I walked out of the Georgia Dome a week ago angry. Last night I walked out frustrated. Is that how we measure improvement with this Georgia team now? If you’re Mark Richt, I doubt it matters. It shouldn’t matter, anyway.
It’s good, of course, that the Dawgs looked immensely better prepared against South Carolina than they did against Boise State. Steve Spurrier isn’t going to be mocking Todd Grantham about how to defend the read option. Mike Bobo shocked the hell out of me with some terrific adjustments in the second half. And the onside kick was a beautiful, beautiful call.
But as that onside kick demonstrated, preparation isn’t everything. There’s the little matter of execution. And that’s why Georgia wakes up 0-2 this morning.
On to the specifics I saw on a bright, sunny afternoon.
- No worries on the crowd, which was supportive and loud when it was supposed to be. (The back-and-forth nature of the game certainly helped.) There was a complete absence of negativity in the section around me, which is rare. The strange moment came after the Murray fumble put the Gamecocks up by ten late and Georgia responded with its last score – the Dawg fans were leaving in a steady stream and the South Carolina fans had begun their celebration. Suddenly everybody had to pay attention to the game again.
- Mike Bobo probably doesn’t want to hear this from me, but the offense looks so much more comfortable operating out of the I-formation than it does out of the spread shotgun set. The biggest difference is the blocking. Both Figgins and Ogletree were very good in that department.
- Speaking of the “I”, me loves that pass play to Figgins out of the backfield. It’s like stealing.
- There are a lot of things you can point to as the difference in the game, but Georgia botching a short field goal attempt and South Carolina nailing a 49-yarder was as big there as it was unexpected.
- The officiating crew sucked, but it was more a matter of benign neglect than it was active malice on Wagers’ part. I think they got every major call of the game correct, even though some were close. But there was a ton of holding and blocking in the back that was ignored throughout the game.
- I’m willing to chalk up the level of Richard Samuel’s involvement in the offense to making sure that Isaiah Crowell was given the opportunity to become acclimated to the pace and power of D-1 football, but I think it’s fair to say he’s up to speed now. He should be getting 25 touches a game from here on out, or Bobo’s cheating himself.
- Bean Anderson played much, much better yesterday. Maybe there was something to those jerseys.
- I can see why Geathers starts ahead of Jenkins. His technique is much more consistent. That late big run by Lattimore that went up the middle was the result of Jenkins getting turned out of the play. The good news is that should be correctable over time.
- By the way, in case anybody didn’t notice, Lattimore is one helluva running back.
- When’s the last time Georgia had a return duo as dynamic as Boykin and Smith? Boykin’s not a threat to break something every time he has the ball. But he is a threat every time he gets some blocking.
- Walsh wasn’t perfect on field goals, but he was awesome on kickoffs. Touchbacks, kicks that were high enough to support the coverage and that gorgeous onside kick – it was the entire package out there.
- That Melvin Ingram TD run on the fake punt felt like it took forever. (That call, in response to the onside kick, was pure Spurrier.)
- This just in: Alshon Jeffery is huge.
- It’s not that Aaron Murray has regressed this season, but he hasn’t gotten better. He’s holding the ball too long too often. It’s why South Carolina killed him when Georgia got in the shotgun set. The game-killing fumble resulted from Ellis Johnson sending the house from a 10-man defensive front – no way every defender gets blocked on a play like that, yet Murray didn’t adjust and then made matters worse by trying to make something happen after Clowney got his hands on him.
- The other problem Murray has is inconsistent mechanics, some of which is no doubt the result of the crap getting beat out of him in the shotgun set. He delivered some beautiful throws, including the last TD pass to King when he had the time and, more importantly, took the time to set his feet properly.
- Kudos to Bobo for the play design on that scoring drive over the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth that wound up tying the score at 28. Quick passes out of no-huddle let the offense get into an effective rhythm (and maybe didn’t give Murray a chance to think too much). It also didn’t give the defense the time to get to Murray. If you’re married to the shotgun spread, Mike, more of that, please.
- Georgia ran the wheel route! And it would have worked, too, if Murray had made a better throw over the defender who was beat.
- I’m surprised at the criticism I saw in the after-game comments about the tackling. From where I sat yesterday, it’s much improved over the debacle of last year. Of course, maybe that’s small praise, now that I think about it.
I don’t want to say that I’m imbued with a sense of optimism as I type this, but I can’t say there aren’t grounds for hope, at least, based on what I saw yesterday. Georgia’s got plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Coaching wasn’t as dogmatic as it had been in the opener; maybe that’s born of desperation, but so what? If they can harness all that, there’s plenty of winning ball to be played yet, especially with the way the schedule lightens up over the next five weeks.
Indeed, I thought Georgia was the more talented team last night, although not the better one in the end. And that, too, may be the result of desperation. The Dawgs, say what you will about ‘em, don’t have any quit, as that last touchdown showed. But sometimes – too many times yesterday – there’s a fine line between not quitting and recklessness. That’s why Georgia lost a game which it should have won comfortably. And that’s why I can’t take much comfort from the good things I saw from the boys in red and black yesterday.
Ironically, what I did take as a source of optimism yesterday was South Carolina’s play. If that’s the best team in the East, then the East really is a mess this season. On defense, they blitz effectively, but nothing else really stood out. Georgia was able to run on them out of the “I” and took advantage of the open spaces that were left open in the passing game when SC blitzed. Teams that are more coherent with their offense **cough**Bobby Petrino**cough** are going to shred the ‘Cocks. And on offense, they’ve got two supreme talents in Lattimore and Jeffery, a competent offensive line and not much more. For all the crap being thrown in Grantham’s direction last night and this morning, Garcia was very meh yesterday. I don’t think he completed 50% of his passes. And the receivers outside of Jeffery won’t scare anybody. This isn’t a team that looks dominant by any means.
So, yeah, if that’s the best the East has to offer, Georgia’s not out of it yet if the Dawgs can get their act together. You may feel that’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible.