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.