It was the ultimate stats are for losers game.
I’m almost tempted to stop there and call it a day, but honesty compels me to admit that there’s more to say about what I saw. For starters, after the near brush with death in the Nicholls game, it’s amazing that this team can still step on the field not taking an opponent seriously enough. And if they’re approaching teams like Vanderbilt that way seven games into the season, is there a team left on the schedule that can’t embarrass them?
Here, have some bullet points.
- Look, I get it. This isn’t a particularly good offensive line. It’s poorly matched for what Smart, Chaney and Pittman want to do. But would it kill anyone to try to scheme a little to help those poor kids out? It’s not like what Vanderbilt did was a huge mystery. Hell, if a dumbass blogger like me called it, you have to figure Georgia’s coaches knew it was coming, too. And still, the predictability of the playcalling out of particular formations, especially in the first half, was maddening.
- Forget about what went down on Georgia’s last play from scrimmage. The real message sent on that play and the play before was that the staff had no faith in the offensive line to block well enough to pick up a yard on two plays. That ought to build confidence.
- By the way, pass blocking wasn’t bad at all.
- Georgia went from almost having three running backs each gain a hundred yards on the ground against South Carolina to rushing for less than eighty yards total. The mind boggles.
- On the other hand, the passing game was resurrected. Almost every receiver in the game caught a pass, except for Blazevich, who’s being wasted in the passing game, and Stanley, who at this point is pretty much a signal for a running play and little more.
- Eason bounced back nicely from his worst game as a starter. Yes, he missed some wide open receivers — most obviously a wide open Stanley who could have walked in on what turned out to be a sorely needed touchdown — but his mechanics were better. He also made some heads up plays, particularly one when he picked up an errant snap and threw it out of bounds to avoid a sack. It’s the kind of progress you hope to see from a true freshman.
- Speaking of true freshmen, man, it’s fun to see how Nauta and Ridley are coming along.
- As far as the defense goes, great game except for that, um, one little 75-yard game winning scoring drive. Webb didn’t hurt them much on the ground, although that screen pass was certainly a killer. But they were left in tough spots on several occasions due to special teams and managed not to make a complete debacle out of those.
- Jonathan Ledbetter needs to stay out of trouble. For a kid making his first appearance of the season, he made a real contribution. Overall, you can see where Georgia is building a defensive front that has the potential to be formidable next season. Tracy Rocker is doing a fine job this season developing Georgia’s greenest position.
- Nice game, Lorenzo Carter.
- I don’t give the inside linebackers the props they deserve in pass coverage. Both had passes defended, and that’s something I’m not used to seeing… which is probably why I don’t mention it as I should.
- Really was a quiet day from the secondary, mainly because they weren’t tested much. But Shurmur completed well under 50% of his passing attempts, so somebody back there was doing his job.
- Well, we’ve been dreading the day coming when Georgia’s special teams would cost the Dawgs a game and the check was presented Saturday. Kickoff coverage on the very first play of the game was half-assed and they paid for it. (Does anybody wonder how the game would have gone if Georgia hadn’t elected to defer?) Punt returns were an adventure all day, as it looked like nobody had prepared for a rugby-style punter. Throw in Reggie Davis’ brain fart and you saw Vanderbilt gifted enough points to make the difference, albeit barely.
- Was Rodrigo Blankenship, of all people, the player of the game? Let’s see: 3-3 on field goals, a couple of kickoffs in the end zone and a tackle. That adds up to a better day than almost any one else had. Even the long return wasn’t due to his kickoff, which had sufficient hang time but was poorly covered. It would be nice if he’s turned out to be a piece of the puzzle that’s been solved, but let’s wait and see how he fares in Jacksonville before declaring victory.
- It’s easy to blame the loss on special teams, but really, this game went the way it did because the staff was outcoached. Some of it, like the way punt returns were managed (using the term loosely, to be sure), was due to poor preparation, but some of it, like the offensive game plan, can only be chalked up to pure stubbornness. When the other team is practically begging you to throw the ball and your quarterback is making them pay for that, every run play out of a telegraphed formation is malpractice. And in a game where there weren’t any turnovers, where your team manages to rack up close to 500 yards on a decent SEC defense, that’s pretty much how you blow it.
- For those of you who think Kirby Smart came in as a fully hatched in game coach because of his lengthy service in Tuscaloosa, the last series of the first half has to be a bit troubling. For the rest of us, even more than the final series, that was the time it was truly hard to get what the coaches were up to. If you’re going to try to score with less than a minute on the clock, running Michel into a stacked front was about the last thing to call. And it cost them, too, as there would have been considerably more time on the clock when they got inside the Vandy 40. One more play might have meant another ten yards, which presumably would have made a decision to go for the field goal a lot easier. Instead, Georgia wound up rushing into a Hail Mary play with a strange receiver set that ended predictably.
This season, from a preseason goals point, is toast. Georgia isn’t winning the East. If it can’t get a handle on taking every opponent seriously, you could argue that making a bowl looks like a challenge. What’s left is figuring out who can play and developing those players. It also wouldn’t hurt if Georgia came up with some more flexibility in its offensive game plan.
The concern I have right now is that with regard to the team’s mindset and offensive game plan, neither are gimmes. The ride looks like it will continue to be a bumpy one. Hang on.