Observations from the end zone, Queen City edition

There’s an obvious question to ask about Georgia’s opener.  If someone had told you before the game that the Dawgs wouldn’t score an offensive touchdown, whiff on a makeable field goal and lose the turnover margin battle, what kind of final result would you have predicted?

Yeah, me, too.

Instead, the defense bowed up, gave us a collective “we got this” and led the team to its biggest win since the Rose Bowl.  Unlike that game, it was a grinder with only one truly thrilling moment, but, as it turned out, one thrill was enough.

And with that, on to our friends, the bullet points.

  • If Georgia’s o-line didn’t have the best of nights, it was still better than Clemson’s.  Daniels was only sacked once, on a perfectly executed stunt by Murphy that wasn’t picked up (Ericson?).  Georgia averaged just shy of four yards per rush, which may not seem like much, but compared to Clemson’s two total yards rushing, was monumental.  The problem was consistency, something that was exacerbated when Ratledge was lost for the season on the first series of the game.  (Given how much Monken attacked Clemson’s perimeter, Ratledge’s ability to pull was missed.)  All that being said, don’t forget how Georgia closed the game out with a 10-play, all runs, drive.  You don’t do that behind an offensive line not getting the job done.  The big question from here is how soon the coaches decide to move Salyer inside.
  • One other thing about the o-line — it still feels like it’s transitioning from the pure power of Pittman’s approach to Luke’s preference for mobility.
  • It was JT’s least effective game as a starter, but I really doubt he’s that broken up about it.  Yeah, he was constrained by the injuries to the receiving corps and Venables’ emphasis on taking away the deep pass — I was surprised early on by how deep Clemson’s safeties were deployed — but he’s had better games reading the defense and finding the open man than he did Saturday night.  The interception was a bad decision, plain and simple.  I also wonder what would have happened on the play when the ball slipped out of his hands, because Smith had slipped open for what would have been a touchdown pass.
  • Speaking of the receiving corps, it was noticeably depleted.  And it did limit Georgia’s offense, not just in terms of catching options, but also, as I posted previously, in terms of blocking.  There were several short passes that should have broken for decent yardage had a receiver been able to make and hold a block on a Clemson defensive back.  Johnson did have one nice catch.  McConkey showed that his future is working out of the slot.  Mitchell looks like what he is right now, a talented true freshman with potential.  He didn’t have a catch, but drew two PI calls; more work in the weight room will help his ability to beat defensive backs.  Burton and Rosemy-Jacksaint look like they’re still working their way back physically.  Robinson did some surprisingly good work as a blocker, but that’s only half the game.  Let’s just say that there’s room for improvement and leave it at that for now.
  • Tight ends were a different story.  Fitzpatrick only had one catch, but he was a tenacious blocker all game long.  Bowers was a pleasant surprise.  Great hands and, for someone playing in his first college game, a good route runner.  He almost pulled off a great touchdown catch, despite Arian Smith.  (I can’t imagine the play was designed for both to wind up in the same area of the end zone.)  This is going to be a formidable bunch once Washington returns.
  • If there was any doubt before the game who running back number one was, Zamir White ended that.  He ran tough, showed good vision and had a couple of beautiful cuts.  He also contributed in the passing game, both picking up the blitz and also as a receiver.  You also had to love the way he channeled his inner Richard Samuel, 2011 Cocktail Party version, to put the game away on that soul crushing final drive.  Whatever rust he had from his injuries is gone.
  • Cook played well, although his stats don’t really reflect that, especially in the passing game.  He made a great decision to cut inside to pick up a critical first down on Georgia’s last drive.
  • White may be the present, but Milton is clearly the future.
  • The defense — jeez, what can you say?  It’s hard to believe it’s gotten faster, but it’s definitely gotten faster.  Just ask Clemson’s offensive linemen.  There’s speed at every level.  The way some of Georgia’s defenders burst out of scrums at the line of scrimmage to finish at the quarterback was stunning to watch.
  • Every one of you who ignored Jordan Davis as a preseason all-SEC player ought to be feeling pretty stupid right now.  He wrecked the inner part of Clemson’s o-line all night long.
  • He got plenty of support from the likes of Walker, Wyatt and Carter, too.  Carter and Walker notched sacks; Wyatt had a couple of pass breakups.
  • If there’s one thing that surprised me it was how stout the linebackers were in pass coverage.  Clemson took plenty of shots with wheel routes, to no avail.
  • The best thing about Nolan Smith’s sack was watching the way Clemson’s left tackle kind of shrugged his shoulders after the play.  (By the way, between holding and illegal motion, that dude should have had a bunch of penalty flags thrown his way all night.)
  • Nakobe Dean is really coming into his own.  I know it’s easy to make the Roquan comparisons, since they play the same position, but one reason the defense is faster is because Dean knows exactly what he’s doing, down after down.
  • Channing Tindall played like someone who wants a lot more playing time.  And it’s hard to see how the coaches deny him.
  • No, the secondary wasn’t perfect, but their performance will do until perfect shows up.  At least two of Georgia’s seven sacks were coverage sacks.  There were a number of plays where there simply weren’t any open receivers.
  • Ringo got picked on, but you can see why the staff is so high on him.  Tons of physical upside, great speed.  Just has to work on improving his technique.
  • Outside of that, it’s hard to be critical.  Cine, outside of whiffing on one tackle, had a brilliant night, with a key pass breakup on a play that otherwise would have resulted in a critical first down.
  • Speed and Brini have become real assets.  Brini almost single-handedly kept Clemson out of the end zone on its biggest scoring threat of the night.
  • And then there’s Christopher Smith, who turned in the play of the game (duh).  That was a fantastic job of baiting the quarterback into making the wrong throw.
  • I didn’t understand Dabo’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-five at the time and I still don’t today.  Clemson had all its time outs, its defense had been playing almost as well as Georgia’s and a good punt would have pinned the Dawgs deep.  It was the kind of decision that, had Kirby made it, would have garnered all sorts of criticism.
  • Georgia’s special teams effort was, to be kind, something of a mixed bag.  The biggest mistake, Milton’s accidental touch of a punt, was bailed out by Smith’s pick six.  But Podlesny’s whiff on a very makeable field goal attempt really kept things closer then they should have been.  That being said, in a grinder of a game like that, field position was extremely critical and Georgia’s punting game absolutely killed it.  Clemson had zero punt return yards.  Aside from Camarda’s placement wizardry, Arian Smith had a huge play where he downed the ball inside Clemson’s five.  He’s an inspired choice as a gunner.
  • One thing I have to admit is that Dabo is elite at working the refs.  That pass interference call on Speed was all on him.
  • Okay, it wasn’t Monken’s finest hour, either.  But I suspect it would have looked better if some of those perimeter plays had been blocked properly.  That being said, it felt like attacking the perimeter was a deliberate strategy to wear down Clemson’s defense and judging from the last four and a half minutes of the game, that strategy was a success.
  • Dan Lanning had a monster night.  The man knows how to dial up just the right blitz call.
  • So did Kirby Smart.  It was a heavyweight fight against the number three team in the country and his team maintained its composure all night.  It was Dabo Swinney, not Kirby Smart, who took a chance on a questionable call late in the game.  In a way, the night reminded me of that moment in the 2002 Cocktail Party, when I suddenly realized that Georgia felt comfortable and on the same level with an opponent it had struggled with for a decade.  (Admittedly this was better, since Georgia won.)  I’m not predicting that the Dawgs are winning a natty this season, but they certainly looked like they belong in the conversation — even on a night when the offense didn’t get in the end zone.  That’s a helluva thing.

