Observations from the end zone, opening day edition

Damn, that felt good.

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Oh, wait.  You want more?  Alright, what the hell.  Unleash the bullet points!

  • The crowd was a mixed bag, honestly.  There were a surprising number of empty seats in the Georgia section.  (And, no, I don’t think you can blame that on Dragon*Con.)  But the place was absolutely rocking during the defensive series that resulted in a safety.  The only other time I can remember the Dome being that loud was after Ogletree returned the blocked kick for a touchdown in the 2012 SECCG.
  • Let’s get the worst part out of the way first:  I’d like to say special teams are a work in progress, but suggesting they’ll progress may be overly optimistic in some areas. Georgia still can’t find someone who can consistently blast kickoffs for touchbacks. Punt return blocking was nonexistent.  And while it appeared that the kickoff return for a touchdown was enabled by the refs missing a couple of things, it was also helped by poor technique on Georgia’s part, not to mention that Logan made a lot of the defenders look slow-footed.  And here we thought the Dawgs were simply a dedicated special teams coach away from greatness.
  • There were a few bright spots, admittedly.  Kickoff coverage was pretty decent, other than the one serious breakdown.  (And, in the case of that one blow-up-the-entire-return team move, downright spectacular.)  Ham hit his second field goal attempt, which was pressure-packed.  In the end, though, special teams cost Georgia seven points.  Even more troubling was that the areas where we thought the Dawgs could pose a threat — punt and kickoff returns — were completely quiet.  Put that all together and it’s not hard to think special teams could really come back to bite this team in the butt down the road this season.
  • The offensive line looked pretty good in the run blocking department and inconsistent with its pass blocking, particularly when it came to blitz pickup.  One thing I remember from Gene Chizik’s days at Auburn is that he’s very good at mixing in his blitzes, and he lived up to the memories.  Although his run blocking was satisfactory, Catalina struggled in pass protection, leading me to wonder if we’re in for another season of watching Georgia’s quarterbacks be victimized by speed rushers.
  • The other area of concern on offense was at wide receiver, where I saw Georgia’s downfield guys struggle all game to get separation.  You can bitch about Lambert holding the ball too long on occasion — more on that momentarily — but he wasn’t getting a lot of help from his guys.  North Carolina’s secondary is good, so maybe this was more about the matchup than anything else, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
  • Then, again, the priority was on blocking for the run, so it’s also possible that there are other lineups that might do better in that regard.  I have a hard time believing that Terry Godwin won’t see the field more than he did Saturday night.
  • Isaiah McKenzie may not have had much of a game in the return department, but he definitely blew things up as a receiver.  I really liked how sure-handed he was.
  • Hello, three tight end sets.  Woerner played a ton, which was something of a surprise.  Nauta did, too.
  • I’ve already said all I can say about Chubb.  It’s almost a shame that his titanic effort overshadowed Brian Herrien’s night.  Herrien showed unexpected quicks and ran hard.  Once Holyfield and Michel return from the land of the wounded, it’s hard to see a team in the SEC that can match Georgia’s depth at running back.
  • The 2016 version of Greyson Lambert is a little different from the 2015 version, but not enough for him to hold off Jacob Eason from starting at some point this year.  His release is improved, as he showed with that great throw he made to McKenzie for a first down.  And he didn’t attempt a questionable pass that I can recall.  However, his ability to read and react to blitzes is as slow as before and his propensity to hang on to the ball far too long remains.  He is what he is, with all that entails.
  • As far as Eason goes, it’s gonna be fun to watch him climb the learning curve.  Yes, he had some misreads and went downfield on occasion when a dump off pass would have served better.  But he read one blitz well and hit his hot receiver.  And he deserves credit on that wonderful completion to McKenzie, not just for the perfect throw, but also for recognizing that he had a linebacker in coverage and having the patience to let the play develop before throwing.  Also, it’s not surprising that he still looks more comfortable out of the shotgun than under center, but seeing as he can’t sell play action out of that formation, it’s something he’s going to have to keep working on to improve.
  • On defense, how about the two Smiths?  Roquan turned him the game of his life and looks like he’ll be a fixture at ILB.  Maurice showed why he had Saban and Smart dueling over him.
  • They may all come out of the Saban coaching tree, but it’s clear that Smart and Tucker are going to put their defensive backs out on an island far more than Pruitt did.  For the most part, they got away with it because Trubisky wasn’t a good downfield passer (and on the one occasion when he made a perfect deep throw, the receiver dropped the ball).  But if you’re not a little concerned about what may lie in store against Ole Miss, you should be.
  • Damn, did I love the way Malkom Parrish defended that fade pass in the end zone against a receiver a half-foot taller than him.
  • The pass rush was on-again, off-again, but when it was cooking, that defense was deadly.  Lots of speed at every level, with the most notable level of improvement in that department coming at linebacker.
  • Overall, considering that the defense only garnered one sack and didn’t force a turnover, it did well holding the Carolina offense well under its 2015 yardage and scoring averages.
  • The biggest puzzle of the game was why North Carolina didn’t run the ball more, especially after Hood and Logan killed Georgia during the Heels’ last scoring drive.
  • Chaney called a good game.  To start with, there was no bullshit concern for balance. Chubb was healthy, NC’s run defense was questionable and that’s where Chaney made his stand.  It allowed Georgia to control the clock and to minimize its weakness at quarterback.  He also made the call that got McKenzie isolated on a linebacker in pass coverage that led to Georgia’s biggest reception gain in three seasons.  I know he’s had a reputation for getting too cute on occasion, but that wasn’t the case Saturday night.  In the end, the offense gained almost 500 yards and scored 33 points against a P5 defense; how much nitpicking do you really want to do about that?
  • As far as Tucker goes, it was interesting to see how he’s tinkered with what Pruitt molded.  The defense is going to play more aggressively in some ways —  the secondary, most obviously — but it appeared to me he really hopes to get more out of his line and OLBs in that regard than did Pruitt.  We better hope those freshmen d-linemen grow a lot this year; in that regard, it was encouraging to see Marshall’s play.
  • As far as Kirby goes, I thought he coached a damn fine game.  Attention to detail was there, as I don’t recall Georgia getting nicked for an illegal substitution call despite the large amount of player exchange going on with virtually every play on both sides of the ball.  His game plan was sound and played out as he expected.  Best of all, his players could have folded around him after North Carolina went up by ten in the third quarter; instead, they sucked it up and ground their way to nineteen unanswered points for the win.  In terms of buying in to what a coach is selling, that may turn out to be Smart’s Hobnail Boot.

