Playing it punt safe.

Give Mark Richt credit for forthrightness.  Answering one of my immediate post-game questions, he explains what Damian Swann was doing out there on the fateful muffed punt catch:

“We were in punt safe,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday. “If you remember two years ago, they faked the punt on us somewhere around that territory about the same distance. At the time of the game…they were down 13 and the clock’s ticking. We made a great stop and called for the punt safe and when we go punt safe, he’s already on the field and we keep him in there because we’ve got experience catching those balls. That’s designed to be a fair catch anyway. We know when we’re in punt safe, we’re not going to get much of a return. It’s just a matter of fielding the ball. He’s been doing that his whole life. It just hit off his chest.”

He’s right on his history. (Vanderbilt converted a fourth-and-13 from its own 22 with a 35-yard pass play out of punt formation.) He’s right about the execution.  But, still, it’s fourth-and-15 and Vanderbilt’s on its own 19-yard line.  How many other coaches in the country go punt safe there?

I’m not sure I’m even being critical here.  It’s fair to note that Richt’s propensity for the formation hasn’t cost the Dawgs much in field position this season – Georgia’s averaging 4.56 yards per return and its opponents are averaging 4.38 ypr – and I’m sure his mind had already clicked over to protect the lead mode at that point.  It’s just strange to see how often Georgia goes punt safe and under what circumstances, especially because Richt’s shown a willingness to take chances in other facets of the special teams game.  It makes me wonder if the ending to the 2006 Sugar Bowl scarred him for life.

And given what happened earlier in the game on Saturday, I’m also wondering if Georgia has a field goal safe formation.  If it didn’t before, it wouldn’t surprise me if it comes up with one going forward.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

44 responses to “Playing it punt safe.

  1. JasonC

    Coach Ferentz says, “if you’re going to guard against the fake and fair catch it anyway, why the F%$k put a returner back there at all and keep an extra defender in to prevent the fake.” Sure, you might get bit by the roll, but as bad as your special teams have been (save FG kicking) better to eliminate your chances of a screw up.

  2. DugLite

    Senator, based on deploying the punt safe mode when they are kicking inside their 20 would mean CMR deploys the field goal safe mode only when the attempt is a 50+ yarder. Sound strategy!

    • DugLite

      I guess it really depends on the distance for the first down. Either way I am dumbfounded at our special teams play. At this point we should never punt, go for the two point conversion always, onside kick all kick offs and not return any punts. We can only hope the other teams kickoffs go into the endzone for a touchback. My stomach hurts because of the inepitutde of our special team coach (looking at youy CMR.)

  3. @gatriguy

    Urban burned Richt earlier in 2005 before WVU did in the Sugar Bowl. Basically Urban pointed out to everyone that special teams at UGA we an inefficiency that could be exploited. Still happening 8 years later.

    • Hogbody Spradlin

      Who’s Urban? Nobody named Urban is involved in college football. There’s a guy named Corch Irvin Meyers, but there’s no Urban.😉

  4. Merk

    It is retarded the night and day difference b/t KO train of thought and PR train of thought…Oh they may fake it so we should play safe and fair catch for PR and Oh they could return a KO for significant yards or a score, but whatever we will kick it to a returner anyways.

  5. Will Trane

    Upon further review, I agree coach. I forgot what happened at Vandy before. And I dare say how your ST almost got you a SECC against Saben in the Dome. As I recall, and I am an old dawg, did you not fake a punt to keep a drive alive for a score and then did not big 9 bust thru to block for one. That was 14 points.

  6. Will Trane

    upon further review I might have to dial back my complaints about game management. My take from this, and I do not think CMR is defending he & staff, he is talking about execution. How much execution relates to the player, recruiting, and drills is another matter. My guy I would look at is Wiggins. Why is “star” that deep

  7. Will Trane

    Approaching GA-FLA game. One name always comes to mind for that game. Larry Muson. We need the spirit of Larry Munson the rest of this season big time. The voice and spirit of Dawgs football, Larry Munson…GEt the Picture. Thanks Senator for honoring this man and keeping his spirit alive. Aa great ways to honor this man.

  8. heyberto

    That’s all well and good.. but here’s my two cents on it.

