A couple notes to begin with before I really get into the grit and glory that is Old Man Football…
I watched the game from Molly Malone’s in Louisville, Kentucky where some friends and I found a respite from the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in the form of a heavy contingent of UGA fans. If you’re ever in Louisville tasting Bourbon, making a bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum or trying to get a better grasp on how to pronounce “Louisville” (hint: the locals pronounce it like there is a large ice cube on the tongue – it should sound like “Lllllvlllll”) be sure to drop by and tell them that the annoying Georgia fans that showed up that one time sent you.
Also, I have not yet re-watched the entire game, so I’m sure that you can find much better analysis as again, the game was watched in a crowded bar (so crowded that we even found all 14 Kentucky Wildcat Football fans).
Lastly in the form of notes: I am going to do my best to give Missouri credit wherever possible. I traveled with five Georgia fans this weekend and the six of us giggled (like school girls) at the notion of Missouri getting exposure not only to SEC football this weekend but also the sportsmanship of most SEC fans. I’ve done everything I can to be unwelcoming thus far, and I plan on eventually moving past the SEC’s poor decision to expand (as soon as Missouri wins a conference game). I realize that I am redirecting all of my frustration related to the expansion decision to the teams involved when really Missouri is just trying to live the American Dream and move up while it was the conference’s mistake to foolishly afford the Tigers such an opportunity.
Watching the game – even in the first half – I noticed a significant talent gap between Georgia and Missouri with the Bulldogs having the better hand. That being said I give full credit to the Missouri Tigers for taking advantage of a lackluster first half by the Bulldogs.
So how good was Missouri in the first half? Let’s put it this way – even after the game Missouri’s players felt they played to their best potential during the first 30 minutes. Missouri cornerback E.J. Gainesoffered up that sentiment saying, “I felt like they saw our ‘A’ game in the first half.”
Conversely, Georgia’s play (not necessarily effort) was every bit as underwhelming as Missouri’s was impressive. Consider Aaron Murray’s performance during the first seven UGA “drives”:
· Drive One: 1/1 passing for 8 yards, one sack (-8 yards)
· Drive Two: 1/1 passing for 13 yards, 6 yard run
· Drive Three: 0/2 passing
· Drive Four: 0/1 passing with interception returned to the 25
· Drive Five: 3/4 passing for 6 yards
· Drive Six: 0/2 Passing
· Drive Seven: 1/1 passing for 10 yards
Prior to Georgia’s 5 play 71 yard scoring drive at the end of the 2nd Quarter Murray was 6/12 passing for 37 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT and -2 yards rushing. How bad was Georgia’s offense? Even Michael Bennett dropped passes and got flagged for a false start and he is Mr. Consistency.
First Half Misconceptions
With Georgia playing a terrible first half and Missouri playing their best ball – at home – the score was still just 10-9 at the break and would have been tied if a freshman kicker would have made an extra point. The talent gap seemed obvious, and while I did not know what a great performance from Missouri would look like (apparently a lot like the first half according to E.J. Gaines), I knew we weren’t witnessing one (at least not yet) from Georgia. Missouri was playing better, but it really was just a matter of time before Georgia woke up. But again, credit Missouri for pacifying the Dawgs as long as they did.
I saw a number of people in the Twittersphere commenting on Missouri’s great first half and stressing the “crowd at Farout Field” as a factor in the dismantling of the Georgia Bulldogs. With no disrespect to the 71,004 people there (some of which wore red and black) the Georgia Bulldogs were the sole reason for Georgia’s bad first half – not the crowd. Georgia will play in only one stadium that is smaller this year (Kentucky houses 3,000 fewer fans) so volume was frankly not a factor. And, the slow start was not surprising as Georgia opened slow last week, has struggled to get rolling against opponents seeking signature wins (Boise State last season, the Bama Blackout game some years back), and has struggled in the first half against middle-of-the-pack SEC squads in recent history (trailed at the half to Tennessee and Florida last season before winning both games).
Bad first halves is what Georgia does. It doesn’t matter if there are 90k people in the crowd, 80k people in the crowed and certainly not 70k people in the crowd.
Thoughts on Offense “Showing Up”
The second half saw a different offensive team for Georgia. The Bulldogs’ defense will get credit for opening up the game – and rightfully so given Jarvis Jones’ dominant performance in the fourth quarter – but the offense won the game in the third quarter. Missouri hit on a long strike to open the third and take an 8 point lead and Georgia responded. Georgia put together consecutive 70+ yard drives (sandwiching a Mizzou field goal) to give the Dawgs a 24-20 lead that would not be surrendered. Georgia’s defense preserved and added to the lead, but it was actually the newly awakened offense that got the lead.
In fact, if you count UGA’s last drive of the first half, Georgia put together three 70+ yard scoring drives in four possessions and scored 21 points in less than 15 minutes of play. So, the offense made up in many ways for the handicapped start.
