Observations from the 35, South Carolina edition

This turned out to be a game where the Dawgs traded dominant for workmanlike in describing their performance… and I’m okay with that.

The game played out almost exactly as I anticipated.  Kirby’s will imposition met a South Carolina defensive game plan that never altered from loading the box to stop the run and the result was a grind it out job that saw Georgia’s statistical advantages not exactly mirrored by the final score.  A key turnover, some badly timed penalties and a lengthy second half drive that wound up generating three points instead of a touchdown all contributed to the discrepancy.

Even with that, along with Jake Bentley playing well for the first three quarters and Hayden Hurst showing why many thought in the preseason that he was the SEC’s best tight end, it never really felt like South Carolina stepped up from being tenacious to threatening.

Afterwards, I told my friends that it reminded me of a game from Richt’s first season, when Georgia went down to Jacksonville and lost to a more talented Florida team.  Georgia had done an excellent job with game management that season, but simply didn’t have the horses to keep up with the Gators.  Still, the Dawgs fought hard that day and weren’t embarrassed.

On that note, it’s on to the bullet points.

  • I usually don’t start with the coaches, but I was very impressed with the job Jim Chaney did.  Everybody in the stadium knew Georgia was going to run, run and run some more, but Chaney did a masterful job of mixing personnel and formations to keep the South Carolina defense off-balance.  The opening drive of the second half may have been his best called series of the season.
  • Speaking of that drive, Mecole Hardman sure is coming along, isn’t he?  Between that touchdown catch and his downing of Nizialek’s punt on the SC one, that was one helluva third quarter.
  • I remember the day when we would have called Nick Chubb getting 20 carries a good first half.
  • Sony had two amazing runs — the touchdown where he was bottled up the middle, regrouped and took it outside to score behind Fromm’s (!) block and a later run where he appeared to be going down behind the line of scrimmage, only to shake off a tackle, dodge another one and turn the play into a reasonable gain.
  • Not one, but two tight end receptions.  Alert the media!
  • The offensive line had a tough challenge facing eight and nine man boxes all day, but managed to pave the way to almost 250 yards on the ground, while keeping Fromm’s jersey pretty clean.
  • Outside of Godwin’s fumble, it’s hard to complain about the receiving corps’ efforts on a day when Georgia completed 16 of 22 pass attempts.  If I have to be critical of something, it did seem like downfield blocking was a little more inconsistent than it’s been of late.  I did notice the coaches pulled Ridley after one play when Fromm kept the ball but had to scoot out of bounds because the defensive back was able to force the play.
  • Speaking of Fromm, another great game from the true freshman.  RPO calls are perfectly suited for his talent with pre-snap reads.  He also eats soft coverage for lunch.  He did get away with a couple of risky throws when the defensive backs played their receivers closely and that’s something for him to continue working on.
  • The play you really wish Fromm could have back was during Georgia’s last drive of the first half.  On second down, with the ball at midfield, he had two receivers wide open, one down the right sideline and the other across the middle; he didn’t see the latter and waited just long enough for the back to recover on the outside man and make a play on the ball when Fromm did throw it.
  • Another little thing I noticed:  Fromm’s issues last week with the play clock disappeared.
  • Eh, let me get this out of the way, lest I forget.  Roquan. Smith.  Nice game from his ILB cohort, Reggie Carter, too.
  • The onside kick to start the game was an interesting call, given that Kirby’s played it straight this season.  It’s easy to be conservative with that defense and special teams.  The defense kept the ‘Cocks from scoring, so the call didn’t affect much, but it does plant a seed for other teams to be aware of.  That being said, I’m totally fine with touchbacks.
  • There were problems defending the pass in the first half, which seemed to be the result of some soft zone coverage and Bentley being given enough time to make throws, even in some third-and-long situations.  It felt all game that Georgia was much more vanilla with its defensive game plan this week than it was against Florida.  I didn’t see a lot of exotic blitzes (boy, that delayed blitz from Roquan was effective, though, wasn’t it?) or stunting.  Even so, when Carolina had to throw in the second half, the passing game was shut down.  SC’s last three series went punt, turnover on downs and interception.
  • If the pass defense was a little frustrating at times, though, the run defense was anything but.  Running the ball and stopping the run is still the winning formula in the SEC.
  • Hard to complain about special teams, with one exception.  The kicking game was its usual solid self, but the punt return game took a step back.  Plus, the fake punt.
  • Kinda felt bad for the ref on the sideline who got stuck having to call the end zone pass plays that were both overruled in the replay booth.  In his defense, they were tough to judge in real time.  That’s about the only pass I’m willing to give the crew, as they whiffed on what I thought were some pretty obvious push offs by the Carolina receivers, as well as a face-mask on Fromm that appeared to be right in an official’s line of sight.  (I’ve quit complaining about holding by offensive linemen, because that’s the way the SEC rolls.)
  • I won’t say it was Mel Tucker’s best effort of the season, but holding an opponent to ten points and under 300 yards — again! — isn’t something to bitch about, either.
  • Meanwhile, Kirby continues to have his team mentally prepared to handle the weekly SEC grind.  This was a game sandwiched between a huge win in Jacksonville, the subsequent number one ranking by the CFP selection committee and what looks to be a tough game at Auburn.  In other words, the kind of game that previous Georgia teams have served up a disappointing performance.  That didn’t happen and that’s on Kirby to a large extent.

