Saturday, September 13, 2014

We didn't lose that game on 4th down.

Not on the 4th down when they didn't get the 1st (but the refs said he did)

Not on the 4th down when Morgan missed that kick (that hooked late, and looked good but wasn't)

We lost that game on 1st down.   We lost that game when our coaches (I'm guessing, but it could have been fearless leader himself, Hutson Mason) decided to throw the ball on a 1st and goal at the 4. 

If you've been reading my blog for years, you know me.  I don't question our coaches all that often.  I defer to them in nearly every single situation because they are good at what they do, and get millions of dollars to do it.  I'm a simple country singer ( and blogger (this site) ... oh, and I tweet, too (@bendukes) ... but at this moment, I gotta say -

The decision NOT to run the ball with Gurley, OR Chubb, OR Hicks, OR Michel on 1st and goal at the FRIKKIN 4 YARD LINE after a HUGE interception and penalty is just stupefying.  I can not imagine what goes through the mind of an offensive coordinator who calls that, or a quarterback who audibles into it.  I mean, it's this moment where i want Johnny Moxon in the huddle so that he can say, "Screw That." and then call a play that puts it in Gurley's hands.  

I just can't fathom it.  Run the ball.  If you don't score, it's second down....and seconds are ticking away.  If you score, you're ahead and your D (who is feeling AMPED) comes back out to shut South Carolina down.  

What the hell, man?  What the hell?

I don't know if Bobo called the pass, or Mason audible into it... but it certainly seems like the whole offensive unit was eating dumbshit sandwiches on the sideline before running onto the field for what could have been the go-ahead "drive" of 4 yards.  

I've been watching UGA football for a while now, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a better display of ineptitude than I did on that series.  

Ugh.  Ok, I've vented.  Suck it up, dawgnation.  We have a playoff run to make.  Go Dawgs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Williams-Brice - where UGA's offense goes to die

I know, I know...ominous blog title.  But seriously, this is the thing that's been giving me pause this week.  Yes, South Carolina seems to have taken a step back, and UGA appears to be banging on all cylinders.  It looks as though we should be able to ROLL right over the Gamecocks.  We like to believe that Gurley can not be stopped, and that Mason is smart enough and good enough to beat the 'Cocks with his arm if necessary.

I want to believe that too.  I want to believe that we win this game 42-17.

But, here's the funny thing about playing in Columbia.  The Dawgs don't do it well - at least not the Dawgs' Offense.

Richt is 4-2 in Columbia, but only 2-2 since Spurrier arrived, and his last win was 2008.  Now, until this year, South Carolina had posted 18 straight victories at Williams-Brice.  That's pretty much every game in the stadium from 2011-2013.  Solid.

Many folks are thinking, "DUKES!  We're so much better now than we were with any of those teams.  We have GURLEY"  Yes we do.  He's damned amazing, and I hope he dominates against the Gamecocks.  But let's remember... in 2012, we were 6 yards (or 20 seconds) from a National Title Game appearance... and we had Gurley then.  And Aaron Murray.  And a group of wideouts who are currently in the NFL.

I'd be remiss not to paint this picture for you:

In 2006, UGA entered SoCar 1-0.   We scored 48 points in the first game of the season with Stafford, Lumpkin, Brown, Ware, MoMass and Sean Bailey leading the group.  In Columbia, we scored 18 points.

In 2008, We were 2-0 going into the USC game.  Stafford had more seasoning.  Moreno was now the leading rusher in the backfield (with Caleb King).  MoMass and AJ Green were electric on the outside of the offense.  We had scored 45 and then 56 points in the first two weeks.  In Columbia, 14.

In 2010, Aaron Murray made his first SEC start in a VERY hostile environment.  The soon-to-be SEC All-Time Leading Passer brought Washaun Ealey, Caleb King, AJ Green, Tavarres King and Marlon Brown as well as a 55 point week-one offense into Columbia.  That combo put up 6 points.

In 2012, Murray returned to Columbia, hoping to beat the Gamecocks (he was 0-2 against them) just like he had beaten Missouri, Vanderbilt and Tennessee prior.  He brought the freshman phenom tandem of Todd Gurley and Nick Marshall with him.  He threw passes to T. King, Malcolm Mitchell, and Marlon Brown, not to mention big TE Arthur Lynch.  That offense had thrown up no less than 40 points in ANY game preceding.  (45,41,56,48,51) To say they were in mid-season form was by no way overstating it.  That offense, which would go on to the SEC Title game, tallied an amazing SEVEN POINTS in Columbia - in garbage time.

