Third and Willie

It’s no secret that Georgia’s biggest problem on defense is third down conversions.  Currently the Dawgs are 89th nationally and last in the SEC in opponent third down conversion rate.  When you break that down, it’s even worse:  toss out the Louisiana game, and the Georgia defense is allowing other teams to convert half of their third down plays into first downs.

The situational stats on pass defense are depressing.  The defense has allowed an opponent passer rating on third down of 135.72.  Teams are an incredible 15-21 passing on third down and seven yards or more to go, with no interceptions.  The rushing defense on third down is better – in fact, other than a slight propensity to get burned on third and 4-6 yards to go, it’s held up pretty well.  But overall, it’s pretty obvious what teams are successfully doing to move the chains on the Dawgs.

Still, I had hope for Saturday, because as bad as Georgia’s been stopping teams on third down, Tennessee’s been worse converting third downs.  The Vols rank 117th nationally and 11th in the SEC (good old Vandy is last, natch) in third down conversion rate.  Unfortunately, they may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on that.

Nearly converting half of its third downs Saturday against LSU wasn’t enough to move Tennessee out from 117th in the nation in conversion percentage.

But it was a boost of confidence, coach Derek Dooley said, a push in the right direction caused by more productive first and second downs.

UT was 7-of-15 on third downs against LSU. Take away a third-and-27 in the second quarter, and the Vols averaged third-and-5 on the other 14 possession downs. Against UAB, when the Vols were just 2-for-15, their average teetered toward third-and-10.

On third-and-6 or longer this season, UT is 2-for-46.

“It’s unbelievable,” quarterback Matt Simms said. “We couldn’t do anything on third down against UAB but for some reason against the best defense in our conference we came up big and made plays.”

Though the distances were mostly shorter, the No. 1 reason behind the Vols’ success on third downs Saturday was nearly unanimous among Dooley and UT’s players.

The return of wide receiver Gerald Jones provided a spark to the offense and a trusted target for Simms in the biggest times of need. Three of Jones’ five catches came on third downs and all were long enough to move the chains…

Two keys for Georgia here.  First, Tennessee’s best passing down by far is on first down.  Simms’ percentage isn’t the greatest, but his yards per catch is much higher there than on any other down; he’s also thrown for five TDs on first down without a single interception.  UT settles for smaller gains and hasn’t had a touchdown throw on second or third down all season.  So Grantham needs to find a way to limit the damage on first down throws.  The other key?  The one thing Tennessee’s offense is worse at than converting third downs is protecting the quarterback.  Justin Houston, come on down.



Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Georgia Football

43 responses to “Third and Willie

  1. Russ The Temporary Mascot

    We’re strong at the LB position, undersized in the DL and inexperienced at DB.

    We need to mix it up more on 3rd down and move are strengths and weaknesses around so it is not so easy for our opponents to get the yardage.

    But what do I know?

    I am just a dog.


  2. Dooms Day Dawg

    Simms = newest SEC Player of The Week? Please, please do not allow that to happen Dawgs!


  3. JBJ

    Something tells me Mr. Simms will break all his personal records on Saturday. If UGA can’t win games, the least we can do is boost the self-confidence of our opponents. Especially their quarterbacks.

    I have no idea why our defense has taken on the roll of a Polish army. We used to play with fire and passion. I even saw some of that in the 3rd quarter at Colorado. I was getting excited that we had turned a corner. Alas, AJ went to the locker room and everything fell apart again.

    During that moment in the 3rd quarter I realized just how close we are to getting ourselves out of this mess. Everyone has their opinion on CMR. The simple fact is that winning fixes everything. Even at this point in the season.


    • TennesseeDawg

      We can always hire ourselves out to be cupcakes for other teams if we don’t improve.


    • 69Dawg

      Please do not insult the Polish army by comparing them to our D. We have surrendered more yards than the French
      Army did in WWI and WWII combined.
      Still I wish we would find out why our DB’s are so allergic to pigskin, the balls just bounce right off.


