Observations from the 20, War Eagle! edition

There is nothing that is not glorious about a 27-6 win over a hated rival, especially when it’s ranked in the top ten in the country, so there aren’t many negative impressions from Saturday night to share, but if there’s one takeaway you should have in the aftermath, it’s this:  Todd Monken is the real deal.

On that note, on to the bullet points.

  • I’ve mentioned it already, but this game was won on the line of scrimmage… er, both lines of scrimmage.  And, while it’s not as if Georgia was doing anything new or exotic based on past schemes on the d-line, that definitely wasn’t the case on the offensive line.  Matt Luke has his charges moving a lot more than Pittman did.  That doesn’t make him a better or worse position coach; what matters is that he was able to get the linemen to execute at a high level all night.  But I guarantee you the change in philosophy we saw on display is going to make a lot of defensive coordinators do some scrambling to counter.
  • That might have been the best game of Ben Cleveland’s career.
  • When you watch Trey Hill block, you realize why the coaches do everything they can to keep him functioning at the center position.  He wasn’t perfect on his shotgun snaps, but he was better and there were no disasters.
  • My first Monken observation:  I can’t remember a single passing play when at least one receiver wasn’t open.  If you watched any of the clips I posted back in the winter and spring after his hire, you could tell that one of his strengths was play design and his ability to get open space for his receivers.
  • Kearis Jackson had his coming out party and that’s going to make George Pickens’ life easier in the weeks to come.  His 17-yard reception on third down to keep the first scoring drive going was the turning point of the game and showed that he’s got excellent chemistry with Bennett.
  • Not gonna lie — watching the tight end run the seam route as a legitimate target is sexually arousing.
  • That being said, both tight ends turned in monster nights as blockers.
  • I think the “Matt Landers has really improved” narrative crashed and burned.
  • My second Monken observation:  maybe we were too quick to give up on James Cook as an inside runner.
  • McIntosh turned in another solid, versatile game.  His football IQ is high.  My favorite play of his was the catch out of the backfield that victimized Bryant’s hard rush upfield.  I bet we’ll see that play a few more times this year.
  • How close is Zeus to breaking a big one?
  • Best goal line Jumbo Package ever?  What made it so great was not just the concept of having Davis and Carter out there, but that they actually blocked their asses off and opened holes for White to run through.  I can’t wait to see that against Todd Grantham’s defense.
  • Bennett got off to a somewhat rocky start, overthrowing FitzPatrick on the first series for what might have been a touchdown.  But that completion to Jackson in the next series completely settled him down.  He throws a catchable ball.  He showed good situational awareness in the pocket most of the night.  Most importantly, he looked ridiculously comfortable running the offense, almost like he was born to run Monken’s scheme.  If I have to ding him for a few things, like not being on the same page with his receivers at times and not picking up a couple of blitz situations as quickly as he could have, almost all of it can be chalked up to a quarterback making his first start against a Kevin Steele-coached defense.  Bennett is only going to get better.
  • If the other team can’t run the ball, then you know the d-line was doing its job.  In particular, Davis and Herring kicked some ass.
  • Ojulari had a dominant game.  Man, did I love the way he blew up Auburn’s last play of the first half!
  • Anderson was a dervish, both in a good way and bad.  A little more control would have netted him another sack on at least one occasion.  Smith had a quiet night, at least for him, better against the run than the pass.  And what happened to Johnson, who didn’t play?
  • The inside backers played the run well, although they let Nix get free more than I liked.  They also allowed Bigsby to get free on a couple of pass receptions.
  • Speaking of best games ever, that was Tyson Campbell’s masterpiece.  He battled Seth Williams all night and pretty much won.  That pass breakup, in particular, was textbook.  He looks like the guy I was hoping for when he signed.
  • I am somewhat curious about why Daniel played more than Stokes did.
  • It was unfortunate that LeCounte got the boot for targeting, but I thought Smith did okay filling in.
  • Louis Cine is rapidly improving.  He’s got big shoes to fill, but it looks like he’s up to the job, and he’s clearly faster than Reed was.
  • Congrats on your first interception, Mark Webb!  Webb also forced a fumble.
  • Special teams were good, but not as good as they were against Arkansas.  Camarda’s first punt, a 63-yarder, went in the end zone, but he did put his other one inside the 20.  Podlesny made all his extra points, but missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.  They did get another good kickoff return out of McIntosh.  Both coverage units were outstanding.
  • Lanning had his defense locked and loaded, preparation-wise.  I never sensed that Auburn threw anything at him he wasn’t ready for — and that’s with a change at offensive coordinator.
  • In case you can’t tell, I’m thrilled with the job Monken did Saturday night.  Sure, the offense is a work in progress, but this team put up almost more than 200 yards over the yardage the 2019 team did against the Tigers in only Monken’s second week of work.  But forget the numbers for a second.  I had the sense the entire night that it was Monken dictating the flow of the game, forcing Steele and the defense to react.  It was apparent on a number of plays that Auburn’s defense was confused by Georgia’s sets.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Georgia offense do that.
  • Despite all the chatter last week about the slow start at Arkansas and the quarterback situation, Smart had his team ready to play, and play they did.  The best part is that they still have plenty of room to improve.  I expect they will.

