The tone was set from the very first play from scrimmage last night, as I watched Cornelius Washington lose outside contain on an 11-yard running play. It continued as I watched Mike Bobo call six runs out of seven total plays on Georgia’s first aborted series, because, after all, he said he was going to reestablish the running game. And it planted itself for good when Rhett McGowan waved at a punt as it went by and gently settled several yards behind him on Georgia’s three yard line.
Oh sure, they recovered in parts. Even at 14-7, I never really felt like Georgia was in danger of being upset. But at that point I didn’t doubt for a moment that it was going to be a struggle all night to put away a Kentucky team that is one of the worst two squads in the conference.
The reality is that these Dawgs have some serious structural problems that aren’t getting better. In fact, you can argue that at least one of them is getting worse, based on what I saw last night.
On to the bullet points:
- Defense. While I put most of the blame for the South Carolina debacle on Grantham, last night’s poor showing rests mainly with the players. For once, I thought Richt’s halftime critique for the sideline reporter wasn’t a case of throwing the players under the bus. It was a simple, accurate description of what was happening. It wasn’t so much a case of Grantham doing a bad coaching job as it was his players doing a bad job of listening. You don’t think Washington’s had it drilled into him repeatedly how important it is to maintain containment? How about Damian Swann and the importance of not being fooled by play action when he’s in single coverage, man-to-man? I expect that John Jenkins knows job one is gap control. And that Alec Ogletree has had plenty of coaching about not overrunning the play. Yet all of those problems were repeatedly on display last night. Grantham had to adjust his gameplan, not because it was flawed, as was the case a week ago, but because the primary assumption he had – that Georgia’s front could control Kentucky’s running game – which was an entirely reasonable one to make based on UK’s season to date, was blown to shreds because of a lack of player discipline. The thing is, I know the players have been coached better than that. Exhibit A is the way they defended the option. It’s the one thing they’ve consistently handled all season. And Exhibit B is Jordan Jenkins, a true freshman who played the most consistent game of anyone on the defense yesterday. Too many on the defense look like they play as if they’ve bought into the hype without having to pay the price to earn it. And that starts with having the discipline to stick to their assignments. Grantham talks about how they need to let the plays come to them so they can finish. It ain’t happening, at least not on a reliable basis.
- Offensive line. These guys are back to square one. Whatever progress they were making before Columbia has vanished. They lack confidence. Last night, playing in a mausoleum, they had, what, four or five false starts? They aren’t physical. Georgia averaged less than two and a half yards per rush; before last night, Kentucky had only held one team (Western Kentucky) to less than four yards per rushing attempt. They also gave up three sacks and left Murray facing pressure much of the night.
- Special teams. Honestly, at this point, I can only sit back and marvel at the weekly train wreck. The only thing keeping last night’s festivities from turning into a full-blown Hindenburg disaster was Connor Norman’s heads up play on the onside kick.
- Mike Bobo. He tests me. Should I be pissed at the guy for sticking with that establish the run game nonsense for way too long, or give him credit for finally telling the little voice inside his head whispering “balance” to STFU? Given that Georgia wound up with 500+ yards of offense, but only 29 points, probably a little of both.
- Aaron Murray. Big, little or whatever you want to call last night’s game, he’s the reason Georgia won. Yeah, Kentucky’s pass defense sucks, but given that Murray had to play without a running game, an offensive line that could pass protect consistently and a coordinator who at times stubbornly refused to take what he was being offered, he did alright. In fact, if you remember the week he was coming off, he did more than alright. He played under control all game, both emotionally and mechanically (there was a stunning throw he made over the middle to King that Murray couldn’t have dropped in the receiver’s hands any better). It felt like he had an answer any time his team was challenged and his teammates played like that.
- Mark Richt. If you had any doubts about whether he knows or cares about what’s going on with his team’s play, a look at some of his expressions on the sideline last night should have told you all you need to know on that front. This team frustrates the hell out of him.
- The officiating. His team wasn’t the only thing that frustrated the hell out of Mark Richt last night.
- The broadcast team. They were worse than Georgia’s rush defense.
It could have been worse. And, again, Georgia was able to pull out a win playing its C-minus game. There’s also no question I’d rather be where we are this morning than where the South Carolina fan base is. But if anybody thinks that any of that is going to matter in Jacksonville, they’re deluded. Georgia is showing weaknesses in the exact areas that Florida is best constructed to take advantage of. There’s a lot to get fixed this week. Unfortunately, that’s been the reality facing this team for a while now. Last night did nothing to suggest they’ve got a handle on that.