Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ealy...or Sanks?

I've been reading so much over the past few days regarding Ealy's fumble against MSU, that I'm curious as to which fumble now holds more infamy for Georgia fans. People are ROASTING Washaun for not diving on that ball, and I'm not happy about it either. When it happened, though, I questioned whether a whistle blew before the MSU players jumped on it.

Either way, Ealy didn't recover it - and his statement saying he saw the ball but didn't attempt a recovery because he thought he heard whistle, is just plain dumb.

Still....is it worse than Jasper Sanks' fumble and subsequent "I set the ball down" explanation?

The rabid Georgia fan will say that the Dawgs were screwed on both calls. With Jasper, the ball was out on the 1. A GT player picked it up, retreated into the endzone and was down. That should be a safety. It was ruled a touchback. With Washaun, if the whistle was truly blown, then the recovery never happened. That means the ball should have belonged to UGA at the point of the fumble.


Personally, I gotta go with Jasper's as the worst of the two.

Time to get rid of him?

The man rides into town to take a proud program and lift it up from mediocrity to the place where all Bulldawg fans believe it should be. What does he do? He wins two championships in his first 5 seasons. In his next four, however, his teams bumble through, and he has one year where folks think "that team was pretty good - maybe they deserve a title"...but it isn't so. They lost when they needed to win, and were rewarded with only a bowl victory.

His team loses four games in its tenth season.

Is it time to get rid of him?


By the way, the year is 1973, and Vince Dooley is the coach. Do you fire him after that season?

How about after 1974, when the Dawgs are 6-6?

1975, when the team musters 9 wins?


If you answer yes to any of these, then you miss out on UGA's 1976 SEC title, the three year run of SEC titles from 1980-1983, oh, and that pesky little National Title in 1980.


People say Mark Richt has been given enough rope to hang himself. These people talk about the "Vince Dooley Era" as orchestrated by God Himself. Guess what...I wasn't around during that glory age. So, I look back on it without emotion. I look back on it through more rational eyes. If you're calling for the firing of Mark Richt because the program is in a "Decline" in your eyes, then you need to look back at the span of years following Dooley's 1968 title season.

1968: 8 -1 - 2 SEC Champions

1969: 5-5
1970: 5-5
1971: 11-1
1972: 7-4
1973: 7-4
1974: 6-6
1975: 9-3

1976: 10-2 SEC champions

I'm willing to bet the folks who are screaming the loudest for the firing of Richt are the same ones who in 1970 and 1974 were asking for patience for Dooley. I say this, because in my own personal circle, those crying out for Richt to be fired are of the 45-70 age range. Roll that back about 36 years....you have nine year-old kids who didn't really care about who's coaching a football team, up to 34 year olds, who remember more fondly the years when Dooley had brought titles, and wanted him to succeed again.

What happened? He succeeded again.

Vince Dooley was a very good coach in his time. He raised Bulldawg Football to a level that was unmatched for years, until Mark Richt came to the University of Georgia. How then, can those who supported Dooley so long ago be so against Mark Richt? People who say Richt's program should be better than it is in its tenth year, need to look back at the 9th, 10th, and 11th years of Dooley's program. They weren't pretty.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. Football is cyclical. We have a very good coach at the top of this program, and he will bring us back up. That's what winners do, and Mark Richt is a winner.


Go Dawgs.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mike Bobo as UGA OC