Like I said, that felt good.  Georgia has a different kind of challenge this week against an FCS opponent.  We’ll see how focused this bunch is then.  In the meantime, this was a win to savor.

64 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

64 responses to “Observations from the end zone, opening day edition

  1. artful codger

    I really like Sanders as safety, but he really looks bad on that kick coverage that went for 6. Never was blocked, just sorta running around in the vicinity of the return man, trying to pick his way until the action passed him by. He gonna hate going in the film room on that one.

  2. Kirby was coaching his players up through the entire game, grabbing them before and after they took the field. That was a welcome change in what I had grown accustomed to seeing on our sidelines. Just my two cents.

    • For a head coach, he spent a lot of time with the defense on the sideline during the game. Given that it was an opening game, I liked seeing that.

      • heyberto

        I noticed that. Wasn’t sure if it was good or bad at the time.. but in retrospect, he seemed to be properly focused on both sides of the ball, for sure, so it seemed more like a quick incursion than a sign he’s still trying to be a coordinator… if that makes sense.

        • BMan

          If you watch the replay of the game, as play was halted (for Wynn’s injury) just before iMac’s touchdown on the shovel pass, you can see Kirby save them from an illegal substitution. Eason was headed toward the huddle, and you see Kirby scream STOP. He makes a gesture with one finger raised on each hand as if to say someone has to come out first, and you see Blazevich leave the huddle as Eason enters.

      • TXBaller

        Hell, he was coaching up the kickers!

