So, as you can see from the current Quote of the Day, Ramik Wilson thinks Dawgnation needs to chill a bit about the starting quarterback. He has a point, to some extent.
Having watched the replay, the wheels don’t come off the wagon until the second offensive play of the second half. Mason and the passing game were more than serviceable in the second quarter, when the Dawgs came roaring back to take an eleven-point lead. And he hit his first pass attempt after the half, an out pattern to Conley, for a thirteen-yard gain and a first down. At that point, he was 12 of 16, for 122 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He’d also run for a touchdown.
Then came the second interception. It was bad and Georgia’s passing game essentially shut down from that time on. Including the pick, Mason went the rest of the game 4 for 9, for 25 yards. And the stats probably don’t do the play on the field justice. Georgia’s passing game looked completely constipated in the second half.
The question left to ask is what’s going on? Seth Emerson and Gentry Estes, who see the team practice regularly, swear on a stack of Bibles that there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong physically with Mason’s arm from what they’ve observed. That leaves three possibilities: Mason’s head, the heads of the receivers and the coaches’ heads. There’s probably some justification in pointing fingers in all three directions.
- Mason. Well, if it’s not his arm that’s ailing, then it’s certainly his confidence. Saturday, he looked like a totally different player than the one we saw pull his team back from the brink against Georgia Tech last November. I can’t say why totally, but given what we’ve seen in Athens over the past few seasons, there’s one area which I don’t think is getting much attention, per Mason: “We’ll go back to work; I’ll go back to work. I’ll learn from my mistakes and all I can do is just keep trusting my protection.” That’s a nice sentiment, but I don’t think he trusts his offensive line as much as he lets on there. Neither, for that matter, did Aaron Murray. I’ve said before that it seems Mason is very quick to decide where to go with a play; I suspect his trust in his linemen is part of that. Whatever the case, his judgment needs to improve in a hurry. He’s not seeing open receivers within his range as well as a player who’s been in Bobo’s system for five years should be.
- The receivers. What can you say about this? “While defenses have taken away the deep ball at times this season, Mason said there have been plenty of miscues, especially in the Tennessee game, by the offense. The biggest has come in the form of miscommunication between Mason and his receivers, he said. There were a few times last Saturday where receivers ran the wrong routes or didn’t hit their marks on routes. Some guys didn’t even turn around at the right time for certain passes. Because of that, there’s been some trust lost between Mason and his receivers, especially when it comes to deeper throws. And while Mason admitted he’s been off on a few passes this season, the playbook has been limited because timing with this group of receivers hasn’t been as crisp as it needs to be.” It’s been a long time since Georgia’s passing game has been that insecure about itself. And it doesn’t sound like there’s a quick fix, even with the returns of Mitchell, Rumph and Scott-Wesley this week.
- The coaches. Okay, Bobo hasn’t been playing with a full deck. Plus, as overpowering as Georgia’s running game has been, how much do you want to go away from it when games are on the line? And, as Wilson points out, Georgia is still scoring points without much problem. But what happened to the offseason promise that we’d see a lot more hurry up because that’s what Mason is most comfortable with? It seems the coaching staff has really gone all in with the run and sent a message to Mason that game management is his most important task. Check out Richt’s call-in show answer about why the tight ends weren’t involved in the passing game against Tennessee: “you’re right, not much to the tight ends. One of those games we felt best way to attack was to run the ball and wear down the Defense. Keep TG fresh for second half.”
It’s obvious the coaches have made their bed when it comes to offensive strategy this season and they intend to lie in it as long as Todd Gurley can carry the team. But I don’t think Richt and Bobo are blind to what’s going on with their quarterback. Mason’s not in a good place right now and they’re going to have to take steps, and soon, to boost his confidence. Luckily for all, Vanderbilt could offer just the opportunity for that. I don’t expect all the passing game kinks to be worked out this Saturday, but Mason at least needs to walk off the field without hanging his head down. If he can’t manage that, I suspect all bets will be off.