Mike Bobo officially took over as UGA's playcaller for the Georgia Tech game in 2006. That first game wasn't a barn-burner, but he was able to earn a victory. Against Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, his offense caught fire in the second half, and was able to come-back against the nation's top Defense. Things looked good for him.
2007 - Looking better than it is
At the end of the 2007 season, many thought UGA deserved some kind of shot at the National Title. Looking over the season, we find that Georgia only faced one great defense, defeating them. However, in two losses, Georgia's offense completely failed to show up, costing us an opportunity to play for just that. Who won the title that season? A 2-loss LSU team. In wins against Vandy and Kentucky, we failed to score more than the average opponent - and these were not great defenses. Overall, the output by an offense for a first-year OC wasn't awful, but three games weren't great, and that's enough to keep you out of a title game. The six game run the team went on to close the season had many people believing that UGA would be the #1 team in 2008, and the preseason polls said as much.
2008 - What could have been
2008, by the standards I've set in this analysis, may very well be the best performance by a UGA offense during the past 10 years. We all rememeber 2008 as a complete failure. We think of what a waste it was. When we think that way, I think we miss out on what that team actually DID accomplish. Was the offensive output versus South Carolina woeful? It was. But, the defense was able to do enough for us to win the game. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the AL, FL and GT games. Those three games were the beginning of the end for Coach Willie Martinez. With the exception of the USC game, Bobo's offense in 2008 was statistically very very good. Situationally, you could make an argument against it, but had the defense been up to snuff, you should be able to infer that the season would have been drastically different. We had all-world RB Knowshon Moreno, yet it was the passing game which was much more impressive. A stretch of the final 5 games of 2008 show a decline in our running game, though its hard to say how much of that is game plan and how much is execution. We played three elite defenses, and outperformed the average opponent against them...but we lost two of those games because our own defense couldn't keep pace. Also, costly turnovers hurt us - and that's not gameplan. That's execution.....something that was really lacking in 2009.
2009 - The end of the second term
The running woes continued throughout the the first half of this season, and when the scond half hit and UGA's running game took off, many people took that as a good sign. But look at the stats. We were hardly facing amazing defenses. Did we run better than the average opponent? Yes. But did the average opponent pile up ridiculous yards? Yes as well. Did our defense help us? Not much. But, you can't call games against OSU or LSU defensive losses. The game against Kentucky certainly wasn't lost because of the defense. Against OSU and LSU we simply didn't get it done on offense. Against Kentucky, the gameplan was there, but the execution was terrible in the second half. We outperformed the average opponent against the only elite defense we faced in Florida, but we didn't do enough to win. 2009 was a season most of us would like to forget, I'm sure not the least of which is Mike Bobo.
He's had less years, but in just over three years of playcalling, these are Mike Bobo's numbers:
In 38 games,
Mike Bobo's Offenses failed to outperform the average in SCORING in 34% of games.
Mike Bobo's Offenses failed to outperform the average in Total Offense in 34% of games.
Mike Bobo's Offenses failed to outperform the average in Passing O in 47% of games.
Mike Bobo's Offenses failed to outperform the average in Rushing O in 53% of games.
So, comparing Bobo to Richt, you learn that Bobo's offenses Rush about the same, aren't as good in the passing game, but ultimately outscore the opposition's average to a much higher degree.
Still, some say that Bobo isn't good enough to be the OC at UGA. They say if we want to win titles, we have to get a new OC. I submit that we could have won one in 2008 had the defense been worth its snuff. Then again, the offense cost us in 2007...so I suppose that's a wash. So far in 2010, we're out of the race, and we should place that firmly on the offense. How does he stack up AGAINST championship offenses? I'll put that to the test in my next installment.
Go Dawgs.






Mark Richt as UGA's OC...

Many people have jumped on the public outcry that Mike Bobo be removed from his playcalling duties, and that Mark Richt should once again be the HMIC of the Offense. I have some friends who believe that would be an unmitigated disaster. Luckily for me, the offensive statistics I've been digging into lately do a good job of painting a picture of Richt's term as OC at UGA.

I'll lay it out there, you decide what you will.
KEY:
BLACK = a game where I believe the offense completely underperformed
YELLOW= our output was basically on-par with what the average offense did against our opponent
GREEN = A defense which is a "top 20" type defense
RED = a LOSS in the "opponent" column, a SUB-PAR performance in all other columns
Dark Grey Row = Non D-1A opponent, not tracked.

When I remember the "glory" years of Richt's tenure, I remember stout defenses and efficient offenses. When I look back at the statistics, I see some games where our teams racked up 500 and 600 yards of offense. That's none too shabby. But, you also have to look at the competition, and think about the fact that those stout defenses did a good job of giving us more possessions, with better field position. Here, in image form, are the statistics I've uncovered displaying Richt's tenure as OC.