Furthermore, I think this late but consistent showing by the offense goes a long way to disprove the notion that “Georgia made a few big plays late to win the game.” If we’re negating “big plays” and labeling them as outliers that aren’t reflective of the true “flow of the game” so to speak, let’s do this:
· Take off Missouri’s 38 yard field goal following an INT that gave the Tigers possession on the 25 because the interception was just a guy making a big play.
· Take off Missouri’s 41 yard TD catch by Marcus Lucas, because that was just a big play.
· Take off Missouri’s 69 yard TD catch by L’Damian Washington, because that was just a big play.
· Take away Georgia’s field goal off a tackle following a botched punt fake run play.
· Negate Georgia’s two shortened TD drives courtesy of Jarvis Jones’ big plays.
The new final score? Georgia wins 24-3. Both teams made big plays. Georgia’s play outside of those big plays made the difference.
Did the big plays on defense help? Absolutely. But, in hindsight (and I’ll be the first one to admit it didn’t feel this way during the game) the offense really turned it on when Georgia needed it and the Dawgs’ defense gave up about as many big plays as it made. Both teams caught “breaks” and both teams capitalized.
I would assert that much of Missouri’s capitalization was a byproduct of missing personnel. Missouri was missing players, but if you think the two long passing TDs both happen if Bacarri Rambo is in the secondary and Alec Ogletree is roaming the middle and Sanders Commings was manning up on someone, you might be crazier than I am.
In my opinion Georgia was missing more than Missouri was and still able to outplay the Tigers as the aforementioned talent gap vested itself in a huge depth differential. But, I’m sure a Missouri fan could present an argument from another perspective – and I’d be interested to see it.
On a broader scale: Does Missouri belong in the SEC?
This is a moot question, but undoubtedly one that will continue until Missouri wins a game – and the same thing is happening to Texas A&M.
Frankly, the jury of DudeYouCrazy is still out. Several people have pointed to Missouri having more yards than Georgia as a reason for the Tigers being relevant. Well, as just discussed Georgia scored 14 points off of a total of 6 yards gained thanks to an interception and a fumble. Those points count just as much as any others but those associated yardage gains look insignificant. Relying solely on yardage output is ignorant to the game. If I threw for 500 yards but also threw five interceptions that were all returned for touchdowns my team might lose to your team 35-0 and I might outgain your team by 500 yards. But, could I really make the argument that I “belong” just because I outgained you? That is certainly an extreme example but so is the assertion that a team that lost by 21 points but gainied 16 more yards than its opposition was “right there.”
I saw one analyst point to Missouri’s yards per play on defense as a case for the Tigers’ future acceptance. I’m not sure that argument is relevant either. Missouri gave up 5.08 yards per play against Georgia. Ignoring the obvious flaws with this logic (Georgia’s one yard scoring drive boasted a meager 1 yard per play, balanced pass-to-run teams will have lower numbers in this area) I’m not sure that is even a noteworthy figure. Georgia ran 70 plays on offense this Saturday. On seven occasions last year Georgia ran 70+ plays against an SEC opponent. Georgia averaged an eerily similar 5.09 yards per play in those games. Georgia went 6-1 in those games. The 5.08 number really doesn’t show much relative to Georgia other than to express that teams from the SEC with similar defensive performances in this category have defeated the Bulldogs in just one of the last eight attempts. And, from what everyone in the country has told me Georgia has played a soft schedule over the past two seasons. So if I’m Missouri I wouldn’t brag too much about the yards per play figure as it just groups me with teams that lose to Georgia 87.5% of the time and are widely considered “weak.”
Offensively I didn’t see enough from Missouri to indicate much either way. They put up big plays against Georgia, but I’m not convinced that those would have happened if Georgia had its full personnel package. That being said, Georgia’s defense is believed to be well above average, so maybe those big plays still happen against most SEC teams. I sincerely don’t know.
Quarterback James Franklin was mediocre at best. He hit on 61% of his passes for 269 yards, 2 long TDs and one INT (decent, but not great numbers). But, he ran the ball 20 times for a negligible 25 yards and was sacked twice and bobbled a crucial handoff. So on plays that saw Franklin either run or pass the ball the Tigers averaged 4.81 yards per play – this is much lower than the statistical performance some Missouri fans are calling “good defense.” (For comparison’s sake: despite playing arguably the worst first half of his career, Aaron Murray gained an average of 5.75 yards per play when he passed or ran.) Again, the big long pass plays counted big for Franklin and were significant but I’m not sure that those will be available every game.
Dorial Green-Beckham was supposed to be really awesome and the savior of Missouri football. I didn’t see anything of note with Dorial other than his first name sounding like a cigarette brand. His one catch for five yards was almost laughable given the hype surrounding his recruitment and the fact that Georgia was missing the team’s best cover cornerback and an All-American safety. On the season DGB now has 4 catches for 37 yards (he balled out against SE Louisiana with 3 catches for 32 yards!).
