For those of us who suffered through the Alabama game, the weather was payback, a perfect fall night. Wish I could say the same about the offense.
But let’s start the bullet points off on the happy side, okay?
- Any question you might have had about whether Pruitt was satisfied with the play of the defense in Knoxville was answered in the pre-game announcement of the starting lineup. The secondary coming out of the gate would be manned by one sophomore and three true freshmen. Gulp.
- Any question you might have had about whether the team would spend more time on basic fundamentals – you know, like tackling – after the poor play against Tennessee was answered on the first series of the game, when the defense kept Missouri out of the end zone despite defending from inside the one. You can argue all you want about how sorry the Tigers are on offense this season, but Russell Hansbrough doesn’t go to the ground by himself.
- Any question you might have had about whether we’d see a more aggressive pass rush was answered throughout the game. Four sacks and numerous hurries. Leonard Floyd announced his presence.
- Yes, that’s a bad Missouri offense. But you can’t explain the Tigers’ complete inability to move the ball in the second half just on that. Every second half series of theirs ended in a punt, except the last, and that resulted in a turnover on downs. The defense came to play.
- When you’re that dominant, it’s hard to find anything to criticize. About the only thing Missouri was successful with was exploiting the middle of the field with the pass, and even that wasn’t too often. Unfortunately, it’s a structural flaw that Georgia is going to have to live with until Pruitt can find an ILB who can play in pass coverage.
- Ganus played a terrific game. So did Bellamy.
- It’s fun to see how much Trent Thompson is improving on a game to game basis. He’s not Georgia’s best defensive player (at least not yet), but he may already be its most important one.
- The offense may not have been able to do much on the scoreboard by dominating time of possession, but it sure helped the defense’s stamina. So did all of Pruitt’s substituting.
- Hate to say it, but if you’re going by the letter of the law, the targeting call on Sanders was correct. I know it didn’t look like the intent was there (it was more a matter of the receiver lowering his head than anything), but the contact was definitely what’s described in the rule. Sucks he’s gone for the first half of the Florida game… shades of Shawn Williams.
- Is it just me, or were there a ridiculous number of TV timeouts? The second half seemed to drag on interminably.
- I miss Michael Adams being booed during the halftime homecoming ceremony.
- Don’t look now, but there was some coaching going on with special teams last week, too. Coverage was noticeably improved, especially on kickoffs.
- Barber wasn’t overwhelming, but he did manage to put three punts inside the Missouri 20. With the way the game was going, that was big. (Which isn’t to say I wasn’t drooling with envy over the Missouri punter’s kicks.)
- Ah, Marshall Morgan. For all the angst over the unsuccessful onside kick and the one field goal whiff, let’s not forget he scored all of Georgia’s points Saturday night. And the last one was under a little pressure. Speaking of the last one, those of you who have a problem with Richt’s words of encouragement really need to get a life.
- And then, there was the offense. I’ve already babbled about how the stats and the results don’t match up too well. Some of the disparity came from the first half, when Georgia would gain 30 yards on a series, then break down, and then 30 or 40 yards on another, only to turn the ball over on downs because the offensive line couldn’t get enough push to convert a third-and-one and the subsequent fourth-and-one.
- Which brings us to one of Georgia’s two big problems on offense. Blocking has seriously regressed this season from last. No doubt some of it can be blamed on defenses loading the box with impunity. But that was going on last season, too, and it didn’t seem like the o-line struggled as much with it then. The other sore spot, as we saw most obviously on those friggin’ bubble screens, is that the receivers are struggling with their downfield blocking. Combine the two, and it makes it very hard to call running plays designed to go outside, especially against speedier defenses.
- Note to self: Kolton Houston still can’t handle speed rushers. Theus was a little better in that department, but no great shakes, either.
- Mitchell, Godwin and Michel played their guts out.
- I’m not sure why we didn’t see more of Keith Marshall. Then, again, I haven’t understood why we haven’t seen more of the tight ends, so there’s obviously a lot I don’t get this season.
- As for Lambert, it’s hard to find the word to use to describe his lack of field awareness. Frustrating? Mind-boggling? Depressing? Maddening? The first pick was due to him not seeing a defender in the line of his throw who tipped it downfield; I can only attribute that to his being locked on the receiver. There was a similar occurrence in a later series that fortunately didn’t result in an interception. “Fortunately didn’t result in an interception” was a recurring theme on the night. The throw that resulted in the interception call that was reversed on review never should have been made; Lambert held the ball way too long and should have simply thrown it away instead of forcing it into double coverage. (I’ll have to watch the replay on his long throw to two Missouri defenders, because it looked like nobody covered Malcolm Mitchell on the other side of the field.) Add in his struggles with his mechanics – he mixed some beautiful throws into tight windows, but hung what should have been a long pass completion to Mitchell that allowed the defenders to close easily – and that’s how you get a quarterback who lost the confidence of his coaches in the second half while completing more than 70% of his pass attempts. It’s a problem.
- I can’t figure out what to say about Schottenheimer, either. Sure, there were a couple of questionable play calls. I’ve already hashed over the mistake of giving Lambert a run-pass option play on the Mizzou five-yard line. There was also a weird decision to run Brendan Douglas outside on a third and long play that left me scratching my head. But I’ve long abandoned the idea that anyone calling plays for Georgia is going to have anything close to a perfect game doing so. Besides, let’s face it. When you don’t know what to expect your quarterback to do from play to play, when your line struggles with its blocking and your receivers can’t block the edges, it kind of limits your options. When Schottenheimer chose to get aggressive occasionally, it usually didn’t pay off. In the end, when it was obvious that it was the defense’s night, Schottenheimer stayed conservative trying to avoid a game changing turnover and it’s hard to argue he was wrong to do so.
- That being said, as I’ve already mentioned, it’s hard to understand why the tight ends have almost totally disappeared in the passing game. There was no effort made to design a few plays to get Michel in open space, which is his strong suit. And what’s happened to the running back screen, which was one of Georgia’s most effective play calls last season? I can’t give Schottenheimer a complete pass here. Not even close.
- I do give Richt a little credit, though, for having his team prepared mentally and emotionally, despite the losing streak. It would have been easy to fall apart after the game’s first play. Instead, the defense made a stand and set the tone for the night. The onside kick was a well-thought out call that should have worked; when it didn’t, it’s not hard to understand why Richt was willing to let the game be left in the hands of Pruitt and the defense. Richt made an early career out of winning ugly games. This, then, was kind of a return to basics.
No, it wasn’t pretty. But it was compelling. The crowd was as loud as I’ve heard when Missouri got the ball back for the last time. The defense felt the love, too. And a win sure makes the bye week stretch a lot more tolerable. Georgia’s going to have its hands full in Jacksonville. Between getting players like McKenzie healthy and having more time to work on things, the team will need every one of those extra days to have a decent chance to compete.