Observations from the 35, opening night edition

So, as I sat there waiting for the fourth quarter to get underway, with Georgia on the good side of a 31-0 lead, Matt Hinton’s words came to mind:

The first step in answering those questions would be laying a solid, routine-looking whooping on the Mountaineers this weekend, where Georgia is a two-touchdown favorite. It’s still a long way from there to Atlanta in early December, but if the long-term goal is going to become a reality then serving notice that at least the 2017 edition won’t make a habit of playing down to the competition would be a very good start.

I would say that when you start speculating early in the fourth quarter as to whether Smart’s ready to let the backups get some serious playing time, by definition, you’ve been watching exactly that — a very good start.

But a start is all it was.  While there was much that was very good, starting with the fact that what we saw was light years away from last season’s Nicholls debacle, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

And with that, here come the bullet points.

  • The offensive line had its moments.  After all, there was only one sack and the Dawgs managed 221 yards on the ground.  But the line, particularly the middle of the line, continued to struggle with eight- and the occasionally nine-man fronts and often gave Chubb and Michel little space to work with.  Let’s just say that I can understand why Pittman will continue to mix and match at the guard positions.  Also, two snap infractions are inexcusable, but that’s something you hope can be quickly cleaned up.
  • I ain’t got nothin’ bad to say about the running backs.  Chubb and Michel ran as hard as you’d expect and Chubb does seem a little quicker with his cuts than he was last year.  D’Andre Swift is going to be a worthy successor to the two and showed he’s no slouch out of the slot, either, with a remarkable side line catch to bail Fromm out on a questionable throw (more on that later).
  • I’m not really sure how excited I should be about the receivers.  Wims was a revelation, of course, on his spectacular touchdown catch, but the rest of the wideouts were pretty quiet as a group.  Hardman had one catch and Godwin, who was supposed to be the one to step up, had none.  (He did have a nice block on one of the big downfield runs on the night, though.) How much of that was by design I can’t say, but I’d say the group remains an area of some concern.
  • Tight ends were pretty solid blocking, but only had three or four catches as I recall.  Given that on the night Georgia ran the ball two-thirds of the time, that’s not a big deal.
  • And then there were the quarterbacks.  I’m sure it’s tempting for many to declare that we’ve got ourselves a full-blown controversy, if not ready to change starters for good, but I’m not there yet.  For one thing, between the extremely conservative playcalling and the weak line play that marked the first two series of the game, Eason wasn’t exactly dealt any favors.  He also looked a little tight, overpowering an open Nauta on an intermediate throw that had way too much juice on it.  There’s no way to know if Eason would have settled in as the game progressed.
  • That being said, how can you not be impressed with the way Fromm handled himself?  For a kid pressed into service prematurely, he sure didn’t look rattled.  If anything, he played a little too fearlessly at times.  He had a couple of those “no, no, no, no… yesss” completions where he was bailed out by his receivers.  (A different story against an SEC secondary, perhaps.) But on that toss to Wims that made my throat clutch, the pocket was collapsing and he had three rushers on top of him as he let the ball go, threw it into coverage, but had enough awareness to put the throw up high where his guy had the only shot of getting it.  He doesn’t have Eason’s arm – there aren’t many who do, of course — and kind of lollipopped some of his longer throws, but his last completion of the game, a 20-yard strike to Wims, was his best throw all night.  If he can make that play consistently, he can make a living at quarterback.  There’s little doubt his teammates responded to him, which is half the battle.  The biggest concern about his game right now is that his command of the playbook and his ability to go through progressions are obviously limited.
  • The first thing that jumps out watching the defense is that it plays noticeably faster than it did last season.
  • The second thing that jumps out at you is that Trent Thompson is a monster.  What a game he had!
  • The thing that grew on me as the game progressed is how much more mechanically sound the defense has become.  There were few missed tackles, so few that when someone blew a play — next time, don’t leave your feet like that, Richard LeCounte –it really stood out.
  • My favorite counter-punch of the night came after Lamb caught the defense napping in the first quarter and ran for 32 yards, only to be sacked by Reed on a nasty blitz, fumble the ball on the next play and lose 22 yards.  Speaking of Reed, for somebody who was supposedly brought in as recruiting incentive for Gibbs, he sure was a pleasant surprise last night.
  • Gibbs, by the way, is huge.  Speed, who played on the other side, is tall.  You can see where Smart and Tucker are headed with the secondary in time.
  • Roquan Smith had one of those quietly excellent games you expect from a quietly excellent inside linebacker.
  • The outside linebackers showed up.  Bellamy played great.  Walker was his usual disruptive self.  And keep an eye on true freshman Walter Grant, who wears Floyd’s number 84, bears a certain physical resemblance to Floyd and flashed some speed and tenacity when he was on the field.
  • Sanders was solid and is clearly the anchor of the secondary, which, considering how much youth was served last night, is both good and necessary.
  • Overall, it’s hard to say the secondary looked spectacular, even though ASU’s passing game got little traction, because it was rarely challenged.
  • The kicking game was routine and boring.  I can’t begin to tell you how ecstatic I am about that.  Blankenship was a machine on kickoffs, getting touchbacks on five of six.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I watched a Georgia kicker perform on that kind of level.  As good as he was, Nizialek topped him, as App State did not attempt a return on any of his punts.  His secret?  Excellent hang time combined with a really fast coverage team.  Who said special teams can’t be easy?
  • As far as the coordinators go, Tucker had his defense ready to play and they looked the part.  It’s Chaney that deserves some extra kudos, though, as he was thrown a curve ball by Eason’s injury and responded by making adjustments in his playcalling that allowed Fromm to flourish.  (And doesn’t he deserve a little credit as a position coach for having Fromm ready to play in that situation?)
  • Smart promised 15-20 true freshmen would see the field, and he was a man of his word about that.  On offense, at right tackle, Thomas is an impressive physical specimen who looked good in run blocking (based on what I saw, he clearly deserved the starting nod over Cleveland), and Swift, as I mentioned, has a bright future at running back.  On the other side of the ball, LeCounte and Gibbs got a lot of playing time and Grant looks like someone who’s going to grow into a major contributor.  And, of course, there was freshmen sprinkled through out the coverage and return teams.

