As the header indicates, I was not a happy camper Saturday. It was the first time I’ve missed attending the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville since 1979. At least the Dawgs played as if they didn’t care whether or not I was in attendance. Or maybe somebody told them at the half. (I keed, I keed.)
You have to admit they broke the pattern for this season. They didn’t come out slow. They didn’t come out and play a dominant four-quarter game, either. Instead, they played close to a flawless first half, culminating in a brilliant one-minute drive to close it out and apparently relaxed in the halftime locker room.
Then came maybe the worst ten minutes of play we’ve seen from the Dawgs all season. Whether it simply came from relaxing with a big halftime lead (Florida fans were noticeably fewer at the start of the second half) or the team did start peeking ahead to Tennessee, I couldn’t say. All I know is that the meltdown led to a one-score lead with less than four minutes left in the third quarter.
And then a switch was flipped.
Six plays, five of them runs, and just like that, Georgia was back in control. Florida had three more series from there and turned the ball over on downs on all three. Georgia scored one more touchdown for the final margin of 22 points. Any time you beat the Gators by more than three touchdowns, it’s a good day.
- Credit where credit is due: that was the best game the offensive line has played all season. No sacks and just a handful of tackles for loss. Bennett had loads of time to set and throw most of the game, which makes some of his questionable decision making (more on that later) even worse. The backs had room to run. I don’t really have a bone to pick with any of the o-linemen, but did want to note that Jones in particular was a bad man all game long.
- Speaking of the backs, what a game from Daijun Edwards! His touchdown run at the end of that six-play drive was impressive, as he waited for the hole to open and then squirted through and was off to the races. Other than the fumble, McIntosh turned in a good game, and ran hard. I do think Monken needs to take a look at what’s happened to those screens to McIntosh, as it seems like opposing defenses are keyed in on that.
- The wideouts made some tough catches, but also had a few drops. Also not seeing the kind of separation from them you’d like to see on a consistent basis. Like that Dillon Bell slant catch he took to the goal line. The team misses Mitchell, but I’ afraid that’s going to be an issue a while longer.
- Another monster game from the tight ends, which alleviates some of the concern over the receiving corps. I’ve already posted about Bowers’ insane game, but Washington was a major contributor, too. A shame about those drops — he’d have cleared 100 yards easily if he’d held on to the ball.
- Which brings us to Bennett, and that’s something of a mixed bag. Certainly the drops from the receivers didn’t help, but he had his share of forced throws and ignored some open targets, something that really was inexcusable given the time his o-line gave him. The second interception was one of his worst decisions of the season. He did have his share of good throws, passed for more than 300 yards again, but a 50% completion rate is certainly sub-optimal. Is it my imagination, or does he tend to do better throwing the ball when he’s tucked and run with it a few times?
- The defensive line played well, especially Stackhouse. And the productivity they got out of Carter during the limited time he was on the field was impressive. How much he can play against Tennessee will be something to watch, especially with the Vols proclivity to go fast and prevent defenses from substituting. They did a helluva job shutting down Florida’s ground game in the first half.
- The starting outside linebackers were great. I thought Beal turned in his best game of the year and Smith was rock solid, as usual. Chambliss, who took the bulk of the snaps after Smith went out, did turn in some good pressure. but was somewhat deficient holding the edge, which Florida took advantage of on a couple of occasions. Another thing to monitor against Tennessee is how the coaches deploy personnel in Smith’s stead.
- Dumas-Johnson and Monden were studs. They worked well stopping the run and were both involved in quarterback pressures. (In fact, one thing that was apparent was how many defenders were involved in pressuring Richardson.)
- The secondary? Mainly good, although Ringo and Starks were burned on long passes, the latter for a touchdown. Starks is a freshman who made a freshman mistake and you figure the coaches will work with his recognition skills. Ringo, honestly, is a bit more problematic. It’s getting to be something of a habit for him to misjudge coverage on a deep ball at least once a game. He got away with it against Vanderbilt when the receiver dropped the ball, but Shorter made him pay. It’s strange, because other than that play, he had a good day.
- On the flip side, I thought Chris Smith and Bullard turned in fantastic games. Lassiter looked good in coverage.
- Monken had another Monken day, which is to say 40+ points and 550+ yards. I don’t want to say it’s getting ho hum, but it was a little weird how methodical the first half was as the Dawgs put up 28 points. What I liked most about the game he called was the aforementioned six-play drive, which focused on the run game after Bennett’s flaky second half start,
- The defensive game plan was solid, as well. The DCs called perhaps their least vanilla game of the season. It was clear from the get go that they wanted to make Richardson uncomfortable and they way they dialed up pressure from seemingly every place in the defense succeeded in doing so.
- Two things to say about Smart’s coaching: (1) you had to be impressed with the way his team settled down after being flustered in the third quarter; there must be something to his emphasis on composure; and (2) the way he managed the end of the first half to squeeze in that fourth touchdown was well done.
Georgia beat Florida by more than three touchdowns, despite turning the ball over three times. Had they played a clean game, we’d probably be talking about a 35-point rout instead of that. Regardless, that’s a good indication of this team’s talent and ability.
The catch is that they probably won’t survive a minus-three turnover margin against the Vols. This week, they need to play their best for a full sixty minutes.