I know it’s tempting to cry, “rat poison!” after a game like that, with an improving Tennessee team coming to town, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all for the offense to feel better about itself, considering the recent track record.  When you’ve got a quarterback and a coordinator you have confidence in, that can go a long way.  Add to that how physical this team looked all night and we might be on the verge of seeing the triumph of Manball 2.0.

67 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

67 responses to “Observations from the 20, War Eagle! edition

  1. Randy Adams

    You hit. Receivers ran open all night. Tennessee is going to have to figure out a way to stop Georgia’s passing attack that has not problem throwing over the middle of the field. If McKitty is back, it just adds one more weapon to that side of the ball that is starting to figure it out.

    Like

    • californiadawg

      “Tennessee is going to have to figure out a way to stop Georgia’s passing attack…”

      It’s been a long time since an opponent had to worry about our passing attack. Feels good, huh?

      Like

  2. On the “avoid rat poison” side of things, after the game Kirby was ticked about the number of 3rd downs Auburn converted after the half. So the best unit on the filed isn’t going to be allowed to rest on their laurels.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. gastr1

    A couple of points:
    People seem to not know this, but James Cook is not actually tiny. He’s like 5’11”, 190. Could be a little heavier, but he’s not Darren Sproles…or even Barry Sanders (who was only 5’8″).

    Pickens needs to step up the blocking. I think that’s the only reason Landers gets in the game at all, personally. But Landers is a waste on routes, as we all know.

    Podlesny missed that 43-yarder but he so far looks like a real keeper at kicker. Kickoffs have been good too.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Derek

    What I like about the offense so far is that it seems to steal from everything and is made easy for the qb. They’re not just chucking it around and not just hammering it up the gut. Its like he’s taken what is hard to defend from a lot of various offenses and put it in.

    Once you read the defense correctly, get the blocking assignments right and get in the right play, it appears to me like a one option system for the passer.

    Tom Brady got to be the goat doing that. If you know where you’re going pre-snap and get the ball out quickly and accurately the defense is pretty helpless.

    I also like that we’re maintaining our character as a balanced, physical offense.

    Big props for solving (so far) the rz and short yardage issues that we’ve had throughout the smart era.

    Liked by 5 people

    • dawg100

      For instance, that White route out of the backfield on their 12 after a short loss was simply gorgeous.

      Like

    • Russ

      I agree, Derek. We haven’t given up on what we like to do, but it just seems like Monken has a better mix on what to do when. Last year, starting with the Vandy game, it seemed like we would throw wide a few times, hammer the 8 man box repeatedly, and eventually carve out some points. I never felt like the offense rolled.

      By contrast, even when we struggled against Arkansas with penalties and missed assignments, it seemed like we were doing things a little differently. QB actually kept on the RPO. We actually threw to the TE. Once we found a set OL combo and Stetson calmed the offense down, we moved the ball well. And the more reps SBIV gets with the one’s,the better the offense will be.

      Like

  5. Auburn appeared to avoid going after Tyson Campbell, showing he was definitely locked in as the lockdown CB.

    D.J. Daniel does not seem to have the awareness that Campbell does (or, at least, the sense of hearing people yell “ball”) that would have him turn around to look for the ball in coverage. With that said, I share your question about Stokes — was he fully healthy?

