Jason Butt points out a few statistical shortcomings.
Georgia has given up 18 plays of 20 yards or more through its first four games of the season. Eight of those big plays came against Ole Miss, which included a 23-yard pass from Chad Kelly to Evan Engram on the Rebels’ first play from scrimmage and a 41-yard rushing touchdown by Kelly in the third quarter.
Taking it a step further, nine of the aforementioned plays have been 30 yards or more. Four have been longer than 40 yards.
Through Georgia’s first four games a season ago, the Bulldogs only gave up nine plays of 20 yards or more. Of course the schedule was significantly lighter, with games against Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Southern to open the season.
The Bulldogs did begin to give up big plays last season in October as they surrendered 23 plays of 20 yards or more in games against Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri and Florida. But that stretch can be considered tougher than what it has gone through this year, with North Carolina, Nicholls State, Missouri and Ole Miss up first.
To put it more bluntly: last season, Georgia finished tied for sixth nationally in opponents’ long plays from scrimmage; this year, the Dawgs are tied for seventy-sixth in that category. Not a good trend, in other words, even taking scheduling into account.
Of course, that got me started wading through cfbstats.com. Here are three more depressing rankings on the offensive side of the ball — depressing, but not necessarily surprising:
- Sacks allowed: 14th in 2015; 109th in 2016
- Passer rating: 57th in 2015; 107th in 2016
- Offensive yards per play: 40th in 2015; 99th in 2016
It’s early, I know. And we can hope Georgia is merely going through a transitional phase. But while some of the decline can be chalked up to scheme changes on the o-line and in the secondary, as well as the growing pains being suffered with a true freshman starting quarterback, it’s also a little disturbing to hear a Process disciple acknowledging a third of the way into the season that there are issues with his team’s mechanics.
Kirby Smart offered a simple solution to Georgia’s big-play problems during the first third of the season.
Coming off a game in which Mississippi gashed the Bulldogs with big-yardage gains, Smart knows his defense to hold up better with Tennessee coming to town at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“Tackle better,” Smart said. “I mean, the offenses we play, they get explosive plays on everybody. It’s more about limiting those. Like you mentioned, how do I give up less? If we tackle better, and you take nine of the 15 missed tackles away, then you take away about seven big plays. I think that’s the most important thing.”