Well, combine a talented team that sleepwalked through three quarters, a less talented, but well-coached and motivated opponent, a day with less than ideal weather and what do you get? Over 600 yards of offense – 400 more than the other guys – and a 24-point win that should have been much bigger, but for the third straight game marred by special teams snafus.
It’s fine that Richt pulled Theus after the high snap that led to North Texas tying the game in the third quarter, but, good grief, it does make you wonder what the coaches are telling themselves when they review game tape and watch practices. If even a unserious tyro like me was fretting about special teams before the season started and a botched snap cost you a shot at avoiding a three-point loss in the opener, why does it seem like there’s such a lackadaisical approach taken to special teams still?
I say that because the high snap wasn’t the only flaw that led to the blocked punt. North Texas overloaded one side of the line and Georgia never adjusted the protection. Maybe they were admiring North Texas’ gumption at that point. Maybe they were daring the Mean Green to try. Maybe it was another Fabris challenge. I don’t know. But you have to think it was something the North Texas coaches picked up in their game study coming in. That’s troubling.
But that’s not what drove me craziest yesterday. That award goes to whoever decided that short kickoffs are a swell tactical move. The way the rules are set up now, there’s an easy way to cut angst in a football game: kick the ball into the end zone. Either you’ll be rewarded with a touchback, or a returner will start a return deep against a coverage team that five yards closer to him than they used to be. I simply don’t get the mindset of a head coach who thinks punt returns are a significant risk but is willing to take the chancier route on the other team’s kickoff return game. Kick the ball in the damned end zone – rotate the kickoffs to keep kickers’ legs fresh, if need be – because it works. If North Texas could do it consistently, I have a hard time understanding why the Dawgs can’t do it.
Bullet points, my good man, and be quick about it.
- Let me say it again: North Texas is one very well-coached bunch. In fact, Todd Grantham ought to spend a bit of time after the season is over consulting with whomever is coaching the Mean Green defense how to tackle. They put on a clinic in that department. (They can cut block a little, too.)
- Speaking of tackling, I did see Kolton Houston tackle his own running back, didn’t I?
- Yes, the Murray interception was a dumb, dumb decision. And I bet Murray would be the first one to tell you that.
- You know that thing about biggest improvement coming between first and second games? Josh Harvey-Clemons was that guy yesterday.
- Tray’s interception was helped by the receiver running the wrong route, but I’ll take it.
- Leonard Floyd is really going to be something, at least when they don’t drop him into coverage.
- On the sack front, Jordan Jenkins was oh, so close on several occasions. He still made the NT quarterback pay plenty. He also had a fine game with tackles for loss.
- In fact, maybe the most heartening thing I took from the game is how well the defensive front/OLBs generated pressure. Remember, NT was the team that led D-1 in sacks allowed last season and was tied for fifth coming into the game.
- I’m paraphrasing here, one of the beat writers – Emerson, I think – described the offensive line as not being overly talented, but being good enough to produce when it was motivated to fight and scratch on every play. Yesterday wasn’t one of those days. Gates and Andrews, in particular, had tough times. I get struggling with SEC defensive linemen, but it’s tough to understand when it’s C-USA guys making for a hard time. And, yes, I get that North Texas sold out to stop the run. (Pass protection was spotty, too.)
- Nice first catch, Reggie Davis. It’s all downhill from there. But isn’t it amazing how they keep developing receiving depth?
- Along with the line not blocking consistently, the receivers, aside from Conley, had their worst game of the season in that respect.
- Which is why it’s hard to get upset with what little Gurley and Marshall were able to get out of the running game. There just wasn’t much there most of the day.
- Hey, dad sitting behind me with the ten-year old son who wanted to know why Richt wouldn’t take Murray out and put Mason in the game in the third quarter, you must be so proud.
- I know it’s an exceedingly small sample size, coming on North Texas’ last drive of the day, but Shaq Wiggins really caught my eye when he was in the game. Good instincts and a quiet confidence.
- It really sucked seeing Rome hurt his ankle again.
- It’s apparent from yesterday’s comments that clock management at the end of the first half was a little strange. My theory was that Richt was pissed at the lack of intensity he saw and wanted to get to the locker room to straighten things out, but then suddenly realized he could maneuver the clock to get one last shot.
- Maybe Penn Wagers figured if the Dawgs were mailing it in, his crew could do the same thing. And you’ve got to give him credit for consistency – no offensive line ever holds Georgia.
- Also, I question that sideline catch on North Texas’ one scoring drive. Sure looked like the receiver dragged his feet before he caught the ball and went out of bounds.
- Aside from Mason, the biggest losers from the game not being put away earlier were the backup ILBs. I don’t think Herrera and Wilson missed a snap.
I don’t expect the team to show up every week with the same level of intensity on display against South Carolina. And even when North Texas tied the game in the third quarter, it was hard to get very alarmed (irritated, sure) because it was clear the offense would be able to use the passing game to score enough to win. Plus, the defense was holding the Mean Green to negative rushing yardage then. But it’s getting awfully old to hear talk week after week about needing to clean up the special teams mess. The offense is prolific; the danger is tolerating the mistakes in the belief that the offense can overcome anything. Ultimately that didn’t work at Clemson and you can’t expect it to work against LSU.
The offense left points on the table yesterday and special teams gifted fourteen to the visitors. A Georgia team clicking on all cylinders would have slammed North Texas by forty-plus. All I can hope is that the embarrassment of a third-quarter tie in a home game against a C-USA team is enough to get everyone’s attention and focus this week. We’ll see.