Missouri broke down in the fourth quarter and you really don’t see many SEC teams that do that (except for fellow newbie Texas A&M) – at least not to that extent. Missouri had every possible psychological advantage heading into this game and in the end looked like a deer in the headlights. I thought the Vegas line of +3 for the Tigers was way off-base (I predicted UGA by 10 before verbally changing to UGA by 15+ at Molly Malone’s while on a jalapeño popper high – if you are ever there get those!), but there was enough action to stabilize that 3-point betting line and people thought Mizzou had enough going to keep the game close. I’m not sure the Tigers have this much going for them anytime soon as they won’t have another first SEC game. And, they were playing a team that has traditionally faltered and yielded signature victories to opponents.
Parting thoughts on Georgia
The game felt a lot like the South Carolina game last season given that Georgia gave a good effort, seemed poised to be the better team, outplayed the opposition but gave up too many big plays to overcome…in the first half. The last 35 or 36 minutes of the game were entirely different (Murray finished 16/23 for 205 yards and 3 TDs over that period). Does the alternate ending indicate a mature Georgia team or a gap between Missouri and South Carolina? It may sound like a cop-out, but I think the answer is both.
Last year’s Georgia squad was not as resilient as this year’s team. Yes, the Dawgs would have rallied around big plays but in this game those big plays came late and Georgia might have been knocked out by that juncture (especially against a top-tier team). And, as inconsistent as South Carolina can be it’s hard to expect the Gamecocks to have a complete, utter breakdown physically and mentally like Missouri did.
That’s all I got/
If you are a Georgia fan and you enjoyed Saturday’s game for any reason outside of the mere return of the red and black to live-action meaningful competition then you must be Todd Gurley’s mother. There weren’t a whole lot of bright spots for the day outside of the freshman’s emergence and his claim of 1.8 points per touch.
WifeYouCrazy and I made the trip over to Athens but only got to stay for the first half as we had wedding festivities to attend, but from what we saw it was a good thing that the Dawgs were playing the Buffalo Bulls – not the Buffalo Bills. The defense allowed to many points, Aaron Murray misfired a number of times and play seemed generally sloppy. But, isn’t that to be expected from a team that is traditionally slow to start?
While far from pleased with the performance (I have since watched the game in its entirety on DVR), I didn’t see anything drastic to signal prolonged concern. The effort might or might not have been there, but the focus certainly was not. I think anybody with knowledge of the situation would be the first to tell you that most of the players (and possibly coaches) were looking ahead to Missouri – and I don’t blame them.
The defense gave up a number of big plays but showed up without a number of starters (Chase Vasser, Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings, Alec Ogletree, Malcolm Mitchell, etc) who may or may not be back next week. But, if you think that Grantham put a lot of effort into scheming for the Bulls and really laid a lot out on the field – from a strategic standpoint – you’re probably wrong. There isn’t much on tape from the Buffalo game that will help out Missouri. Very little pass rush, very few alignment shifts, etc.
Offensively Murray seemed to be long on most of his passes – a tradition dating back to his freshman season. But, I’ll continue to say that I’d prefer to see Murray overthrow Tavarres King than underthrow him and get picked off. Murray calmed down in the second half and seemed more in-tune with his receivers who all looked impressive. Murray is still one of those guys whose numbers seem to exceed what I see with my eyes. I would have guessed that he had an “OK” game statistically even as I watched it on TV, but his passer rating threatened 180 (179.1) and would rank as one of his fifth or sixth best games.
Todd Gurley will get the lion’s share of the praise out of the backfield – and deservingly so. During warmups I noticed that he just looks like an SEC back. Georgia has had several great backs come in and contribute as freshmen under Richt’s tenure, but his physique reminded me of Kregg Lumpkin – the last grown man to show up as a freshman running back in Athens. Gurley looks like he could play in LSU’s stable of backs – and that may be the ultimate compliment. But, Keith Marshal showed some elusiveness (10 carries for 46 yards) and Ken Malcome looks to be the power back that Richard Samuel has not yet appeared to be (6 carries for 32) – although Dick Sam also worked up 3 carries for 17 yards playing both half and full back.
The offensive line seemed spotty at best – and I hope that is a reflection moreso of a general lack of focus than a general lack of competency. But, most importantly, I hope that John Theus’ ankle injury is short-term.
The Special Teams units actually seemed largely improved – at least in the kickoff/punting game. Gurley had the tremendous return, but I also really liked Damien “Black” Swann as a punt returner (and for what it’s worth, I loved his physical play on defense – it stood out). Marshall Morgan is not Blair Walsh (at least not early-career Walsh), but recovered nicely from a kick that was badly missed and clearly affected by nerves (it was a pop-up). And, perhaps most interestingly, Georgia’s two-punter system worked splendidly. Adam Erickson tagged all three of his punts inside the 20 and Collin Barber had two punts for 102 yards.
In the end it certainly was not the Georgia game that many fans had hoped for, but it Georgia is going to show up with two or three lackluster performances this season (which they’ve done in each of the past few years) I’m glad this was one of them.
That’s all I got/