It’s tempting to use yesterday’s game as a metaphor for the season, but I think I’ll reserve that thought for another blog post.
I worried before the game about whether Georgia could avoid imploding with mistakes on special teams and turnovers. Sadly, the answer was no, as Murray threw a brutal pick-six (his third turnover of the day) and Blair Walsh finished his college career with two missed field goals. All were costly.
Here’s the rest of what I saw:
- There’s no question in my mind what the turning point was in the game – Murray’s first interception, which came in the first part of the third quarter. Gruden blamed it on poor communication on the scramble drill and Tavarres King confirmed that. MSU had run off seven straight three-and-outs on offense prior to that turnover. The Spartans would not have another one in regulation. From that point until overtime, they ran 39 plays to Georgia’s 25.
- Strangely enough, I had thought before that play that the chemistry between Murray and King was better than it had been all season. The 80-yard touchdown pass which put the Dawgs up 9-0 was picture perfect – great route running and a gorgeous throw.
- It’s hard to believe that King’s six-catch, 205 yard-receiving day could be overshadowed, but that’s what happened. Brandon Boykin notched scores on offense, defense and special teams and was deserving of the rare MVP award in the face of his team’s loss. Too bad he couldn’t kick field goals.
- And did anybody notice that Boykin’s TD punt return came on a punt safe formation?
- Obviously, there are lots of places to point fingers at, but for me the biggest problem yesterday was the offensive line. MSU had an unbelievable sixteen tackles for loss and four sacks. Much of that came from breakdowns in blocking assignments, as there were many occasions when a Spartan defender came through untouched. Georgia couldn’t sustain any traction in its running game. That in turn meant play action would be largely ineffective, which it was. The o-line finished the year with two straight ineffective performances; given the departures of three starters, that has to be the biggest area of concern going into next season.
- Speaking of two straight performances, what are they doing in the locker room at halftime? Whatever it is, they need to do something different.
- Outside of Malcome, Georgia’s backs did nothing. Some of that was due to the ineffective run blocking, as every back had at least one negative-yardage run (considering that Boykin, Smith and Thomas only had two carries apiece and Crowell three, that’s pretty sad), but the lack of speed and aggression was noticeable. Malcome was the only back who looked like he hit the hole with any authority. Samuel looked rusty, which wasn’t surprising, but why give him nine carries? And why wait to use Carlton Thomas so late in the game?
- I know they were forced to use the tight ends in max protect more than they wanted, but any game plan that results in one catch for Orson Charles and none for Aron White isn’t playing to Georgia’s strength. Plus, you’d think that a team that blitzed its linebackers as much as MSU did would be susceptible to quick passes to the tight ends.
- Yeah, it was the Mike Bobo that makes me want to pull my hair out of my head that we saw. It was clear by the end of the second quarter that Michigan State was having real problems defending the deep throw and that Aaron Murray was making the shots he took work… and that’s the play that disappeared on offense until the fourth quarter, when, natch, it worked again. Bobo insisted on trying to grind the ball out between the tackles until Malcome ripped off two successive runs right before the pick-six. And yet he did set up the three deep completions to King beautifully. The TD pass to Boykin was a nice call.
- We learned one thing about Grantham’s defense – it’s got some work to do on prevent. Or, maybe that was just the cumulative effect from the injuries. Georgia’s ability to defend the run up the middle sagged noticeably after Jenkins’ injury. But I was proud of the way the defense bowed its back in overtime and kept MSU out of the end zone, even after Walsh’s first demoralizing miss.
- Ogletree had a phenomenal, phenomenal game, didn’t he?
- I liked Branden Smith’s effort in coverage. Thought he showed good technique.
- My favorite defensive play of the day came on Shawn Williams’ interception. MSU picked on Commings in coverage all day and Grantham baited Cousins beautifully with the way he rolled the coverage. Unfortunately, Georgia’s offense couldn’t punch it in from there for a touchdown.
- I wasn’t disappointed that MSU held Jarvis Jones largely in check in the second half by emphasizing protection his way (or by throwing the screen over him), but I was disappointed that no one else picked up the slack. Lack of a pass rush really hurt in the second half.
- By the way, for all the people questioning the purpose of Dantonio’s challenge after the pass interference penalty, getting that thirteen seconds back on the clock turned out to be pretty big.
A strange game in many ways. Murray made plenty of mistakes, but still outplayed Cousins. Neither team could run the ball effectively. There were special teams breakdowns on both sides. Six turnovers all told, but, in one real difference between the two, the Spartans were able to cash theirs in for two touchdowns, while Georgia settled for a single field goal from the three it received.
That, along with some questionable game management, was the difference in the end.
No question this loss sucked, but the result hasn’t sent me into the kind of existential sulk that, say, the 2009 loss in Knoxville did. This program still has its share of bad habits to play its way out of. It was talented enough this season to overcome those against the mediocre and bad teams it played, but not against the better squads.