Sunday, October 24, 2010

Concerned about our Dawgs

Early in the year, this Dawgs team had a major problem - maturity. Murray wasn't a "mature' quarterback, so the offense was fairly constrained. The offensive line wasn't mature enough to ignore all the hype they received in the preseason. The Defensive line hadn't matured into their roles in the new 3-4. The defense as a whole wasn't making great tackles - trusting their "big hits" to take down players with more focus than they themselves had.

In total, our team was immature and lacked focus.

Over the past few weeks, we've seen Georgia play like Georgia should play. We've seen a hungry team come out and chew up its opponents. We've seen Washaun Ealey run how Washaun Ealey should run. We've seen AJ Green be AJ Green. A shuffle in the line has brought some fight into our OL, and we've seen the response in the running game and in a very vertical Aaron Murray. We've seen this team win three blowouts. In fact, in all 4 wins this year, the outcome has never been in doubt after halftime. In 4 losses this year, the outcome has not been decided until the 4th quarter, in three of those games - on the final UGA drive.

This concerns me.

It wouldn't have concerned me before last night. Until our win over Kentucky, I thought the team was maturing well - that they were going to put their feet on the throats of the opposition. I thought I was seeing the turn towards domination that often comes late in the first season of a new defense. After last night, though, I do not know if that's the case.

In the first half against Kentucky, the defense was great - right up until the end of the half. They had played about 28 minutes of great football. They had forced turnovers, and created problems for Hartline. Even on a long successful pass play, our stingy defense ripped the ball directly from the arms of the receiver. Then, at the tail-end of the second quarter, Hartline avoided a light rush by UGA and hit a deep pass for a TD bringing the Cats back from the brink of destruction, to a 28-10 halftime deficit. UGA came out of the half and drove the ball 70 yards for a touchdown to make it 35-10, and that's when the defense should have put the hammer down.

They didn't. The defense gave up 3rd and longs all night, and gave up BIG touchdown passes. I have to wonder if the DBs thought the pass rush would get there, so they didn't work as hard in coverage. Twice Cuff was beat for long scores. On one, he slipped while getting into position to make a play on the ball. That's unfortunate, but it's not a breakdown. The second score on him, though, was. He was called for holding, then didn't make a play on either the ball or the man...and it cost our defense a touchdown. PLUS, he dropped an interception in the endzone which would have prevented a touchdown on the drive.

That's a bunch of points we can hang on one guy, but we can't. It was a mindset thing by the whole defense. They simply lost the focus of crushing the opposition. This is a lack of maturity, and it worries me.

Florida hasn't looked good this year, but they are every bit capable of beating UGA. They have the athletes, they have good coaches, and they've had two weeks to prepare. A third blowout win certainly could have given the Dawgs a bit too much confidence. But then, there's also the opposite - this was a blowout win, but it was in ugly fashion. The defense knows the efort they put in against the 'Cats in the 2nd half isn't going to win a game against the Gators. The gameplan was good - take Randal Cobb out of the game....but some of the execution was a bit lax.

Still, when they pulled within two scores late, we completely shut them down and got the ball back. I have to liken it to the UGA-AL game in 2008. Yeah, UGA made a fight and made it look good in the 2nd half, but when the AL defense needed to make a stop, they did, and when they needed to drive down the field, they did that too. That's what UGA did last night. We drove down the field and put in an icing TD, then shut them down.

We lost focus and maturity for a while, but found it again at the end of the game and completed the win.

There's room to improve, and there's cause for concern - but there's also room for confidence. Three weeks ago, most of you wouldn't have given us a snowball's chance in hell to beat Florida.
Things have changed. If we find our focus again this week, and keep getting better, Florida won't stand a chance.

Go Dawgs!

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