There was a lot to overcome, now that I think about it.  A tough, well prepared (at least on defense) opponent.  An offense that was missing quite a few quality parts.  And yet, when all was said and done, Georgia won a game in which it never trailed and in so doing, answered a lot of questions about itself.  That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement, as there obviously is on the offensive side of the ball.  But this team seems to have its collective shit together for 2021.  Enjoy the ride, folks.


Filed under Georgia Football

52 responses to “Observations from the end zone, Queen City edition

  1. Shit, hard to tack on to that…well done…I still am amazed at Jordan Davis getting double sometimes triple teamed and still pushing the line in…he’s a bad dude and I hope he gets to continue to eat

    Liked by 7 people

  2. RangerRuss

    Steel on target, Bluto.

    Liked by 10 people

  3. Derek

    Didn’t make any sense, but the last time I was that confident as an underdog outside of Sanford was the “we run this state” game. I wasn’t sure of the how, but I had no hesitation about the outcome going in.

    We weren’t losing the tech in 2009 and were were NOT losing to clemson in 2021. We just wouldn’t let it happen. No way.

    I feel less confident about Saturday vs. UAB.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. siskey

    I was anxious and nervous the entire game. I was happy with how the team was playing but shades of Bama last year and the big completions they had for touchdowns left me in an edgy state until the clock hit 0:00. I agree with Derek about this weekend’s game. We need to get up by 21 and then play ball control and we can’t afford to let UAB hang around.

