Observations from the 35, Mizzou edition

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.

64 Comments

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64 responses to “Observations from the 35, Mizzou edition

  1. Former Fan

    That one “delayed” blitz was more of a linebacker read. Missou blitzed the corner. When the LB saw that the RB was going to pick up the corner, he came hard. The LB’s job was to cover the RB if he came out on a route, or was handed the ball. When neither of those happened, it freed him up to go to the QB. It was a really good option play for the D.

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  2. Can we talk for a minute about the maturation of the team since last season’s Mizzou game?

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  3. Paul

    I know you’re sick of people complaining about our lack of creativity offensively. You have to admit though, after three years of stratospheric recruiting it can be difficult to watch a talent laden team whose reason for being is “grind on offense, don’t screw up on special teams, don’t turn the ball over and let the defense do its thing.” It not only leaves you susceptible to the kind of loss we saw against SC, it’s just plain boring. I’m wondering if it will eventually affect our ability to land elite players. I’m old. I grew up on defensive football. Love me some Erk. However, the game has changed. Yes, you still win or lose on the line of scrimmage, but you have to win the hearts and minds of teenagers to get them in your locker room.

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    • Derek

      Turnovers lead to losses like USC, period. Chucking it around doesn’t lead to fewer of those.

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      • Otto

        Turnovers lead to loss is True but better design routes can create separation for easier throws and catches. Better timing of calling the passes also helps, such as the late 3rd down conversion in Jax when a run to kill the clock was the predictable call..

        Asking for a better passing game isn’t the same as asking for 50 attempts a game. The Senator posted links to analysis after the SC game showing how predictable play calling was in that game. If the D knows you’re running majority of the time except for 3rd and 6+ which majority pass, they have a 1 dimensional opponent.

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    • I’m not arguing with you that there’s room for a little more offensive creativity.

      It’s just that Kirby strongly disagrees with both of us on that. 😉

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    • Bat City Dawg

      +1 on we are somewhat boring to watch. I realize an exciting loss would also leave a somewhat empty feeling inside, but damn if we aren’t one of the most boring teams to watch.

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    • Tony Barnfart

      And I think having three 5star QBs sign up in a row only adds to all that. We play very risk averse for the amount of talent we have on the offensive side of the ball.

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  4. Tronan

    I heard some complaints about the playcalling on Saturday, but I think it was fine, by and large. If the passing game had been sharper, then the final score would have been something like 41-0. In other words, a big blowout.

    And, yes, Mizzou’s D looked pretty good. Chippy, but one of the best units we’ve played this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reverend Whitewall

    I’m really curious to see about Cager. On the tv broadcast, as he was walking off the field, he let out one of those big yells of frustration that you see guys do when they think they’ve really injured/re-injured themselves. I was honestly surprised how Kirby downplayed it after the game, based on Cager’s reaction in the moment. I sure hope Kirby was right.

    And totally agree about Landers. I hope the kid can get out of his own head. You can see all the ability there from the physical side.

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    • Dawgwalker07

      The guy is dealing with repeated shoulder dislocations. It can’t be comfortable and each one he has limits him physically and increases the chances of having another one. It’s gotta be a frustrating situation, and I would think there’s a solid chance of him having surgery after the season to stabilize it (or before the bowl if it isn’t a CFP appearance).

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  6. As little confidence as Landers has in himself, I have less.

    Jackson maybe coming on is a good thing though. He’s a good blocker, so being able to leave him out there on passing plays should help break some of the obvious personnel tendencies.

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    • The Truth

      You can’t have less confidence in Landers than I do, it’s not possible. I can’t get over his lack of effort on some catches. He’s obviously done some good work in practice to keep getting a chance, but it’s way past time to sit him and Simmons and concentrate on Cager, Pickens, Robertson, and Blaylock (with maybe Jackson sneaking a few plays into the mix). Let that core group use the last quarter of the season to develop better rhythm and confidence with Jake that will hopefully carry over into the post-season.