All told, it adds up to a very good start.  The question now is whether they build on it or not.  After all, things looked promising after last year’s opening win against North Carolina and that came to crashing halt the following week against Nicholls.  Hopefully, history isn’t about to repeat itself.

63 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

63 responses to “Observations from the 35, opening night edition

  1. Greg

    Excellent synopsis….must have missed Thomas there at the end, did he get into the game??? BTW, thinks those 8 and 9 man fronts soon disappears when the QB play works, OL starts to look much better when that happens. Very encouraged by what I saw last night.

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  2. Other than not seeing a lot out of the WRs I thought they checked all the boxes that I had for a first outing. This is a team that can play defense, rely on special teams for field position and RTDB. That’s a formula for success. If we can keep the qb position from being a liability or a distraction, this is a team that can make some noise and get to Atlanta and then we can see how much of a gap remains.

    I just really hope 10 can go Saturday and that he plays well.

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  3. SEBdawg

    Just wanted to thank you for your post game comments. I always look forward to them. I am still worried about the offensive line. It looked to me like Chubb and Michel got their yards mostly on their own, not because the was a pre-designed hole opened by the line for them to run through.

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    • DawgFlan

      I read somewhere that the guards were shuffling around due to injury. Even with that, the OL overall looked better. Still a ways to go, particularly in the interior, but there is ground for optimism.

      And agree, the Senator’s recaps are my favorite.

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    • papadawg

      I agree on that the observations from the 35 are excellent, and one of things I look forward to on Sundays in the fall. Thanks, Senator!

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    • After the first few series, there were lanes to run through. In today’s games, plays are designed for certain holes, but backs are expected to find a lane and get upfield. You don’t rush for 220+ against an athletic front on your own.

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  4. Hillbilly Dawg

    Probability is pretty high that Eason will be cuddling a clipboard this week; I have top think the knee will keep him out at least one week if not three. The thing to watch is how much of the playbook Fromm has really packed into his brain. He just seems like the kind of kid that all the stars line up for him no matter what the situation. I can’t help but believe he truly is one of those special people born with a golden horseshoe up his arse.

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    • Greg

      LOL!….agree (horseshoe). Also thinks that he knows the playbook better than what most think. Turned the sound off when Tuberfield said that Fromm only knew 50% of the playbook the second time. May be reading too much into this, but this quote (Kirby) makes me think he could be wrong:

      “He played in the scrimmages just like he played out there,” Smart said of Fromm. “He knows how to manage the game really well. He got some tempo things going there when we were able to hit some plays, and it gave him a little juice and momentum.”