    Liked by 5 people

    • originaluglydawg

      I will go as far as to suggest that UAB would be the second best team in the ACC.
      I know we want to run and practice the whole offensive playbook, but manball may be the order of the day if the team’s been partaking of rat poison.
      Most of us Georgia fans never breath easy. There’s always TMGTE lurking.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Geezus

    One thing I noticed was that we started making a little better hay once Monken shift to the “sugar” huddle (I HATE that term). It seemed like Venebles late adjustments to his D were causing more issues for us than we realized. Without the time to call in adjustments, they were more flatfooted (seemed to me anyway).

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Great post, Senator. As you have said multiple times this week, when can you win as an underdog against a top 3 team and still have plenty of room to improve? Kirby Smart’s dream … I imagine he ratcheted up the intensity at practice this week to get these guys focused.

    For the Dawg Nation, let’s give these guys props and get to Sanford early to let them know we appreciate what Saturday night was.

    Liked by 7 people

  7. Granthams Replacement

    When the 82nd airborne jumped out of the choppers and their parachutes were red and black I knew it was over. Lot of ulcers over the next 3.5 hours but those type games forge great teams.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. spur21

    I have seen some chatter on the interweb that JT is working through a injury to his midsection (ribs ?) and has been for about 2 weeks. It was also noted Beck got nearly equal work with the one’s over the same time period.

    If true that would explain not having much of a deep passing game.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Anon

    I noticed Kirby’s demeanor on the sideline resembled that of a head coach. He wasn’t running around screaming and he kept his composure all game. I know I have been critical in the past of Coach K keeping his cool and being calm during the game. Allows go to keep his head in the game. Maybe having Lanning, Monken, Muschamp around him he doesn’t feel he needs to hands on coach every player every down.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. ASEF

    Biggest surprise to me was how flustered DJ was. And for the people talking about how it was just inexperience…

    DJ wasn’t flustered last season when he had to step in for Trevor, When his team went down 18 to Boston College. When he played Notre Dame at their place. He put up big numbers and made big plays.

    DJ looked intimidated by Georgia’s defense – physically intimidated, plus not real confident in what he was seeing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • akascuba

      I think DJ has yet to grasp what is needed to be the man on a top tier program. Dressing like Cam Newton ( look at me outfit ) after the game implied to me a sense of entitlement for a 1-2 record as a starter at Clemson. Play like Cam Newton in college and you have earned the right to dress any dam way you want.

      Dabo has QB problems if not solved in the next year or two it’s possible the Bobby Bowden slide for him. Having that special QB every single season is so hard to find. Making what Saban continues to do ever more amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ASEF

        It’s funny, because Dabo makes such a big deal about his program culture, uses it as a shield against any and all criticism or suggestions of change. I had that thought too when I saw the clip: where’s the mentoring? Judgement? It’s a huge football game, not a debutant debut.

        Program culture’s primary purpose is to avoid having to learn lessons the hard way.

        Liked by 2 people

      • ZeroPOINTzero

        A friend of mine’s son is on the Clemson team. Clemson had a tailor come in and measure and make a suit for every player for game days. The kids got to pick the fabric, design, etc. for their own suit. I suppose that was his. I assume most top programs do this?


    • originaluglydawg

      When you look up and see JD (with bad intentions towards you) just a few feet away, being nervous might mean that you’re human.


  11. mp

    I finished my rewatch (or first time watch sober) last night. Man, the offense would have been completely different if there’s competent blocking from the WR’s to spring some perimeter plays AND the play of Ericson at RG. I know he was injured (broken hand) and I know he was not playing his usual position (center), but don’t we have a better option with him struggling like that?!? That is what I feel is the biggest indictment of Luke as line coach – stacked with four and five stars and were using a lineman with a broken hand out of position.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think Georgia is deservedly #2 behind Alabama because I think if you asked other teams the question “who would you most NOT like to face in a CFP game at the end of the year?” (and they replied honestly), at this point Alabama would receive the most votes and Georgia would come in a strong #2.

    And, as you say, considering all the holes in the offense at this point, that’s a helluva thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. rigger92

    Hasn’t it been printed that a big emphasis for the program recently has been composure? Kirby sure drove that home, to himself too. I know if I were a DB/Safety I would gotten tighter and tighter throughout that game knowing the opponent averages over 30 points/game.

    If we can just get healthy I believe the team leadership and mindset rivals that of what developed in ‘17. Also, sure hope execution develops for the O.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. r1valry

    I don’t recall the play where the ball slipped from JT with an open Arian. I had a few beers though.


    • LCUGA

      From my vantage point in the upper level, Smith had no idea where the ball was. He ran the route and looked back after it sailed over his head, but it would have been 6 points had he caught it in stride!