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  7. The other Doug

    I wonder why Fromm stayed in for the entire game. With the OL issues I would have thought Kirby wouldn’t want to risk him, but maybe the best way to preserve the shut out was with a good offense.

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    • Bulldog Joe

      With a backup center and the ball on the five yard line, I can see why Fromm stayed in the game.

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      • RangerRuss

        I agree with both Doug and Joe. It also helped getting a few more game speed snaps for Fromm and Salyer. Man, that’s a pretty good third string center.

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  8. Saltwater Dawg

    It was a pleasant game, and I’m glad the wind wasn’t blowing much.

    it seemed the flashing lights knob was dialed back a bit since the Notre Dame game.

    There isn’t anything more to say about the defense.

    In the first half, I was surprised with the WR groupings. I only counted 3 plays with Cager, Pickens and D-Rob on the field. And way too many plays with none of them on the field (in that 1 is too many IMO). WR isn’t the most physically demanding position on the field, and I don’t get why we don’t keep our best players on the field more.

    Unlike SC, we went downfield a bit more often against the single safety D they were showing. There were a few times where the showed no safety back and we still ran the ball.

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  9. BigD

    When you think about it, Bama never really had much more than a somewhat competent offense until Junior/Jalen/Tua showed up. They always got it done with Defense.

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  10. Bright Idea

    I’m still most concerned about the running game. Having pretty much abandoned under center has LBers sitting on the mesh point with Fromm never running. Shotgun running game is so vanilla and the play action is less effective as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bat City Dawg

      I will go ahead and say it here like I do every week. Jake has got to keep it on the read a few times. He showed the last two weeks after scrambles he isn’t made of glass. He has got to keep them honest.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Bulldog Joe

    I watched the replay yesterday.

    As an analyst, Brian Griese is very good. He is right up there with Todd Blackledge. Understandably, there’s a strong appreciation for well-prepared Georgia’s ‘no-name’ defense is.

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  12. Normaltown Mike

    Why go for two? So that 3 TD’s and 2 FG’s doesn’t beat you. Obv.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “But the reality was they came in with a game plan they stuck to, because Missouri never gave them a reason to change anything.”
    While I agree with you on that statement it is concerning that we haven’t shown the ability to do anything differently against good competition, so that cuts both ways. The 5 field goal attempts to me is a red flag. If we score a couple of more TD’s in the first half the game is put away early. Maybe without that pressure we are spared a some of those injuries.
    I haven’t seen us come close to playing an offensive game against good competition that makes me think we could keep up with LSU.

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  14. The play-calling has been much more varied. The outside runs were mixed in with trying to run between the tackles. There were formations to get players in space, but there was a bad snap that killed a drive, a bad sack taken by Fromm that killed a drive, and the Pickens illegal formation penalty that took away a TD. The plays were there to win by 40+, but execution was just not there. That isn’t a Coley problem, and I have been critical of the play-calling earlier this season. But, objectively, the plays were there. I don’t know what you are supposed to do when your 3rd year starting QB is missing open throws and/or reads, and your centers keep getting hurt.

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    • JaxDawg

      This. Classic glass half empty or full dynamic when looking at this team. Play calling has improved, and the lack of execution has prevented that from being what it otherwise could have been.

      It could have been a blow out in Jacksonville. And it could have been an even bigger blowout against mizzou.

      I really don’t think it’s a stretch to think that this offense can keep improving, and we’re ready to play our best football going into the SEC championship. That’s how I’m going to choose to see it. Go dawgs!

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  15. Classic City Canine

    Senator, I don’t understand your contentment with the manball approach. I’m over here pulling my hair out because of it.

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    • Contentment isn’t the word I’d use to describe my attitude. It’s more like passive acceptance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tony Barnfart

        Yes. 9 games in, I have moved on to convincing myself that we can grind the game down into something resembling World War 1 and stay in the fight with anybody.