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  5. Timphd

    You guys may need to forgive me because I had a bad experience trying to stream the game last night and missed probably a good third of it due to constant lost connections. As a result I have been feeling grumpy all day. That may be behind my less than positive take. However, it was the most blah feeling 21 point win I can ever remember. Here are my negative take aways:
    1) Chaney opens the game with a three yard loss to Chubb. I knew the play before he called it, surely App State did too. The first three series were abysmal play calling to me. It only got marginally better, probably due more to wearing down the D than good play calling.
    2) We lost the QB that all the coaches felt was the best one to play the position. No matter how much you like Fromm, it has to be a worry that the guy tabbed to start is out for an indefinite amount of time.
    3) Fromm did okay, I’ll grant that, but if we at the end of this next game realize that he doesn’t have mastery of the playbook, that will mean Notre Dame will have stacked the box and limited the run game again. He got away with several throws that SEC and Notre Dame defenses would have swallowed up too. Can he change the play at the line as they expected Eason to do?
    4) Do we have wide receivers? How many passes completed to them? 4 I think. Mostly to Wims.
    5) Our second team D is more than three steps below the starters. Of course they weren’t helped out by Ramsey.
    6) Ramsey is my last negative: Dear God let nothing happen to Fromm if Eason is out.
    I will admit some very positive things though. The kickers rocked! I have never been so glad to see no return on kicks. Even the kick return that did happen, Rod kicked it into the end zone, the guy just brought it out. Thing of beauty to have special teams work. Chubb and Michel were as expected if there was any crease. Thompson is a beast.
    Again, forgive me if my take is too negative. I will rewatch the game today when it is rebroadcast on SEC network and see if being able to see the entire game changes anything for me. I’ll be in South Bend next week, so I am desperately hoping my negatives are an overreaction.

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    • DawgFlan

      Great bullet points. I’m happy with the win, and overall pleased with how the team looked. Love that Chubb seems to be getting back to vintage form. Chaney did a good job managing Fromm. I still don’t like seeing the bunch formations early in the game. Better used when the D is tired and Chubb can wrestle his way through a crowded phone booth, or Sony can tear one off tackle.

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    • Greg

      The positive is, playcalling seems to work and the offense moves with Fromm in there. Defense quit stacking the line and had to respect the pass…..running game starts to work. All QB’s no matter how good, will make some mistakes…he will get better imo. As mentioned, the TD pass to Wims was put to where only he could reach up and get it….commentators freaked out, thinks it was Tuberfield (sp?).

      As far as Ramsey goes, he has been rusting away for the most part since he has been there….thinks he too, gets better with playing time. Thinks the ‘O has found their answer (Fromm).

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    • junkyardawg41

      I think your number 3 bullet point is interesting. I think he had two problems — correctable over time. The first was staring down his receiver. That never ends well. The second was being late on throws. You are right that will lead to more interceptions with better DBs. Having said that, the ball placement on his throws is actually pretty good. His WRs may have to become DBs but it also at least gives them a chance. The other thing I liked was how accurate he is on the slants, posts and flags. He might not be able to hit the 10 yard out on a rope but I think he learns to release it early to make up for his lack of arm strength. (compared to Eason)

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  6. Got Cowdog

    I was in 139 close to the field. Great experience. The grab and go concessions were quick and easy. Good crowd, enjoyed sitting with the players families.
    Fromm is a baller. Eason looked tight. I hope it isn’t serious. I still am not crazy about the play calling, run run pass on third and medium/ long. I saw Trent Thompson get double teamed on an off tackle play. He simply spread him arms and tackled both linemen and the running back at the same time. ALL THREE OF THEM!
    Online looks better. Not great but better. The two goal line interference penalties were on beat DB’s. It was that or a touchdown. Fromm should have had 2 more. I understand why we don’t let Ramsey throw on a fake punt. Special teams were lights out. We did not receive a returnable punt on my side of the field. No mistakes and good discipline.
    Now on to South Bend. I don’t know about y’all but my sphincter is already starting to pucker.

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  7. 3rdandGrantham

    Thanks for the great recap. I too was very impressed with the D and improvement in the ST area. Eason’s injury of course is a concern, and from what I’m hearing, preliminary he’s looking at being out 2-3 weeks with a sprain and hopefully will be back by the MSU game.

    Fromm indeed was impressive but we are clearly limited in what we can do on O when he’s in there, which alone should cause any rational Dawg fan to hope Eason returns asap. ND looked much better but it’s hard to tell how good they are based on the competition. I predicted a loss to them before and my confidence just dropped even further with Eason’s injury. Ugh.

