This is the third of 14 Post-Season Game Recaps.
On September 15th the Owls of Florida Atlantic came to beautiful Athens, GA for a game against the highly-favored Bulldogs. Aaron Murray had a career day and the owls kept things a little too close for comfort during the first half.
What We Saw:
- Murray threw for a then-career high 342 yards on just 19 attempts.
- Georgia gave up a 43-yard TD run early as FAU tied the game 7-7.
- Michael Bennett had a 100-yard day.
- The Dawgs allowed 20 points.
- Gurshall became a “thing” as both Todd Gurley and Keith Marshal accounted for over 100 yards on 10 carries each.
What We Learned:
This game cemented Georgia’s offense as a threat. The season as a whole was in many ways defined as “elite,” but this game exposed all of Georgia’s playmakers for the first time. Murray was efficient (save for 1 INT), the backs we explosive (both averaged over 10.4 yards per carry) and six different receivers (Bennett, Arthur Lynch, Tavarres King, Malcolm Mitchell, Marlon Brown Justin Scott-Wesley) accounted for more than 40 yards worth of catches.
What We Should Have Learned:
The defense was going to be spotty. After a lackluster opener against Buffalo was followed by a heroic effort by Jarvis Jones, the defense settled into complacency and allowed FAU to hang around. The Owls tied the game 7-7 on the first quarter, tied the game 14-14 in the second and also scored early in the fourth (although it was off of an interception return).
Christian LeMay was not entrenched as the backup. LeMay threw a 43 yard pass to Scott-Wesley on one of his two pass attempts and he ran for a touchdown. Unfortunately his other pass attempt was a 42-yard INT returned for a TD and his other six rushing attempts accounted for just eight yards.
Murray was going to continue to set records. And boy did he.
This out-of-conference win with a poor defensive showing may have played a part in the defense’s near-shutout against Vanderbilt the following week. Or that may have just been Todd Grantham hating James Franklin.
That’s all I got/
Florida Atlantic was who I thought they were. My concerns with Graham Wilbert proved valid as he methodically picked apart Georgia’s defense (in very Kellen Moore-like fashion) early in the game. The Owls seemed to be moving the ball at will and largely kept pace with Georgia’s prolific offense for most of the first half of play. Fans were yet again disgruntled with the defensive showing, but I didn’t see much cause for concern (more on that later).
Offensively I hoped to see Todd Gurley go off. He did, and so did Keith Marshall. I hoped that Gurley would get 10 carries, he and Marshall split reps again. When all was said and done Marshall finished with 104 yards on 10 carried but was yet against bested by Gurley’s 111 yards on 10 carries. Ken Malcome also had a strong showing with 46 yards on just seven carries.
Initially I hesitated to call this Aaron Murray’s best game as a Bulldog, mainly because I felt the need to discount the competition first. But, the difficulty of Murray’s throws was still there. (For the last two years Georgia has had no trouble getting receivers behind coverage, Murray has just struggled connecting with said receivers. No such struggle was present against FAU.) Murray’s deep ball to Michael Bennett for a 67 yard score might have been the best throw I’ve seen him make down field. He was spot on with another toss to Tavarres King that was ultimately dropped/broken up and he hit Malcolm Mitchell in-stride later in the game to show the continued strength of that connection. Muarry’s 14/19, 342 yard, 2 TD cause was furthered by two rushing TDs and blemished only by one ill-advised interception while scrambling. Again, it was as complete of a game from Murray as I have seen.
Bennett became the third Georgia receiver in three games (joining TK and Marlon Brown) to go over 100 yards receiving and there was a big Arthur Lynch sighting as he hauled in three passes for 73 yards. He fumbled once but redeemed himself with a 36 yard TD rumble.
On the defensive side of things there are still a few holes. Here are some reasons why Georgia fans shouldn’t be too concerned:
· Expectations were unbelievably high for the defense this year after last year’s performance. Keep in mind that we still haven’t seen the defense in its entirety. Yes, we have a lot of depth but to assume that anyone could replace Bacarri Rambo (he was the best player at his position in the nation last year) or even Alec Ogletree (he’s a total beast) is off-base. Those are pretty darn talented players.
· Georgia has been plagued by big plays down the middle – the exact type of plays that Rambo (one of the nation’s leaders in INTs last year) and Ogletree (Georgia’s best coverage linebacker given his experience at safety) don’t allow. Is there an excuse for giving up those big plays down the middle? No. But I don’t think those will continue to happen when the lineup is filled.
· The big plays are what is killing Georgia, and I use the term “killing” extremely loosely. But, if I’m going to watch a defense give up points I’d prefer it to be big plays early in the game rather than game-long, methodical drives throughout the entire game. Georgia is correcting problems and making nice adjustments.