I'm not saying we won't win.  I'm not saying the Dawgs Offense won't explode against South Carolina just like it did against Clemson.  In fact, I surely hope that's what happens, because we need to reverse the recent trend in Columbia.  All I'm saying, is don't be surprised if it's a slugfest where we have to work to win the game in the 4th quarter.   You can NEVER write-off Steve Spurrier before the game has been played.

To Todd Gurley, Hutson Mason, Michael Bennett and the rest I say: Prove me wrong.  Go hang 60 on Spurrier in Williams-Brice.

Go Dawgs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Desire Versus Expectation

I've been involved with the South Carolina-UGA rivalry for nearly 20 years now.  When I graduated high school, I was a highly scholarshipped individual.  This, of course, was due to my performance in the classroom rather than on the football field.  Still, I had my pick of schools.  I visited, interviewed at, and enrolled in classes at The University of South Carolina in 1997.  I never attended a class.  Instead, I attended my classes at The University of Georgia, which I visited, interviewed at and enrolled in classes a few weeks after my trip to Columbia.  An odd way to end up in Athens, to be sure...but it was my path.

Now, none of that has any bearing whatsoever on the game that will be played on Saturday, save for the fact that the team I played for is squaring off against the first college I almost attended.  I am not a person divided, though.

I bleed Red and Black.

So, I want the Dawgs to Win.  No, I don't.  I want them to ROLL.  I want Gurley and Co to absolutely eviscerate the Gamecocks (metaphorically, of course), and leave their collective pride bleeding out on the field at Williams-Brice.  That's what I want.  I want to see the scoreboard lit up like a UGA Freshman's eyes the first time he sees a tit at a Frat Party.

That is not what I expect.

I want to see us run Gurley, and Gurley, and Gurley, and then Chubb, and then Gurley, and then Michel, and then Gurley, Gurley, Gurley, Chubb, Gurley, Michel, Chubb, Michel, Chubb, Chubb, Gurley ... and then Keith Marshall because why the hell not.

That is not what I expect.

I want to see Mason fake handoffs and hit receivers deep.  I want to see Mason hit Hicks for a monstrous TD along the sideline, where Hicks runs over a Corner, outruns a linebacker and then weaves TO HIT a safety as he crosses the goal line.

I want to see 40+ points on our side of the scoreboard, and <14 nbsp="" on="" p="" theirs.="">
That is not what I expect.

The Georgia faithful have swollen with pride due to the ass whipping delivered to Dabo Sweeney and his Tigers a pair of weeks ago.  People are feeling REAL good about the Dawgs right now.  But, this is where the stars DO NOT align for Georgia.  This game isn't being played in Athens, where we've been able to light up scoreboards against Cocky (even in losing).  No, this is in Columbia.  In Columbia, UGA's points get sucked into the void.

This is Richt's 5th shot at Spurrier in Columbia.  So far, the Dawgs are 2-2 in those contests, posting an average output of a whopping 11.75 points.  During those same games, Spurrier's Cocks have put up 14.25 per.  Neither total is particularly encouraging for either squad.   Sure, UGA blew the hinges off against the Gamecocks in Athens last year ... but that pesky crowd can really turn a fortune in a hurry.

Now, I know many of you would be quick to remind me of the catastrophic mistakes that occurred in that loss two years ago.  But, I've been a Georgia fan long enough to know - those things can and DO happen in big ballgames.  The question is always how the team will respond.

Spurrier would want us to roll over when adversity strikes.  He would want his crowd to get loud, the pressure to come crashing down on Mason.  He would want to see the 5th year senior crumble under the weight of that intense moment.

That is not what I expect.

I expect our team to have better leadership and cooler heads than that.  I think they have come across many miles of maturation since that last visit to Columbia.  I think they have become a more tight-knit unit.  I believe they have developed into a group which will Hunker Down and get the job done when the shit hits the fan.

And that is what I expect.  I expect the fight to be a tough one, but I expect us to win it.  I expect South Carolina to key on Gurley, but I expect him to overpower them.  I expect Spurrier to have an excellent game plan, but I expect ours to outdo him.  I expect most of the nation to say "They're gonna make Hutson win it." And if that opportunity arises, I expect him to do so.

I want the Dawgs to win.  And I expect it.

Go Dawgs.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The 16-team Playoff…it’s almost TOO simple.

