Daily Archives: September 20, 2016

Overreacting pundit accuses fans of overreacting. Film at 11.

Georgia and Georgia Tech are both 3-0.  If you’re Jeff Schultz, that can only mean one thing:  Dawg fans have begun making too much of a big deal about their team.

It’s building in Athens because, well, it always builds in Athens after a win. Jacob Eason makes a big throw to win an SEC game on the road and suddenly the overwhelming thought among Georgia fans is, “If he can do that at Missouri, he can do it at Ole Miss. And he can do it against Tennessee. And Florida! And New England!”

The door is open on North Ave but there’s a little more caution among that fan base because, well, duh. But Georgia Tech is 3-0 and the offense was impressive against Vanderbilt, and even though Vanderbilt isn’t nearly Clemson, even if half of the Clemson players had their arms and legs duct-taped together, the Paul Johnson-Dabo Swinney history tilts in Tech’s favor and there’s just enough there to make you think, “Hmmm.”

This week won’t define the season for either Georgia or Georgia Tech. But it will tell us a lot about the potential of each program this season in their respective conference races.

And, yes, it’s debatable which program is sitting in a better position today (as Bulldogs fans read that sentence and spontaneously combust).

Anything’s debatable, Jeff… well, maybe not the quality of Tech’s recruiting.  But I digress.

The man should really spend some time reading the comments section here at GTP.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

For some people, running a football conference is just like Sesame Street.

Fer Gawd’s sake, man, show a little dignity here.

Don’t these people have more important things to worry about than Bob Bowlsby?  Then again, Kermit the Frog might make a helluva conference commissioner, now that I think about it.

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Filed under Big 12 Football, Political Wankery

‘Bruh, you were this close’.

As of this moment, Georgia is next to last in the conference in sacks.  That’s not where Smart and Tucker want the defense to be, but just as we discounted Georgia’s performance last season in passing defense due to the offenses it faced, it’s worth conceding that the Dawgs have faced at least a couple of teams that feature quick strike passing attacks.

Chuks Amaechi says that’s been frustrating for Georgia’s pass rushers.

How do you guys compete with each other as a group?

“It’s about the team. We’re trying to get wins. We’re not worried about stats. As a position group, I know a couple times [Davin Bellamy] was close to getting a couple sacks. I know when he gets mad he’ll sit there and not look at anybody. He can see me out of the corner of his eye and he would chuckle and then go back to being mad. I would say ‘Bruh, you were this close’ and he would say ‘I know! Leave me alone.” I would tell him I was just trying to get him ready for the next series.”

On Missouri getting the ball out so quickly:

“It’s very frustrating. That was all Bell talked about yesterday, ‘Every play was one one thousand, two one thousand, throw.’ It was very frustrating when you don’t have time to get there. Teams that throw like that have linemen who like to cut [block] too.”

Mizzou’s o-line did its fair share of that Saturday night.  Cut blocking — it’s not just for the triple option.

The impressive thing to consider is that, despite the poor showing in sacks, Georgia’s defense leads the conference in takeaways.  Imagine what they could do if they could get the quarterback on the ground more often.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Kickers. You can’t live with ’em and you can’t live without ’em.

Poor ol’ Kirby.

Rodrigo Blankenship wasn’t a typical walk-on kicker. He made the U.S. Army All-American game. One outlet ranked him as the nation’s seventh-best prospect in the 2015 class. He passed on scholarships to smaller schools, including Colorado State, in order to walk on at Georgia, which hoped Blankenship could sit a year, win the place-kicker job, and go on scholarship.

Three games into the season, Blankenship has yet to try a field goal or an extra point. He lost out to another walk-on, William Ham, who is struggling immensely, going 2-for-5.

“They’ve got competition between each other, and that will continue,” head coach Kirby Smart said Monday, somewhat wearily.

Now there’s a shocker.

