On Friday and Saturday morning I expressed concern for the looming game with Ole Miss. I cautioned for a relative let-down, prepped fans for a disappointing final score and otherwise warned of mediocrity. I was spot on for the first 19:30 of the game. And then Georgia woke up. And they woke up in a big way. The short of it is this: I was impressed. The long of it is about to go down so stick around.
Ole Miss opened the game with a 7 play, 58 yard drive that ultimately resulted in a field goal. The bulk of that came on a 51 yard pass to Ferbia Allen (wasn’t Ferbia the cool Christmas gift for kids 15 years ago?). It was a lackluster opening to the game, but frankly right along the lines of what I expected.
Georgia then opened with a 17-yard run by Todd Gurley (the type of run that seems to happen often when he gets the ball on first down…hmmm). Then Murray ran for his life several times and Georgia punted.
Georgia and Ole Miss actually went back and forth for several possessions. When I look back at the game it seems like Ole Miss scored twice quickly, but I think that’s because there was so little Georgia offense between Ole Miss possessions. Other highlights in the first quarter: a 60 yard punt by Collin Barber and a stand on 4th and 4 by the Bulldogs defense.
Lowlight of the second quarter: the field goal “attempt” by Marshall Morgan from 47 yards out. What the heck was that? That sucker went further left than it did forward? Good gracious, there has to be someone in Athens that can best that. I know for a fact that Georgia fields a female soccer team. Maybe it’s time to consider breaking the gender-barrier.
Ole Miss followed that travesty of a kick with a 70 yard scoring drive before Georgia decided to wake up. Gurley picked up 9 yards on two carries and then Murray did the old fake-a-roo and threw a bomb to Marlon Brown for a 66 yard walk-in TD. I swear I remember Mark Richt calling that same play for Peter Warrick when he was at FSU. Somebody ask him about that.
From then on things got better for Georgia. Ole Miss racked up a total of 234 yards of offense on Saturday. Only 58 of that was gained over the last 42 minutes of the game. Ole Miss’s next drives accounted for 6, 14, 0, 1, 7, 20, 9, -3, 16, -4 and 8 yards. That’s junkyard dawg defense.
Conversely Georgia’s following drives accounted for 25, 18, 8, 84 (TD), 79 (TD), 77 (TD), 7, 18, 9, 77 (TD), -1, 12 (end of game). Any time you put together five scoring drives of over 70 yards and your defense forces a safety, you have a shot of winning. I would love to see a stat on that. The odds have to be high…like Snoop Dogg high.
In the process the Georgia Bulldogs handed the Ole Miss Rebels (now 5-4 overall, 2-3 in the SEC) their largest SEC loss of the year. The 37-10 final score represented a better offensive showing by Georgia than was seen by Alabama (33) or Texas A&M (30) and a better defensive performance by Georgia than was seen by Alabama (14) or Texas A&M (27). The final score isn’t everything, but Georgia outgained Ole Miss by 299 yards while Alabama only outgained the Rebels by 87 and Texas A&M outgained the Rebels by just 17 yards.
Those figures may not win the Bulldogs any votes in the polls, but they should give you, the fans, a little bit of confidence in your team. As I think I’ve implied, they certainly won me over. Ole Miss is a pretty good team – I still believe that – and Georgia followed up an emotional win over a rival by overcoming a 10-0 deficit with a 37-0 scoring run. That’s what top-5 teams do. Georgia is looking the part for the first time this season, unlike, say, Notre Dame.
How about that four-turnover-in-five-plays stretch? That was something, eh? Yeah, I’ll move on.
And, of course the Marlon Brown injury was both untimely for him as a player and unfortunate for an already depleted receiving group. Prayers for a speedy recovery and a bright future go out to MB.
I don’t ever do the “Game Ball” thing, but I think Damien “Black” Swann deserves some attention. The kid has played well all season. He’s a physical corner – the likes of which Georgia hasn’t seen in years – who knows how to stop the run and drop into coverage. Swann had 3 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, one QB hit and recovered two fumbles and returned them for 49 yards (although I think one return went backwards). Not too shabby for a cornerback.
That’s all I got/
On Saturday I posted a few reactions immediately following the game, and yesterday morning some of my thoughts went up. Totday I’ll run through a standard game recap with the aspiration to avoid repetition, but if ever there is a game that bears repeating information it would have to be a win over the Florida Gators. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at Georgia football on a more macro level.
