In case you were wondering — cold as it was Saturday night, it was still infinitely better than the conditions I sat through during the Kentucky game.
The defense got the same results, though, rain or (moon)shine. In fact, you can say that Smart duplicated his game plan from Kentucky for the Tigers: grind on offense, don’t screw up on special teams, don’t turn the ball over and let the defense do its thing.
Given that Missouri imported wholesale the South Carolina defensive scheme of one high safety, man coverage on the receivers and loading the box up to slow Georgia’s running attack, the overall result was that we got to watch the most predictable game of 2019. It may not have been the most exciting game to sit through, but it was effective, as the Dawgs’ defense pitched its third shutout in nine games.
It was apparent early on that Mizzou’s offense posed little threat, so any thought that Smart and Coley were going to have to reach into their bag of… well, not so much tricks as offensive flexibility, to pull the game along vanished in the night. Which, again, when you have things under enough control to win by 27, was just fine.
On to the bullet points:
- Let’s start with Jake Fromm. No, it wasn’t his best game; he was on and off throughout the night. He suffered a coverage sack instead of throwing the ball away. He underthrew a sure touchdown to Eli Wolf. In his defense, he took snaps from three different centers. His best receiver, the one he has the most chemistry with, missed the entire second half. But he made some big throws when he had to. He also had a couple of nice scrambles to save drives. And on a night when his coach didn’t want turnovers, he didn’t throw one.
- The reason the South Carolina defensive scheme continues to be a go-to approach for opposing defensive coordinators is because there simply isn’t much depth at wide receiver. Cager and Pickens have emerged as conference level talent, but there’s little behind them, at least on a consistent, week-to-week basis. They really need for Blaylock and Robertson to be those guys. (It’s also apparent they’re hoping Kearis Jackson can join them.)
- Matt Landers’ body language after his near-fumble made me cringe in sympathy. He has absolutely zero confidence in himself right now.
- I guess the reason we didn’t see much in the way of five-wide sets after Georgia’s opening drive TD was because they didn’t feel like they needed to, but that remains one of the most effective ways to beat that kind of defensive scheme.
- That also explains, I assume, why we didn’t see much, if any, in the way of up-tempo play calling.
- Pickens’ second touchdown catch was absolutely sick.
- So was the penalty call that nullified what should have been his third TD catch.
- No catches for the tight ends, although that really wasn’t their fault, but again, opposing defenses are just begging for Georgia to use them over the middle. I will say that Woerner seems to have gotten his blocking mojo back.
- I am not certain why Smart went for two after that last touchdown, but I sure did love the play design.
- Which does make me wonder: as good as the playcalling and design has been for two-point conversions, why is Georgia settling so often for field goals in the red zone?
- Speaking of play design, why does Georgia still bother to call the read option?
- That Swift 47-yard run was a thing of beauty. And it didn’t take much — just enough blocking on the line to open a hole and two great cuts. I hope that’s a sign of things to come.
- Given the body swapping, the o-line did okay. There was a bad snap that cost some yardage and it appeared there were some issues picking up delayed blitzes on occasion, but overall they did what they needed to on a night when grinding was what was on the menu.
- Defensively, what can you say? It’s a deep, fast, well-coached unit without any superstars that is going to make offenses work for every point. I can’t remember a single play Missouri ran that gained over 20 yards.
- And, of course, they kept the Tigers out of the end zone. Did that matter to Kirby? All you had to do was watch the substitutions when Missouri had its one drive in the red zone late in the game to know the answer to that question.
- Funny, but I’m not hearing much criticism of Tray Scott’s work with the defensive line any more.
- Crowder and Rice continue to do yeoman’s work at ILB. I also like what I’m seeing out of Nakobe Dean from week to week.
- The other unit that’s making noticeable strides is cornerback. Stokes has been solid all year, but what was encouraging to see was how well Campbell played in his return after his bout with turf toe, to go along with Daniel’s steady improvement. Stevenson’s work in coverage against Okwuegbunam was also impressive.
- That was a hell of an athletic play LeCounte made on that pick, not to mention it also wrecked the one threat the Missouri offense mounted early on.
- My only complaint about the defense was a tendency I saw on occasion for players to go for a shoulder kill shot instead of just wrapping up the guy with the ball. I’m guessing that will be a topic for discussion in team meetings this week.
- No pain on special teams this week. Blankenship did miss one field goal attempt, but other than that was his usual self. He did allow a couple of kickoff returns, but both were smothered inside the 25, so no worries there. Camarda, surprisingly, didn’t have a single one of his patented bomb-a-punt-for-a-touchback moments, didn’t allow for a return all night, and did manage a 53-yarder under some real pressure. Blaylock slowly appears to be figuring out when to run and when to fair catch, although he still has some work left to do.
- Get frustrated with the coaches, if that helps you cope. But the reality was they came in with a game plan they stuck to, because Missouri never gave them a reason to change anything.
Nine games in, the preseason narrative about this team, that the experienced offense would have to carry a defense replacing a lot of key talent, has been completely flipped on its head. My guess is that Kirby can more than live with that, at least as long as his team avoids the screw ups that led to the embarrassment against South Carolina.
The big question for this week is the injury situation on the offensive line and with Cager. Given the strength of that Auburn defense, we’d better hope Georgia gets lots of good answers to that, the sooner, the better.