This past signing day, Smart said that “in my history, I found that you can find more quality kickers through the walk-on route than you can quality punters.” That’s why they signed Marshall Long, who had committed to Virginia Tech, where Shane Beamer was before coming to Georgia as special-teams coordinator.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean a policy against signing kickers to scholarships, as Smart clarified this week. The reason they didn’t sign any this year was that “when I got here this year every good kicker that I knew from recruiting was going to sign somewhere.” (Or, since Long had been committed to another school, Smart and Beamer just weren’t able to also flip a place-kicker.)

“We’re going to always go in and recruit kickers. It’s a matter of whether we’re going to commit a scholarship to it or not,” Smart said. “That is not a policy by any means. I firmly believe that you’ve got to have a great kicker.”

Except this year.

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Filed under Georgia Football

“If it wasn’t clear before now, Joshua Dobbs is not a great passer.”

Unfortunately for Tennessee’s opponents, he makes up for that shortcoming as a runner.

Tennessee is scoring touchdowns 80% of the time in 2016 when Dobbs carries twice on a drive. These aren’t gimme touchdown drives either, as all of them were more than 50 yards long…

Dobbs being enough of a threat to run that he actually does run at least twice opens up the offense enough that it makes for a 2.3 yards per play difference.

Georgia’s defense had better be ready for that.  Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if Debord were to live down to Michael Elkon’s expectations.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

Not far enough.

We all know an AD who has no problem with Jeremy Foley.

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Filed under Gators, Gators...

Non-football: a barbecue travelogue

I have to admit I got a kick out of the reaction I saw from some of you guys in the comments to my post about my trip to Austin.  As I got a few requests for my foodie impressions from there, here’s a brief summary, in chronological order.

First stop was La Barbecue, in East Austin.  To give you some sense of my priorities, we stopped there on the way from the airport to the hotel where we were staying.  Like many of such places in Austin, it’s housed in an upscale food truck park.

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It was hot as hell, by the way.  I felt for the folks working inside there, but they were all friendly and helpful.  Not that it mattered, because they could have been the biggest assholes on the planet and I still would have loved them for serving me this:

The first bite of that was as close to an Oh. My. Gawd. moment as I’ve had eating… well, anything.  Brisket isn’t supposed to melt in your mouth, but that came damned close.  The texture was matched by a wonderful smokey goodness and a terrific bark that, somewhat surprisingly wasn’t that strongly seasoned.  The sausage, which they make as well, was great, but ultimately came off as a dining experience that would have been better spent on more brisket.  By the way, La Barbecue also makes its own dill pickles, which were excellent and nicely complimented the meat.

Final grade:  glorious.

The next day was my pilgrimage to Franklin’s, also in East Austin.  We didn’t discover until we got there that it was only three blocks from the hotel where we stayed.  (Marketing note to Sheraton:  you might want to make a bigger deal about that.)

Franklin’s is the hot thing right now.  How hot?  Well, it opens at 11AM and we got there at 9:15 to discover a few people had the same idea:

That’s on a Friday morning.  I thought we’d beat the working crowd, but it turned out that most of the line was like us, people visiting Austin who had to try the place.

For a joint with a long wait for its clientele, Franklin’s has management of the time down to a fine art.  There are umbrellas to borrow to keep the sun out.  There are chairs you can grab to settle down for the hours until you’re served.  They put out a water station.  A woman came around to sell cider, beer and coozies.  Plus, you get to talk to your neighbors.  All told, it’s almost like a tailgating experience.  No, really.

And in the end, if it were analogous to a tailgating experience, I felt like when I got my order, my team had kicked some righteous ass.

Brisket, pork ribs and turkey.  The brisket was easily the match of what I had the day before, although Franklin’s seasons the meat a bit more than La Barbecue.  The pork ribs were excellent, but, again, kind of a place holder that would have been better spent on more brisket.  The turkey was, surprisingly, a revelation:  juicy, flavorful and nicely smoky.  I would order that again.