    1. I’m not with those that think we need a dedicated ‘special teams coach. This has been done successfully without one by UGA in the past, and it’s not like other teams don’t handle it effectively. It does seem like the philosophy behind our special teams might need to be tweaked / changed. But, what it seems like we need, right now, is more reps at practice. I could be wrong, but Ty Frix should not be high snapping as much as he is.. is there not someone else on the team that can be more consistent? Are long snappers head cases as much as kickers are? Maybe I’m wrong about more practice time, but guys like Frix are not playing with confidence, that’s for sure.

    2. Damian Swann is just a mess right now. I get why they left him in, but is there not someone else on the field that can do those duties in that situation right now? Seems like he needs to focus on his position.

    I try hard not to be too reactionary. Yes I’ve scratched my head at some of the situational play calling, but ultimately I just feel like what we’re seeing on Offense is because we’re handicapped by injuries and on Defense it’s lack of experience. The coordinators are trying to find something to hang their hat on. I’m not giving them a pass exactly, but I just don’t get the notion that someone on the staff has to go. The kids are playing hard, but playing without confidence. Yes that goes back to coaching, but it’s hard not to see that we’d have some problems like this with a young, inexperienced defense, and hard not to understand what the offensive injuries have done to us as well.

    But special teams I do not get. It shouldn’t be the disaster that it is.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      The ST Coordinator would be an existing coach on the staff assigned to be in charge of STs as well as a position coach, like (dare I say it?) Bama does it. No coach would get fired. Just reassignment of job responsibilities. I still favor CMR doing it himself.

      • heyberto

        Well, in terms of coach’s being fired to make way for a ST coach, I wasn’t saying one had anything to do with the other. I agree about having a dedicated coach for it, but I was under the presumption we already had that. I just didn’t want to see a dedicated coaching position for it as others have been suggesting.

  9. It just seems to me that the players are playing scared and the coaches are coaching scared. God knows I am watching scared. And maybe besides scared the words that should be used are “without confidence” but hell, when I watch them I am scared. You just know that some major fuck up is a breath away. And it seems like the players, coaches and fans all exude a feeling of inferiority. When teams like Alabama and FSU run out on to the field you can sense the feeling that they expect to stomp the shit out of you. When our guys run out the feeling is more like “man, I hope we can keep this close”.

    • 69Dawg

      +1 You nailed it. I now watch our team waiting for the big screw up. I never
      assume we can do anything right. I wait for the high snap, the muffed punt, the pick 6, the fumble at the end of a run and now I have to worry about a damn fake on a field goal. We are a hot mess.

  10. Joe Schmoe

    The issue with this play was that Swann was back there in place of Davis. Unless I am mistaken, Davis had been fielding the punts all day. So we have the confidence in Davis to handle PRs in the higher risk situation when a return is on but don’t trust him to just field a fair catch in punt safe? Instead, we put a guy back there who isn’t exactly riding high on the confidence front and hasn’t been catching punts all day. How is that a sound / safe decision? I don’t have a problem with being in punt safe there. I have a problem with sending Swann out over Davis. Makes no sense.

  11. I totally get Richt’s point that it’s hard to make a valid argument that a special teams coach would have prevented those mistakes from happening. In reality, that is the case with most of our special teams breakdowns, it’s easy to explain them away on an individual basis. But man, the collective amount that has happened……..I don’t know. SOMETHING is broken. I get pissed at politicians who sit around complaining about legislation without offering a better solution, so I won’t bark too loudly since I don’t have a better solution to offer. But something has to change – whether the structure of coaching, the personnel of coaching, the personnel on the field, the psychology of all the above………again, I don’t know. But the collective number has just become too much for me to accept the standard explanations Richt always gives about how we do special teams. I have always accepted those explanations to this point, but Saturday was the breaking point for me. I’m not calling for anybody to be fired, but something’s gotta give.

  12. The Lone Stranger

    As ever, down through the ages, a loss to Vanderbilt brings about the most intense of soul searching.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      The real problem is this: If we can lose to Vanderbilt with a 13 point lead in the 4th quarter and about to get the ball back, then no lead in any game is safe. That means that this team is capable of losing every (and I do mean every) game that remains on the schedule. Nothing is safe. No lead, no game.