2001 - The Beginning

In the 2001 season, Richt's offense was brand new to UGA. There were questions about whether he had the talent that he wanted in the system. That team played all D-I level teams, but only one elite defense and went 8-4 (8-3 plus a bowl loss). In twelve games, Richt's offense underperformed* the average competition only twice, losing one of those games. However,
in three other losses, the Dawgs could not get into the endzone often enough to win. It's interesting to note that against the one elite defense UGA faced in that season, they did not underperform as a whole, but did fail to score as many points as the average opponent. Of course, if memory serves, in the early days of this offense, touchdowns came at a premium. In fact, in that first year, we can see that Georgia only outperformed the average team's scoring in 5 of those 12 games.

* Defining an "underperformance" is a difficult thing. Most people would say that if you score less on offense than the other team gives up on average, your offense has underperformed. Others would say that if you fail to gain what the other team gives up on average, you have underperformed. However, neither of these take into account game situation. It's possible that a defense continually gets the offense the ball in favorable field position, resulting in low yardage totals. There is also the opposite - that the defense forces the offense to drive long all day, which it does, but can not succeed at getting into the endzone often on those 85 and 90 yard drives. This is why we must look at eveything together. When an offense is failing to perform up to the average in the majority of categories, I think it's safe to say this is an overall underperformance.

2002 - Champions

This is the season most people remember as UGA really putting it all together. In fact, there were only two games during that season which look to me like overall failures on the part of the offense. Against Clemson, we failed to gain significantly, but I believe that was du to situations in the game. I beleive we won 31-0....which would say the defense was lights-out. As I stated before, playing with a short field can often lead to lower output totals. I think it's important to note that UGA faced two elite defenses in this season, and performed better than the average against both. Against South Carolina, our defense (in the form of David Pollack) saved our asses as we failed to score an offensive touchdown. Then, against FL, we had a total offensive letdown, and it very likely cost us a national title shot. I attended the Sugar Bowl, and it was a sleepy, boring game. Richt seemed content to ride Musa Smith and simply grind one out against his former team. The offense was anything but electric. But, in this season Richt did a good job of beating up on the teams we should beat, and even pulled out victories against the teams that perhaps we shouldn't. We had two MAJOR offensive hiccups, and won one of those games. Oh, and we went 13-1. That is the kind of performance the Dawgfans are seeking today.