Final grade:  worth the four-hour wait and then some.

We took a day off from barbecue before heading to the town of Lockhart on Sunday.  I was on an ambitious schedule, intending to sample the wares of three of the town’s best known places in a couple of hours.

The first of those was Kreuz Market.

Kreuz bills itself as the oldest continually operated barbecue joint in the state.  This is its second location, as it’s moved from its original spot on the square in the heart of Lockhart.

Given the schedule, I did pace myself a little, ordering a little brisket and sausage.

Florescent lighting isn’t kind to barbecue, I’m afraid.  The brisket, while not up to the standards of my first two stops, was still quite good.  The flavor and the bark excelled, while the meat was not quite as tender and juicy as what I’d eaten in Austin.  The sausage was terrific.  If I made a return trip, I’d have that again.

Final grade:  good, but you can do better.

From there it was a short drive to Black’s, which bills itself as the oldest, continually operated by the same family barbecue restaurant in Texas.  (It seems that family disputes are a large part of the Texas barbecue story.)

Black’s is a little different from the other places I tried, in that in addition to the barbecue, they have a quasi-buffet set up where you can order lots of sides.  I didn’t go down that path.  I was there for the meat.

Damned good.  The ribs were as tasty as the ones I had at Franklin’s, and while the brisket wasn’t quite as good as its counterparts in Austin, it was certainly nothing to sneer at.  The bark, in particular, was excellent.

Final grade:  if I had eaten here first, I would have been more impressed, but still, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed.

On to the final destination: Smitty’s Market.  This was the original location for Kreuz until there was a family falling out.  This is what you see when you walk in the front door.

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The gentleman running the pit was a great guy.  He let me walk around and check out what he was smoking at the time.

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Pretty.

Anyway, I ordered — guess what? — fatty brisket and sausage.

Again, apologies for the lighting, which doesn’t do the food any favors.  The brisket wasn’t up to the highest standards in that it wasn’t quite as tender and juicy as what I had at La Barbecue, Franklin’s or Black’s, but it was tasty.  The sausage was great, though.  Lockhart kicks some major ass in the sausage department.

Final grade:  fourth place, which is more impressive than it sounds.

So there you go, a thousand words on Austin barbecue.  Eating it was better than writing about it.

 

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“He’s our coach and he’ll be our coach for a long, long time.”

A heady mix for Jay Jacobs:  another subpar year for Auburn football, Jimmy Sexton and a possible $13,795,000 in payments the school’s athletics department would be responsible for if the Gus Bus is shitcanned after this season.

And that’s before you get to what Jacobs will have to shell out to sign the next savior.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands

Another day without a comment from Stacey Osburn

This doesn’t sound like a good thing for the NCAA.

A specially presiding senior judge has ordered the NCAA to turn over emails and other communications related to the repeal of Penn State’s sanctions as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by the estate of Joe Paterno.

At issue is whether the NCAA maliciously and unfairly tarnished Paterno’s name and harmed the plaintiffs, which include former assistant coaches Bill Kenney and Paterno’s son, Jay.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 and seeks punitive damages. The defendants include the NCAA, president Mark Emmert and former executive committee chairman Ed Ray.

According to Judge John Leete’s order, which was filed Monday, the NCAA must turn over communications between board members and administrators and between itself and Penn State officials. Privileged communications are exempt, but the NCAA must provide a privilege log outlining what documents are withheld.

It may be a bullshit lawsuit, but they’re playing on JoePa’s home field, and that’s likely to yield some embarrassing disclosures.

None of this is to excuse what went on, or to say that the school didn’t deserve to be punished for enabling a serial child molester, but when Mark Emmert decided he didn’t need to follow any established guidelines in his pursuit of Penn State, it was pretty much a given that he’d get this kind of reaction.  To mix metaphors, when you break a few eggs to make your omelet, don’t be surprised when some of the chickens come home to roost.