Ok, so…I don’t dive into the recruiting mumbo jumbo…and the coaching hires well, I said my bit on Pruitt, and that’s all I really know about.  So, what’s a guy to write about other than the flying horseshit that will be 2014 college football playoff?

First, there’s the fact that there’s a “Selection Committee”.  That is, in and of itself, patently retarded.  If we’re going to “Play off” and “Win it on the field”, then our combatants shouldn’t be decided in a locked room with a big cedar table (inversely proportionate to the collective penile size of the committee members, females included).

Then, there’s the fact that we’ve decided to go with Four Teams.  Four.  That means that there are about 116 teams that don’t deserve any whiff of a possible title.  Well, screw that.  It’s moronic.

Here’s the thing…this whole nastiness could be avoided by simply following the plan I blogged about a few years ago (of course, changes in current Conference structure actually make it EASIER to implement).

So, here’s what we do:

There are 5 major football conferences which are split into divisions.

There are 6 major football conferences (well, 5 and the Indies) which are NOT split into divisions.

If you take the DIVISION champs of each split conference, and the CONFERENCE champs of each non-split conference, and add the TOP INDIE…..

YOU GET 16 TEAMS.  Holy crap.

So, you play the conference championship games, you seed the other 6 teams, and there goes your first round.

If it were me, I’d probably set it up like this:

But hey, who wants something that actually makes sense?

Go Dawgs

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Promise of Pruitt

Well, when Grantham and Company died, so did my last blog series.  No need to recap the Season of Suck if those guys won’t be around to fix it.  So instead, I look to the future, dawgfans.  I look to the future with excitement, anticipation, whiskey and a full-half-chub because of the Jeremy Pruitt hire.

That’s not to say I was ever sold against Grantham.  I’m always more of a “let’s see what happens” guy when it comes to coaches.  I know a good bit about football, but I don’t know as much as Mark Richt and Todd Grantham and Mike Bobo (and apparently all of the commenters at Get The Picture who know more about football than those guys) - so, if the Head Man believes in a coach, I trust him.  Doing so has enabled me to enjoy many years of Georgia Football without stressing about each detail.

That being said, it makes me happy that we’ll have a new attitude on Georgia’s defense.  I don’t buy into the “they don’t want it” or “they’re not hungry” - but I do buy into “They’re confused as hell.”  So, if Pruitt can make the concepts simpler, they’ll be more effective, and we’ll see better performance.

Here’s what I’ve learned in a quick study on Pruitt -

He ran Alabama’s defensive backs in 2010-2013.  What I noticed about this time period:

In 2010, 18 out of AL’s 22 INTs were by DBs.
In 2011, 9 out of AL’s 13 INTs were by DBs.
In 2012, 15 out of AL’s 18 INTs were by DBs.

So, in two of those three seasons, the DBs had double-digit turnovers.  2011 seemed to be a lower-than-norm performance.  The driving factor behind that was that Robert Lester had an outrageous campaign in 2010 with 8 picks, and then regressed to the mean in 2011 with 2.

In Pruitt’s 3 years at Bama, a Sophomore DB lead the team in Picks every season.  That’s an interesting note.

Also in those 3 years, team Sacks (while not a DB issues) increased every season…from 27 to 30 to 35.  That kind of pressure often results in shaky QB play and turnovers - if the DB Coach can teach the kids how to capitalize on bad passes.  Our DBs didn’t seem able to do that this season (Despite 33 sacks).   In those seasons, DBs had a small # of sacks (5.5, 2.5, 5) and moderate TFL #s in 2010/11 (16 each) which increased to 23 in 2012.

Overall, the 2011 defense at Alabama seemed to take a minor step back … and won a National Title.  All the while, they built up a ton of experience and then were VERY solid in 2012.

Then, Pruitt left and went down to FSU…

Here’s what I learned about Pruitt’s one year as DC at FSU:

The FSU Defensive squads of 2012 and 2013 don’t appear to be massively different.

2012 Points Against - 14.7/game
2013 Points Against - 12.1/game

2012 Rushing TDs Against - 10
2013 Rushing TDs Against -  7

2012 Passing TDs Against - 13
2013 Passing TDs Against - 14

But, the Defensive Backs did show some marked improvements.

The 2012 squad had 36 team sacks, but 24 of them came from two players - upperclass DL.
The 2013 FSU team had 35 team sacks, and they were spread among a number of players.  The team’s sack leader was Lamarcus Joyner, a DB, with 5.5.

In fact, when it comes to being active behind the line of scrimmage, Pruitt seems to have really brought that with him to FSU.  In 2012, the DBs had 7 total TFL.  In 2013, DBs had 24.5 TFL, and the leading DB had 8 on his own.