2003 - Beaten by Champions

Richt's 2003 offense only underperformed in two games - against UAB and Vandy. This was bizzare. These were two teams who didn't rank incredibly high on the defensive side of the ball. Still, we didn't get it done like we should against them. Ours was a team who had just gone 13-1 and didn't lose a truckload of talent going into 2003. We were pretty good, but in two games against eventual National Champion LSU, we performed ON PAR with their average competition in terms of scoring. That's just not how you win titles. A division crown? Maybe...but we won that because the other teams in the East couldn't leg it out. Flordia beat us, but had three losses in the SEC. Still, overall, the offense performed pretty well. We outperformed the average against two elite defenses, and were on-par with the average against the best defense in the country, LSU.
2004 - Dissappointments abound
David Greene, senior QB. David Pollack, Senior DE. This was going to be the end of an era in Georgia football, and we all fully expected a title. We'd won the east twice in a row, and had been within fifteen minutes of going undefeated two years earlier. In the fourth week of the season, UGA faced the first of three elite defenses in reigning national champion LSU, and beat the pants off them. Then, the unexplainable - we fell completely apart in a game against middle-of the pack Tennessee. UGA carried a four-year winning streak into that game, and pissed away a chance at a title with that loss. Somehow, our offense simply never got clicking. We wouldn't underperfom again until running into a stout Auburn team on their way to a 14-0 season, and NO SHOT at the title. We outpaced a good Wisconsin team in our bowl game to claim a 10-2 season, but it was far less than we imagined coming into that year.
2005 - Unimpressive Champions
After the year that wasn't, there was excitement with a redshirt senior returning for his time in the spotlight. DJ Shockley was ever the foil to David Greene, with his athletic ability surpassing his pure quarterbacking skills. I expected our offense to go very much to the option, but it did not. We became a shotgun-read type offense. We ran alot of split-back, and we won games against some good defenses. Points, though, did not flow freely from the offense once again. We did beat up on some of the worst teams we faced, but we defintely didn't crush mid-level teams like Mississippi State and Arkansas. We lost to Auburn for a second straight year, and due to an injury to starting QB DJ Shockley, dipped back into the L column against FL once more. The offense went through a five-game stretch at the end of the season which had four poor offensive performances, and was only able to win three games. We rebounded by dismantling a great LSU defense in the SEC title game, but it took us nearly three quarters to catch fire against WVU in the Sugar Bowl, a game we lost when our special teams failed to stop a fake punt late in the fourth. Despite winning his second SEC title in his first five seasons, Richt heard clamoring among UGA supporters who complained about his playcalling. Many suggested that the duties of an HC and an OC are too much for one man to handle. The next season, it appears that point may have been proven.
2006 - a New Beginning
In 2006 Richt was faced with something he hadn't dealt with since 2001. He had no real experience at Quarterback. He had three options - 1)Joe Tereshinski, a backup who had been serviceable in some situations, but never spectacular. Joe had done everything UGA had ever asked of him, was a legacy player, and was as selfless as they come. 2) Joe Cox, a redshirt freshman who had a ridiculous highschool record, tossed 60+ touchdowns in his senior year, and had been absorbing Richt's system for a year. 3)Matt Stafford, a true freshman ESPN Top 150 recruit who drew comparisons to NFL QBs while still in high school. Richt had no clear-cut winner of the job after fall camp (which,when that's true, I think you bench the senior. If he can't clearly beat two freshmen, you sit him) and tested all three in game situations over the first few weeks of the season. Georgia was 5-0 when Tennessee came calling, but the offense had been anything but inspirational. We had squeeked by too long, and the wheels came off against the Volunteers. The offense never found its footing. Georgia lost four of five starting with that game, and only performed significantly better than average against one defense, Mississippi State, who was awful. Richt's next game would be his final as the signal caller for UGA. In the 2006 game against Auburn, a team that boasted a top-20 defense, Richt's offense piled up 30 points, over 16 more than the average team against picked up against Auburn. The offense fired on all cylinders, and some questioned whether or not Richt actually called that game. The next week, Mike Bobo was announced as the playcaller for the Georgia Tech game, leading folks to believe that perhaps Bobo was behind the playcalling that dismantled Auburn as well.
So, that's nearly six years of playcalls by Mark Richt. He had some good seasons, and he had some bad ones. What I don't understand is how people believe his playcalling to be significantly better than Bobo's. When I look at my humble numbers, I find the following:
Richt's offenses failed to outperform the average offense 28% of the time.
Richt's offenses failed to outperform in SCORING 55% of the time.
Richt's offenses failed to outperform in Total Yards 38% of the time.
Richt's offenses failed to outperform in Passing Yards 38% of the time.
Richt's offenses failed to outperform in Rushing Yards 52% of the time.
Now, this DOES NOT take into account any kind of situational differences such as not rushing the ball often because passing was working so well, or playing on a short field. BUT, all statistical analyses are limited in some way.
If you ask me, there are two glaring areas in which Richt's offenses failed to perform. We didn't run the ball particularly well, and we weren't great at scoring touchdowns. If you ask any SEC fan the two things that win titles on offense, they'll say running the football, and scoring touchdowns.
Maybe Richt was right to hand the playcalling over to Bobo. We'll see in the next blog.
Go Dawgs.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

We are terrible, and you can't blame it all on Penn Wagers.

There's not much else to say.

Explain things away in whatever manner you want to, but we are awful.

Murray made so many fresman mistakes in this game, I stopped keeping count. MSU's #34 should have 3 interceptions and be on award lists after this game. Murray couldn't stare a receiver down more than he did in this game if he tried to.

We continue to ride the I-formation but a underperforming offensive line and backs who don't really seem to have great vision aren't what brings success out of that formation.

Our defense was on the field all night again, and that poses problems that are multi-fold. First, we can't score. Second, our D gets tired and can't stop teams late. Third, we lose clock.