  15. HirsuteDawg

    Dabo’s going on 4th down – I think Dabo was like Kirby trying the fake punt against Bama – knew his D was whipped and was afraid that if he put them back out there they wouldn’t hold up – and they didn’t in either case.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I was stuck at home with Rona. Usually I scream and yell almost every play. Oddly enough I was never worried about this game after a couple of series- which was very unusual. I know the D had the game in check. That said, I still can’t believe Dabo didn’t punt us deep on 4th down with almost 5 minutes left on the clock. As the Senator mentioned, UGA fans would have torched CKS if he had done the same thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. mddawg

    Dabo was right to be outraged when the refs blew the call on the late hit out of bounds. I thought the refs could review plays to see if they missed a targeting penalty, and I was surprised they didn’t do it in that instance.


    • originaluglydawg

      With the re-punt (roughing the kicker) it wouldn’t have made much difference. It worked out for Dabo that he got a make-up phantom PI call on the series. Kirby could have pitched a Daboish fit about that, but you know..Kirbs is a classy guy.


  17. akascuba

    Another detailed well thought out break down from someone emotionally invested in the team. Hard to find any nits to pick there. Thanks as always for sharing with us.


  18. whb209

    Great job Senator. I can’t add to that..

    Liked by 2 people

  19. originaluglydawg

    We get statistics galore.
    Here’s one I’ve never seen but I would like to. Especially for this game.
    Can someone come up with a statistic for both teams that gives the plus and minus…and then the balance…of first downs (gained and lost) because of penalties? It felt like we lost a few first downs and it felt like Clemson gained quite a few. I’m going to take a stab and say the balance is Clemson +3.
    I could be completely wrong about that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dawg100

      Those damn phantom PI calls that are all the rage the last few years are worse than a turnover, especially on a 3rd down stop.


    • bucketheridge

      I found just what you’re looking for through the pic ’em of all places. Your answer is Clemson +3.

      Georgia ran for 6, passed for 7, and got 2 via penalty.

      Clemson ran for 1, passed for 9, and got 4 via penalty.


      • originaluglydawg

        Thanks, buck…that is part of what I’m looking for. But if Ga. got two and Clemson 4..that’s Clemson +2. But how many did each team get taken away via penalty? How many times did (for instance) Georgia, get a first down and then have it called back? (I’m not asking you to furnish that info..but it would be interesting to me.)
        If Georgia had two called back and Clemson had one called back, that’s another +1 for Clemson.
        I may have to watch the game again to find out.


  20. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    My only quibble is some notes on special teams. Yes, Podlesny missed on a field goal that I was SURE he was going to make. But that isn’t going to happen again this season. (Not saying he won’t miss another one, but it won’t be in chip shot like that one.) I can’t blame anyone for what ESPN called a “muffed punt” (how can it be muffed? no one tried to catch it). I don’t think Milton knew where the ball was and I can’t even blame the refs because while it was possible that a Clemson player touched it first it was impossible to tell. Camarda and the coverage were spectacular.


  21. silverbritches02

    All hail the bullet points!

    But in all seriousness, MAN the dawgrading has been strong after this one.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. TEXBaller

    I, for one, do not see the comparison of #17 to Roquan. #17 can rush. #17 can tackle. #17 cannot cover; the reason #17 had a dismal PI before getting burned. Roquan could do it all!
    Also, not enough props to #4. He is a baller. All over the place. Fast & strong! #4 is my 2021 breakout player. Setting up for a HUGE year!
    And where the hell did #41 come from? He has totally displaced Q Walker (another baller). Good for Tindall. Love both these dudes!


  23. bucketheridge

    Great takes as always, Senator.

    I don’t think our last drive has gotten enough kudos. I’m a defensive minded fan, but there is absolutely no better way to emasculate an opponent than to take the ball with 4:44 and three timeouts in their hands and run it down their throat to salt the game away. It’s something we haven’t been able to do very often, and it gives me a lot of solace when thinking of how we’ll develop over the year.

    It’s going to be interesting to watch as those against two SEC teams in the playoff devalue Saturday’s win as the season goes on. It won’t be long before Saturday night’s strangling becomes a one score game that could’ve gone anybody’s way for them.


  24. Good analysis Senator,
    “I didn’t understand Dabo’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-five at the time and I still don’t today. Clemson had all its time outs, its defense had been playing almost as well as Georgia’s and a good punt would have pinned the Dawgs deep.” I agreed at the time. However, after seeing their D-lines performance that last series, I figured (giving him the benefit of the doubt) he knew they were tired and it was now or never for them.Their D was a step slower that series. Their starters are as good as anyone’s, but they are not as deep. Without Bresse in the game their line was not as effective. He played the last series but was noticeably dragging.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. archiecreek

    Kirby can’t coach?
    Kirby can’t develop talent?
    Kirby makes questionable calls during a game??
    Dumbo said…
    “Hold my beer!”

    Liked by 1 person