    • JT (the other one)

      I agree. We have a LEADER on the sidelines and not a CEO. I am a big a Mark Richt fan as they come and hated the way things ended. That said, Kirby was everywhere, coaching his players and directing his coaches. At one point the camera was on the sideline and Kirby had his back turned to the camera with the team in a semi circle around him. NOT ONE of them was looking away. They were all LASER focused on what he was saying. It was intense. I can’t remember the last time we had a coach that intense and leading from the front. This is a welcomed change. The true measure is next week. Can we be that laser focused against a much lesser opponent? That seemingly was a hallmark of our last staff…less than focused against lesser opponents.

      • heyberto

        The camera was on him a lot. ESPN clearly wanted to display a new head coach at work.

      • Robert

        “…less than focused against lesser opponents.”

        Some might say against tougher opponents as well!

      • DawgFlan

        Marshall was the guy that lost contain on that (1st?) TD where they walked into the end zone. Kirby got in his face, like close enough to lick him, and the Marshall went on to have a great game. Sign of the Process in action. Learn. Flush the play. Focus on the next.

  3. Good bullet points as usual, Senator. I’ll admit I thought, “Here we go again” in the 3rd quarter, but the team got up off the mat and came together at that point. Big kudos to Kirby for having the team fight through that. Mo Smith is a darn good football player, and with Parrish and Davis, we can safely say we have one of the top 3 secondaries in the SEC. Roquan played extremely well both against the run and pass. This game was not one to work on the passing game, but I hope we’ll see a mix of both on Saturday. Shane Beamer is officially on the “It’s time to earn your salary this week” list for the special teams if teams improve most from week 1 to week 2.

  4. Uglydawg

    As far as NC not running the ball more..I wonder if the whole offensive scheme was based on Georgia’s history of not being able to stop the short passing game. It was beautiful to see our defense running to the ball on the quick outside throws and stopping the receiver from getting yards after the catch. It really was a great defensive effort.
    And it was great to see a Georgia opponent suffering with “Third and Grantham” syndrome. Tis’ a new era!

  5. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    I can’t add anything to the comment about the kicking game except ‘I feel your pain’.

    There are all manner of things that can go wrong in football games and most of them are isolated, one time happenings. Take that blocked extra point by ND against UT last night as an example. Then there are things that are just systemic. Our kicking game troubles look a little systemic. For example, all the PATs were made, but they all looked like wounded ducks that just happened to fall through the uprights. I hope I am wrong, but I am worried we’re going to lose a game this year by one from a missed extra point. Maybe we should just ask Chubb to go for 2 each time. 😉

    In the end, though, it was a great game, and a good showing and has to be a big confidence builder for fans, players, coaches, and hopefully, we’re going to let the Big Dawg Eat.

  6. JT (the other one)

    A note on NC run game. Their HC in the post game presser stated it was inconsistent and wasn’t confident they could run with consistent success.
    Yes it “seemed” like we couldn’t stop the run but remember one run was sprung by a no holding call (they were holding a lot for that matter) the other was when Trent failed to wrap up that would have been a big loss. He was in position to make the play but didn’t.

    Outside the 35 and 32 yard runs…their run game was in check.

    • AS

      When you take out the 35 and 32 yard runs, they were still averaging 7 ypc not counting the QB. It is a matter of patience as 1 of 8 runs was breaking for 30+. More runs will keep the safeties closer to the LOS and helps open the deep pass. They were not getting much inside, but I am willing to bet they would have had more success of offense if they were willing to attack the perimeter more. It was our soft spot, and they didn’t take advantage.

  7. Hardcordawg 93

    *Hopefully Kevin Butler can work some magic.

    I think someone commented here yesterday Chubb looked a little dinged up late in the game. When the camera was on him after the game, he did not have a happy look on his face. Thankfully we have a couple weeks before our next real game.
    We were very fortunate to have that man downfield penalty called and the personal foul on Fedora.

    • The officials fucked up both ways. The touchdown return benefited from a missed holding call.

    • Bright Idea

      That lineman downfield penalty is why the rule needs to be changed back to 1 yard. The play was a RPO and the lineman was engaged with a linebacker. Technically is was legal but it should not be. Just another favorable rule to the offense.

      • DankJankins

        I think…they just changed it back to 1 yard this year and Brock Huard was wrong with his three yard comment. I could be wrong though.