The commentators are talking about resetting goals and reevaluating things. Man, that's an understatement if there ever was one. Georgia is in the bottom of the SEC East. AT the moment, the bottom of the rung looks like a mile away. We play Colorado next week, which will be a nice respite from the SEC...but we still are a long way from being a good football team.

We don't get a consistent pass rush.

Our running game is virtually non-existent.

We still haven't really cut Murray loose.

For some reason we're trying to run 2007's offense, when we should be running 2005's.

We are awful.


Go Dawgs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This should come as no surprise...

I'm still working on my statistical dive into the last decade of UGA football and the past 4 National Champions, all out of the SEC.

I'll hit you with some quick highlights -

2009 - Alabama's offense "underachieved" in 15.38% of its games.

2008 - Florida's offense "underachieved" in 0% of its games.

2007 - LSU's offense "underachieved" in 7.69% of its games.

2006 - Florida's offense "underachieved" in 0% of its games.


From 2006 (Ga Tech)-2009, Bobo's offenses "underachieved" in 21.05% of their games.

From 2001-2006 (Auburn) Richt's offenses "underachieved" in 31.43% of their games.

Now, it's unfair to lump ALL of the UGA offenses together and then look at the other teams for only one year. So, I'll be comparing single-year results in a later blog. I just wanted to hit you guys up with this one, and let you know that I'm still working away. It's a ton of data.

Go Dawgs.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Revisiting the Bobo Assessment

I was urged by a reader to look deeper into the statistics I gathered, and so I've done so. I'm sure that when I complete the research I mentioned to him, even more will be revealed. For now, though, still sticking with the statistics I have already compiled, I show the following:

2006 - UGA's offense under-performed offensively in one out of the two games Bobo called.
- 1/2 = 50%

2007 - UGA under-performed offensively in three games, losing two.
- 3/12 = 25%

2008 - UGA under-performed offensively in one game.
- 1/12 = 8%

2009 - UGA under-performed offensively in three games, losing all three.
- 3/12 = 25%

Now, these totals seem far better than what I had in my original assessment. Part of this is because I went back and looked at games where only one area of the offense was "lacking." When I did that, I eliminated that game as an "under-performance" if we made up for that lacking by increasing the other phase of the game by close to the same amount or greater. For instance, in the 2008 game against Georgia Tech, our running game was sub-par by 40 yards, but our passing game was 214 yards better than what teams usually accomplished against them. So, that's a wash - apparently a game-plan difference.

Using THAT analysis, we see that Bobo's offenses in 2008 actually performed much better against the competition than their average opponent's offenses than the 2007 versions. However, people think of 2007 as being a much better season. Now, add to that the fact that in all three of our losses, our offense performed by-and-large BETTER against the teams who beat us than the average opponent did, and you get a different idea about 2008 altogether. Admittedly, of course, these statistics do not take into account SITUATION. Alabama was up on us 30-0 at the half. We did most of our damage in the last quarter and a half. The same is very true in the Florida game. Against Georgia Tech, our defense fell apart in the second half, and we couldn't keep pace with Tech's option. The funniest part? None of these games are the game that our offense under-performed. That was against South Carolina, where we were in the red in all four categories. In our two blowout losses, we were never in those games, and that's what causes the frustration on the part of the fanbase. When we faced the best teams, we didn't look competitive.

The question was posed to me - if these success percentages are too low, what am I looking for? Well...I want to see our offense perform better against our competition than the average offense does EVERY SINGLE WEEK. Why? Because I want our team to be the best. If our team is the best, we won't perform below AVERAGE. I will be looking into how the last four National Champions performed using this same analysis, because my hypothesis is that they did much better than we did. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. We'll see.


Also - if anyone knows a good way to set up a table online so that you guys can have access to my raw data, let me know. I'd love for you to be able to look at the same thing I am, but there's no way I'm "html"ing this many cells.


Go Dawgs.