    Man, if we had a solid OL, we absolutely would be a playoff caliber team. Instead, we are probably a year or so away. BTW I didn’t see Isaiah Wilson get any PT, which was a surprise though he is a bit of a project right now.

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    • Greg

      “Limited in what we can do on ‘O”???….you mean like to now score??

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      • 3rdandGrantham

        Dude, we played app state, and Fromm threw several balls that would have been easy pics against SEC caliber players, including on the first TD pass. If you cant see the conservative playcalling that we immediately went to when he came in, then there’s nothing really to say.

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        • Greg

          LOL!!!…you musta dozed on and off last night.

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          • AUGDawg

            Crumpton was wide open on the Wims TD. Great play by Wims, poor read and worse throw (off his back foot) by Fromm. There are other examples of “freshman” throws like that in the game that a better D would make us pay for. Chaney went very conservative with lots of shot gun, three step and throw plays to keep Fromm comfortable, and fed the running backs often…good job by coach. I thought that was obvious, maybe it wasn’t. There’s a lot to love about Fromm but like 3rd said, don’t forget the level of competion App St ain’t no Alabama. I didn’t see a single audible from Fromm and that worries me with ND. These are the limitions the OP is speaking of in my opinion. Oh and umm, LOLZ!!!1!

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            • Greg

              Didn’t see Crumpton, Fromm probably didn’t either….as he was being pursued. Wims did indeed make a great catch…but defender was behind him and at 6’4″ or 6’5″, Wims leaped and got it. Low to medium risk on throw, high reward (catch) In that circumstance imo….would like to see the play again though.

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          • Gaskilldawg

            I was there the whole game and never dozed a second, and it appeared to me that 3rdandGrantham is 100% correct. Fromm did some nice things. I was impressed by his poise. His best pass, in my opinion, was his first completion to Wims at the end of the first quarter to set up the first TD. Very accurate and great touch. That said, throw some of the same passes he threw last night when we play UF and those will not be completions. Also, there is no way he could have rapped as much of the playbook as Eason has in twice as many practices and 13 times as many games.

            We can be pleased with how he debuted under tough circumstances without burdening him with unrealistic expectations.

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            • Greg

              ” 0 Games last year in which Georgia had 31
              points entering the fourth quarter”….an improvement.

              …..completed 67% of his passes with a 169 QB rating. Pretty sure that Eason did not do that in any of his games last year…and that includes Nicholls State. The team MOVED!!…. He ain’t perfect, but he is a leader…and last night, a winner. With all things considered, I give him a solid B….maybe a B+.

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              • Gaskilldawg

                Absolutely Fromm did some really nice things last night. That was not the debate. The debate was whether on September 9, 2017 he will be ready to implement as much of our offense as a second year starter would be prepared to implement.

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  8. Nice observations Senator, but you are being kind to Eason. He looked like crap in the limited time we saw him. I know he has had moments of greatness, but I had hoped he was done with these spans of suckitude that he showed in the spring game and again last night. We should all be worried.

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    • He had like eight snaps. But if that’s enough for you to judge a career on, more power to you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Didn’t say anything about his career or how it may turn out, only that he looked like crap last night and still shows inconsistency. You on the other hand laid all of the blame on Cheney’s play calling and the offensive line those first two series.

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        • 3rdandGrantham

          You know who else looked like crap up until Eason’s injury? Nick Chubb, who had negative yards rushing at the time, thanks to an OL that was playing poorly. Maybe we should have benched him too.

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          • Who got benched? Who said anything about benching anyone? All I said is that he looked like crap. If you think he looked good out there I might suggest watching some other games. He needs to play better. Period. Hell, he didn’t even need to scramble on that last play. He had an open receiver early on out to his right on a comeback route, and Chubb got out there open in the middle of the field as Eason just left the pocket.

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            • Gaskilldawg

              I once saw Hank Aaron strike out. He looked like crap at that at bat, so why should he be in the Hall of Fame?

              Just saying, he looked like crap at that at bat, like another Mario Mendoza. On that at bat. He needed to do better on that at bat.

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          • Greg

            You mean a QB that played poorly….to back and take note as to what happened when Fromm came in.

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        • You on the other hand laid all of the blame on Cheney’s play calling and the offensive line those first two series.