        If it is one yard and the officials call it then it could really hurt Auburn because their OL is like 4-5 yards downfield on Gus’s run/pass option plays.

        • Reggie

          “The NCAA’s College Football Rules Committee has voted instruct officials to “stringently enforce” the 3-yard limit on illegal man downfield penalties beginning in 2016.”

        • 69Dawg

          No change it is still 3 yards but the refs are putting an emphasis on it. I know this was a B1G crew but Steve Shaw said the SEC changed the official that is to make the call from the Umpire to the Side Judge because the Umpire was too involved in the play to be able to call it.

  8. Prosticutor

    Payne at FB turned in a hulluva game. He delivered it on every down, either at the line of scrimmage or 10 yards downfield.

  9. Red Cup

    Kudos to Chaney. The play before the long pass we were in the same formation and Isiah ran a slant covered by the linebacker. Chaney dialed up the same formation, got the same coverage, and Eason made them pay.

  10. Athens Dog

    How is it that we cant find someone in America that can kick it into the end zone on a consistent basis? Almost as perplexing as LSU inability to find a QB.

    • Cojones

      I thought the UNC kicker did, so they must be out there or we don’t know how to train them. Sometimes, with a proficient kickoff-coverage team, you kick high to the front of the end zone to entice them to run so that you can pin them deep.

  11. Skeptic Dawg

    Saturday was a very good win for the Dawgs. Great response from the entire team once the got down. And yes Senator, the series that lead to the safety was certainly one of the loudest that I have heard in the dome.
    – OL was a mixed bag as you stated. Kublanow did not have his best game. I need to see more from him moving forward.
    – DL was unimpressive to say the least. Hello Trent Thompson?
    – Smith and Parrish hand themselves a great game. Well done boys.
    – Lorenzo Carter? Son, you need to step it up.
    – QB…Eason is our guy and it is not even close. With the game on the line in the 2nd half the coaches stuck with Eason and he lead the team to a W. I look forward to his development.
    – Kirby has publicly called out Godwin during fall camp and the kid apparently has not responded. I have said it before on this site, but I just do not see the 5 star talent there. I expect him to play more over the course of the season, but I do not expect a ton of results.

    Awesome game with a great atmosphere for Dawg fans. The team responded when down and gave Kirby his 1st W as a head coach. I am looking forward the Cupcake U next weekend to watch this team develop and grow. GATA!

  12. heyberto

    These posts are my favorite of the season. It’s another reminder that CFB is back. For a guy like me that doesn’t know X’s and O’ls like most do, it’s like Candy. Thanks Senator.

  13. heyberto

    One more thing. I don’t know if this is reality, a mirage or just me manifesting what I wanted to see on Saturday night, but I felt like there was something tangibly different about the intangibles. There seemed to be an overall focus… there was composure, particularly after mistakes were made.. just overall everyone seemed disciplined in their approach to playing the game. Was it just me or did anyone else think so as well?

    • 92 grad

      I was struck by seeing an overall difference from what I’ve become used to over the past decade. The team looked different in their behavior, the play calling was so different I felt uneasy most of the time, all the things I was used to were gone. The general style of play was strange to me. I also admit that I thought they were going to fold in the 3rd. I missed the safety because I went outside and ran the weed whacker so as to avoid seeing our D get gassed and the O perfecting their 3 and out strategy. I’m so glad that viscous cycle may be history.

      • heyberto

        Yeah, one game doesn’t make trend, but like you, I’m hopeful that remains a consistency in all the games we play this year.. win or lose.

  14. UGA93

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned about Eason: his passing yardage may have been modest, but we should also remember the two big pass interference plays. Whether they both should have been called or not, it was his ability to throw it downfield that made them possible. It doesn’t show up in the stats, but that was a huge passing drive – and it probably wouldn’t have happened with Lambert in there.

    • 92 grad

      IMHO, both of those PI calls were done on purpose. I think either Eason or Chaney decided to run that play and get those penalties on purpose to exploit that defender or get lucky and complete the pass. I think they knew that either outcome was likely and executed both plays perfectly.

      • UGA93

        Absolutely. So I look at Eason’s final numbers as having an asterisk. He didn’t get the yards, but he made those plays.

