Observations from the 35, fizzled cannon shot edition

For me, there’s something about conference openers, and 2021 is no exception.  Sure, it’s good to gauge a team in a powerhouse meeting, as we saw against Clemson, but it’s taking stock against the teams Georgia faces every year that gives me a stronger feeling about where things are headed.

Based on what I saw last Saturday, that appears to be in a good direction.

The front defensive seven is the rock this team is built on.  They obliterated South Carolina’s offensive line.  They harassed the quarterbacks all game long.  They made a very good running back in Kevin Harris look… well, not very good.  By the time the score turned 40-6, which was midway through the third quarter, the Gamecock offense had amassed a whopping 148 yards of offense, turned the ball over twice and yielded a safety.  That’s a good day’s work in less than a full day.

Of course, in this day and age, a stellar defensive front will only get you so far, and that’s why the other encouraging development was JT Daniels’ return.  Physically speaking, he’s clearly in a better place than he’s been so far with this program.  His mechanics reflect that.  He turned in his best performance since the Missouri game last year and did it without displaying any discomfort from his knee or the oblique injury that, with the benefit of hindsight, affected his play in the Clemson win.

On top of that, he accomplished it with a shuffled offensive line still in the process of figuring things out at a position or two and while missing a couple of key pieces in the receiving corps.  It’s reasonable to expect the offense has room for improvement.

And with that, here come the bullet points.

  • In a game like that, I hesitate to say there’s a turning point, or even a key moment, but there were two points worth noting.  The first came at 14-6.  South Carolina had their first sack of the game, forced a punt and had to be feeling pretty good, especially after Josh Vann’s big catch over Kendrick.  From there it was all downhill:  Vann gets penalized with an unsportsmanlike conduct call, SC winds up punting, Daniels hits a big play pass to Mitchell to make the score 21-6 and that’s all she wrote to the momentarily good vibes.
  • The second, of course, is the remarkable run that took place in the last minute of the first half and the first minute of the second half.  Two dumb decisions that led to the safety — the play call and then Doty’s panicked decision to run the ball out of the end zone — a smartly called series by Monken and a perfect kick from Podlesny (I guess he can keep his job for another week, right?) added up to five gift points to end the half.
  • Then, an interception and two Zamir White runs to start the second half and suddenly the Dawgs are up by 27.  Hope wasn’t just dead; it was, to borrow an expression, crushed in the face with a hobnail boot.  That is what really good teams do in games like that.
  • The offensive line allowed only one sack by a team with a couple of SEC-caliber pass rushers.   Georgia averaged just a tick below six yards per rush.  They didn’t have a bad game, but they need to improve their consistency, particularly at the guard position.  Ericson had a few good moments, but also had a couple of spectacular busts.  Shaffer was better, but there was a screen pass I remember when he completely whiffed blocking anyone downfield, which cost them a chance at a big gain.
  • It’s hard not to be impressed with what the receiving corps is doing in the absence of stalwarts like Pickens, Blaylock and Washington.  What’s helped fill the gap is the freshmen Bowers, McConkey and Mitchell stepping up.  The latter’s improvement over the first three games of the season has been impressive.  Burton is rounding into form from his injury.  Jackson stepped back into the wideout lineup and showed his experience and steadiness.  He’ll get better.
  • When you’ve only got about 30 carries to split among five running backs, that ain’t easy.  It was nice to see Milton emerge as the leading rusher, but Cook and White managed their contributions, too.  McIntosh showed out with some good receptions.  Perhaps most encouraging was seeing the pass pro from all the backs, including McIntosh, who’s clearly improved from last season in that regard.
  • I’ve already mentioned how Daniels’ mechanics look better.  There was no awkward hop when he delivered deep throws and he managed to hit his receivers in stride, rather than airing those throws and having them slow down to make a catch.  The TD throw to Mitchell I was certain was too far; instead, JT had a handle on Mitchell’s speed and location and dropped a perfect dime.  His first throw of the game, a 20-yard completion to Bowers was a dart thrown just over a linebacker, a real thing of beauty.  The interception was a bad decision, but I expect Daniels will learn from that.  All in all, a more than solid day from him.
  • With regard to that defensive front seven, it would be easier to list the players who didn’t contribute, but Nolan Smith deserves special consideration.  For a guy who didn’t play an entire game, his production was absurd:  sacks, tackles for loss, solo tackles, you name it.  It’s great to see him coming into his own and living up to his immense promise.
  • From a production standpoint, Adam Anderson was just a tick behind Smith.  Bookends are good.
  • This is your weekly reminder of all the folks who left Jordan Davis off their preseason first team all-SEC and all-American teams.
  • Anybody notice how Jalen Carter’s coming along this season?
  • Man, that linebacking corps!  Dean is having a whale of a season.  And nobody on the team has improved more than Channing Tindall, who is making a case for being my favorite player on the defense this season.
  • You want another sign of improvement from the linebackers?  Last year, Nick Muse tore Georgia’s pass coverage apart.  Saturday, he was pretty much a non-factor.
  • Unfortunately, Josh Vann was anything but a non-factor.  Some of his catches were well-defended, but some weren’t.  Speaking of which, Ameer Speed reinforced my G-Day impression of his game.  He’s better defending the short and underneath stuff and not as strong on the long ball; still, his recovery on Vann’s first reception to make the tackle was good.  (To be fair, the entire defense was caught flat footed by SC’s quick snap.)
  • The other deep ball reception came from Jalen Brooks, who made a ridiculous grab in the face of good coverage.  Aside from all that, Carolina’s passing game was held in check.  And I don’t mean that in an “other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” sense, either.  Sometimes the other guy just makes a play and you have to tip your cap.  Of course, it’s only fair to note that front seven is helping to make Georgia’s secondary look good.
  • Brini and Cine are so consistent and so solid.
  • I don’t know about you, but after watching the way the backups played against UAB, I was a little disappointed that South Carolina’s offense got some late traction against them.  I’m getting spoiled and we’re only a quarter of the way into the season.
  • Special teams turned in their best effort of the season.  Podlesny, as mentioned, didn’t whiff.  The punting game was superb — Camarda’s punt and Speed’s stop set up the safety.  Kickoffs were their usual, quiet selves.  And McIntosh continues to be a weapon on kickoff returns.
  • Monken… man, what can I say?  The man knows how to design plays and he called a superb game.  It was minor in the sense that it was the last touchdown of the day, but the way he got Cook open looked so easy.  (Somebody’s done a good job teaching Bowers how to tiptoe up to the OPI line on a pick play without actually crossing it.)
  • Still, I have to think there’s no coach on the staff having more fun than Dan Lanning.  All that talent to deploy and so many ways to deploy it.
  • You can quibble about Kirby’s day somewhat.  Yeah, the decision to insert Bennett into the game in the first half when the offense was running on all cylinders was boneheaded, but it’s not like it had a game changing impact.  It was also made up for by superb clock management to squeeze a gift field goal out of the end of the first half.  More importantly, it’s the third straight week he’s had his team prepared and ready to play.  I’ll take it.