To begin with anything other than the effort put together by Todd Grantham and his defense would be misguided. On Friday I offered the following sentiment:
What I like about this game is the matchup of Georgia’s defense on Florida’s offense. You’re smoking whatever the Honey Badger gave you if you think Georgia has lived up to its potential on the defensive side of the ball this season. I think you’re equally high if you don’t expect an improvement over the last stretch of the season. And maybe I’m also stoned, but I think the change could in fact be a factor of culture more so than skill/capacity. And if that is the case, the change could come quickly and it could come tomorrow.
Both a blood test and the on-field result of Saturday would show that I was not stoned. Going into the game it was odd to me how few Georgia fans believed the Bulldogs even had a shot. The defense had been frustrating, but that frustration had been a result of its underperformance relative not only to its potential but relative to what we had all actually witnessed last season. It wasn’t a result of lack of capability. With so many leaders on the squad and a fiery guy like Grantham at the helm, how did we not expect the switch to get flipped at some point? Furthermore, with a rivalry game against a team like Florida and so much on the line why wouldn’t we at least hope that it would happen Saturday? Frankly, I don’t know those answers; but a lot of people saw no hope. I actually did.
The statistics of Saturday’s performance are staggering. Six turnovers. Several other balls lost but ultimately recovered by the Gators. But, the actual performance had far too much going on to rely merely on statistics. John Jenkins constant penetration can’t be measured by stats. Cornelius Washington’s solid effort in containment won’t show up on the stat sheet. The only statistic that really matters here was the fact that Florida never crossed the goal line for a touchdown. That’s my favorite figure.
I don’t know how bad Florida’s offense actually is, because the Georgia D obviously played a heck of a game. But I do know the Florida’s offense is not good. The turnovers could have happened to anyone as Georgia players were consistently in the right place at the right time (not chance encounters, mind you, prepared attacks), but the general lack of firepower was evident.
Before the season I expressed concern about Florida’s rise but felt the offense could hold them back, and to an extent that has been the case – even if it was only in this game. Friday I mentioned that I didn’t think Mike Gillislee was that good, and Georgia certainly contained him and said that Jeff Driskel was closer to a poor man’s Connor Shaw than a poor man’s Tebow, and that proved accurate as well.
Florida needs help on offense to get back to where they want to be, and I know they’ll get it over the coming seasons. And I hate that.
The defensive side of the ball is just fine for the Gators. The way they swarm for the tackle and react to tipped passes and other loose balls is very reminiscent of last year’s LSU squad – and that is scary. They forced Murray into the fourth worst QB rating of his career (behind only UCF in 2010, LSU in 2011 and South Carolina earlier this year), and managed to take generally reliable pass-catchers off their game and induce drops.
Ultimately, however, Georgia’s offense was able to do enough to win the game, and it would be a falsehood to even imply that Florida’s defense was the best Georgia has seen this year. On one particular Saturday in early October, South Carolina was much more disruptive and much more dominating.
On Friday I explained something to Florida Eric (who chimed in on the live-blog) as he was asserting that Georgia’s offense had not taken on any good defenses. I pointed out that Florida’s defense has been great this season, but the average ranking of the offenses they had taken on (in yards per game) was 70th in the nation. Furthermore, if you averaged up those seven teams and found their average yards per game that individual entity would rank 67th in the nation.
In that same way of measuring Georgia’s offense had seen previous success against defenses with an average ranking of 54th in the nation and a per-game number that would have ranked 55th. So, Georgia’s lofty offensive averages were actually against better defenses than the offenses Florida’s defense had been destroying…if that makes any sense.
This supported my assumption that if Georgia’s defense could do it’s part Georgia’s offense would find a way to win, and they certainly were able to do so – albeit not in a pretty way. Murray’s three interceptions were darn near crippling on three consecutive possessions as Florida began to get momentum. Similarly, the receivers did their best to derail the passing game in the second half.
But if you can commit half as many turnovers as your opposition, produce a 100-yard rusher (118 to be exact) and put together a 7 play 75-yard drive in crunch time then you’re going to win some football games in this rivalry.
