Loosen up a little, fellas. It won’t kill you.

Going back to Seth Emerson’s second glance piece about the Vanderbilt game, here’s something he tallied from Schottenheimer’s play calls:

Georgia ran the ball 26 times on first down at Vanderbilt, versus just five passes on first down. In Week 1, it was 22 runs on first down and four passes.

Damn.  Based on that, you’d think he had an allergy to throwing the ball on first down.

Now, again, I get why that happened.  But Tyler points out something interesting in this post that makes me question whether being that lopsided running the ball on first down makes as much sense this week.

So, that brings us to South Carolina. Poking around CFBStats.com, something about South Carolina’s pass defense really stood out:

Situation G Att Comp Pct. Yards TD Int Rating Long 1st 15+ 25+
1st Down 2 25 18 72.0 216 0 0 144.58 43 7 7 3
2nd Down 2 16 11 68.8 115 0 1 116.63 20 6 3 0
3rd Down 2 17 10 58.8 74 1 2 91.27 21 4 1 0
3rd Down, 1-3 To Go 2 2 1 50.0 21 1 0 303.20 21 1 1 0
3rd Down, 4-6 To Go 1 5 2 40.0 17 0 1 28.56 10 2 0 0
3rd Down, 7-9 To Go 1 5 3 60.0 15 0 1 45.20 6 0 0 0
3rd Down, 10+ To Go 2 5 4 80.0 21 0 0 115.28 14 1 0 0
4th Down 2 2 1 50.0 19 0 1 29.80 19 1 1 0

Teams are doing quite well throwing against them on first down. Now, first down is when the whole play book is open, but when you compare their rushing defense, it becomes apparent that first down ain’t their thing.

Situation G Att Yards Avg. TD Long 1st 10+ 20+
1st Down 2 32 241 7.53 1 44 6 6 5
2nd Down 2 27 115 4.26 2 20 8 2 1
3rd Down 2 10 58 5.80 0 29 5 4 1
3rd Down, 1-3 To Go 2 5 25 5.00 0 29 2 1 1
3rd Down, 4-6 To Go 2 3 22 7.33 0 17 2 2 0
3rd Down, 7-9 To Go 1 1 13 13.00 0 13 1 1 0
3rd Down, 10+ To Go 1 1 -2 -2.00 0 -2 0 0 0
4th Down 2 2 1 0.50 0 1 1 0 0

1/3 of all their first downs given up happen on first down plays. 22% of all first down plays result in a first down. For comparison sakes, UGA has only given up 3 first downs on first down plays.

That’s some relatively low hanging fruit ready for the plucking, it seems to me.  And best of all, it doesn’t really require a huge amount of risk taking on Schottenheimer’s part.  There are plenty of safe throws off of play action in Georgia’s playbook that can pick up a quick 5-7 yards on a first down play, for example.  And nothing about that requires the offense to go off script from being run-oriented.  As Tyler puts it,

Hey, if we’re only going to throw it 20 times, let’s make 13 of those times on first down, because it sure feels like first and ten is a good time if you are trying to soften a defense geared for run.

If they’re gonna give it to you, take it.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

27 responses to “Loosen up a little, fellas. It won’t kill you.

  1. But when you do pass it on first down with the allegedly “best running back in America” like we did last year at the end of the South Carolina game and it doesn’t work every armchair quarterback in America will blame the play call for every thing that goes wrong after that. Besides look at the 3rd and plus 10 number in that list. Hell it looks like if USc has us in 3rd and long we’ve got Them where we want em. Does that really say what I think it does ? When the other team is in 3rd and plus 10 the offense completes 80% of its passes? No matter what we call if we loss it was wrong and the coach’s fault but if we win it is because we have better talent all the !5% know that . I predict we go long on the first offensive play of the game and one of the two bad things that can happen on a pass play,,,,,will. Run the damn ball until they prove they can stop it or put 8 in the box,


    • But when you do pass it on first down with the allegedly “best running back in America” like we did last year at the end of the South Carolina game and it doesn’t work every armchair quarterback in America will blame the play call for every thing that goes wrong after that.

      If every first down play Georgia faces on Saturday comes at the South Carolina four yard line, that’s an excellent point.


    • Uglydawg

      One of two bad things may also happen on a running play.
      Loss/no gain, or fumble.
      A little more throwing on first down makes sense. It’s the best down to throw on. Playing scared (or not to lose) is the very reason we have all of these disputes/arguments/disagreements on GTP.
      If this wasn’t a problem, we wouldn’t be constantly discussing it. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
      How did this happen??
      Wasn’t there a time when Tommy Tubbervill actually said, “Mark Richt will learn that in the SEC, you have to be able to run the ball”??(or something along those lines). Amazing.
      To coach Schotty…”Nothing ventured, nothing gained”..Paws


      • Cojones

        But… but those suggestions by all of you means that Schotty is going to be wrong on first down no matter what he does.

        Just watch, we’re going to get in Victory formation and down the ball. That’ll fool’em.


    • The other Doug

      “Run the damn ball until they prove they can stop it or put 8 in the box,”

      That’s really it in a nutshell. If USC stays in a base defense then we need to pound the running game with a few passes sprinkled in. But if they do what Vandy did and load the box, well then we need to pass more. Especially on first down.


    • … Besides look at the 3rd and plus 10 number in that list. Hell it looks like if USc has us in 3rd and long we’ve got Them where we want em. Does that really say what I think it does ? When the other team is in 3rd and plus 10 the offense completes 80% of its passes?

      But only one of those completions converted for a first down.