        • Charles

          They already deserve an asterisk in the other direction because two of his best completions were basically handoffs to McKenzie. I think his line is pretty representative.

        • DawgFlan

          Just guessing, but maybe they saw the new db in their backfield wasn’t getting his head around, so send a couple of slightly under thrown balls his way and play the odds. Against their main CBs Eason tended to overthrow.

  15. Kirby is a genius, that’s all I can say.

  16. W Cobb Dawg

    On the ST bright side, taking a knee in the endzone and beginning on the 25 is the right move. This was one of our bugaboos that I’m happy to see changing.
    Our kicking and punting problems were CMR’s inheritance, and will need time and work to fix. Long looks promising at punter. Not so sure about Ham.
    Parrish’s deflection in the endzone reminded me of Paul Oliver’s great game against Calvin ‘megatron’ Johnson.
    Would we have won this game if Eason didn’t come in and give us a spark? I have my doubts.

    • Bulldog Joe

      I was impressed with the closing speed of our defenders in pass coverage and most importantly their awareness of where the ball is.

      UNC made good adjustments to our blocking schemes and controlled the running game early in the second half. Later in the game, I am convinced it was Eason’s long passes that kept them honest on their blitzing and the disruption of the running game.

      Special teams were what I expected them to be, given the fact we are starting over with the kicking game. It appears we have stopped the “merry-go-round” of returners and trying to keep everyone appeased with playing time. We have good athletes, good speed, with more potential and focus than the walk-on days of our recent past. More experience should help us here.

      Our front seven held up better than expected, especially on the inside runs. The offense’s ability to convert on third downs helped to keep them reasonably fresh.

  17. Bulldog Joe

    The late-arriving crowd had a lot to do with the security procedures at the Dome and the construction of the stadium next door.

    Agree on the noise factor. It was as loud as the blocked kick vs. Arkansas in the 2002 SEC Championship Game, but much more sustained. You could see it had an effect on UNC in the second half.

    We were warned the officials were going to protect defenders getting blocked in pass coverage and to expect more lineman downfield calls this season. If you fire out to block a linebacker or get near the three-yard limit on pass plays, it is going to get called. It’s the 2016 version of ‘targeting’.

    The pick play UNC ran also got called for similar reasons.

  18. DawgByte

    There seems to be some differences of opinion on Chaney’s play calling grade. I can see merit in both opinions. However, following the game my critique was Chaney seemed both too conservative and predictable. In today’s presser Kirby indicated that he too thought they were a bit predictable. In at least two series I can recall, Chaney went up the middle on three straight runs leading to 3 and outs. Shades of early Bobo! If Grayson doesn’t give Chaney the confidence to open the passing attack, then don’t play him – it’s that simple. Yes, going into the game UNC was noted as being porous against the run, but they also knew they could put 8-9 guys in the box while Lambert was in at QB, so they did a better job of stopping our run game than most would have figured. As soon as Eason was in the game Chizik had to respect the pass and took some guys out of the box. That in turn opened the run game for us.
    Another issue I had with Chaney’s plan was lack of productivity out of our TE’s. Chaney had some interesting formations with our TE’s, but nothing came from those sets. They were either used as decoys for the running game or straight forward blockers. He also needs to get Godwin more involved in the game plan.
    This is all nitpick at this point. I think we’ll improve offensively once Eason takes control and we get Michel and Holyfield back.

    • Will (The Other One)

      I agree with a bit of this. I can’t remember a single first-down pass attempt in the second half, and when Chubb was getting his breather that really stalled the offense. Beyond that, it did seem like there were no passes to to TEs after Nauta’s drop, even with a 3-TE formation popping up,and the WRs getting somewhat dominated by UNC’s secondary.

      But in a way, that’s encouraging too. For the TEs to be almost a non-factor, and the pass blocking to be iffy at times, to put up 30+ and 450+ yards in game one with a new staff? Not bad (the rush yds and total yds were more than the team had against ULM, and the rush total was better than every game last season save UK.)

  19. Brandon (Version 1)

    “In the end, the offense gained almost 500 yards and scored 33 points against a P5 conference team; how much nitpicking do we really want to do about that?”