That last bullet point can’t be understated.  Auburn presents a vastly different challenge to this Georgia team, likely its biggest one since the Notre Dame game, and that’s combined with the realization that the Dawgs’ ticket to Atlanta is already punched.  I like to think Kirby’s up to this challenge, too.


Filed under Georgia Football

32 responses to “Observations from the 35, South Carolina edition

  1. Derek

    Something about the onside kick and the continual running it up the gut made me think CKS’s ego may have been too present going up against Will.

    Of course it’s entirely possible that we felt that the committee had seen enough “style points” and that we needed to get re-grounded.

    I don’t think that game had to be that much of a slog.

    Btw: since there was no shout out for 14, I’ll do it. The pick to seal it was sublime. Few corners have the wherewithal to get a TO there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Biggus Rickus

      They continually run the ball against everyone. In the other games, the opposing defense eventually broke down and gave up medium to long TDs. South Carolina’s didn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Uglydawg

    Thanks for that great analysis. I am far away out of the USA and missed the game. Better and deeper info right here than any news outlet. Hopefully back to watch Dawgs/Aub.



  3. Jack Burton

    Watching the replay I too noticed some lackadaisical blocking from the WRs. First time all year. Defense also didn’t swarm and punish like we’ve seen all year. Multiple plays where the tackle was being made and the other 2-3 guys watched instead of attacking.

    Good stuff for the film room heading into Aubs.


  4. gastr1

    I think there are probably a few reasons why the tight ends have not been featured in the passing game, but I suspect a big one is the emphasis on throwing toward the sidelines. It doesn’t seem very useful to station a TE out there or get them out in space when there are so many others who can do that better…and we clearly are not having Fromm throw into the middle unless it’s a short slant.

    That play against Mississippi State that went for a TD to Nauta…I’d like to see that one again eventually.


    • Squatchdawg

      I hope that we’re not doing this in order to have something to spring on some unsuspecting team in the future – because to date we really haven’t needed it. I know this typical happy talk but I can’t come up with any other reason why the TE seam pass has disappeared.

      And I hear there is a play called a screen pass – which is supposed to be deadly against aggressive defensive lines. How exciting would it be to see something like that?


      • gastr1

        I recall that a very similar type of pass worked kinda ok on the first drive of the Gators game. Yes. More of this, and not just always to DeAndre Swift.


  5. Jared S.

    Your final point is spot on. This had all the hallmarks of a trouble game…. but the focus looked laser-like.


  6. paul

    Every year we hear that THIS is the year we’re finally going to turn loose our talented tight ends. And every year we use them primarily as blockers. I’m not sure how we continue to recruit such outstanding talent at that position. Come to Georgia! Maybe we’ll throw you the ball. Maybe not.


    • True. But to be fair, so many other schools have “tight ends” that from 1990-2012ish everybody would refer to as a “big receiver.” The NFL requires a lot of the same things we require of our tight ends, while many college teams today may call somebody a tight end (even engram at ole miss) when really they’re just a receiver (evan engram new york giants).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. paul

    Not that we’re getting into a discussion of the Georgia Way this morning but I thought it was appropriate that we gave a game ball to our chief revenue officer before the game.


  8. Cojones

    Fromme blocked several times for runners and they were away from the pocket so they were intentional in the attack plan. His running does more than make opponents nervous; his runs open up the next play, plus, they gain needed yardage, i.e., they ain’t half-assed threats. With our depth you can see the coaches acting like Fri Nite HS coaches trying to make up new plays because they are developing a new toy further while using the confidence of a seemingly old hand at SEC play.

    Payne takes me back to our FB Johnson in the late sixties as he was featured running fronton on the SI cover against Ark, blood on his hand on the football, seemingly held less than a foot from the turf and always digging for 3 yds and a cloud of dust. He was our rushing mainstay who ran so low that he resembled a Bulldog pulling with all fours against a leash. You can see that Payne loves to deliver the message and is an old Dawg’s Dawg.

    Liked by 1 person

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Payne had two nice, albeit short, runs for 1st downs. And Sony also had some clutch runs for first downs to keep drives going. Our RBs have lots of talent, but they are also very, very tough.


    • Gaskilldawg

      Yes, Brad Johnson from Avondale High School. Terrific blocker. We went form a great offense in 1968 behind Sophomore Mike Cavan to poor offense in 1969. Dooley later said that the key to the great offense in 1968 was having Johnson blocking for Cavan.


  9. Bright Idea

    A safety sitting in the middle of the field instead of a lot of 2-deep is making us throw to the sideline instead of down the middle. After watching the replay the team looked a little tired IMO. Aaron Taylor on the broadcast commented that Georgia was being stubborn about running the ball into a loaded box. We’d be melting down if they had scored after the onside kick. If we can’t get away with that on the opening kickoff with 60 minutes left then we must not be #1. It was insignificant and not a bad call.