The Big Bobo Question

Ok, this is most likely going to be a lengthy blog, as I put a few hours of research into it and I'm gonna make it worth all of that work. Well, that and the fact that I am the person writing it, and I tend to write lengthy blogs. Let me tell you what research I put into this blog-

I went back and picked up the statistics from every game since Bobo became the OC of record (GT 06) up through the bowl game against TA&M. I looked at the Rushing Yards, Passing Yards and Points scored by the offense and field goal units. Then, I compared those statistics to the annual statistical averages of every team we played. I threw out poll rankings, as I couldn't care any less about what the media or coaches think about the teams we play. I want to analyze our performance against the mean. I want to see where our offense stacks up against the other teams who are playing the teams we play. Also, I want to see where the defenses we play stack up on a national level, so I looked into the national defensive rankings of our opponents in each of those categories.

Now, I know many of you would be expecting a table here. BUT, I won't include a table. I won't include one because I really don't want to spend the hours that it would take for me to transfer all of the data I've compiled into a table on blogger. If I could nest an excel spreadsheet or copy-paste what I already did, I would...but so far, that appears to be an impossibility on Blogger. So, instead, I will summarize my findings.

Many UGA fans have been going after Bobo for years. They've been frustrated with his playcalling and with his lack of results in big football games. After the loss to USC two weeks ago, people blamed his lack of creativity in playcalling with our losing that game. I disagreed, because I saw distinct misses in execution which directly resulted in us not scoring points. But, after the Arkansas game, I felt I absolutely HAD to look into the issue more. The answer was non-execution in that game. The answer was that the coach didn't do a very good job of calling a game against a defense which wasn't as stout as we made it appear. Over the years I've heard the complaint that UGA beats only the teams we're supposed to beat, and fails to compete with the better teams on our schedule. I've been told we're not in the same league with Florida and Alabama. I've been told we have all the talent, and terrible coaching.

For years, the media praised Stacy Searels for "making the best of bad situations" when our offensive line was banged up. He rotated many players in attempts to find a working combination, and at times it looked like he'd done well. However, in 2010, we have a healthy offensive line, the same one that took over games at the end of the season, and we're terrible. So the question becomes - was Searels actually doing a good job of putting together a patchwork line - or was the play of stars like Moreno and Stafford really covering for a guy who didn't really have it all together?

Before the final whistle blew on UGA's 09 campaign, Richt had begun the process of fixing his defense. Many say he needs to to do the same this season for his offense, if he wants to bring a title of any kind to UGA. He has 3 seasons remaining on his contact, and at the moment he's in no danger of having that contract extended. If he doesn't right the ship, he'll be looking for work in 2013 at the latest. Is getting rid of Bobo/Searels the answer? Let's have a look:

In 2006, Bobo took over playcalling for the final two games - Georgia Tech, and the Chick Fil A bowl against Virginia Tech. He won both games. Against Georgia Tech, a defense that averaged a national rank of 31 in the four categories listed above, Bobo's offense performed below average in each category. But, we got the win. Bobo made some great playcalls at the end of the game to give us the win, and it wasn't a bad innaugural game. The next game, when Bobo had a month to create and install a gameplan, he faced a VA Tech team ranked #1 in scoring defense, #1 in Total defense, #1 in pass defense and #11 in Rushing defense. He bested the averages in 3/4 categories, with total yards being 19.46 yards shy and his offense's passing total only .7 yards greater than the average surrendered by VT throughout the year. UGA's offense scored 31 points, three touchdowns higher than VT's 11 point average. People felt good about Bobo as an OC.