    Like

    • dawg100

      I didn’t review tape as they say, but it looked like maybe Webb moved to corner/safety along with Cine and Strokes might have been moved up to star after LeCounte went out. When we were looking for him as well, he was near the ball a lot in the second half, but not as a CB.

      Like

  6. Previously Paul

    I don’t understand what’s going on with Landers but I sure hope we’re done throwing him the ball.

    Like

  7. siskey

    The goal-line play where Jalen Carter pulls and hits the DE (I think it was Bryant) is a beautiful thing to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gotthepicture

      So putting Carter and other DL on the jumbo GL package worked (well), but I have a question: why wouldn’t you just use your 2nd string OL guys to do that? If you’ve got a 300 lb backup guard whose job is blocking, wouldn’t you want them to do more of that?

      The other things on my mind were:
      1. Need to get 7 instead of 3 on that drive when we fired 3 incomplete passes with 1st and Goal to go.
      2. Senator mentioned the few times that SB wasn’t on the same page as the receivers. Not sure who was at fault there, but that also happened on Mathis’ first pick last week. I wonder if that’s inexperienced WRs more than the QB.
      3. Staying with the WRs, I know Pickens got flagged for 1 hold and I thought there was another hold from the receivers. Maybe get Hines Ward to do a guest day of coaching WRs how to block (kidding, not kidding).

      Like

      • I think the idea with Carter is that he played FB in high school so he has a better feel for how to block from that position than, say, a backup guard might have.

        Putting Walker at TE to block on those plays is also a genius move. Think about how well Walker runs — even covering Tank Bigsby on that downfield play. Next, let’s say we have a 3rd and inches or 4th and inches that isn’t on the goal line — that it’s on the 20. Would you rather have the athletic freak that is Travon Walker in at TE to go out into a pattern and run by a DE who might be assigned to “cover” him, or would you rather see Owen Condon ambling out there? I would not be surprised to see a play like this at some point in the season — even on the goal line — because play action off that formation is the next step.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Bay Area Dawg

    If someone is a ref can they explain to me how LeCounte is supposed to try and make the tackle on the play he was ejected. Since the player was going down already is LeCounte supposed just not make a play on the ball and let the receiver secure the catch and just be down by falling to the ground.

    I am all for taking plays the like the Smoke Monday play out of the game that was clear targeting, but the LeCounte play was a football play. There was not malicious intent on LeCounte parts.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Russ

      As the rule is written, it doesn’t matter what the offensive player does. If you hit the head/neck area, it’s targeting. Lecounte lead with his shoulder, which is the right way, but his head did hit the other guy in the head. By rule, I think it was the right call.

      As you know, they are trying to take the big hits out of the game. The hit on Mathis by Pool was textbook targeting. Not sure why no announcer ever mentioned that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bay Area Dawg

        I get that. It’s just a bad rule if you ask me. If you watch the replay LeCounte breaks on the ball while it is in the air and starts to make the hit. I just don’t understand how you expect a player to make a play on the ball when a player is catching the ball and going to the ground. The target area gets smaller as the player gets closer to the ground. As a player I am sure he was aiming for his shoulder/back but he came up into the head area to complete the hit.

        If you ask me the Smoke Monday hit and the Richard LeCounte hit are not the same thing. Smoke Monday lowered his head and ear holed KJ. That is the perfect example of the type of hit which football is trying to do away with.

        Just my thoughts as a former safety.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Russ

          I don’t disagree. Lecounte’s hit was similar to the hit in the Clemson-Ohio State game last year. The ball carrier ducks (instinctively) and the end and winds up helmet to helmet with the defender. I guess you just have to focus on wrapping and not hitting? I don’t know but it’s tough to do full speed.

          Liked by 1 person

      • It’s helmet to helmet contact with the crown of the helmet that is the dangerous play. The shoulder lead with the helmets making incidental contact isn’t targeting no matter what the rule book says.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Russ

          Any hit to the head/neck on a “defenseless” player (yeah, define that!) is targeting. I mean, they got rid of the head slap for the same reason years ago. Helmet to helmet is obviously bad, but shoulder/forearm slap to the head will draw the same penalty.

          Like

          • The shoulder hits the receiver’s back shoulder blade. It was a clean hit and should have been overturned by the replay booth. The head slap or forearm above the neck is an intentional dirty play.