  2. Cousin Eddie

    I woke up Sunday aggravated about the passing game, was still upset on Monday and a strange thing happened Monday afternoon, I saw what happened to Arkansas and Coach Karma. UGA is built around the run if they get to pass happy to make everyone feel better I believe the same thing Ark got it can happen to UGA. Would I like the passing game to be more efficient, yes but just don’t force the passing game because you feel like you should.


    • Biggus Rickus

      I don’t care if they get pass happy. 20 attempts a game is fine if the running game is working. The problem is that the passing game needs to be efficient on those 20 attempts, and it wasn’t against Vandy. It was fine against ULM, but that’s ULM.


  3. Sides

    I have a hard time seeing UGA throwing much this game. SC has intercepted 4 passes in the first 2 games. Lambert seems interception prone. Last year Richt telegraphed the game plan by saying something like they were going to line up, run it and see if SC can stop it. SC may not have completely stopped it but they won. All of this passing talk sounds like smoke and mirrors to me. The game plan is to run the ball.


  4. Will Trane

    Has SOS and CMR looked over these numbers.
    All teams and even players have tendencies.
    Dawgs have on player in particular that has tendencies. He can not complete a pass until the second half of a game against SEC defense.
    So SOS throws out UGA passing on first down until second half of game by which time he may have the upper hand on the board.
    Simply look at the TOP and # of plays the OC had in first half against the fish boat boys.
    Then he can blitz old number 11 at will.
    The strategy and tendency against UGA offense. Close the gap and just double dog dare them to throw the ball. SOS wants the OC to throw because SOS has the upside…incompletion or interception from #11.
    The OC problem is he runs old school NFL running plays. Every D coach in America has that figured out.
    Vandy has a good defense. But SC is better. #11 and the OC could only get 14 points in how many plays against the Dores?
    CMR’s offense does not even come close to the Bama, Ole Miss, or A&M playbook.
    My prediction SOS continues his way with CMR, Dawgs fall out of SEC race and Top 10.


  5. JN

    UGA’s tendencies through the first two games don’t worry me based on the tendencies themselves. One thing about using the running game as your strength is you have to continue to lean on it unless you fall way behind. You have to continue to lean on it because a lot of times you’re not just running for the yards you’re trying to get on that play, you’re also running it to try and wear down the opposing defense for the additional yards you think it will get you late in the game (yes, I believe making guys tackle a running back, particularly Chubb, wears them down quicker than dropping into pass coverage). So, going by that thought process combined with the two teams UGA has played and the fact that Chubb’s big runs are often 20-40 yards as opposed to other rb’s whose big runs are 8-15 yards (i.e. you can make a case that running the ball has as much, if not more, big play potential than the passing game), the extreme run heavy tendency doesn’t bother me as much.

    With all of that being said, I fear that the this extremely run heavy approach has more to do with what the coaches feel like can’t be accomplished as opposed to imposing their will on the defense. And that does worry me…a lot.


  6. Irwin R. Fletcher

    I mentioned the 1st down passing yesterday when talking about Lambert’s performance. He didn’t get a chance to throw on a true first down play the entire 1st half. (Ramsey got 2 chances…and wouldn’t you know, went 2 for 2).

    It’s worth noting that UGA is 7 of 9 throwing on 1st down in the limited opportunities this year. Lambert is 5 of 7 in that situation. http://www.cfbstats.com/2015/player/257/1050216/passing/situational.html

    Which got me thinking….it’s a similar offense, I wonder what Mason’s numbers looked like last year.

    Best passer rating on 1st down…but what stood out is how often he threw it on first down.
    1st Down-42.5% of attempts
    2nd Down-28.5%
    3rd Down-28.5%

    Whereas Lambert so far through 1.75 games…
    1st Down-21.2% of attempts
    2nd Down-48.4%
    3rd Down-30.3%

    None of this is groundbreaking…but it just emphasizes Tyler’s point that if we’re going to throw it 20 times, why not do a lot of that on 1st down. That’s what they did last year and it worked pretty well.


  7. Cojones

    Why don’t we take the “QB Pledge” – that of supporting whatever Richt’s decision for starter is, we apply to the first play…..wait….that didn’t work very well as a pledge, did it?

    Anyone for a “Blame Schotty” pledge?


    • AthensHomerDawg

      I’m for a ” Head to Colorado and fetch that box of crayons that Bobo took with him and bring it back to Athens!”


  8. Cojones

    Once again into the breach: Any picks for first play?

    Mine is a double reverse with a halfback toss.

    Sing out, you heathens!


  9. Mayor

    I’ve been saying throw on first down all week. Not every first down, just enough so they can’t run blitz or load the box.


    • Minnesota Dawg

      Exactly. To me, the two chief advantages of having a “balanced” offensive attack that we that we hear so much about are (1) to be able to take advantage of obvious talent mismatches either through the air or the ground on a week to week basis depending upon your opponents’ weakness/strengths and (2) to be able to call/execute plays that take take advantage of weaknesses of the defensive schemes that you’re facing on a play to play basis.
      By sticking to a run-up-the-gut first down strategy in the face of charging LBs and safeties while foregoing gimme pass opportunities, it seems that we’ve lost sight of the second advantage of having a balanced attack. By failing to keep a defense schematically honest, you’re hurting both your running and passing attack–and not doing any favors for your struggling QB.
      Speaking of which, I’m curious as to Lambert’s ability/authority to audible out of these first and second down plays–and whether this issue is a matter of lack of trust by the coaches or a QB’s lack of confidence (in his decision-making and/or ability).


    • Will (The Other One)

      Yep. That was how JPW and Bama lit us up in 2008, to the best of my recollection (tried to black that game out, but it sticks with you.)


  10. AusDawg85

    1st & Bomb, where art thou?

    You have run off with our tiny backs and taken the 3rd down draw play with you! Whatever shall we do?!!