Is there angst over Georgia’s passing game in the wake of its anemic showing last Saturday? I think it’s safe to say there is.
“We’re still getting it down,” Davis said of the passing game. “It’s not what we want it to be. …We’ve just got to better as a whole unit and receivers, we’ve got to catch the ball.”
“Honestly, I think we will get better,” Lambert said Saturday. “I will take it upon myself to make sure that happens, to make sure we’re getting in rhythm earlier and getting completions early on to kind of keep us going.”
Richt said he and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer also can help by not being overly reliant on a rushing attack that averages 262 yards per game behind Chubb.
“Just be free to call whatever we think is good,” Richt said. “Don’t feel like we have to run for x amount of yards or we have to get the ball to Chubb so many times. When I’ve called plays over the years, you certainly want to use your skill players the best that you can and use the talent that you have. Just feel free to attack the defense in the game the way we attacked it all week in the film room. Call what we believe in. Let’s go.”
Richt goes on to point out what should have been obvious, but evidently wasn’t.
“Now that we’ve decided who our quarterback is, who our starter is, I know that playing that position you don’t just become super proficient overnight,” Richt said. “I know he’s played a lot of college ball, but he hasn’t played a lot of college ball for Georgia in this league and quite frankly in this system. There’s a learning curve and things take time and you get better as you go. Sometimes you’ve just got to show a little patience and guys will catch on and really play well.”
So how concerned should we be about what happened against Vanderbilt? Here’s Bill Connelly’s take:
First things first: it must be noted that Vanderbilt’s defense might be awesome. A week after holding Western Kentucky’s potent attack to 14 points, the Commodores held Georgia’s offense to just 17. Two return touchdowns (a 77-yard punt return by Isaiah McKenzie and an 88-yard interception return by Dominick Sanders) made the 31-14 final scoring margin more drastic than it should have been.
That said, I’ve been looking for answers regarding Georgia’s quarterback situation, and this wasn’t the most encouraging answer in the world.
My 2015 Georgia preview was a pretty funny one to write; the sentiment was basically “Georgia’s loaded! They’re easily the SEC East favorites! They just have two minor little questions … at quarterback and offensive coordinator. You know, those tiny, unimportant positions.”
That Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert won the starting quarterback job didn’t fill me with confidence since he was a bit error-prone in Charlottesville. He was fine against ULM, but this was his first real test. He went 11-for-21 for 116 yards and a sack. Average yards per attempt: a meager 5.0.
Granted, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined to rush 31 times for 245 yards and catch four passes for 43 yards. When you’ve got that running game in your back pocket, you don’t need much from the passing game. But you probably need better than 5 yards per attempt. This wasn’t a failed test, but it wasn’t really a pass, either.
Throw in Brice Ramsey’s series, and Georgia averaged a whopping 5.6 yards per attempt. Do that against any other school besides Vanderbilt and it’s a recipe for losing, amirite?
Not so fast, bacon breath.
I scoured the last nine seasons of Georgia’s passing stats in cfbstats.com to see how the Dawgs fared in games when they averaged less than 6 yards per pass attempt. The result? A less than embarrassing 10-6. And before you chalk those ten wins up to cupcake opponents, here are some of the games Richt managed to wins despite anemic passing: Clemson, Tennessee and Missouri from last season; 2013 Tennessee; Florida in 2011; the “we run this state” win over Georgia Tech of 2009.
That being said, I wouldn’t want to make a living doing that. And there’s little question that Georgia is off to an atypical start in that department, at 33rd in the country. For context, over that same period I reviewed, the Dawgs have only finished lower than that once – 35th in Joe Cox’ pick-filled 2009 season. (And in that time, Georgia’s managed to finish as high as first and fifth nationally.) Given that Georgia hasn’t thrown an interception in its first two games of 2015, that should give you some indication of how things aren’t exactly clicking yet. There is still plenty of time, though, to get the passing attack moving in the right direction, which is Mark Richt’s point.