You know, I think we could all use some comic relief this morning.
Sorry, but there’s only one thing on the menu today – Bulldog stew.
— I hate to keep harping on this, but it really staggers me to read:
… Who will replace Ogletree remains an open question.
Senior walk-on Jeremy Sulek got the playing time against Boise State, and finished tied for the team lead with seven tackles, five of them solo. Richt said Sulek knows the position better than any available player “right now,” which “gives him a better chance to make some plays.”
— I was predicting this quote back in the parking lot after the game.
Linebacker Christian Robinson said he has a picture up in his room where he listed team goals on it. The only one he’ll have to scratch off is beating the Broncos.
“This was a big deal for me … but everything we set out as a team to do is still available,” Robinson said outside the locker room in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, “and we’re going to do everything in our power to do that.”
Christian, buddy, you played a good game Saturday night. But at some point you guys are going to have to quit talking about winning one of these “goal” games and actually go out there and do it.
— I doubt this will be the last time we’ll read this: “Coach Mark Richt said the Broncos used stunting and late movement to disrupt Georgia’s blocking schemes.”
— Richt is discussing last year’s South Carolina game plan here, but after Spurrier watches the Boise State tape, is there any reason for him to change his approach?
“… A year ago, our defense actually played overall pretty well. The point total wasn’t unbelievable against us, but we didn’t put enough points on the board offensively to make it a one-possession game to maybe cause South Carolina to try to do something a little more than what they were doing, which was just handing off the zone and throwing the quick screens out there to (Alshon) Jeffery. We’ve got to score some points to put pressure on them too.”
— I wrote about it earlier today, but if this is a concern, why run most of your offense out of a spread shotgun and leave Figgins and Ogletree standing on the sideline?
… Richt said that Richard Samuel would probably remain the starter over freshman Isaiah Crowell at tailback. He said Crowell “understandably” needs to get better in pass protection. “I thought he was eager to block,” Richt said. “He did make some very nice blocks, but there were a couple of times that he missed an assignment here and there.”
— Bill Connelly’s numbers say Georgia underachieved Saturday night. So do my eyeballs. And then, there’s this “but”:
But about Georgia:
* Get Brandon Boykin more touches (80-yard run, 40-yard kickoff return).
* Georgia’s offensive line was no match for what is obviously still an incredible Boise State defensive line.
* Isaiah Crowell is going to be good. He only lost three yards in his 15 carries and probably did well to average four yards per carry considering the line disadvantage.
* Jarvis Jones is good (9.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL)
So there’s that.
— I’ve written something like this before, but it’s always useful to see it confirmed by somebody not as partisan as I:
… Chris Petersen has clearly gone about making his team stronger on the lines. The Broncos are no longer the typical BYU-Hawaii Western mirage that can put up a lot of points, but has no prayer of stopping a quality opponent. His team is not strong, deep, and aggressive up front. I’ve seen nothing from Georgia to convince me that the Dawgs are in the top half of the SEC, so I’m not about to say that Boise State would be on equal footing with Alabama, LSU, or even Arkansas, but the question is no longer ridiculous. It was a pleasure to watch a well-organized team operate in their opener with clockwork efficiency. I miss the days when the same could be said about a Mark Richt team. Remember how the 2003 opener against Clemson felt? Remember what it looked like to see a well-coached team against a bunch of athletes running around like headless chickens? Yeah.
— Elkon goes on to write that the South Carolina game “takes on massive proportions”. That may seem obvious to us, but, if anything, Patrick Garbin writes that history suggests that may be an understatement.
… In the previous 117 seasons of UGA football, 11 of them began with losses in the first two games, including two in recent memory (1993 and 1996). Of those 11 seasons, only one ended in a winning season for Georgia, and even that was just a sub-par 6-5 record in 1979.
I find myself rather amazed by the fan base’s reaction to the series of plays which led to Georgia’s second score at 28-14 – you know, when Richt initially elected to punt when he was facing a fourth-and-seven inside Boise State territory and then decided to run a play when given a second opportunity after an offsides penalty reduced the down and distance to a much more manageable fourth-and-two.
At the game, there was noticeable disgruntlement over the decision to punt that vanished in the wake of the touchdown pass, but there’s been a lot of virtual bitching on message boards and comment sections about how Richt was bailed out by a lucky penalty.
What I’ve seen, though, is almost no discussion of the night’s key play, which occurred early in the second quarter. The Dawgs were mounting their first successful drive of the night and were heading towards retaking the lead. Faced with a fourth and short on BSU’s 26, Richt, the coach who was scorned the entire offseason for kicking an early field goal against Central Florida instead of going for it on fourth-and-one, passed on a sure Blair Walsh field goal and took his chances on picking up the first down.