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Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA, You Can't Put A Price Tag On Joe Paterno's Legacy

Observations from the bar stool, Georgia-Missouri edition

One thing you can say about this series is that it lacks any form of consistency, other than Georgia winning (four out of five, now).  Last year was a defensive struggle only Tommy Tuberville could have loved, the year before was a turnover-fueled blow out, et cetera, et cetera.

Anyway, three games into 2016 and we’re starting to see a pattern emerge of a team that finds itself behind in the second half and manages to pull itself together to win in the end.  It’s thrilling, but it’s also a dangerous way to go about your business.  It also has meant that Smart hasn’t had much of an opportunity to get his younger, greener players some meaningful game experience, which kinda sounds like something we used to say about Richt.

Still, in the end, Georgia is 3-0, and at this early juncture, that matters more than anything else.  On to the bullet points.

  • You have to start with Jacob Eason.  In a game where the defense did exactly what everyone would advise you do against Georgia’s offense — gear up to stop Nick Chubb and make Eason beat you — the true freshman quarterback did just that.  (I don’t know if we appreciate yet how big a deal that should turn out to be.)  Eason made some freshman mistakes, sure;  to cite the most egregious example, the interception was the result of staring down the receiver and not seeing the defender step into the passing lane.  He was surprisingly wobbly and short with his deep throws.  He had a couple of bad reads.  But he did a ton right.  His intermediate passing was crisp.  He was patient on his touchdown throw to Payne.  And on the biggest play of the night, he read the defense perfectly and made a clutch throw to McKenzie.  Had his receivers held on to a few more passes, he final stats would have bordered on the remarkable.  Oh, yeah, he had almost sixty pass attempts in a game (55 throws and four sacks), which is more than any of Richt’s quarterbacks attempted.  Not too shabby, kid.
  • If Eason is Topic 1A, then Isaiah McKenzie is a close 1B.  That was the game of his career, and when you consider some of the big returns he’s had for Georgia in the past, that’s a pretty nice compliment.  He caught big passes, including the game winner, he had a couple of nice runs and he turned in a couple of decent punt returns, as well.  His hands and route running have improved significantly.  He’s always been a nightmare to cover in the slot.  It’s just that now he’s making defenses pay for that.
  • Unfortunately, the next item on the agenda has to be the offensive line.  It’s not a good story.  The line play was inconsistent at best, the worst offenders being Catalina and Kublanow.  Catalina was up against a stud in Harris, true, but it was the same story I saw against Carolina —  he simply isn’t capable of handling speed rushes.  If that were all, they could scheme their way around some of that.  In fact, they did use the tight ends, the guard and even Chubb (!) to help out.  The more troubling thing I saw was that Catalina disappeared as a run blocker throughout much of the third and fourth quarters, although he did rally on Georgia’s final scoring drive.  Maybe it’s just a case of a kid from the Northeast having to adjust to the heat and humidity, I don’t know.  As for Kublanow, he got pushed back regularly by the center of the Mizzou d-line, but did have his moments, especially when he had the chance to pull out.  As for the rest of the line, nobody really appeared to shine consistently throughout, although having to block eight and nine in the box certainly didn’t help.  No way around it, it’s an area of concern.
  • Chubb had a frustrating night.  And with the line blocking and Missouri’s defensive strategy, why not?  The good news is that he stands as the most likely beneficiary of Eason’s improvement.  The interesting thing is how much Chaney called on Chubb to pass protect; Chubb did pretty well with it, too.
  • Michel had a nice night.  I think he’s bound to explode once he’s fully back from his injury.
  • Where was Herrien?
  • Christian Payne, bad ass pass catcher.
  • The receiving corps was a mixed bag.  McKenzie had a huge night.  Godwin keeps being Godwin and you can’t help but notice he was out there for more snaps than in the previous two games; he may not be anything special as a blocker, but he’s too productive a receiver to hold that against him.  Chigbu is the yang to Godwin’s yin.  He’s a good blocker, but if you’re the possession receiver, the possession part’s kind of important.  They really need for a third wideout to step up.