  4. Todd

    #6 will torch Georgia’s dbs this Saturday. Tauren Poole will have a Lattimore-esque performance. Really interested to see Juwan James block.


    • I get the apprehension that a disinterested Georgia squad could easily lose on Saturday, but what I don’t get is the confidence so many have that UT is going to come out and dominate the Dawgs.

      Tennessee is a team that’s a functional field goal kicker away from having lost at home to a UAB squad which got waxed 42-7 last night by Central Florida. They ain’t exactly a powerhouse.


  5. X-Dawg

    Add the “3rd & Bobos” on the offense to the “3rd & Willies” on the defense and you get a truly craptacular football season.


    • Russ The Temporary Mascot


      The biggest problem I know from my dog house is the 2nd down two-yard Bobo into the line.

      If you see me with my eyes shut, it is because I am dreaming of a shotgun formation pass to the tight end.


  6. Scorpio Jones, III

    I have expounded on this subject before, but I think it could be worth a shot again.

    This is, unquestionably, the unluckiest Georgia football team I have ever seen, and I have seen a long, long, long line of them.

    If there is a ball bouncing free, it will go out of bounds, if there is a way to just miss a chip block, we will find it, if there is a way to fumble at the worst possible time in a game, we will pick that time to do the unusual.

    We get our star wide receiver back and he gets cramps after he sat out four games he could have provided some assistance for because the NCAA spied his name on an obscure BS website.

    Tennessee has had at least one lucky win….how many Division One kickers miss 19 field goals or whatever the UAB guy missed?

    And then they had the Math Bowl in Baton Rouge.

    Lord, don’t you think it is time to give us poor, miserable Dawgfans, even those in Carolina, just the tiniest little break?

    Can’t we just get a little bitty bit lucky this week, please?

    Your friend,

    Scorp the unhealthily miserable.


    • Griff

      I agree. I know, I know, good teams create their own luck (As a sidenote…LSU has gotten every break in the world this year and they are 5-0. They have not created their own luck, it was created for them!). We are NOT GETTING ANY LUCK AT ALL!!! We have had zero breaks/lucky bounces go our way. To contrast, do you think Mike Smith would be on the hot seat in Atlanta if the Saints kicker makes what amounts to an extra point? Or follow that up with a San Fran defensive back looking to score when all he needed to do was fall down? The Dawgs are 1-4 and could easily be 4-1. The Falcons are 3-1 and could easily be 1-3.
      I guess what I’m ultimately saying is record doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. We are not as bad as our record indicates and the Falcons are not as good as their record indicates. If we can just get a win, things may just change!!!!


      • DWH

        “LSU has gotten every break in the world this year”? Try EVERY year. Blows my mind how lucky those SOBs are. Unlike UGA, they continue to win in spite of their coaching.


    • Scott W.

      Fortune favors the bold.


  7. BMan

    I feel like I’ll be watching and saying, “How is this possible?” as UT converts about 50-60% of its 3rd downs.


  8. Marie

    We ARE the UNluckiest team EVER. But let’s try the tactic of not letting them know it is 3rd down, make them think it is 1st or 2nd down. And loud-speaker- do NOT announce it.


  9. No One Knows You're a Dawg

    I really hope Todd Grantham isn’t the new Charlie Weis, but there are a number of similarities.

    Maybe the analysis regarding our defense the Senator linked to a couple of days ago is correct and 3rd down stops are the last thing that comes together for an improving defense. Let’s hope so.


    • I really hope Todd Grantham isn’t the new Charlie Weis, but there are a number of similarities.

      Such as?

      The guy’s been in charge for five games and he’s already a bust. Never mind the personnel issues on the d-line that he had no control over.

      Let me ask you something – do you not already see a huge improvement in linebacker play over what Jancek accomplished? Is it not possible that Grantham’s got more of a clue about what to do than Weis?


      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Look, in spite of all the horrible things that have happened to this defense, the kids are playing better, much better individually, and now and then they are playing better as a team than they have in a long time.