It’s hard not to get overly excited about this team’s chances.  There are key players who haven’t played yet due to injury that will return in the next couple of weeks.  There’s a quarterback who’s only now looking like he’s beaten the injury bug himself.  There are freshmen contributors who are only going to get better.  And there’s a regular season schedule that perhaps looks more formidable than it did at the start of the year, but doesn’t appear anywhere near insurmountable.

Most significantly, so far, this is a team that appears to have its head on straight.  Vanderbilt is going to present a different kind of challenge, not one of talent, but one of attitude.  Can Georgia go to Nashville and show up against an inferior opponent?  There have been seasons when that hasn’t been the case in games like this.  Going up there, taking care of business and working on areas that have room for improvement — well, do all that and we’ll know this season can be pretty special.

42 Comments

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42 responses to “Observations from the 35, fizzled cannon shot edition

  1. gotthepicture

    I’m gonna quibble on your last bullet point before that because in the possession before that when there was about 3:00-2:30 on the clock, I thought we were too complacent and conservative and could’ve put points up then. Instead, we give them the ball, but thankfully play shutdown D, get the ball back and decide to be aggressive. I felt we made it harder on ourselves, but again, that’s my opinion (which may be worthless) and also nitpicking.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Great all-around performance against one of our rivals. I’m a little concerned about our one-on-one coverage on the deep ball, SC has guys open a couple more times when balls were overthrown. Got to get that fixed. The offense looks balanced and extremely talented, especially when we get settled on the o-line.

    Liked by 5 people

    • akascuba

      Agree coverage on deep balls and the online becoming as asset are my two areas of concern now. With the meat of the conference schedule starting next week the positives greatly out weigh the negatives. If the online can protect JT to do his thing the running lanes will get bigger.

      Another great game break down by our host.

      Like

  3. Geezus

    Question, anyone know what’s going on with Scott Cochran? Any rumors?

    Like

  4. Russ

    I didn’t go back and rewatch, but I remember thinking at the time that JT’s interception looked like the receiver broke in a different direction than JT was expecting.