            We can all say it didn’t end up costing us (other than losing LeCounte for the 2nd half), but if Auburn goes in for a TD on that drive, takes away momentum, and we end up losing, it would have been the play that changed the game.

            I’m all for player safety, but this play isn’t the reason the targeting foul was put into place.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Tony BarnFart

      Pretty sure even Chris Doering in the studio late saturday was lamenting the Lecounte call. Said he understood it, but made the point that we’ve done what we needed with the rule (trained a generation of kids not to go after each other with our most vulnerable appendage)…….now they need to move on from targetting 1.0 and get around to applying intent.

      Like

  9. theotherdoug

    Monken and Bennett are making the defense defend the entire field whether it’s the flats, the deep ball, over the middle, or between the tackles.

    What is the weak link on defense? I think that’s gonna be keeping Chaney up late this week.

    Like

    • siskey

      I think they will try to trick us with something early and play as slow as possible to keep the offense off the field. I am concerned about this game because Bama is next week but I think that Kirby will keep everyone humble and focused. If we win the next two games we get Kentucky, a bye, and then the Florida game for a spot in Atlanta.

      Like

  10. practicaldawg

    Of all the things the OL did well, seeing them crack an 8’ wide hole for Zeus on the goal line was the most refreshing site I’ve seen in ages.

    Liked by 7 people

    • JaxDawg

      Completely agree. I think it’s partly because of Monken, but a lot recruiting. We’ve had some good DLs, but I don’t think we’ve had Davis and Carter quality in a long time. Their work on the goal line is the type of man-ball we can all appreciate. “Where going to run behind these two, try and stop us.” A thing of beauty.

      Like

  11. originaluglydawg

    What an amazing turn of events at QB.
    A year ago…a few weeks ago, most would say, “I hope we never have to play Stetson”.
    Today, we would say, “We’re in deep trouble if SB4 goes down.”.
    Just an amazing story and one that should continue as he practices as the established starter.
    That was maybe the best overall Dawg performance in years.
    Congrats to the whole team!
    FTMFHB

    Like

  12. I was pleased to see Stetson Bennett with a wad of tobacco in his mouth late in the 4th quarter. I am rooting for that kid.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. W Cobb Dawg

    Seems like it’s been quite a while since we’ve had an OC who knew what a jumbo package was and actually used it. Can’t wait to see what Monken will dial up for the Wild Dawg.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. spur21

    Gentlemen (and ladies too) we have a real football TEAM. Kirby has assembled a terrific roster as well as a tremendous staff.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Dawg in Austin

    While I agree with most of your observations, I do disagree with a couple of things. My inner Munson says these are real problems:
    1) Blitz pickup by Bennett and the OL. Bennett is not recognizing blitzes and rotating protections. I know he’s mobile but it’s going to hurt us if he doesn’t figure this out. The OL isn’t shifting consistently either.
    2) TE and WR blocking on runs is poor and we’re missing out on explosive runs because of it
    3) The secondary is getting bailed out by the best UGA front 7 of our lifetime. Several busted coverages in which we were lucky weren’t exposed and drops by Auburn’s WRs bailed them out further in key spots.
    4) Bennett’s accuracy needs to be better

    #1-3 are fixable, which makes me happy. #4 isn’t, but can be overcome if #1-3 get fixed.

    Like

    • originaluglydawg

      Bennet has not had the benefit of working with the first team during camp and leading up to the season. In fact, he worked with the third team. He hasn’t had the coaching and reps to be doing all of those things. He should get better..although he’ll never be perfect…(not many players are). He does have the best mobility to escape a rush and make plays than any QB we’ve had in a long time.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. DawgFlan

    I jumped out of my seat and yelled “I formation with a fullback!” with glee even before the snap or realizing Carter was the FB. And then seeing Zeus score untouched… delicious.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Super happy for the Mailman. He looked calm and collected outside of the first drive. One concern I had after re-watching was that SBIV seemed to get away with a few errant throws – including a few that a better defense would likely intercept. He had Pickens on a comeback TD by the pylon early in the game that he badly mis-threw to the inside of the receiver – Pickens had to play defense to preserve the possession.