Lastly, I believe Special Teams actually helped Georgia win this game. Georgia won the field positioning game (albeit by a measly 3 yards), pinned Florida inside the 20 twice on punts, held Andre Debose to a long kick return of just 26 yards and one lone punt return for one lone yard and above all else avoided shooting themselves in the foot with terrible kick coverage or returns. So, in that regard it was one of the best performances I’ve seen by Georgia’s Special Teams units. Sure Georgia would have loved to have had Marshall Morgan’s missed field goal, but if I could have one thing (that kick) or the other (kick coverage) I’d take the field position over that 3-pointer.
There’s not much left to say. On Friday I said, “The much-maligned Georgia defense can win this game for the Bulldogs.”
Turns out that very same defense did win this game for the Bulldogs. Now it’s time to win one more against Ole Miss.
That’s all I got/
Please tell me that Saturday was Georgia’s “Carolina Game” for the year. The Dawgs are squaring off against the Gamecocks this Saturday but the mistake-plagued game two days ago was the type of showing Georgia usually reserves for its rival from the Palmetto State. Obviously, I would be remiss to not point out the effort of Tennessee and as I feared on Friday the Vols did in fact come into Athens with tenacity, and as often happens in rivals the final score didn’t quite match the talent levels on the field. It did, however, – as it always does – reflect the play on the field.
The Tennessee-hater in me wants to say that Georgia played a bad game. But at the same time, good teams will make opponents play bad games. If you want my executive summary of the game it is this: Georgia made costly mistakes that won’t be easily overcome against South Carolina or Florida, and Tennessee played much better than I anticipated and were largely able to capitalize on those mistakes. In the end, a more talented Georgia team made enough plays to beat a Tennessee team that (as I hypothesized last week) doesn’t quite know how to win a big game.
But, anytime a Georgia game features 95 points and over 1,000 yards of offense I’m inclined to write a little more than a two sentence summary, and I hope you want to read more than that as well. Here are some more in-depth thoughts on Georgia’s performance with tidbits on the efforts of the Tennessee Vols spliced in when relevant.
To date the only team I’ve seen stop Georgia’s offense is Georgia. That sounds completely cliché, but humor me. Georgia’s first drive was a 13 play, 84 yard march that ate up over six minutes of clock. Aaron Murray went 5/6 passing for 54 yards while Todd Gurley contributed five carries for 32 yards and the score. Georgia’s lone play for a loss was a busted reverse in which Malcolm Mitchell (who touched the ball four times on the opening drive!!!) lost ten yards. It seemed like Georgia could move the ball at will.
Georgia was set on getting the ball in Mitchell’s hands, even to the detriment of the Bulldogs’ special teams.
Georgia’s second drive opened with a penalty for false start on the newly-engaged Chris Burnette. Murray then threw an ill-advised pass to Todd Gurley out on the flats, the pass was tipped, picked and sixed. I used the term “ill-advised” for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Gurley is a power runner with tremendous athletic gifts, but he is not a premier pass catcher or route runner; Keith Marshal who has better hands and was in Athens all summer learning routes has a better understanding of the passing game. Secondly, Gurley was pretty well covered with an outside backer. A number of things went wrong here: a penalty, a bad play call, a poor decision by Murray, a poor pass by Murray (again, it was tipped). A UT defensive back made a hell of a break on the ball, timed it, got it and ran it in. I am not trying to take anything away from his play or the Vols whatsoever on this play. They capitalized on mistakes and that’s how you win games in this conference. But, to think that this one play (the end result was not replicated again) in some way implies Tennessee “figuring out” Georgia’s offense is a bit premature.
Why? Because Georgia’s next possession was a one play 75-yard run by Keith Marshall that swept to the very same side of the field and torched the same defensive back and linebacker combo. And, Georgia’s fourth possession was an 8 play, 75 yard march that featured 15 yards rushing by Marshall, a TD by Gurley and Murray going 3/4 for 59 yards along the way. Tennessee made a great play on an opportunity that was created by Georgia’s mistakes, but through the first quarter the Vols hadn’t figured out how to stop the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs’ opened the second quarter with a two play 56 yard drive capped by a 51 yard run by Gurley.
Listen to the Gurley Man.
