A game with a 7:30 start time and a fairly straight shot out of Athens afterwards, and I still didn’t get to bed until 1:30 in the morning. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a day with a comfortable Georgia win a pain in the arse, just the right kind of effort.
Pre-game: When did the first weekend of October start feeling like the first weekend of September? I mean, it’s fall. That’s the time for crisp, clear days and cool nights. What we got instead of that was a friggin’ sauna. Worse, there was little to no breeze all day.
End of game: There’s garbage time and then there’s what the refs and Derek Mason inflicted upon the few thousands of us who stayed through the heat until the bitter end of a game that was decided with the first drive of the second half. Mason called a timeout with fourteen seconds left, trailing by 35 and then some dumbass ref threw a flag for one of the stupidest pass interference penalties you’ll ever see. All for a meaningless touchdown that didn’t even affect the spread. (Not to mention I’m not sure the kid scored.) Everyone responsible for costing me a couple of minutes of my life I’ll never get back — I hate you all.
On the other hand, Georgia is now 4-0 against the state of Tennessee. Not too shabby.
Without any further ado, it’s on to the bullet points.
- Georgia actually trailed in a game for the first time all season. It’s true! You could look it up, but quickly, as it didn’t last longer than the fifteen seconds it took for Jake Fromm to unload a perfect bomb down the middle to Terry Godwin, who wasn’t having any of that stripping bullshit from the Vanderbilt defensive back. Godwin looks as healthy as I’ve seen him in a while, which is good news.
- Ditto for Swift, who put a couple of moves on defenders on his touchdown catch that were sick.
- In fact, each of Georgia’s first four touchdowns were marked by spectacularly athletic plays: the aforementioned catches by Godwin and Swift; Holyfield’s determined run, capped by his twist and leap to avoid being knocked out of bounds before crossing the goal line; and Ridley’s tip-drill quality catch, which reminded me a little bit of Godwin’s catch last season at Notre Dame.
- Five, count ’em, five catches by tight ends. Be still, my heart.
- That was the best pass blocking performance I’ve seen out of the offensive line all year, something that was particularly impressive given that it played much of the game down two starters (and Gaillard went out for a little while, too). Pass pro was so good it forced Vanderbilt to call more blitzes than it wanted and that played into opening up Georgia’s running game as the night went on.
- Man, I love watching James Cook in the open field. Imagine what he’ll be like with a full year in the weight room under his belt.
- Is there a position group that’s improved more beyond expectations than the receiving corps? They block, they catch, they run excellent routes. It was good to see the group get rewarded by opening up the playbook. And they’ve still got the Demetris Robertson card left to play!
- His passing chart showed it, as did the game: give Jake Fromm time and he’ll pick you apart. By and large, he did a fantastic job going through his reads and progressions. His mechanics were sound and he can make the intermediate throw look effortless when he sets right.
- Fields is still learning the game, but, man, the physical tools he’s got are ridiculous. That overthrow to Stanley was a perfect example of both; with more experience, he nails that bad boy.
- Jim Chaney had a really good day. Emphasizing the pass was both a good strategy against Vanderbilt (the play action bomb to Godwin took advantage of the ‘Dores playing the run) and, as I previously mentioned, good message sending for upcoming defensive coordinators. His playcalling on the two-minute drill to close out the first half was impeccable. One thing I believe he deserves more credit for is play design. He does a really good job of creating opportunities for players to get open field settings. Two examples of that were the Godwin touchdown catch, where Ridley managed to clear space in the secondary underneath Godwin and the play action suckered one of the safeties, and the touchdown pass to Swift, where, even though he wasn’t Fromm’s first option, the design of the play left him with open field and a blocking receiver.
- The kindest thing I can say about the first half defense was that while it was inconsistent, it didn’t get badly burned, or, better put, as badly burned as it probably deserved. They went from allowing a couple of huge chunk running plays to getting huge stops on third (way to go, Tyler Clark) and fourth (Jordan Davis!, My Gawd, a freshman!) downs to keep Vandy out of the end zone. But there were also times they’d get the Vanderbilt offense backed up, only to see Shurmur dig out of it with good throws. The defense clearly had a problem defending the screen pass and kudos go to somebody on the Vandy staff who saw something to be exploited (you have to think Tucker will be looking hard at that this week). The inconsistency tells me that players on the defensive front aren’t as focused on gap control and run fits on a play-by-play basis as they have to be, and that’s something that needs to be cleaned up against an LSU team that will run, run, run.
- On the other hand, the defense allowed next to nothing in the third quarter when Georgia put the game away. So there’s that.
- I don’t want to be a complete negative Nancy about the defense. Once again, they went out there with Job One being to deny the big play and once again, Job One was accomplished. Shurmur didn’t manage a touchdown pass and outside of that early 43-yard gain, Vandy basically had to work every drive in little bites to make something happen. It couldn’t, which is how you wind up the first half on the short end of a 21-6 score despite running for more yards and dominating time of possession.
- It’s not that the ILBs are that weak, I’ve come to realize. It’s that they don’t have a badass Swiss Army knife of a player who can do everything as they had last season. Some are better at run support, some at coverage. It’s a race between who Tucker deploys and what an offensive coordinator calls to try to exploit. That being said, I thought Tae Crowder had his moments.
- The secondary is so solid. Nothing spectacular on the day, I admit, but when the dust settled, no big plays, no touchdowns, a mediocre completion percentage are all things I can certainly live with. A number of defensive backs contributed pass breakups. This group is doing good work every week.
- I love watching a punter outkick his coverage as Hardman fields the ball.
- Rodrigo is making these 50+ yard field goal attempts almost look easy. It was great the way the crowd ate it up, too.
- What is it with Vanderbilt and bullshit targeting calls? It’s a good thing the review protocol has been changed since 2013, or we’d still be howling about Saturday night. By the way, Steve Shaw, when an officiating crew whiffs that badly on targeting twice, somebody needs some more training.
So, the first half is in the books. We’ve learned what the coaches already knew, that this is a young team, extraordinarily talented, that is still learning how to play a consistent game. They’ve blasted through six games out-talenting the opposition. The next few games are all against teams more closely matched to Georgia’s level, so it’s not unreasonable to expect the team to face a more challenging environment.
How they respond to that will likely be the big question of the second half. Does the focus that’s been lacking at times finally kick in for sixty minutes and allow this team to play a complete game, or do they have to find a way to respond to an adverse situation that they haven’t dealt with so far? One thing to consider is that even when this team has played its sloppiest ball, it hasn’t been plagued with turnovers and it’s been able to prevent being burned by the big play. Can they continue to count on that against tougher competition? We’ll soon find out.