    Other examples were the sailed out route over Pickens’ head, and the long pass to Jackson over the top that KJ had to slow down to gather, nearly allowing Auburn to catch up. Closer coverage (props to Jackson for getting 6 steps behind the D) and that is only 50/50 ball at best, picked off at worst. Speaking of Jackson, several of his catches could have gone for much more YAC, but he had to leap/slide/wait etc on the pass. He had a leaping catch in the 2nd half on a third down where there was no one around him, but had to leap near the sideline rather than turn upfield for a possible TD. I think with more reps those passes could turn into more leading throws, allowing the receivers to stay upright rather than just catch falling down.

    Of course for all the throws that were off, there were a few that were beauties… The Pickens TD and the Matt Landers QuitRoute were things of beauty. That teardrop mid route seems to be his best touch pass. I think Stetson had a good day, and can only assume he will continue to improve with reps and game experience. Every QB has bad throws of course – I’m just not ready to feel super comfortable with the position yet. I think a better secondary and a few of those might have cost us.

    TL/DR – SBIV looked good for the most part, but had some concerning throws that didn’t end up hurting us (This time). Hopeful that more reps with help iron out those issues.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Gaskilldawg

    I know I will get a lot of disagreement with this post and perhaps some ridicule but here goes. I didn’t think Landers “quit” on that route it looked to me that he lost the ball in the lights and didn’t know where the ball was.
    Okay, have at it.

    Like

    • I dunno… re-watched it last night. He toasted the corner, but seemed to immediately gear down. Maybe it was because he lost the ball and was thinking it might be short. His face/body language afterwards sure made him look guilty of loafing.

      Speaking of body language – Kirby is gonna love the look on D’Wan’s face in the 4th Quarter during mop-up work. I get that the kid is frustrated, but that might be a quick route to third string.

      Like

  19. Gaskilldawg

    Let me add, in reference to the offensive line, that Auburn’s big star, returning defensive end Big Cat Bryant got zero tackles. Warren McClendon shut him down completely.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Illini84

    Factor in the weather for Saturday , as Groucho said “What’s that, I can’t heah you, they’d a hurricane down heah”!

    Like

  21. Ozam

    If you want a much better understanding of the changes that Monkin put into our offense check out Dawg Sports…specifically the Battle Hymnal by The Chapel Bell Curve guys. A fascinating 45 minute listen.

    Like

  22. Tony BarnFart

    As Jim Donnan is fond of saying on the UGA rivals podcast, we look really good “on the hoof.” Particularly the defense. You can just simply look at the personnel and their bodies and know that no offense is going to have its way with it. Some teams may have their moments, sure, but nobody is going to get over on that defense. It’s a fully harvested death star at this point.

    Like

  23. Russ

    Okay, I don’t usually compliment other teams’ players, but Bigsby is a good back. I’m happy with our backfield but I’m going to hate seeing Bigsby back there for Auburn for the next few years. He runs hard and can catch the ball.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Castleberry

    That AU call at the end of the first half was so bush league. Do you suppose it is fair game for the opposition to “blow them up” when they’re in the victory formation going forward??

    I really, really wanted us to burn remaining timeouts there.

    Like

  25. Castleberry

    I really liked what we saw from Kendall Milton late. More please.

    Like

  26. RangerRuss

    No mistake about it. I loved that Win and with the exception of the interminable commercial breaks I had a rollicking, raucous good time.
    UGA 27- Auburn 6 was the flourish that capped an excellent birthday weekend. I would’ve enjoyed it a bit more except for the fact that
    AUBURN SUCKS !!

    Like

  27. Cleveland whooped ass.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. NotMyCrossToBear

    Monken is good OC. Coley sucked. Where are all the “it’s the jimmies and joes”people from last year? Imma hang up and listen….

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s Jimmies & Joes and Xs and Os. We had the Js&Js last year with what seemed to be a failure to emphasize Xs&Os. Hopefully, what we have now is what Bama has – an excellent offensive mind (Steve Sarkisian) combined with elite talent.

      Like

  29. bmacdawg87

    One other thing I noticed… was Mathis’ sour ass facial expressions and body language when he was called to finish off the game. Add that to the fact that when he was pulled last week he went and sat and sulked on the bench instead of remaining engaged in what was going on on the field. I was really rooting for the kid, but these are some significant red flags as to his attitude/mental toughness as a whole.

    Liked by 3 people