Georgia’s second possession of the 2nd quarter was handicapped – if not altogether doomed – by a special teams disaster from Malcolm Mitchell. (Side note: what did Damian Swann do that lost him the job returning punts? Mitchell lost one against Mizzou and almost lost another later that same game, he consistently bobbles the catch, he is loose when handling the ball in traffic, and he makes terrible decisions.) Mitchell back pedaled away from a ball that bounced at either the 17 or 18 yard line when he had plenty of space to catch it, he watched the ball bounce again on the 10 before it finally got picked up by a Vol about 15 inches from the goal line. When you’re on the one yard line with a young offensive line that struggles in pass protection at times, you really cannot throw the football. Mike Bobo knew this and Tennessee knew this. They Stacked the box and Marshall failed to find daylight. Thanks to Mitchell’s poor play Georgia’s offense couldn’t get started. Did Tennessee contain Marshall on this series? They did. But did they really figure out how to stop him? As you’ll see later, no they didn’t.
Georgia’s next possession was cut short by an Aaron Murray fumble on a sack that gave the Vols the ball on the 8 yard line. The play was close and was reviewed but the correct call on the field stood. The hit was not vicious or directly on the ball, Murray just lost it. Again, all the credit in the world to the Tennessee Volunteers for making a play and capitalizing on it, but that play should have been a sack for 8 yards. A third year starter was just trying to do a little too much and wrestling a bit too hard (or at least trying to duck to fast) when he lost the ball. Again, Georgia stopped Georgia.
Georgia’s next to last possession of the half again started on the one-yard line thanks to a freshman mistake by Todd Gurley on a kick return. Georgia did manage to get some space on a nice catch and run by Keith Marshall, but Marshall then fumbled the ball at the end of a one yard run. Georgia stopped Georgia.
Georgia’s last drive of the half was stopped only by the clock but still resulted in three points on a 50-yard field goal after Murray hit three quick passes for 33 yards.
Georgia opened the second half with two solid drives, the first being a six play 69 yard march ending with a TD pass to Michael Bennett and the second being a four play 46 yard drive ending with a TD pass to Michael Bennett.
Georgia then, yet again, asserted its will on offense driving 81 yards on just three plays thanks to a 72-yard run by Keith Marshall (so no, Tennessee hadn’t figured out how to stop him).
Georgia’s opening fourth quarter drive started with a run for no gain by Gurley and then a two yard rush by the same man. Murray then hit Michael Bennett on a 7 yard route that brought out the measuring sticks before bringing out a punting unit. This was not a recurring problem for Georgia, it was a matter of inches, you can’t score or turn the ball over every possession.
At this juncture fatigue took grip in a major way. Keith Marshall got banged up (although he should be good to go for next week) on a run at the 8:30 mark and didn’t see the field again. This left only Todd Gurley left to run in “clock-milking” situations, because for some reason yet undefined (Suspension? Injury?) Ken “Boo” Malcome didn’t get a single snap for the Georgia Bulldogs. On the next possession Gurley ran for one yard, then for three more on second down. Aaron Murray then delivered a bullet while getting hit on third down, but the ball slipped right through Rontavious Wooten’s hands. The drop killed Georgia’s drive.
Gurley got three more carries with time ticking but was clearly gassed and picked up a sum of -2 yards as the tock ticked down from 1:22 to 0:15.
So, the drives that didn’t end in Georgia points included the following mistakes:
- A pick six
- Possession on the 1 thanks to Mitchell not fielding a punt at the 18
- A fumble on the 8 yard line
- A fumble on the 20
- A dropped pass on third down
- A gassed Gurley trying to eat clock
On two occasions – the stop of Michael Bennett short of the first down and the series in which Marshall got banged up, Tennessee stopped the Dawgs without help from Georgia.
Georgia’s TD Drives covered 84, 75, 75, 51, 69, 46 and 81 yards. On average Georgia traveled 69 yards per scoring drive and gathered 86% of their total offense on those seven drives.
Again, I’m not going to be quite as upset as some folks might want me to be regarding Georgia’s defense. The Dawgs gave up 478 yards of offense, but Tennessee held the ball for over 6 minutes longer than Georgia did and the game was clearly going to be a shootout.
Scoring wise, Georgia’s offense directly surrendered 7 points on a pick-six, so I’m not counting that against Grantham’s boys. In the second quarter (when Georgia’s offense and kick return game fell apart) Georgia’s defense gave up 20 points over the course of three consecutive drives (an extra point was missed by the Vols). But, those 20 points were scored on only 76 yards of offense by the Volunteers as Tennessee started those drives at the 50, the 8 and the 18 yard line. That’s a tall order for any defense. The cause wasn’t aided by the fact that Georgia’s defense got only 39 seconds of rest while the offense was on the field before Murray fumbled on the eight and a mere 1:09 of rest before Marshall’s fumble on the 18.
