Friday, September 17, 2010

UGA - ARK....Different Flavor, Same Satisfaction - VICTORY

Whether you're thinking about the year before, the day before, or the play before, you're living in the past. Stop it. Those of you out there who believe the Arkansas team that will show up in Athens tomorrow is the same Arkansas Joe Cox and Co bested last year in Ark are sadly mistaken. These are not the same teams. Last season, Mallett was playing in his first season as a Razorback. His game against UGA was only the second for Arkansas, and his first ever SEC contest.

And he played well. The kid threw for a season-high 408 yards, and five touchdowns. He had a similar game against Troy at the end of the season (405 yds, 5 TD). Simply put, the kid can throw. I had a friend send me an email with his home/away splits from a year ago. Upon first glance, I thought..."Yes. The kid is 0-4 away from home. He's very comfortable in the confines of Arkansas, but outside he gets rattled." He was never over 45% passing, never threw more than 1 TD on the road, and had negative yardage on the ground in each contest - he got sacked a bunch. I thought - he's just not a road-gamer. Then I realized his away games were against AL, FL, LSU and Ole Miss. Now, while Ole Miss isn't known to be a rock-solid defensive team, they still have a good home crowd. But the other three, well...No team has gone into Tuscaloosa or Gainesville and left victorious in a while, and Baton Rouge is one of the most unfriendly places in college football. So, Mallet and Co were fighting an uphill battle from the onset.

Looking over the home statistics, I see that Mallett nearly had a season-low in completion percentage against UGA, but had season-high TDs and Yardage. How do I explain that? Easy. Do you remember that game? Cox and Mallett were just tossing up grenades, hoping they'd hit. Luckily for the Dawgs, we also had weapons in the legs of Blair Walsh and Richard Samuel. Samuel's lone highlight from 2009 was an 80-yard run that none will soon forget.

"DUKES! You said to stop living in the past, but all you've done is talk about it."

I know, I know. I'm pointing out what people SHOULDN'T be thinking about. It's a writing tool - look, stop criticizing and just read my words!

So, here we are - 2010. Mallett's on the road against us now. Do I think we'll see a similar contest from 2009? No. Why? Well, I take it back a couple of years to 2007. Georgia and Alabama, two very evenly matched teams - played into overtime, and UGA walked away with a victory. Fast forward a year later, UGA was ranked #1 preseason, and was 4-0 heading into the game against an AL team once again regarded as very similar to UGA. UGA was beaten handily by Alabama. Saban's defense shut us down in every conceivable way (and our defense helped them out by granting free first downs on personal foul penalties a few times).

"Whoah, Dukes! Are you saying Arkansas is gonna beat us down like Bama did in Athens??? You're a prick!"

No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying the defense that allowed Mallet to throw so freely is no longer in Athens. Jones and Evans, a talented and yet inept safety duo have pushed forth to the NFL. Willie Martinez has floated over to the Big Xii (I think the "ii" is appropriate), where he can blame poor coverage schemes on the "high-octane offenses of the conference." Jancek and Fabris are....Well, who cares, really? I can't be certain of this (because my stat sheets are at home and I'm sacrificing valuable work time to write this) - but I feel like our sack totals for the first two games of this season may rival the first HALF of '09. Anyway, this ain't the same defense. Did we get gashed last week by a stud runningback? Yes. But, on the upside, Garcia threw for 313 yards and 2 TDs against us a year ago. This year? 165 and none. Sure, they didn't NEED to throw this year like they did last year...but the result is still nice to see. We also sacked Garcia 5 times - and the Razorback O-Line has definitely shown itself to be less than stellar so far this year.

What should we be looking for this week against AR?

Well, I don't think their defense has improved by leaps and bounds. They opened last season with a huge win over a patsy opponent, giving up only ten points, and thought their defense would be up to the task of stopping Georgia. They weren't. Our defense, on the other hand, has shown a great deal of improvement over last season. Even though we won against South Carolina last year, our defense didn't look particularly strong, and in the loss against OK State, we were anything but solid. The Dawgs D played a bad half of football last week, and it cost us the game. Grantham's adjustments in the second half kept us hanging around until the final minutes. He's learned. He's taught. Things will change this week.

On the offense, the AR beat writers are saying the Razorbacks are more balanced now, with a "stable" of running backs. Through two games, Mallett has 700+ yards passing, and AR has less than 300 yards rushing. Yeah, that's incredibly balanced. In case you're not good at math, that's over 70% of the offensive production from the pass.

Chris Low says we have to stack the box and force Mallett to pass.

Um, that's like saying I have to put both gloves on my belly, and force Tyson to punch my face. I don't think it's going to be tough to make that happen. I disagree whole-heartedly with Low. I don't think we stack the box. I think we play the true 3-4 defense. You send PRESSURE, PRESSURE, PRESSURE at Mallett. Why? Because his o-line isn't great, and he does throw interceptions. He's averaging a pick a week to crap competition. What happens when he faces a strong-D that is highly turnover-focused? Force him into fast decisions. Blitz, blitz, and when they're ready for the blitz, BLITZ SOME MORE. Look, I'm old-fashioned. I come from the school of, "It's hard for QB to beat you from his back."

I want to see Mallett pounded into the turf.

I want to see Murray throwing the ball.

I want to see our O-Line open holes.

I want to see Houston, Dent, Robinson and Washington playing "Meet me at the QB"

I want to see Boykin, Rambo, Hamilton and Cummings playing "That's My Ball, Bitch!"

I want to see the Dawgs ROLL the Hogs.

And I firmly believe that's what I'm going to see.

Georgia by 17. Go Dawgs!