Swift carried the Bulldogs’ offense in a waterlogged 21-0 win over Kentucky, running for a season-high 179 yards and 2 of UGA’s 3 touchdowns amid the slop. As usual, the numbers don’t quite do Swift justice.
That marked his 5th game this season over 100 scrimmage yards, best in the conference, all of them hard-earned on a night when putting the ball in the air was … not productive, to say the least…
Daily Archives: October 21, 2019
Another scintillating 10-0, no tiebreaker needed, finish this week. Congrats to IMOPEN for that.
And, your seasonal standings now look like this:
TFW manball is working…
… and TFW it is not.
That’s almost eerie, except it really isn’t, because there’s a common flaw running through both upsets. Here’s how Richard Johnson describes it in today’s Read Option by Banner Society email:
Two teams whose Playoff hopes took hits the last two weeks are content to play a style of football that seems from a bygone era (around 1999 or so). Both Wisconsin and Georgia have seen their bullyball outfits neutered by mistakes, all-around poor play, and an opponent that was just good enough.
This email isn’t to say that style can’t work. When executed well by the right teams in the right ways, it is breathtaking to watch. But parsing Wisconsin’s loss at Illinois and Georgia’s a week earlier to South Carolina shows the ways MANBALL can go wrong.
Wisconsin fumbled twice inside the Illinois 40. They threw a pick that set up the winning drive. They missed a third-quarter field goal.
This is what happens when the MANBALL isn’t firing on all cylinders and also isn’t getting help from the other phases of the game — or from coaching decisions, like not simply rushing the ball down the throat of an opponent to salt the game away. When the game develops in such a way that you can’t just sit on it, you get into challenging scenarios.
That “isn’t getting help from the other phases of the game” is what makes me nervous, based on the lack of consistency from Georgia’s special teams play. The Dawgs didn’t pay for that Saturday night, but you wonder if that would have been the case against a team with a better offense than Kentucky’s.
Speaking of Georgia, Johnson nails it.
This is bigger than just Fromm. He gets labelled as a Checkdown Charlie, but I think that’s a bit unfair. Fromm is operating in an offense that’s been structurally inept. It’s also not helping that Georgia’s receivers are not consistently winning in man coverage, due to either a lack of athleticism, poor offensive play design, or both. This has left Georgia fans pissed. Many of them booed during this week’s 21-0 win over Kentucky, a game that was 0-0 at halftime.
Weirdly, that Kentucky game was Georgia’s brand of bullyball working. The game lurched for 60 minutes with only 106 combined plays. Kentucky had a converted wide receiver at QB who started 0-for-9 through the air and didn’t complete a pass until the fourth quarter. Georgia’s offense was not asked to use its passing game Saturday, so it barely did.
Fromm went nine-for-12 with one (1) second-half passing attempt and 35 yards through the air. His adjusted net yards per attempt (a weighted measure accounting for sacks, touchdowns, and interceptions) was two. The national average is roughly 6.5.
Georgia’s running game is quite efficient. The Dawgs do well when they’re on schedule, like most offenses. But they’re just not that explosive. They’re 75th nationally in plays gaining 20 or more yards, down from 10th last season. Against Kentucky, Fromm attempted two passes that traveled more than eight yards from the line of scrimmage in the air. [Emphasis added.]
Needless to say, that ain’t gonna cut it.
Kentucky wasn’t good enough for Georgia’s offensive turtling to matter, but South Carolina showed if you splash some Fromm turnovers into the mix, you don’t have to be elite to beat the Dawgs when they’re playing like this.
I’m being hard on these teams because of their ceilings.
Both teams still have Playoff paths, though they’re a lot more brutal now given everything you’ve just read. But both have big structural problems and little margin for error. If either loses again to a team it beats on paper, you’ll probably know why.
But I don’t want to know why!
I’ll say it again, for those in the back: there’s nothing per se wrong with Kirby’s manball approach. It’s a philosophy, not an offensive scheme. There is a problem when circumstances undercut the philosophy, as we saw in the South Carolina game. Georgia’s passing scheme has issues and the run play calling has been stubborn about running into stacked defenses. I happen to think both are fixable, with a little flexibility from the staff.