The whole team was better behind the line of scrimmage, actually.  Every player who recorded a sack either maintained or increased their production from 2012.  The top three QB Hunters made fairly nice increases with Joyner going from 0 in 2012 to 5 in 2013, Timmy Jernigan stepping up from 1.5 to 4.5 and Mario Edwards, Jr going from 1.5 to 3.5.

With Pruitt, it appears to be about Aggression, Aggression, Aggression.  This resulted in higher sack numbers, and higher turnover numbers.

2012 - 11 DB Interceptions (11 team)
2013 - 17 DB Interceptions (26 team)

2012 - 4 Fumbles caused by DBs (9 Team)
2013 - 9 Fumbles caused by DBs (12 Team)

All in all, the turnovers increased from 22 to 35.

The one area where Dawgfans won’t be excited is that the 2013 FSU defense regressed from 2012’s in the area of 3rd Down Conversions.

2012 - 27.15%
2013 - 31.92%

But…the Georgia Bulldogs have beaten that 31.92% 3rd down percentage in only one of the past seven seasons.  No surprise…it was in 2011, when UGA had a staunch 28.93% 3rd down conversation rate.  In 2012, we fell to 36.54% and in 2013 all the way to 39.49%.

Finally, if we look at the way UGA13 compares to FSU 12, we get this…

UGA13 Team Sacks - 33
FSU12  Team Sacks - 36

UGA13 Team INT (DB) - 7 (6)
FSU12 Team INT (DB) - 11 (11)

UGA13 Team TFL (DB) - 81 (16.5)
FSU12 Team TFL (DB) - 86 (7)

UGA13 Team Turnovers - 15
FSU12 Team Turnovers - 22

On the surface, the Georgia Defense that Pruitt Inherits isn’t incredibly dissimilar from the FSU one he walked into a year ago.  If he can make similar improvements to our Defense as he did to FSU’s, then we may see some drastically different results in 2014.  I don’t know that I expect higher sack numbers, but I definitely expect DBs who play with more certainty and more confidence.  That will make all the difference in the world.

One of the main tenets of Grantham’s style was that his attacking pass rush would rush the QB, and his complicated DB schemes would confuse him - resulting in more turnovers.  In 2013, however, the pass rush wasn’t as dominant as we’d want it to be (though the numbers were high, we often weren’t effective in key moments) and the people most confused by our coverages, were our DBs.  That’s a doomed-to-fail scenario if ever there was one.

I think Pruitt’s plan will be to simplify the scheme, and amplify the attack.  And I think that’s a great plan.

Go Dawgs.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Looking Back … Passing Offense

There is no lack of documentation showing the love-hate-love affair I’ve had with Aaron Murray.  I was a skeptic, and a detractor, and a begrudging accepter…and then, as his Junior and Senior years progressed, a full-blooded appreciator of the man and the player who was Aaron Murray.  After he lost against UF in 2010, I told my friends…he won’t lose to them again.  Then, in the latter part of 2012, I felt he had finally shaken the “big game” bullshit off his back.  The bowl game would go on to prove it, as he turned around a lousy first half and lay a gutsy performance out on the ground, bringing us the win.

So, I came into 2013 very optimistic.

Then, the first play at Clemson.    Ugh.

Then, Tennesee.  Double Ugh.

So many guys went down, our sideline became a trauma center the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Superdome after Katrina.

But, we had some guys stand up and play some pretty good football.  We also got some guys back who were our leaders coming into the season.  Arthur Lynch returned from being banged up and finished the season strong, earning All-SEC honors.  That’s the guy we thought he’d be when we signed him.

Still, if you’d told me we’d lose Mitchell and Scott-Wesley for the season, as well as Conley, Bennet, Lynch and Rome for multiple games each - and yet we’d still finish as the Nation’s 16th ranked passing offense (and tied for 10th in yards per attempt), I’d have called you nuts.  In fact, I definitely wouldn’t have thought our passing game would drop by only 226 yards over the course of the year - and given our schedule strength, that’s pretty amazing.

So how’d we do it?

For starters, we added more throws to the running backs.  Last season, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for a 27-208-1 line.  This season, Gurley himself improved on that greatly with 30 catches, 344 yards, and 5 TDs (with one game still to go, and no SECCG stats).  Also, by spreading the ball around (lack of experienced deep threat), we had more receivers in the 200-399 yard range than previously.  