So, in less extenuating circumstances could Georgia have stopped the Vols? I think so. Tennessee’s game-opening drive lasted three plays, covered two yards and resulted in a punt. Their next drive went 10 plays for 58 yards and an FG. Their third drive was 6 plays for 29 yards and ended in an interception. The Vols opened the second quarter with a four play, 21 yard drive that ended in a punt. Then they got the three short TD drives that were just discussed. So Tennessee’s first four drives combined for 110 yards and three points. I’d say there was a precedent for Georgia’s defense stopping the Vols.
Furthermore, although the game seemed back and forth Georgia’s defense only surrendered two scoring drives (both were TDs) to the Vols in eight possessions following half-time. And, I’d like to point out (and tomorrow’s first ever DudeYouCrazy Film Study will look further into this) sure did seem to be helped by an illegal block in the back that was flagged and then un-flagged.
Tennessee’s five offensive touchdowns covered drives of 50, 8, 18, 78 and 60 yards for an average of 42.8 yards. That’s a fault of field position as much as Grantham’s defense – if not more so.
And, Georgia made play after play to seemingly end the game, but the Dawgs’ offense struggled to eat clock. It’s hard to be too upset with any defense that forces three turnovers in the final six minutes of a game to seal the deal.
Now, lest I sound hypocritical let me explain the difference between Georgia’s turnovers and Tennessee’s turnovers. As you recall, I labeled UGA’s turnovers as “mistakes” but Tennessee’s as “forced by the defense.” The short explanation is that Georgia deserves the benefit of the doubt because the Dawgs have a history winning recently and because those turnovers are not recurring problems, while the Vols don’t really know how to win a game clearly don’t know how to capitalize when given the chance on offense. Am I biased in how I see the turnovers? Probably. But, when you have a team ranked 5th in the nation who has won 15-straight regular season football games you can give that team the benefit of the doubt. And, when you have a team that gets three possessions in the last six minutes of the game and turns the ball over three times, you really can’t.
I’ve never seen Murray throw an interception on a pass to the flats, and I’ve never seen Gurley be targeted in that position. Murray hasn’t had a bone-headed fumble in the pocket like that all season, and this was Keith Marshall’s first career fumble. So, I credit the defense for capitalizing on these mistakes, but I don’t think those would happen again if the game was played today.
Why so serious, Mr. Bray?
Tyler Bray – who gave away four balls – however, played exactly the way I expected him to. I mentioned on Friday that over his last five SEC starts Bray had a QB rating of 106. And, I questioned whether he was on the same level as Aaron Murray. He proved me right on Saturday. Care to guess his QB rating? It was 107. (For what it’s worth in his 20 SEC Starts Murray has only had three games with a QB Rating below 108, Bray has done so in each of his last four starts.) I can’t really label those turnovers as “mistakes” then, because that’s exactly who Tyler Bray seems to be. And, I don’t want to dogpile the kid for poor play, so I’m sticking to the notion that Georgia forced turnovers with consistently tipped balls and some occasional pressure. Is it really far-fetched to assume that in Sanders Commings’ first game back at his natural position he would have a big game? These are the type of plays that a guy who starts 9 games as a sophomore, 14 as a junior and comes back his senior year after suspension and finally gets back to his native position at CB makes.
Georgia’s Special Teams
When was the last time a team (in one game)
- Made a 50-yard Field Goal
- Missed an Extra Point
- Received a punt that was downed inside the one
- Received a kickoff that was downed inside the one
- Had an attempted kick blocked by the opposition
- Blocked the opposition’s punt
- Kicked a ball out of bounds
Inconsistent special teams play doesn’t win championships. Inconsistent special teams play barely beats an outmanned Tennessee at home.
Again, this game was eerily similar to last season’s shootout in Athens with South Carolina. The only difference was the notch in the win column when it was all said and done.
I really hope Georgia got that out of its system. I don’t want to say that was the worst the Dawgs have looked this season (but I probably could), but I will say it was the most inconsistent they’ve looked. Tennessee was the best opponent the Dawgs have seen and the Vols made the pups play all 60 minutes for the first time this season, but the Vols aren’t as good as South Carolina and clearly aren’t as good as Florida.
Georgia is talented enough to beat the Gamecocks and the Gators, and the Richt’s boys have played well enough to do so at times this season. But this past Saturday was not one of those times. This upcoming Saturday needs to be.