But the bigger issue is realizing that one size doesn’t fit all circumstances. Kentucky, for general purposes, may be South Carolina (if Georgia doesn’t turn the ball over against the ‘Cocks, it’s still an undefeated team this morning). But Florida ain’t. And Alabama and LSU definitely ain’t. Can Kirby adapt when the moment requires it? I’m betting we’re about to find out.
Florida AD Scott Stricklin’s solution for solving the player compensation problem? Moar antitrust violations!
“One of the problems we have from an optics standpoint is our athletes aren’t in a free-market setting,” Stricklin said. “They’re in a socialist setting. But yet we have coaches coaching them who are in the ultimate free-market setting. It’s really an uncomfortable dichotomy.
“If Congress wanted to cap coaches’ salaries and administrative salaries in college athletics, I’d have no problem with that. I think it’s un-American, but so is the system we have for student-athletes. It’s socialism, right? But it’s socialism in the name of providing opportunity in an academic setting that makes some kind of sense.
“So if they want to cap our salaries and then create a trust for athletes to tap into once they receive their college degrees, in addition to the tax-free, debt-free education they’re getting and we feel like it’s worthwhile, maybe that’s something [worth doing].”
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, except when you’re a college athletics administrator. Really, I weep for this country sometimes.
Guess I’m cancelling my Amelia Island reservations. No reason to go now.
World to Kirby Smart: Nice fake punt, dude.
Arkansas special teams: Hold our beer.
Only slightly less astounding than the total ineptitude on display there is that the pick was only Auburn’s second of the year.
It was a dark and stormy night, my friends. Er, the weather, you say? Well, yeah, there was rain, but I was referring to the psyche of our fan base.
Boos rained out (see what I did there?) as the teams walked off the field at halftime to a scoreless tie. The frustration was understandable, but the reaction was both tacky and useless. After all, the person it was directed towards was up in a booth unlikely to hear it and those who did hear it didn’t deserve to.
In the end, it worked out. Georgia’s offense was waiting for an invitation to play in Kentucky territory before it cranked up and midway through the third quarter, UK’s punter obliged with a shanked punt that led to a one-play Swift scoring drive.
Given how anemic Kentucky’s offense was, that was likely enough to carry the evening, but the Dawgs tacked on two more touchdowns, the latter by way of a soul-crushimg 13-play, 92-yard drive that ate up over eight minutes of game time and thoroughly warmed the cockles of Kirby Smart’s heart.
Yeah, the game plan was conservative and difficult to watch for much of the game, but after the South Carolina debacle, it’s hard to blame Smart for that. After all, he had to watch his team lose to a team that played a converted receiver as its third- string quarterback and didn’t score in the last thirty minutes of regulation.
No doubt he told himself he’d be damned if he’d watch history repeat itself. Georgia’s game plan was designed to insure that didn’t happen. If it wasn’t pretty, who cares in the vast scheme of things?
Another embarrassing loss would have been devastating. A 21-0 win will look fine if Georgia handles the meat of its schedule successfully. Smart got the result he was looking for and ultimately, that’s all that mattered.
On to the bullet points…
- When you’re playing a field position game, the role of special teams play is magnified. That turned out to be a very mixed bag Saturday night. Far and away, the big positive was the best game of Camarda’s career. For once, he wasn’t the punter who blinked. And give the complete lack of offense in the first half, his good work was essential.
- The rest of the special teams work was poor, to say the least. Cook’s inability to field a squib kick cleanly put his team in a field position hole from which it never escaped in the first half.
- As bad as that was, Georgia’s punt return game was worse, because the entire first half of the game was a battle of dueling punters. Blaylock got no support from his blockers; several times it looked like Kentucky’s coverage team were on complete jailbreaks. The one return he managed was called back for what looked like not one, but two, blocks in the back.
- Kickoff coverage was another area of weakness. Blankenship managed a fair catch and a touchback on two of his kicks, but the other two yielded significant return yardage.
- Still, none of that hurt the Dawgs, because the defense clamped down on UK’s offense. They were ready for Bowden’s game and for the most part did a solid job of contain.
- Smith and Johnson seem to bring a little more every week. Both made solid tackles for loss and seem to be contributing as run defenders, too.
