Nothing like a good night’s sleep to lower the anxiety level… from Defcon 5 to Defcon 4. The problems I saw out there yesterday were so obvious that I doubt I have any profound insights to add to the general sense of dismay Dawgnation no doubt feels this morning, but here goes anyway:
- It feels strange to describe an offense that gained almost 400 yards as a train wreck, but that’s how it felt yesterday. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Richt offense so completely dependent upon one player as what I witnessed yesterday – even Shockley got more from his supporting cast than that. They lived and died with Aaron Murray.
- And Murray is exactly what you get when you combine a redshirt freshman starting his third game with talent and (this word is quickly getting overused, but so be it) moxie. There was simply no way Georgia clawed back into the game in the fourth quarter without him. He’s only going to get better as he gets experience; he’s the biggest ray of hope we’ve got if Georgia’s ever going to get traction this season.
- That being said, he had far from a perfect day. His mechanics are inconsistent. He had a number of passes sail on him (and, to be fair, was bailed out with some good catches on occasion). Both of his long completions were underthrown. And a few of the sacks were the result of his holding the ball too long. All of that seems fixable, though.
- I wish I could say the same about the offensive line, which, if anything, looks to have regressed from its less than stellar showing in Columbia. Run blocking was still atrocious for most of the game, but the line also struggled with handling blitzes.
- Washaun Ealey didn’t do the line any favors with his – and I use the term loosely – pass blocking. He ought to be made to watch that last feeble attempt that resulted in a near decapitation of Murray over and over again until his eyes fall out.
- The wideouts struggled all day with getting separation from a secondary that I will charitably call mediocre.
- I don’t know what to say about Mike Bobo. On the one hand, his players didn’t exactly give him a lot to work with much of the game. On the other, he seemed reluctant to adapt his playcalling to conditions on the field. Well into the third quarter he was still running just two formations: the I and the wildcat. Neither had much success against an Arkansas defense which clearly wasn’t worried about play action or Georgia trying to run wide. He finally countered by running out of a three wideout set and got a decent gain from Ealey, but then followed up by shifting Marlon Brown into the fullback (!) slot… and having the play get stuffed. There was also very little attempt made to counter the blitz with obvious calls like screens and slants. And the less said about the final series when Georgia had a chance to go thirty yards and put the game on Blair Walsh’s leg for the win, the better.
- Contrast that with Petrino, admittedly one of the best offensive minds in college football. He quit trying to force the run when it wasn’t working and instead focused on taking what Georgia’s pass defense would give him.
- What’s the deal with Ben Jones, Aaron Murray and the offsides snap? There were several opportunities to take advantage of defensive players aggressively jumping into the neutral zone yesterday with a quick snap, yet that never happened.
- The best way I can describe the defense is hit or miss with a vengeance. Arkansas punted a bunch, couldn’t run the ball effectively (so much for that “we’re as good as South Carolina” mentality), but managed to pop the ball for a ridiculous number of long (fifteen-yard or better) gains. Georgia, to its credit, played much more physically than it did in the previous week, but clearly was outfinessed.
- Coach Garner, you’ve got to figure out a way to get Kwame Geathers on the field more.
- Safety play is still substandard, particularly in pass coverage. Rambo dropped a gift-wrapped interception and I presume was the guilty party who got burned on Arkansas’ first TD. Hamilton’s benching in the second half was entirely deserved. And where was Justin Houston’s help on the wheel route that he got burned on?
- The pass rush was better than the sack total indicated. Unfortunately, when it wasn’t there, Arkansas took full advantage.
- Why the problems in the first half getting the correct number of defensive players on the field?
- There are still a number of players who struggle with tackling. I feel bad for Christian Robinson, who finds himself doing everything right in terms of getting himself in position on a play, getting his hands on the ball carrier, yet finding himself unable to wrap the play up. Can’t say I feel the same for Vance Cuff, whose attempt to tackle via the shoulder bump was the single most embarrassing play of the day.
- And there’s still a major problem with short to intermediate crossing routes, which the Hogs exploited much of the game.
- Kudos to Akeem Dent, who showed a refreshing ability to defend the short pass. I’m not sure I ever saw a Jancek-coached linebacker do that.
- It’s not helping that Georgia’s special teams play has been anything but that. Butler has had a noticeable drop off in these last two games; the final exchange of punts yesterday was crucial in letting Arkansas play for the win. Nobody is letting Boykin get the opportunity to do any significant damage. Kickoff coverage has improved from last year from insane to competent (which I’ll gladly take). I’ve already expressed my displeasure with Georgia’s punt return game.
The overall impression I came away with yesterday was that of a talented team which has still failed to address the problems with focus, passion and determination which plagued it over the previous two seasons. Some of the problem areas have shifted and some, like the defensive breakdowns we saw yesterday, are understandable to a degree. But there’s no excuse for it taking Richt and his staff the better part of three and a half quarters to light a fire under this bunch. And there’s even less of one letting things get away as they did in the end.
That’s what really hurt. Yesterday wasn’t Columbia. As disjointed as the Dawgs looked most of the day, and with all of those key players missing, they were still in position to win the game with one last solid effort. Instead, they couldn’t close the deal.