  • The tight ends contributed all game with good blocking and some key catches.  I don’t know why they don’t throw more to Blazevich, though.
  • On defense, the d-line deserves a little credit.  Mizzou didn’t have 100 yards rushing on the night.  Thompson continues his excellent play.  Marshall again showed what a huge late pickup he was in this recruiting class.  Yes, the pass rush was pretty barren in the first half, but some of that was due to the quick pass plays Missouri had Lock spin.
  • The outside linebackers were similarly hit and miss.  Carter seems oh so close to being an impact player, but not quite.  He was in the backfield a lot.  D’Andre Walker seems like he’s on the verge of becoming a dominant player; he needs to see the field more.
  • It may not have been noticeable, but the ILBs did a good job with pass coverage in the middle of the field.  If you think about it, Missouri did almost no damage in that area, something that’s notably different from years past.
  • Weird game from the secondary, which got toasted quite a bit in the first half, but settled down nicely in the second.  Briscoe was the cover boy in that department, as he got picked on frequently early on, but wound up with some key turnovers to help.  Smith turned in another quiet game.  Sanders was inconsistent.  He had some brilliant moments, but he was a major contributor to that disastrous 79-yard TD reception.  But how about Quincy Mauger, who came off the bench and played his ass off!  That interception was about as well played as could be and couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’d say something nice about Parrish, except Missouri paid him the highest compliment possible by not throwing in his direction; in fact, I noticed on several occasions that the receiver he was guarding didn’t even bother to run a route, electing simply to keep him out of coverage altogether.
  • Do I really have to discuss the special teams?  If Kevin Butler is supposed to be the placekicker whisperer, they aren’t listening.  Tell me your heart wasn’t in your throat a little when Ham lined up to kick the winning extra point.  Neither guy can put a kickoff in the end zone consistently.  Fortunately, coverage on all but one kickoff was pretty good.  Long looks like he’s improving from week to week with his punting.  Blocking in the punt return game remains non-existent;  McKenzie earned every yard he made on his own.  Special teams should have cost them the game, but didn’t.  I wonder if I’ll be able to say that the rest of the season.
  • As far as coaching goes, Chaney deserves some credit for rummaging through the toolbox to find something that worked.  Let’s face it — power running teams don’t throw the ball 55 times in a game, not to mention that game being an SEC road game with a true freshman quarterback.  He got Chubb and Michel into a few sets together and made good use of them that way.  His offensive line isn’t consistent and that means he’s going to have to keep scrambling, but if Eason continues to develop, that’s going to make his job a lot easier.
  • Tucker did something you want to see a defensive coordinator do, which was to make some adjustments at the half.  Missouri’s offense was much less productive in the second half, and while some of that was due to the Tigers trying to run a little clock behind their running game, it was also due to his secondary stepping up with takeaways.
  • Smart deserves credit for two big things.  One, after last week’s debacle, it would have been easy to see this team collapse emotionally after Missouri roared out to an early lead, and again, after the Eason interception that lead to the Tigers’ last lead, a similar fold.  Instead, they held it together and walked out of Columbia with a win that was as satisfying as it was ugly.  The second thing was not bailing on Eason, even for a series.  I don’t know if that was the game plan going in, or if it were Kirby’s instincts that led him that way, but either way, it was a huge message to Eason as well as the team that they stuck with him after the interception and gave him the chance to win the game.  It’s decisions like that that lead to better days ahead.

Survive and advance has been the story so far in 2016.  There are some obvious and scary flaws with this team.  Some of those, honestly, I don’t see how there’s a fix for this season.  But you also got a glimpse of some other areas where the team has a high ceiling.  I’m still not backing away from my preseason prediction of nine wins.  But I can see the opportunity for one or two more if Smart can cannily balance the good against the bad.  We’ll quickly see about that this Saturday.

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