Many people were very excited at the conclusion of the 2007 season, with the run the team went on to close the season. However, what people need to understand about 2007 was that it was a false season. UGA played only one team who, when all was said and done, had a top-15 type defense. That team was Auburn. The second-best defense we faced? Vanderbilt. Looking at the 12 games from that season, UGA scored lower than our opponent's average ppg four times. Only two of those games were losses. But, in those two losses, UGA was held to greater than two scores BELOW the opponent's average ppg surrendered. In our two sub-par victories, we were within 5 points of the opponent's season avg. Our Total Offense was held below par 5 times. Our rushing offense, 4 times..... and our passing offense was held in-check a whopping 7 times, with two others being right on-target with what the teams were surrendering on average. This was 2007. It was Matt Stafford's second season. He hadn't matured fully - but still, for 3/4 of the season our offense performed BELOW AVERAGE in the passing game? That's not what you want to hear. Also, that was the season with both Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown in the backfield. We had four games where we failed to hit par in the running game. Glaringly weak games against USC and TENN prevented an SEC E crown and possible national title berth. Against South Carolina, we were 81 yards shy of what they surrendered on average. Against TN, 105. This is with Stacy Searels, the offensive line coach who was said to be such the excellent tutor. By the way, USC finished the season ranked 110 against the run, giving up over 209 yards ON AVERAGE. We gained 128. Many UGA fans would like to beleive that in 2007 we should have had some kind of claim to the national title game. Negative. We faced one defense that was worth its salt. Now, to be fair - we DESTROYED that defense. Bobo's gameplan racked up 45 points against a defense that averaged 16.9 points surrendered. His yardage total was well over 100 yards higher than their average surrendered. Bobo's initial full season as an offensive coordinator put him at 12-2 all-time, and that looked pretty good. But again, the two games when our offense could do basically nothing were against two defenses which were ranked outside the top 40. That's not how you become a champion.

Then there was 2008. We were supposed to be all-world. Moreno, Stafford, Massaqoui, Green - the offensive weapons were there. Bobo had the kind talent at his disposal that seasoned offensive coordinators DREAM about. Then we lost Trinton Sturdivant, and the line had to be shuffled. People looked to Stacy Searels, hoping he could find the combination to bring success. We were told this schedule lined up much better for a title run than the previous year. In actuality, there were three defenses (FL, AL, TN) on the schedule in 2008 which would be top-10 defenses. There were two more (USC, AU) which were top-third as well. But, Stafford was a junior, and had weapons. Surely Bobo would do better. And in actuality, he did. Only three times did we score less than the average surrendered by the opposition, and only one of those was a loss. In total yards, we were sub-par only twice; in the pasing game, only once. But the running game - in five games, we were sub-par. Only one of those five was against the best competition (AL). In games against TN and FL, we did better running than the average team against them. Now, against GT when we picked up 40 yards less than their average, we also gained over 200 yards more than their average surrendered by passing. So, maybe we just stopped running....or maybe we had to pass because we COULDN'T run. Remember, they exploded for big points in the 2nd half, and we ended up losing that game. FL and AL dominated us, and we were never really in either game. 2008 became a season to forget as we were blown out twice, lost to Georgia Tech for the first time under Richt, and never really put it together fully on offense.

Massaquoi graduated. Stafford and Moreno were drafted. Our offense would have to find a new identity in 2009. We wouldn't have stars. We would have to adopt a team-first mentality and work together to get it done. 5th year Field General Joe Cox would have AJ Green at least, along with some top-flight young talent like Orson Charles and Washaun Ealy. Surely this team would have some success.

We were sub-par in scoring 4 times. Our total yardage was below average thrice, and only 8 yards above on another occassion. Our passing offense was sub-par 5 times. And, as I'm sure none will be surprised, the running game was sub-par 5 times and dead-on twice. Oh, and as for top-flight defenses, we really only faced one - Florida. None of the other teams on our schedule showed any kind of superior defensive ability. We finished with five losses. In three of those losses, we scored less than the average opponent did. Against FL, we scored 17, when the average opponent scored only 12.43 and against Kentucky we scored 27 when the average opponent scored 22.69. 8-5.

Now, people thought we would start this 2010 season being able to run the ball because of the way we finished. But, in our last four games, when we did so well running the ball, we faced the #78, #100, #68 and #90 rushing defenses. The sad part? Against #78 Auburn and #100 Kentucky, we only gained about 10 yards more than their average opponent.

Looking back over the entire Bobo OC career, I'm looking at 28-10 (I do not count wins over WCar, GSU and TTech). Against top defenses, Bobo is 3-3.

In 38 games, Bobo's offenses have scored significantly (at least a field goal) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 25 occasions, or 66% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 26 occasions, or 68% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's passing offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 21 occasions, or 55% of the time.