    Agree. Many thanks to Brian Schottenheimer for showing the UGA fanbase what truly shitty offense looks like. It wasn’t too long ago UGA fans would be more than happy to nitpick here.

  20. Erk's Forehead

    Regarding your final point (whether the team will maintain focus against an FCS opponent this week), that’s additional evidence that the football gods may have smiled on this team: if a P5 team ever needed a reminder about the dangers of overconfidence in preparing for a lesser squad, Week 1 showed that Cupcakes can be killers…

  21. Catalina had terrible footwork in pass protection and will probably be a liability. You don’t have to be a genius to watch the replay and understand how the better SEC pass rushers will eat him alive if there isn’t some almost magical turnaround.

  22. 69Dawg

    Chaney’s reaction to NC’s 8 in the box was like the Untouchables. They put 8 in the box you put 3 TE’s in. I too thought we needed some more outside runs to at least spread them out a little but give the Chubb factor 222 yards I guess it worked out.
    The placekicking was terrible. Every FG and EP is an exciting part of the game now. Not one decent looking kick.
    I’m with the rest of you there has to be a soccer player at UGA that can kick the damn ball into the endzone. We have 5 placekickers on the roster and none of them can kick it out of the EZ???
    While we won, we made this game more interesting than it should have been. Missed FG plus KO return for TD made it closer than it needed to be.
    Tyler (72) is much better at run blocking than pass blocking. I think when we get to the speed rushers in the SEC you are going to see why Schotty never threw to the TE’s. They have to block to save the QB’s life.

    • 69Dawg

      Oh one other thing, when the OC looks at the film he’s going to know that Eason needs more time. Once he demonstrated he could sling it down field our RB’s were usually wide open for the little check down swing passes and I like our chances when our RB’s get the ball clean.

  23. Russ

    The best thing about the game was our ability to come back from 10 down in the second half with 19 straight points. Shows a mental toughness that might not have been there recently.

    Play calling was a little too predictable, especially in the second half, and it gave UNC some momentum. I agree with the commenters that said if Lambert doesn’t give Chaney confidence in the passing game, then Eason needs to play. And what happened to the TEs? I know they dropped a couple and had an overthrow, but when we’re in 2-TE sets, sliding one out or across the middle for a quick pass would really keep the defense honest.

    Kicking game, I don’t know what to say. How do we take these great HS kickers and screw them up? I just looked at highlight film from Blankenship in HS and he was booming everything, including 55 yd FGs off the ground. Kickoffs completely over the endzone (kicking from the 40). So what happened to him? And while punting was okay, it didn’t strike me as better than Ramsey. I’d still like to see Ramsey punting just to keep the possibility of a fake in there. If nothing else, it should help our coverage.

    Still, great opening win against a quality opponent (maybe Dawggrading is a thing of the past?). Now lets continue to improve and take the East.

  24. Debby Balcer

    I enjoyed the game though it was hard to follow what was happening with penalties due to poor mic-cing. I was worried when we got behind because our crowd got quiet. We sat in the end zone one section from the NC band and when they started chanting ACC at that point I smiled. I knew that would light a fire under the team and the fans too. We should have been loud every time they had the ball not just third down. When Chubb broke his run the place was electric. The look on the NC fans’ faces was priceless. I could hardly talk the next day. There was chemistry with the team and that is priceless. We need to be behind our team and show up early and do our part to make Sanford Stadium a place teams don’t want to play. Next week may be a cupcake but the next home game after that is TN and we want to be loud all game all the time then.

  25. Nothing on D’Andre Walker blowing up 2 guys on that punt cover?

  26. aladawg

    I like our first look, but there are some glaring issues that need to be fixed(Deep shots UNC took were open often and we were very fortunate there(See Chad Kelly so far tonight) and our special teams were absolutely rotten and have to be better). I loved the way WE(Kirby and Chaney) controlled the clock. That saved our defense from getting more gassed. Kirby made a rookie mistake with the wasted T/O. That could have been costly. Sticking with the running game really paid off. The UNC D-line was really gassed late. Let’s wait and see more before we get too euphoric. We don’t really know how good UNC is. Those Freshmen need to play a lot regardless of score this week.

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