You know, other than its relentless back patting (hope nobody dislocated a shoulder), its repackaging of the obvious (who knew Georgia had a favorable schedule this year? Go figure…) as profound, the omission of a link to this post predicting the removal of Richt after a 2-3 start, the outdated concern with player discipline (Washington’s run-in with the law after the MSU game was the first such matter in a year) and a random WTF comment (“Never forget that, UGA fan…the best interests of your team are less important to the mass media than stroking your interest.”) tossed in for seasoning, this Russ Mitchell post is darn near perfect.
Daily Archives: October 10, 2011
Here’s your daily double of two players’ reactions to events of last weekend:
Not a good weekend to be an orange-garbed SEC fan.
I never bought into the preseason line of thought that said Mark Richt had to win a certain number of games to keep his job. For one thing (and to his credit), McGarity refused to judge Richt on that basis.
What I did think Richt would have to do in order for the program to show enough improvement was to re-instill a sense of effort and urgency, things which had been lacking noticeably over the past few seasons. Given the level of Georgia’s talent and the schedule advantage the Dawgs have over the rest of their SEC East rivals, I thought that if Richt could recover some of the mojo from earlier in his head coaching career, his team would be in the thick of things contending for the top of the division.
And halfway through the regular season, that’s exactly where we find Georgia. The misgivings from the 0-2 start (which really arose from how unprepared the team looked against Boise State) have given way to cautious optimism based on several factors which were on prominent display Saturday night in Knoxville.
- Pass defense. Continuing a trend in its conference games, Georgia’s defense forced Tennessee, the SEC’s top passing offense coming in, to its lowest passer rating of the season. And that was without Cornelius Washington. The secondary’s confidence grows palpably, and with good reason. It’s only given up one passing touchdown during the winning streak, on that fluky play at Ole Miss.
- Linebacking play. They certainly benefited from the improvement on the defensive line, but it’s not hard to be impressed with the way that Georgia has generated depth at this position. Herrera has been fabulous for a true freshman and Gilliard continued his steady play in Knoxville. Vasser looked good on run defense, too. And then there’s Jarvis Jones, who’s been the absolute rock that this defense is based on.
- Defensive line. Did anyone notice that Jenkins got the start Saturday night? The reason you may not have is that his play and Geathers’ have become interchangeable. Georgia’s success stopping the run starts with those two.
- Offensive line. Yeah, the depth situation remains scary. But the emergence of Dallas Lee has made it a little less so. Two red zone rushing touchdowns were a good sign.
- Receivers. No worries with the tight ends. It was interesting to see how much the early offensive game plan keyed on King, but some of that was dictated by the Vols’ defensive strategy. Malcolm Mitchell, quite simply, is a revelation. With the development of a legitimate deep threat, this bunch can contribute.
- Running backs. I’m truly amazed by the criticism of Crowell that he’s somehow not tough enough. He’s fourth in the conference in rushing, despite that offensive line. And he had a rough night, relatively speaking. But despite facing a defense that was keyed to stop him (if you doubt that, watch Georgia’s very first offensive play of the game) and getting banged up in the process, he still managed to score those two big third-quarter TDs, displaying both power and speed. Carlton Thomas is one of the most improved players on the team and has become a legitimate contributor on offense. The fullbacks are doing exactly what they need to do, block their asses off.
- Aaron Murray. Yes, he needs to refine his touch on the deep pass. (Damn, that throw to Mitchell was on the money, though.) But look at the rest of what he brought to the table against UT. He only threw one bad ball all night, he displayed good touch on the short and intermediate throws and he had several key runs. He seems to be learning that he doesn’t have to carry the team all by his lonesome. That’ll make him a better quarterback.
- Special teams. Butler had another terrific game. Walsh seems to be regrouping on his field goal kicking, but didn’t have his usual distance on kickoffs (surely those aren’t related). Kickoff coverage wasn’t the greatest, but overall, Georgia didn’t cost itself in this department. That’s an improvement over the past few weeks.
- Coaching. The final margin may not reflect it, but I thought that was the best coached game Georgia’s turned in this season. Richt set the tone early with those fourth down calls on the opening drive. Grantham’s halftime adjustments were VanGorder-like (Tennessee had eleven total yards in the decisive third quarter). And Bobo did a good job both in taking what the Vol defense was giving him – had they hit a couple more of those downfield shots, the game would have turned into a rout – and in managing his personnel, particularly with Crowell being dinged up.
And so they march on to Nashville. The Dawgs aren’t out of the woods yet by any means, but at least they’ve got a shot. Assuming they get by Vanderbilt, the bye week comes at a good time to get several key players some much-needed time to heal. This could be a formidable bunch that steps on the field to face Florida. Now if Richt can only get them to realize that…
- Boise State
- The top eight weren’t too hard to come up with, but the last two, yecch.
- The ACC bites so far this year and Georgia Tech’s schedule has been very soft, which explains the Jackets’ absence.
- The Big Ten hasn’t been much to write home about either. But Wisconsin’s been impressive pounding cupcakes and Illinois got the nod for beating Arizona State.
- Oklahoma State isn’t here because I can’t bring myself to include a team ranked 103rd in total defense on a top ten list. Kansas State gets similar treatment for being ranked 97th in total offense.
- West Virginia? The ‘Eers are scoring points in bunches, but a 26-point home loss to LSU and a close call against Maryland leave me leery for now.
Reason #2846 why the Zooker is a national treasure:
Why did Illinois go for two after scoring a touchdown Saturday that put it ahead 20-13 with 7:18 left in the second quarter?
Because coach Ron Zook, who tells his players to keep playing and not worry about the score, took his own advice too literally and was so immersed in the game that he didn’t know the score.
‘‘We were down five, right? Up five, I mean,’’ he said. ‘‘It was 20-13? Up seven?’’
You know that airline ad where they show an embarrassing moment and say, ‘‘Wanna get away?’’ This was it.
‘‘Maybe I didn’t know what the score was,’’ Zook said. ‘‘That’s happened to me before. It’s usually when we’re behind. [This will] give you something to pound us about.’’
Like anyone’s needed an excuse before…
Situation unchanged: dominant at the top, sorry at the bottom and jostling for position in the middle.
- LSU (6-0, 3-0). So scary that opponents’ starting quarterbacks are getting hurt the week before they play the Tigers.
- Alabama (6-0, 3-0). Marking time until November 5.
- Arkansas (5-1, 1-1). The Hogs look good when they play a little defense.
- South Carolina (5-1, 3-1). So that’s what pulling out all the stops against the worst team in the conference looks like.
- Georgia (4-2, 3-1). Hey, have you heard about the Bulldogs’ schedule?
- Auburn (4-2, 2-1). If the Tigers don’t find a passing game soon, they’ll slide some more.
- Florida (4-2, 2-2). In six games, Florida has yielded 115 points. 112 of those have come in SEC play.
- Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3). Win, shwin. Any week in which you allow UAB to hold its first lead of the season ain’t a good one.
- Tennessee (3-2, 0-2). In his presser, Dooley rambled about bamboo and water, which I guess is zenspeak for “you can’t win in this conference without a running game”.
- Vanderbilt (3-2, 1-2). If giving Alabama one tough half is progress, then the Commodores are progressing.
- Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2). The bye week wasn’t long enough. Next up: Alabama.
- Kentucky (2-4, 0-3). Vanderbilt minus the defense.