- Monty Rice just keeps having good game after good game.
- Safety play was also good. Reed forced a fumble and LeCounte played well in run support.
- Eric Stokes had a helluva game. I may be wrong, but I think that was the first time in Ahmad Wagner’s career that he was completely shut out — no catches or PI calls. Stokes really battled with a guy who has a significant size advantage.
- How bad did Kirby want the shutout? Bad enough to bring back most of the first string defense when the ‘Cats moved the ball on their last drive against Georgia’s backups.
- The story on Georgia’s offense was basically the game plan and Swift, who wound up with what seemed like about two-thirds of the night’s yardage. Kudos to whoever decided the offense had spent enough time and effort running straight up the middle into a stacked box.
- Someone needs to explain why Georgia even bothers to deploy tight ends anymore. Wolf can’t block and is an inconsistent receiver, while Woerner is an inconsistent blocker who is never targeted over the middle. (Yes, I know this has become an evergreen complaint.)
- Somebody needs to show George Pickens where the yard marker is. On the other hand, that one big catch he went up for was athletic as hell. Once he figures it out, he’s gonna be an all-SEC fixture.
- I’ll take Fromm’s word that the weather was a crucial factor in his reluctance to throw the ball down the field, so I just hope they don’t need him to do more on a rainy day.
- My favorite play of the night was the pick up on fourth-and-medium on the long clinching drive. Maybe they should start taking delay of game penalties on those fourth-and-ones they can’t seem to convert.
Smart went into the game with three goals in mind, not to let turnovers beat Georgia, not to let the weather beat Georgia and not to let Kentucky beat Georgia. He succeeded on all three.
Sure, it was a drudge at times — okay, a lot of times — but the game was won on Kirby’s terms. If that bothers you, if you want to deny the results were by design, the alternative is that this team really isn’t that good. I’m not prepared to accept that.
It won’t take long to test that, either. The Dawgs now prepare for what is easily the biggest game of the season. Win and everything has meaning again. Lose and we’ll be reduced to arguing over which second-tier bowl game in Florida they’ll be headed to.
Beyond even that, it’s against your heated rival. If this bunch can’t get their collective heads on straight against the Gators, then it’s time to start questioning what this staff is up to.
Make it happen, Kirby.
Kind of a wild and crazy weekend, if you ask me.
- Alabama. Tua struggled physically in the aftermath of a high ankle sprain last season, but this year, after having surgery to fix another high ankle sprain, we’re supposed to believe he’ll bounce back just fine in a few weeks?
- LSU. Their game with ‘Bama on 11/9 just got a lot more interesting.
- Georgia. The Dawgs are giving up ten points a game in conference play. No other SEC team is within a touchdown of that; in fact, the nearest, Auburn, is giving up almost twice that.
- Florida. Continuing with the subject, the Gators’ defense has given up 13 touchdowns in conference play, compared to Georgia’s four. I know it won’t matter in two weeks, but that’s why I dropped Florida back behind the Dawgs.
- Auburn. Yeah, I know Arkansas sucks, but Auburn dropped 51 points on a team that had previously not given up more than 31 points in a conference game.
- Texas A&M. I moved a team that’s looked less impressive every week up a couple of slots in this PP, which ought to tell you everything you need to know about the strength of the middle of the conference.
- Missouri. It only took a week for a team to suffer a more inexplicable conference loss than the one Georgia took against South Carolina.
- South Carolina. Your quintessential middle of the pack 2019 SEC team.
- Ole Miss. I’ll say this for Ole Miss — they really haven’t embarrassed themselves in a game yet, which is more than you can say for a lot of the teams on this list.
- Mississippi State. MSU gave up less points to LSU than Florida did, so there’s that, at least.
- Kentucky. This team is such a mess on offense right now. But they do have Tennessee and Vanderbilt left, so there’s still some cause for hope.
- Vanderbilt. I have no idea how the ‘Dores beat Missouri.
- Tennessee. The Vols are scoring 12.5 ppg in conference play and their freshman quarterback has been knocked out of two of the three games he’s started with concussions… hoo, boy.
- Arkansas. It took you half a season to get here, but congrats, Hogs, you finally made it to the cellar.