    • paul

      In the stadium it felt a little like we couldn’t quite finish a few drives, especially on the field goal. We seemed to pretty much cede the mid range pass outside the hash. I look for Auburn to throw there early and often. Of course, history tells us the SC game often ends up a whole lot closer than we’d like, we knew that going in and that’s pretty much how things played out.


      • Aren’t we basically like the red meat they salivate over ? At least in-conference. Just seems like the idea of beating Georgia consumes a large portion of the Gamecocks’ energy. As such, good performance keeping a hand on little brother’s forehead while he flails.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Saltwater Dawg

    Regarding your comment about the soft zone coverage, particularly in the first half, I left the game wondering if it was a result of Kurt Roper finding a whole in Kirby’s pattern matching scheme. SC did have some nice underneath catches when Bentley had time for the play to develop, but it was mostly outside of the hashes when their routes seemed really open. I’m looking forward to watching on film.

    However, after the game ended, I think I saw where the longest pass of the game for either team was 16 yards. Nice to see the big pass plays completely shut down.


    • Not sure about that 16 yards thing. Hurst had a 35-yard reception I recall.


      • Saltwater Dawg

        I stand corrected, just looked at the box score. They had a 35 and a 22. Must have seen that on the board earlier in the game.


        • gastr1

          There also seemed to be agreement on both sides in the press room after the game that if the pass that was intercepted at the end of the 1st had not been nicked by a defender, it would have been a TD because they had a wide open guy way down the field. Kirby said that too. Obviously who knows what would have really happened, but there was some sort of terrible breakdown on that play.


  11. Dawg19

    No opponent touchdowns by the first-team defense in the second half…again. It’s nice to see you, halftime adjustments. You were missed the last few years.


  12. Hello Senator. I spoke with Jake Bentley and his dad after the game, and there was one play near the end of the first half where the GA defender hit the ball as Jake was trying to throw it. I didn’t see it, as I had to “see a man about a horse”. The coach and the player were lamenting that one, as that play was huge, because they told me SC had a receiver wide open for a TD. Proud of Jake,….. like you said, he played pretty danged good for 3 quarters, but he needs help, especially in the 4th quarter when he needs a speed “go to” guy. Not having Deebo Samuel on that team is big. Good win by the Dawgs. Sanford Stadium looks great, the music was good, the stadium announcer keeps the crowd excited. I really enjoyed my day in Athens, well, except for the heat. Damn it was hot in section 103.! I always tease my UGA friends about our clock in Jordan- Hare, as it seems to have a problem whenever the Red and Black come to town. There is actually no problem, I just have the malfunction controller in my pocket, to use as necessary in a timely way. I see necessity coming this weekend! See y’all in Auburn, have a safe trip down. Jay.


  13. Dawg in Lutz

    Fromm’s biggest attribute is he’s taking what the defense gives him. he’s playing far beyond his years as he’s able to assess what the defensive look is giving him and get the team into the play that will benefit us the most.

    GO DAWGS!!


  14. Normaltown Mike

    IT seemed that we rushed 4 for the majority of the game and did not throw in a lot of exotic twists, stunts or extra rushers. I think Tucker called a conservative game on Defense and it worked well (though frustrating at times).

    I have to add that I hope none of yall are the idiot in Section 136 that yelled at Rodrigo for punting the ball into the endzone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • doofusdawg

      Agree with the conservative defense. Saw one comment from one of our d lineman that they stressed all week in practice to stay in our rushing lanes. I think we were concerned about Bentley making some plays with his legs and we were not going to let that happen.

      Bentley did hurt us with the outside throws behind the corners or star and in front of the safeties… mostly these were slow developing plays where our lack of pass rush allowed time for them to develop. Count me as not a fan of the conservative read and react zone defense that we played. But I imagine that we felt like the game was never going to be in doubt if we kept everything in front of us. Probably true but made for a less than exciting “workmanlike” afternoon.

      Still looking for the bootleg. I guess we are saving it for Atlanta… or Fields.


  15. Castleberry

    Rewatched yesterday. Neuheisel did a good job pointing out Sony’s job in pass protection on the play before he got the direct snap touchdown. I agreed – Chaney saw him crush the LB on the play before and then gave him the Wild Dawg touch.


  16. Go Dawgs!

    In my opinion, Auburn is THE biggest challenge of the schedule. That includes Notre Dame. I think the Tigers are more talented than the Irish, and I think that they know the Bulldogs much better than the Irish did.

    It looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Russ

    I guess I now know what a Bama fan feels. It seemed like our defense was getting run over, yet at the end of the day, we beat a good conference foe by two TDs. Plus, our defense held them in check despite what my eyes told me.


    • doofusdawg

      Think I saw 1 of 7 3rd down conversions given up in 2nd half. We really do just sit on teams in the 2nd half… both sides of the ball.


  18. The 984

    I don’t think it was a facemask on Fromm. Looked like the defender grabbed the collar of the front of the jersey