Jonathan Rumph was much slower to come along than many had anticipated.  In fact, Reggie Davis far outproduced him in catches, yards, YPC, as well as games played.  Reggie may have shown himself to be one of our quality Deep Threats of the future. 

And of course, receivers need QBs to toss them the ball.  UGA had two very good signal callers this season.  

The sample size and competition was vastly different, but you have to love that from a Completion Percentage perspective, there was absolutely zero drop-from Murray to Mason.  Not a tenth of a percent.  Nada.  Not bad when you’re replacing the SEC’s all-time leading passer.  

Sadly, Murray never hit a 65% season…but 64.8 was an improvement on his 64.5 from 2012.

Overall, with a patchwork receiving corps and two very strong passers, Georgia had a very serviceable passing attack which bodes well for 2014 and beyond.  As we look to the future, in fact, we see that our top two producing receivers (Conley, Bennett) are back, as will be Davis and Malcolm Mitchell, providing deep threat opportunities for the vertically-minded Hutson Mason.  Receptions out of the backfield should continue to be a big part of our passing game, and the ol’ bread-and-butter play action looks to be there as well since our RB stable only gets stronger with the return of Keith Marshall and the addition of Chub and Michel.  

Even with the loss of Murray next season, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Richt/Bobo offense will continue to build on what it has done recently, and bring even more wins in 2014.  If only that defense will catch up……..

Go Dawgs.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013 Looking Back… Rushing Offense ...

At the outset of the season, the Dawgs were set to have the most potent rushing attack in the nation.  The only question mark was the big boys up front.  With Gurley and Marshall (this season forgoing the silly “Gurshall” nickname that just smacks of fans living in the past) primed and ready to go, a hopeful Dawgnation screamed from every peak that we would “Run This Conference.”

Didn’t quite work out that way.

Now, the YPG average of 176.08 is only 6.49 YPG than UGA’s 2012 total that was good enough for 4th in the conference.  But, in a year when rushing was UP across the conference, you certainly didn’t expect the Gurley-Marshall tandem to underproduce in the way that it did.

Of course, I suppose that’s what happens when your Starter goes down with an ankle injury, and Captain Change-of-Pace tears his ACL.

Some out there in the net-o-sphere believe UGA didn’t run as much this year as last (due to injury), but that’s not really the case.  In 2012, UGA averaged 37.5 Att/Game, and in 2013, the # dropped minimally to 36.9 Att/Game.  Or, in essence, we had less than ONE fewer attempt per game in 2013.  Still, the drop off from Todd Gurley to just about anyone else is pretty substantial.

Here’s a snapshot of how the BallCarriers for UGA fared this season:

Gurley going off at 100 ypg is pretty nice.  We’d love to see it over that, of course…but if your star running back is averaging 100 ypg, and he’s not 100%, well - that’s pretty damned good.  After Marshall went down, you had Green and Douglas splitting the load, and they were fairly neck-and-neck with productivity.  Both scored 3 TDs, both have their strengths and weaknesses.  Green is more of the big-play guy, but Douglas hammers out the tough yards a little better.  For two freshmen to come in and be able to do what they do, well, that was a bright spot for the offense (The fumbles notwithstanding).  

With another year of seasoning on these guys next year, Georgia will set itself up to have a very potent rushing attack.  Perhaps Nick Chubb and/or Sony Michel will get the opportunity to LEARN for a season before being thrown into the fire.  I’m a big fan of the 4-tailback system..but 6-tailbacks?  Jeebus.

Overall, I’d have to say that our running game this season has been serviceable.  It was supposed to be one of the brightest spots on the team, but injuries prevented it from being that.  As good as Brendan and JJ may turn out to be, they aren’t Gurley and Marshall.  Also, there’s no statistic for battles lost at the point of attack.  At times, our offensive line seemed to lack the PUNCH it needed to truly take advantage of opposing teams' lines, and thus open the roadways for our backs.  Then, at other times, there were holes big enough for Gary Danielson’s ego to run through.  Look, the fact is, you’re not going to blow everyone off the ball all the time.  Somebody’s gonna nut-up against you, and you have to fight through that.  Sometimes your kids are going to get hurt, and you have to fight through that.  Georgia having to rely on 3rd and 4th string running backs leaves us in the bottom third of rushing in the conference.  It’s not a huge surprise.

You ask yourself…how can the running game improve next season?  There are two very obvious answers - 

Don’t get hurt.
Get more consistent line play.  

Do those two things, and I think you see UGA vault back up to the top 4.

Go Dawgs.