Take it from there, Ben Dukes.
… Then comes the 4th and 1. I applaud Richt for having the WILL to go for it. That showed me that he’s out to win more than just put 3 points up. And the execution was pretty dadgum great, with one small exception. NOBODY TOUCHED THE PLAYSIDE OLB! There is no way on God’s Green Earth that the OLB isn’t blocked in the play design. Either Charles was supposed to chip him, or Anderson was, or Ogletree was supposed to take the first thing that showed. I have no idea. It was an obvious missed-assignment and it resulted in the killing of our best drive of the game.
Anybody doubt that play was flashing through Richt’s head when it was fourth-and-seven later? I sure was thinking about it. As it turned out, the penalty and the situation made it an easier call, but I wonder what he would have done if Georgia had been within a touchdown at the time.
So, yeah, I’ve watched the replay now. My overall impressions are that (1) the team still suffered from more than its fair share of mental lapses and breakdowns in execution (if you want the exhaustive play-by-play on that, check out Ben Dukes’ posts: 1st quarter 2nd quarter 3rd quarter 4th quarter) and (2) Georgia’s offensive game plan for the most part played into Boise State’s obvious defense strength and ignored Georgia’s offensive strengths.
I think what interests me most about the game is that both teams had to react and adjust to the losses of their big play receivers. Boise State did so by testing what it could do within its tried-and-true scheme; when it found that it didn’t have the speed to play with Georgia’s secondary on the deep ball and that Georgia was doing a good job controlling Doug Martin, it simply refined its attack within its system.
The lack of a deep threat wasn’t an issue. Not in the least: instead, Boise went methodical on Georgia, going short, shorter and shortest in the passing game — Moore didn’t break a sweat — and continuing to try running at Georgia’s front, albeit with a twist. Seeing that Martin was struggling gaining traction out of a traditional formation, the Broncos loosened things up a bit with freshman quarterback Grant Hedrick, who may have only rushed for 18 yards on a pair of carries but certainly gave the Bulldogs another look to consider.
Boise recognized what was being offered by Georgia’s defense and exploited it.
Defensively, Georgia did not give up a play longer than 20 yards, but quarterback Kellen Moore took aim at Georgia’s zone coverage, completing 28 of 34 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
“That was how we figured they were going to use their personnel,” Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease told the Idaho Statesman. “We didn’t know they were going to be as wide open as they were sometimes.’
On the other side of the ball, Georgia spent a large part of the night running out of shotgun spread formations, rather than its traditional I-formation look. The hope was that it would spread Boise State’s defense out as well, and create space for Georgia’s rushers and receivers. Instead, for much of the time what it wound up accomplishing was to leave Georgia’s inexperienced five-man offensive line in a losing battle against the Broncos’ experienced defensive front.
As a result, Boise State controlled Georgia’s running game (except for that beautifully blocked 80-yard Boykin TD run) and was able to harass Aaron Murray for much of the night. When Georgia went to its I-formation stuff, the results were often successful, but it seemed that Bobo used it as little more than a change of pace to the basic game plan. That was a shame, as it turned out that many of the things we all thought were available for Georgia to exploit – superior speed and matchup problems with the tight ends, for example – were there to deploy.
Boise in fact didn’t have an answer for the speed of Boykin and Mitchell (and wouldn’t have had one for Brandon Smith, if anyone had thought to use him on offense). And Orson Charles was simply a nightmare for the Broncos’ back seven all game.
But the biggest head-scratcher of all for me is what that meant to Georgia’s backs. Samuel is a power runner who needs a head of steam to be effective. The shotgun spread insured that wasn’t going to happen. Isaiah Crowell is a freshman who isn’t fully up to speed on pass protection; the spread exposed his weakness exponentially.
And that in the end was the big difference. Boise stayed with what it was experienced doing and simply refined its approach in response to game conditions. Georgia changed its usual way of doing things and seemed reluctant to modify its attack despite the in-game results. That’s pretty much a recipe for how to lose a game to an opponent less physically gifted and deep than you are.
Ben Dukes concludes that Georgia’s problems in the Boise State game are fixable. For the most part, I think he’s right. But as we all know from having watched this program over the past three seasons, there’s been a yawning gap between fixable and fixed. I’m afraid the lesson from Saturday night is that Mark Richt is running out of time to bridge that gap.