        If Grantham is having trouble adjusting to anything, and this may have been ONE of Charlie Weiss’s problems, it is that college football is so much more about emotion and all that involves.

        Emotion is difficult to keep when you have to stop and think….as time goes on, and we can stop thinking and just GATA, I think Grantham will be fine.


      • No One Knows You're a Dawg

        First, I didn’t proclaim Grantham a bust after 5 games; I said he had some similarities to Charlie Weis. Grantham reminds me of Weis in that both have extensive pro experience and can talk impressively and with great confidence about how their schemes work in the college game. They also both are testy with the media when their talents are challenged. Weis never lived up to the level of success his resume and analytical skills suggested. We will see with Grantham.

        As I said, maybe we will put it all together in the coming weeks. But so far, Grantham has been out coached in every loss. The defense gave up more points last week against Colorado than either Colorado State’s or Cal-Berkley’s defenses and only gave up 2 points less than Hawaii did against Colorado. That’s unacceptable, especially given the sort of contract Grantham has.

        We can’t stop teams when they go 4 wide and we can’t stop teams when they run it up the middle. I’m trying to figure out what type of offense we can stop. The idea that “we just need players who fit the system” is perhaps the most alarming suggestion I’ve heard regarding our defensive problems. At a minimum, it will take 2 to 3 years recruit and train the type of players we need. Good luck finding another Terrence Cody to help immediately.

        As for the linebackers, I see opposing players (especially those running the spread) running, not just open, but uncovered, downfield. This is especially annoying when its a freaking running back or tight end moving unmarked through the middle of the field. I also see linebackers having difficulty adjusting to QBs who can run the ball or are mobile in the pocket. Isn’t one of the strengths of the 3-4 supposed to be its ability to better defend the spread and mobile QBs? When does that start happening? God help us against Florida and Auburn (and if we can’t get run support up the middle, against Tech too).


        • No One Knows You're a Dawg

          One other thing, when does this defense start creating some turnovers?


        • I haven’t heard anybody in the media complain about Grantham’s testiness; quite the contrary, guys like Page talk glowingly about their interviews with him.

          As for his being outcoached in every loss, I guess that’s true if you include players not tackling Lattimore or biting on Mallett play fakes in your definition of coaching.

          I don’t know why you’re alarmed about personnel not fitting the system. You need different personnel in the front seven when you switch. Besides that, Lakatos prefers bigger defensive backs who can play more press coverage than Martinez did. Why would you expect an easy transition?

          Again, I’m not sure what you’re seeing with the linebackers. Dent did an excellent job in pass defense against Arkansas’ short passing game. Dowtin played a whale of a game in Boulder. And Robinson, while small, has been fundamentally sound. The biggest problem I’ve seen is with the OLBs getting use to being deployed in pass coverage – not exactly a surprise, since they weren’t asked to do that before.

          The flaws against the run are more a problem with the line not disrupting and leaving it for the linebackers to clean up. That’s not how the 3-4 is supposed to work.

          I’m not telling you that Grantham’s been perfect, but he’s done enough that I feel encouraged that he will wind up with a better defense than we saw under Martinez.


    • Russ The Temporary Mascot

      I know Grantham.

      He one of the good ones.

      VanGorder inherited NFL-calibre talent across the board in 2001.

      Grantham inherited a defense that lost five of its best players from the previous season.

      He is one of the few guys on this staff who can inspire you.

      I would run through a hedge for him.

      No need to run him off.



  10. orange sux

    The 3rd down numbers are sickening on both sides. The most amazing thing is css finally spoke. this must be an sign . IT is not bad luck the maroons were up 24-6 bad playing , bad coaching ,bad cheerleaders ,it all was bad.did I forget to blame the band too ? A few wins will fix alot. GATA


  11. Mayor of Dawgtown

    I forgot the name of the football analyst on Tony Barnhart’s show who said it but he’s absolutely right: “The Georgia defense has to think.” By that he means that they do not know their assignments cold so they can just react. They have to take time to think about what they are doing which delays their reaction time.