    Like

  5. miltondawg

    I don’t get Bennett thing. It makes absolutely no sense. Maybe JT took enough snaps off in practice during the week that Kirby felt like he was reinforcing the “practice matters” mantra. Incidentally, is Beck in the transfer portal yet? Because from the outside looking in, it certainly looks like the message is pretty clear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • originaluglydawg

      Getting his back up some snaps before the half. Simple as that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • miltondawg

        Again, it makes no sense on the third drive of the game after your starter is 7-8 and has led the offense to two touchdowns on back to back drives for a 14-3 lead. South Carolina wasn’t good enough to win that game no matter what…I get it. But this isn’t a two quarterback system like, say, UF where both will get playing time. Up 40-6 in the third quarter? Sure, start rotating back ups or let Stetson finish out the game.

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  6. WH

    Did ANYONE at the game get a sense of what happened with the Milton “fumble” that set up SC’s 4th quarter TD? ESPN did such a crappy job covering it (just talked about Uga for 2 minutes after coming back from commercial break) and never tried to explain or even address the call again.

    Why did they not overturn the fumble call? Looked obvious on the freeze-frame replay that Milton’s knee was down while he had possession. I mean, we’ve all seen far less get overturned, but I guess “SEC Refs gonna SEC Ref.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Russ

      Just one more shitty call/non-call by SEC refs. Luckily for us, it didn’t have a true bearing on the game (though I guess bettors would disagree). Luckily for the refs, they had the stellar SEC Ref performance in Happy Valley to divert any attention away from their incompetence.

      Liked by 3 people

      • DawgFlan

        There were SO many uncalled holding and hands to the face penalties by that SC OLine.

        Refs are not supposed to take pity on an overmatched team., but they clearly did.

        Liked by 2 people

    • originaluglydawg

      Socialist Zebras.
      “From each according to his abilities to each according to their needs”.
      A sympathy gift. Just like when the SC player stepped on the out of bounds line and they didn’t bring a long one back. Some of them think it’s their job to even things up a little in a mismatch.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Daniels is still beaten up FYI

    Liked by 2 people

  8. dawgphan34

    I was surprised when they threw the flag after the Vann catch. I dont think that would have been a penalty last year.

    Like

    • Biggen

      The announcers kept harping that this was a big point of emphasis this year. This true? I hadn’t heard that during the offseason.

      Pickens would have been suspended for 10 years between the water bottle spraying and grabbing the GT DB facemask.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. whybotherdude

    Each week will be a different test, some weeks will be mental like this weekend and some will be physical like against ARK and some will be both like uf. I think this team is built to handle the adversities each week will bring but something will happen unexpected and can they overcome that will be the question.

    Like

  10. Nil Butron is a Pud

    “some SEC-caliber pass rushers”…LOL.

    Like

  11. sirjackshea1980

    Two questions…one: who says Kirby “decided” to put Bennett in the game? As much attention paid to detail by the coaching staff does it not see plausible there was a valid reason to do it and it was part of the game plan? and two: Would it be a bonehead move if Bennet had thrown a touchdown pass instead of an interception? Its interesting how the same folks who found this boneheaded were whining about starting him at all a couple weeks ago.

    Like

  12. 69Dawg

    I hope they grade the refs game like the teams grade the players. The worst call of the weekend was the MSU Memphis punt return turnover call. The ref on the spot called it dead then the rest of them simply ignored that it was a dead ball. Every ref expert that I saw later said the ball was dead when the ref waved his arms. That crew needs a little time off without pay to improve their game.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Texas Dawg

    Adam Anderson and Nolan Smith are really fast, but Channing Tindall makes them look down right pedestrian by comparison. Dude is nothing short of a heat seeking missile.

    Liked by 4 people

    • artistformerlyknownasbman

      I remember the past year or two, I would see Tindall in games where the outcome was already certain and he would always make some incredibly fast break on a runner and destroy the guy. I though maybe he looked that fast against some cupcake team or because he’s playing with the backups. I’ve been incredibly pleased to see that he looks that way this year in meaningful playing time.

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  14. rigger92

    That game one was a killer, I like to think the last two are starting to show improvement. I commented yesterday that our O has to improve throughout the season and so far I like to think that there are strides being made. I suppose in the near future I would like to see how many contested catch’s we make vs the ones where there’s just nobody within reach.

    Am I wrong in thinking that we have turned a corner and guys are so open they don’t have to fight for the ball? Kind of feels that way.

    Like

  15. uga97

    We need the Offense & scoring eye test to look better than Florida’s, Bama, Oklahoma, UNCs, etc…When does that happen? Was thinking we had all the skill guys to do that.

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  16. signaldawg

    I expected at least one bullet point about the Mannings. That was a huge part of the game (or broadcast). The commentators spent 30 minutes straight talking about them, you could have at least had a bullet for Arch.

    Like