· Georgia’s first team defense has not surrendered a point in the fourth quarter this year. That means more to me than any other statistic you can find. Georgia’s offense is coming along, and if the defense can lock down the second half (which they largely have) then I’m going to like the Dawgs chances week in and week out.
· Georgia started Sanders Commings at safety this week – a position he hasn’t played in bulk for two years and rested Jarvis Jones. So, the Dawgs got Chase Vasser back, Commings back in a new position and rested an All-American Heisman Candidate. To say the Dawgs fielded a better defensive lineup this Saturday than they did against Missouri is debatable.
· Georgia wasn’t sending a whole lot of pressure in the first half against FAU. The short timing routes continued to work until Josh Dawson, Cornelius Washington and company were let loose. Again, Georgia didn’t “throw the playbook” at the Owls. There was no need to.
All in all Georgia fans need to chill out about defensive lapses and realize that Georgia’s defense will always give the offense a chance to win the game. There will still be some shots to be taken once Grantham gets his full personnel back, be patient for another game or two. Fans were confident in Grantham’s leadership going into the season and had high hopes for the talent he had assembled. I don’t think anything has changed. At the end of the day second team athletes are second team for a reason (and that’s not intended to be an insult), so to expect Connor Norman to stop a play that Rambo would might not be realistic.
All in all the atmosphere at Sanford was great this weekend. The stadium was almost entirely full by kickoff and the crowd seemed generally engaged. After two large meals of TransMet pizza and Last Resort pork belly in a three hour span I was a bit lethargic but seeing Uga IX and his masculinity pulled me through.
The music was actually pretty decent, but there was one dark, sickening moment courtesy of some song called “Dawg Bite.” The song sounds more fitting for DudeCrazy than DudeYouCrazy…if you know what I mean. I was violently disturbed to learn that the song was actually recorded by Mark Richt’s son, David. True Story. How do you address your team after a game knowing that they heard that song? That has to be awkward. What a disaster.
That’s all I got/
The Florida Atlantic Owls are a real hoot. And frankly, I can’t figure them out. After battling Wagner for a 7-3 victory the Owls were then routed by Middle Tennessee by a score of 31-17. Now, these tidbits aren’t that confounding in and of themselves, but when I look at the numbers things start to get weird.
FAU is averaging only 12 points per game, but the Owls seem – at least in these two games – to have a pretty good quarterback. Graham Wilbert, a 6-foot-6, 225 pound senior lines up under center for the owls and he’s putting up a QB rating in excess of 170. Wilbert opened the season not only with a pig’s last name but also with a 10/13 passing performance yielding 126 yards, a TD and no interceptions – as a backup! Why didn’t they toss the ball more if he was connecting on 77% of his attempts and why was another clown starting? The man was hot; let him throw it! The Graham Cracker followed the game with a start in the form of a 25/32 for 260 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INT performance against MTSU. Those numbers are pretty daggum good.
Graham Wilbert is fourth in the nation in completion percentage, 25th in yards per attempt and 14th in QB rating. Thirteen players in the nation can make that claim and he is one of them. To take it a step further Wilbert is one of six players to be in the top 25 in completion percentage, yards per attempt and QB rating without throwing a single interception.
So, the obvious question becomes: Why don’t the Owls throw the football more often? The short answer is: I’m not sure, but they should get on it. The longer answer is: they seem committed to the run. The owls are 45th in the nation in rushing attempts despite only yielding the nation’s 89th best running yardage total. That’s not a good return on effort. It’s math.
Maybe Graham Wilbert is just on a hot streak. Or, maybe he’s the next small school-to-NFL surprise. He’s got the frame for it, and if you’re completing almost 80% of your passes I’m impressed regardless of your competition. But…I’ve never seen him throw a single ball. Bottom line is this: Georgia needs to come to play or he could pick them apart like Kellen Moore (with smaller teeth and longer legs) with accurate, intentional, long drives. And I don’t want the Owls hanging around.
(FYI: My favorite statistical anomaly related to Graham Wilbert is his 2010 season stats. He completed only one of his five passes. But it was for 41 yards! And it wasn’t a TD!!)
Defensively I don’t see much that should slow Aaron Murray down. FAU has recorded only two sacks this season, and even Georgia’s raw offensive line should assert its dominance. I’d like to see a mistake-free game from Murray with three touchdowns. I’d really like to see Todd Gurley let loose. Gurley is fifth in the nation among runners with 15 or more carries with an average of 9.2 yards per attempt. But, he only has 18 touches. I’d like to see him get 20 this week.
I’m not even going to delve into a score prediction her because frankly I’m hoping the game tightens up as backups flood the field in the second half.
That’s all I got/