If you’d have told me before the game that Jacob Eason would sport a 51.39 passer rating — for comparison’s sake, consider that Georgia’s passer rating in last season’s Cocktail Party debacle was 58.63 — and that the Dawgs would again fail to convert a majority of the turnovers they forced into points, I would have predicted an ugly outcome.
Instead, Georgia won relatively comfortably, and really should have won the game handily. So the circumstances leading to a Sunday regular season game wound up not being the weirdest part of the day.
And now, the bullet points.
- The reason the team was able to overcome Eason’s bad day was because the offensive line showed up and played what was easily its best game of the season. South Carolina didn’t load the box as often as I expected, especially in the first half, but even when the ‘Cocks did, the line was surprisingly successful at times opening holes for Chubb, Herrien and Michel to run through. Pass blocking, while not perfect (especially against the blitz), wasn’t bad, either. If you want to feel some optimism about the rest of the season, this is a good place to start.
- Chubb’s very first run of the day told you that things were different. There was blocking, sure, but more encouraging was the confidence he showed, along with the burst and power we’re used to seeing from a healthy Nick Chubb.
- Michel looked just as good, to be honest. Chaney needs to call more plays with both of them on the field together; it’s a brutal look for defenses.
- Every week, Brian Herrien looks more and more like the biggest steal in this year’s recruiting class.
- As good as things were with the running game, they were that bad when Georgia chose to throw. Was the wind an issue? At times, perhaps. Eason looked like he was steering the ball on his longer passes and had several sail on him. It also appeared he wasn’t used to having the luxury of more time to throw; his mechanics looked awkward and inconsistent. But he didn’t get much help at times from his receivers; even when he managed good throws, he was plagued with several drops, most notably from McKenzie in the end zone. (Although McKenzie did come back with a fine catch for his score.) Eason is also missing quite a few reads where he had wide open targets he failed to see. The completion to Chubb was almost funny in that regard, as you could see Nick make a real effort to catch Eason’s eye as a safety valve.
- Defensively, the team alternated between dominating one of the SEC’s worst offenses and not being able to get out of its own way. Carolina’s two scoring drives were lengthy and were abetted by some poor tackling on key plays. On the other hand, the defense did produce five sacks and forced three turnovers. They were very good on third down conversions, but not so good on fourth down conversions. A green group trying to find its way, in other words.
- Speaking of green, this week was Tyler Clark’s time to step up and he showed some nice flashes. Between him, Marshall and Rochester, you have to have some hope about Georgia’s defensive line taking a big step up next season.
- Helluva sack from Trent Thompson, wasn’t it?
- Malkom Parrish bounced back from a poor game against Tennessee quite nicely, with some good plays defending passes and an athletic interception which was the product of doing a great job reading the play.
- All of the linebackers had their moments. The outside guys produced several tackles for loss and most of the sacks. Roquan Smith was all over the place and my impression that he led the team in tackles turned out to be correct.
- Special teams didn’t cost Georgia a game this week, and I suppose that’s as much as we can ask. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I saw to give me hope that’s an outcome that will be avoided in future games. Long is an inconsistent punter who was bailed out by a couple of fortuitous bounces. Nobody can block for McKenzie on punt returns. The void at kicking field goals continues to have a clear impact on the play calling and decision making when the offense is on the opponent’s side of the field. At least Blankenship managed to put a couple of his kickoffs in the end zone.
- As far as the coaching goes, Chaney’s run/pass mix recognized what was working and what wasn’t, although there were a couple of occasions when he might have chosen to run the ball a little bit more. Still, part of what is on his plate as the coordinator is to develop a true freshman quarterback, so I can’t be too critical of his day. Tucker and Smart are in a similar boat with the defense, as they change the scheme and develop talent. The most troubling area in that regard is that defensive tackling is still too mechanically inconsistent. Speaking of mechanics, though, Pittman deserves a shout out, as that was the soundest fundamentally the offensive line has looked all season.
- The mishandling of the clock at the end of the first half means this was not one of Kirby’s best days. I also didn’t get the failure to challenge what appeared to me to be an interception by Mauger that was wrestled away after he was down. Overall, though, the game was fairly well managed, in that Smart played things conservatively, given how poorly South Carolina’s defense handled Georgia’s running attack.
- Weird game from the officials, who actually called holding penalties on both offenses, let both secondaries play pretty freely, but appeared to whiff on that Mauger pick. Also, while the overruling of the targeting penalty appeared to be correct, did anyone think the biggest factor behind that was Eason’s height?
- It’s time for Brent Musberger to be put out to pasture.
It’s a conference road win and I’m never going to downplay one of those. While the main goal for the rest of the year is to win games and build confidence, it’s just as big a deal to develop talent for the future, even if that means short term growing pains. The softness of the remaining schedule is certainly a benefit in that regard, but there are enough concerns, particularly with special teams being a black hole with no end in sight, to make me think there are going to be a few more close calls coming, if not worse, this season.