I sat down and watched the replay last night. It didn’t change my overall impression of what happened on Saturday. The injuries certainly led to a struggle, but ultimately weren’t the deciding factor in the game. Georgia just made too many mistakes and didn’t force enough mistakes out of Missouri. The particulars follow.
- The defensive line. The d-linemen played their collective asses off for most of the game. Ray Drew, in particular, was a real force. (Drew, by the way, is now second in the conference with five sacks, which is three more than Clowney’s garnered. So maybe it’s time to lay off the disappointment by comparison.) The line controlled the third quarter, which is why Missouri was held scoreless in a quarter for the first time all season and Georgia was able to fight its way back into the game.
- Bobo’s playcalling. Look what he had to work with: two true freshmen at running back, a quarterback who got a little jittery as the pass protection broke down and no depth at receiver. Despite it all, Georgia gained 160+ yards on the ground, the most Missouri’s given up all season. He cobbled together the first scoring drive out of bits and pieces and his move to four receivers in the third quarter forced the Tigers to drop a player out of the box and opened up the field. He did alright.
- Marshall Morgan’s place kicking. He’s been drama-free for the most part all season, and nailed everything he was given Saturday. For once it was the other team’s kicker who raised the tension.
- Punt returns. Admittedly, it’s a low bar to cross, but Reggie Davis turned in the best performance of the season by any Georgia player returning punts. It’s encouraging that he exercised better judgment on his catches and that he ran north-south when he caught the ball.
- J.J. Green. He can run; he can catch. Not bad for somebody who was originally recruited for the defense.
- Receiving. To some extent, this had to be expected. At one point early in the first quarter, Georgia had three walk-ons on the field together, two of whom had never caught a pass in a college game before. There were miscommunication issues. Murray was off with some of his throws, again, understandable given the spotty pass protection. But there were some crucial drops that really hurt. And as good as Conley and Wooten were at times, there were also times when they struggled to get free from coverage.
- Turnovers. The last one didn’t matter, as the game was already out of hand, but, man, the first three were all killers. Douglas’ fumble was probably the most forgivable of the three. There was no excuse for the shoddy blocking by Lynch and Gates (and, yes, contrary to Lynch taking all the blame, it was both) that led to the sack/fumble/touchdown that proved to be the deciding score. Murray’s pick proved again that the conventional wisdom – that you have to trick him into making mistakes – is correct, as he got baited by a defensive switch that he didn’t read properly. The Dawgs could have survived one of these mistakes, but three, especially when the defense is incapable of generating turnovers of its own, were way too much to overcome.
- Herrera’s roughing the passer penalty. I’m obviously having a hard time getting past this one. Jeez, it was dumb. It negated a great play by Harvey-Clemons and let Missouri hold on to the ball for a few more crucial minutes at a time when Georgia really couldn’t afford that.
- Kickoffs. I don’t know whether to blame Morgan for inconsistency or the coaches if it’s a deliberate strategy, but somebody needs to realize that short kickoffs are riskier than blasting the ball into the endzone.
- Punting. Evidently with Barber, you can have a quick punt or you can have a long punt, but not both. I was a little surprised that Missouri didn’t come harder with its pass rush. At least Georgia didn’t give up any return yardage.
- Red zone offense. Sure, the inexperience didn’t help, but plenty of little things went wrong, too.
- Pass coverage. As I mentioned Sunday, the ILBs were exposed when Missouri ran a play to exploit them, which was quite often in the first half. Swann grows less confident on a weekly basis. And Wiggins showed me enough to make me think he’ll be a steady cornerback with more experience (and a little more strength), but he had his share of misses. Basically, if the pass rush can’t generate pressure, Georgia’s defense is going to give up a completion.
- Pass protection. Occasionally, it was good. But when it was bad, ugh. Georgia doesn’t have a tackle who can handle speed rushers. Unfortunately, Missouri has two.
- Safety play. I knew it was bad when I watched the game live, but the replay made me appreciate how atrocious it really was. It’s amazing to see how little Mauger and Moore contribute. Every touchdown had a breakdown from either or both. Mauger’s a freshman, so I can understand if not excuse some of what I saw, but Moore’s been in the system, for what, three years now? He was literally a passive observer on two of the touchdown passes and failed to make the last-line-on-defense tackle on Murphy’s touchdown run. And don’t think that’s lost on their teammates. Swann is playing like somebody who knows that he can’t count on safety support. Also, in that last clip, watch Herrera’s body language after the play – I don’t think you have to be a mind reader to figure out what he’s telling Moore. Honestly, injuries or not, I don’t see how Grantham can keep these guys on the field together.
- It’s hard to get too upset with Murray’s day. The first interception hurt and his mechanics weren’t always the best, but he played tough, made some great throws when it counted, got in a couple of heady runs and cobbled together a functional game on a day when he was missing many parts.
- Sorry, but I don’t get Pinkel’s concern over the unfortunate play when Franklin injured his shoulder. Yes, the tackle was completed after he got rid of the ball, but it was a fairly bang-bang play with a running quarterback who dumped the ball off in an unorthodox way with no receiver in the area. I just didn’t find it particularly egregious.
- That Missouri linebacker made a fabulous play in pass coverage, batting the ball away from Wooten in the red zone. Color me jealous.
- Something else that made me jealous was the fine job Mizzou’s receivers did with their blocking. That’s another area Georgia’s hurting in with the injuries.
- Bobo called plenty of screens. I wished he’d have called even more.