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        • Gurkha Dawg

          Word War 1 was the greatest waste of men in the history of mankind. Oh! , great analogy.

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          • wallybuttsin

            Well, there was that guy Pyrrhus a long time back. He was phenomenal at throwing away men. You have to love the quote, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
            But if going on strictly numbers and not percentages, WWI is/was a great way to go.

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  16. Part of the reason the 2pt conversion worked so well was because 8 was so busy jawing (which he did a lot of throughout the game)w/Pickens, even after he just got toasted. So much so that he bit hard with Pickens inside route and left the flat open for Cook.
    Also, Hot Rod’s miss came from almost the same distance and the left hash and East end zone that he missed vs SC. Hoping that’s not a trend.

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  17. Texas Dawg

    What continues to befuddle me is the difficulty our receivers have in getting open (other than Cager and now Pickens). Jake has to be almost perfect on every throw due to the small window he has. Is it that our Jimmy’s and Joe’s are not as good as their recruiting rankings, is it coaching, or is it play calling?

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    • dawgman3000

      It’s called throwing your receivers open and I don’t think Fromm is that good at it. Sure, the wr’s have had their share of struggles, but I’m not going to sit back believe that the passing game troubles are all on them either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bat City Dawg

        It is interesting to look at Mecole now. Last year he had 35 catches at an avg of 15.5 yds per reception, and 7 TDs. Through 10 games as a Chief he has 21 catches for an average of 20.8 yds per reception, and 5 TDs (5 catches for > 30 yds). You would think a guy putting up those stats in the NFL as a rookie would have been dominate in college!

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    • Bulldog Joe

      Mostly, it’s the Jimmies and Joes. Our top five receivers from last season left the team, four of them early.

      We were starting over with the passing game and there was a lack of trust from the coaching staff, even with a third year starter at QB.

      That gap is finally closing, but the position group is thin in numbers and experience. Next to QB, it’s the position we can least afford to lose people to injury.

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      • The Truth

        A 3-star, sophomore WR from Tifton, GA, lit up Penn St for 207 yds in Minnesota’s victory on Saturday. Are we that bad at talent evaluation or is the staff at Minn putting him in a better position to be successful? Sorry, I’m voting for #2.

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  18. Guy on a Buffalo

    Georgia has faced a backup QB in 5 of 6 SEC games. Only starter was Vandy’s Riley Neal on opening day.

    Good practice for championship games at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Dawg abides

      That’s not exactly an absolute truth. UK and Mizzou were the only games where the previous game’s starter couldn’t go and was replaced by the backup. And predictably those games were the two shutouts. UTk used its off week to change starters because Guarantano wasn’t getting it done, Mauer was named the starter and looked pretty good against us for a quarter. Hilinski and Trask had replaced injured starters weeks earlier, and I seriously doubt either team would go back to the previous starter if healthy. I even cast doubt on whether Bentley’s injury was season ending, I think they just decided to go with the more talented freshman for the future. Bentley is done at USCjr, as he participated in senior day.

      The Hilinski and Trask situations remind me of Fromm’s first year. By the Mississippi St. game, Jake was the starter. Period. It didn’t matter if Eason’s injury was season ending or not.

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  19. BuffaloSpringfield

    I hear your passive acceptance Senator. Might I ask how would your stance be on fighting out of a yellow jacket nest ( LSU ) you better have a quicker stance ( not at all passive ) to get outta that cause your not winning if you move like a elephant. ( no Bama pun intended ) Do you really think we can score quickly ? I think this weekend will be definitely O/U 30 so perhaps the offense which I refer to is “Trudge to Budge” might be enough if We have 0 turnovers. If we are lucky because strange things happen on the “Plains.”
    The A and Mer’s have yet to beat a ranked team but USCjr had not either. We have have post game dinner at the Waffle House to end this up.
    After that there is a unique little item I carry around in the summer, it’s called a “Sting Stick” when you run into those pesky fight in’ mad little devils that cover you up before you can move.

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