          “He also looked a little tight, overpowering an open Nauta on an intermediate throw that had way too much juice on it. There’s no way to know if Eason would have settled in as the game progressed.”

          Yeah, that sure sounds like all the blame to me.

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      • David K

        Two three and outs and on the way to a third.

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    • Greg

      Deer in headlights….hopes he gets over this.

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    • PTC DAWG

      D, JD.

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  9. The defense controlled the game. Tucker called a great game and it helps when you have a man-child in Trent Thompson to wreak havoc at the LOS. Generally, the defense did an excellent job setting the edge and ran to the ball. For a guy who likes to watch the defense, it was a thing of beauty.

    For someone who has been critical of Chaney, he called an excellent game for Fromm (wished we had seen some of those looks earlier). I loved that we never went into the huddle the entire game. Swift is going to be an electric playmaker in the Sony mold. Nick and Sony are Gurshall 2.0.

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  10. I have been & will continue to be an avid Jake Fromm Fan.
    However, I see no QB controversy. .Eason Is & will continue to be the QB.
    When The SEC schedule rolls around, Eason will be the answer at QB.

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  11. reality check here

    Seemed like Carter played at ILB all night. I didn’t see Natrez Patrick at all, but maybe I missed something, including most of the first quarter. Did Patrick play?

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  12. Castleberry

    A couple of things you forgot to mention. The men’s restroom behind section 107 was spectacular. Double the urinals and a fresh new floor! Also, we took their best shot.

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    • DoubleDawg1318

      I also saw an attendant cleaning the restroom outside Section 111-112 during the game. Perhaps we’ve stepped our game up.

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  13. Scorpio Jones, III

    “It’s Chaney that deserves some extra kudos, though, as he was thrown a curve ball by Eason’s injury and responded by making adjustments in his playcalling that allowed Fromm to flourish.”

    You danged libruls take any opportunity to talk up your agenda. Now you want us to believe this situation might have crossed somebody’s mind during camp. Phooey.

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  14. who are you and what have you done with the Senator

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  15. Biggus Rickus

    It reminded me a little bit of the Alabama strangulation games, where they were never overly impressive offensively, but just sucked the life out of the other team with defense and methodical offense.

    I still have concerns about the offensive line, and Fromm made a few very bad throws (a couple of which just kind of miraculously worked out), but the defense looks as good as I expected.

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  16. TMC DAWG

    Trent Thompson has NFL written all over him!,

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  17. By the by, 18 pass attempts when the game “mattered” (e.g. before Ramsey’s mop up time) and we targeted TE’s in 6 of them I believe (4 catches, Eason’s airmail, Ramsey’s attempt to force one before we kicked the FG to go up 24-0), just to further underscore your point regarding usage.

    I would still like to know why we came out so conservatively, but that’s ok.

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  18. Macallanlover

    Kindley was injured, that caused all the disruption up the middle in blocking as the past week was spent shuffling different rotations in. Not sure if he is back at full speed next week, let’s hope so. The other reason the running opened up was someone hitting a couple of quick passes that made Appy loosen up and protect themselves. Before Fromm came in and showed we could complete a forward pass, they were able to sell out for the run; afterwards was when Chubb and Sony began to find space.

    Defensive front was as advertised, still some problems with a mobile QB which have to be addressed by next week. But no question, our defense can keep us in games if they stay healthy. Reed was no surprise, the reports all summer was that he was going to be a star.

    Punting was impressive but Hot Rod stole the show for me, I have never seen a kicker gain that much leg strength in 8 months, not even close. Just hope they don’t test him for PEDS. Lot to be pleased with, OL included, but the atmosphere will be different next weekend. Hate it for Eason, since his dad played at ND, you know this has been a family dinner conversation ever since UGA began recruiting him, he go to within 7 days of that dream scenario.

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  19. Debby Balcer

    Did anyone else think the new sound system sucked? Great observations Senator just watched the game again.

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  20. DoubleDawg1318

    Observations from the 35 is my favorite post from the Senator! Thanks for your thoughts. I was perhaps a little too harsh in my thoughts after reading yours. It sure was nice to take care of business against a solid mid major who came with upset on their minds.

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  21. CB

    Don’t like the idea that Eason needs time to settle in against a Sun Belt team. Fromm on the other hand, comes in and completes passes. Some of his throws were Hutson Masonesque, but as I recall most of the ducks were off of his back foot. I’ll take a true freshman making some mistakes as he learns the ropes as long as he’s a gamer and makes plays.

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