      • The Lone Stranger

        Yes, I really do agree with that assessment, however this Offense looks immediately different as soon as Gurley II steps back out there. And that is the basis of my hope.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          So Gurley is going to play defense, field punts/kickoffs and do the long snapping and punt at the same time when he comes back. Great, now I feel a lot better.

    • Dog in Fla

      Greg makes note to self to get bye week before Missouri or Vanderbilt next season.

  13. AthensHomerDawg

    After the peanut controversy the ad for Mr. Peanut got a chuckle… which I very quickly and appropriately stifled!😉

  14. Vandy saw our FG weakness on film. We’ve been overloading one side of the line to try to get pressure. Vandy simply ran away from the pressure to the under supported side. For the remainder of the game, UGA used a balanced line in FG defense.

    • j4k372

      Wait a minute. Are you trying to say Vandy studied film on our special teams and devised a plan to exploit our weaknesses? Weird.

  15. j4k372

    Brother and Sisters. Please come join me in peace, love, and understanding. The majority of UGA people love CMR and will never require more of him than to win more games than he loses every year. I have accepted this is the way of things at UGA. Once you understand the way of things, then you will no longer burden your soul with these “expectations”.

    So we have some issues with special teams. It is not the end of the world. So we are fighting TAMU for the last spot in the SEC for scoring defense. It is not the end of the world. So we continually come out flat and play to the level of our opponents. It is not the end of the world. So our head coach is patient with his staff. It is not the end of the world.

    Lay down your “expectations” and accept the way of things into your heart, it makes life much better.

    • Dog in Fla

      I feel so much better now. Is is time for a love offering?

      • AthensHomerDawg

        Whoa… DiF! Don’t give in to the dark side. Really. I’m just a little more than surprised. I know you cater to the off the wall sentiment but golly that was just not cool at all. imho. Sooo…. you been spending time at Warts and Tits and not enough time here at GTP? That can warp your perspective. Gee… guess I gotta gear up the war machine and go napalm the haters. This won’t end well… but I am up to it. Everyone… stand back this will get ugly ————-again.
        just sayin’

        • Dog in Fla

          I’ve just been out of sorts since Fourth Quarter and Todd. I just knew there was no way the Todd would ever get outpointed by James Franklin. My posse suggested I join a special support group. I tried to do so but they wouldn’t let me, saying that I would be a Debbie Downer even for their krewe. Arguing with them that beauty was measured by my jeans size didn’t help either. Besides Blunt Bielema and his #super-hot karma had already joined, “Hi, I’m Blunt. My least favorite number is 52.” They did turn me away with some slogans though. Now I know where Butch Jones gets his

  16. Will Trane

    I have a question for Coach Friend and CMR. Last year Bama made this statement on Dawgs D line in closling minures and in the South Carolina game they did it to the OBC’s D line. It never happened at Vandy in the closing minutes especially the last possession. Where was the blocking that said to Vandy “we are going to make your asses quit right here. Where has that been in the paspt 2 games.

  17. Will Trane

    Coach Friend where as the gap or drive blocks in that last possession. Why could you guys not have put a FB in play with a TE to allow Green to go inside or outside on their LBs.

  18. Will Trane

    For some unexplained reason CMR’s teams like to play it close to the vest or ride out a lead in the second half. That can be problem AD. What this O line, which as far as we know is injuriy free, needs to get nasty and to target some D lineman and LBs. We want to see an O line play like they did against Carolina. Make their ass quit on the other side.

  19. W Cobb Dawg

    Joe Schmoe has the best point. Why do we have a different guy in there for “punt safe”?? Heck, Davis is a WR – he should have better hands than a CB!

    This type of move just seems so bizarre, yet typical of our coaching thought process.

  20. IveyLeaguer

    The big mistake wasn’t Punt Safe. The big mistake was Swann being in there, when he’s already proven he can’t be trusted fielding punts and handling the ball.

    The mistake, a coaching mistake, was not having McGowan in there when you’re in a game like that.

  21. Bulldog Joe

    The big mistake is having three guys who don’t know until the last minute if they are going to be one fielding the punt.

    No one else does this. For a reason.