what should have been the story of the day for Georgia, the continuing emergence of Aaron Murray. Playing without his biggest weapon and facing what many describe as the best secondary in the SEC, Murray played a helluva game. He averaged better than nine yards per attempt and didn’t throw an interception. He looked poised in the pocket throughout the game. It was nice that Richt was kicking himself in the post-game presser about opening the playbook up for Murray next week. It would have been better if he and Bobo had done so for yesterday’s game.
- The offensive line is a mystery to me. They opened up run blocking well – Ealey’s two longest runs of the day came in the first drive – but bogged down as the game went on. (And no, you can’t blame all of that on South Carolina stacking the box, although the Dawg linemen did face their fair share of that.) On the other hand, pass blocking, at least until the very last series when the game was over for all intents and purposes, was never worse than acceptable and at times was superb. The overall picture, though, wasn’t one of a line that’s supposedly one of the very best in the country.
- Ditto the tight ends. Aron White didn’t catch a ball and Orson only caught two. Both had drops. I never saw either contribute much on run blocking, either. They needed to pick the slack from A.J.’s absence and really didn’t do much.
- If there was a true surprise yesterday, it was how flat the defense came out playing. Lattimore’s a good enough back on his own. He didn’t need any help, but got plenty early on from a number of players who didn’t have enough energy to tackle properly. Watching them get third and Willied on the Lattimore draw play in the first drive especially sucked. Houston, Dent and Gamble were the only three I saw show up for the entire game.
- Speaking of which, Justin Houston is a beast. That is all.
- Not a particularly stellar game from the safeties, to put it kindly. Rambo looked out of place in pass coverage. He hung Branden Smith out to dry covering Jeffery at least a couple of times that I saw. Hamilton wasn’t much better.
- Spurrier channeled a little of his inner asshole towards Grantham in the gracious way that’s marked his career – “That little inside zone play, the NFL doesn’t run that play. That’s a new scheme, I guess.” – but I bet he wasn’t feeling so cocksure as the third quarter progressed. Grantham made some good adjustments coming out of the half and outside of the one long pass to Jeffery, did a good job of keeping things in check until the defense ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and let Lattimore finish off the game. It’s too bad the offense didn’t pick up the slack.
- ESPN’s production crew for that game – jeez, you guys were bad. It’s not enough that you can’t keep Jones and Davie focused on simply calling the game, you have to encourage them to wander off the reservation with that pathetic Davie Jones’ Locker crap? The sad thing was that Davie was actually making a few relevant attempts at analysis (good job calling out Rambo’s failure to cover), but didn’t stay on it. Also, would it have hurt to show us what Georgia’s secondary was doing right in the second half when Garcia got out of sync?
Bottom line is, well… I guess I’m a little surprised at all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing I’ve read here and on the message boards. I’ve thought all along that Georgia was headed to a nine or ten-win regular season at best. Can’t say that what went on yesterday changed that. Going into the season, Georgia always looked to be a team that was going to take an early loss, maybe two, because of the inevitable struggles with a redshirt freshman quarterback (or maybe more accurately, the struggles of getting comfortable with what said redshirt freshman quarterback is capable of handling) and wholesale changes on defense. And that’s what we saw – at least that’s what I saw.