In 38 games, Bobo's rushing offenses have gained significantly (at least 10 yards) more than their opponent's average surrendered on 18 occasions, or 47% of the time.

More importantly, for 12 straight games starting against FL in 2008 and lasting through Vandy in 2009, UGA failed to gain significantly more on the ground than our opponent's average surrendered.

Is Mike Bobo a passable offensive coordinator? It's hard to say he's gotten much better over the years. His defense hasn't helped him at times, but when you're scoring less than the opposition gives up on average, it ain't the defense's fault. If you score at least what the other team usually gives up, you should have a shot at victory. In fact, only 4 times in this period did UGA score greater than their opponent's average surrendered and lose the game. Those games were against AL in 2008, when UGA got into the game late but was scoring mostly garbage scores against reserves, GT in 2008, when the defense fell apart in the second half, FL in 2009 when we never had a chance, and Kentucky in 2009 when our offense turned the ball over too many times in the second half, giving Kentucky easy opportunities to score. In all other losses, our offense didn't even score what our opponents gave up ON AVERAGE. That means that in our losses, we weren't even an AVERAGE offense.

And we want to be champions?

In the SEC, you run to win. We all know it. Our running game is attrocious, and has been for some time. Even with Moreno in 2008, our running game was average to bad more often than it was good. Blame the offensive line injuries if you want, but that's what Searels is being paid for, right? He's being paid to put together guys who can block and create running lanes. He's being paid to be our RUNNING GAME COORDINATOR. That's a joke of a title.

Aside from that, if we got him to do that because Bobo was admitting a lack of understanding about the running game, you'd think that would mean his passing game would be good. He's better than average in the air only 55% of the time.
Now, all of this is performance-based analysis. But statistical performance isn't the only way to judge a coordinator. You also have to judge situational play selection. I'll be honest, I don't remember too many times thinking "Holy crap that was an amazing playcall." In the agme against Arkansas, I remember a number of times thinking his play selection and design was boneheaded. People have called him predictable, unimaginative. This is the worst thing for an Offensive Coordinator to be. Then again, what was so creative about Petrino? We knew he was going to have Mallett throwing - and he did. It's not creativity that's killing Bobo - it's his inability to see what is and what isn't working, and to adjust accordingly. Until he can do that, he's not going to be a great OC.
The buck stops at the coach. Last season, Richt made the moves he had to on defense. Yes, we're 0-2 right now, but both of the offenses we've faced this year are better than their previous versions, and our Defense has performed better against both. And also, the opposite...our offense has performed more poorly against both. We have an upgrade in talent and experience, and yet we've underperformed. There is no excuse. Do we miss AJ? Yes. But, it is the job of the coach to use what he has to win.
I understand that AJ Green practiced with the 1s and 2s going into the Arkansas game, because the coaches believed he'd win his appeal. That's dumb. He took reps from receivers who we KNEW would play, just in case he MIGHT play. How much would Aaron Murray have gained by having those extra reps with the other guys? How much would those receivers have gained by geting those reps? That's a poor coaching decision.
I'm not going to get into play design. I'm sure many people out there have noticed that our receivers rarely appear to be as open as receivers for let's say, Florida or Alabama or Tennessee. That comes down to play design. The failure of the Dawgs to pick up the much needed 1st down at the end of Saturday's game? Play design.
I love Mike Bobo. Though we haven't spoken in years, I consider him a friend. He was one of my coaches, and I will always appreciate what he did for me. But I don't know that he's a championship coordinator. I say with confidence that Searels is not a championship O-Line coach. The results of our running game over the past three seasons shows me that. But, let's be real for a moment. Richt will not fire anyone after three weeks. He will play the season out and reassess at the end of the year - as well he should. Why do I say that? Because there aren't alot of highly qualified coordinators who aren't working right now - and even less who will leave a good job for a new job at UGA mid-season. Bobo and Searels will have to figure it out, and if they don't, I firmly believe they will be show the door.
This team is a talented team. You can't watch them and not see that. Richt should know that he has a championship possibility with Aaron Murray. In order to produce a championship, you have to produce far better than average results on the field. Bobo hasn't done that enough. If he's able to turn it up this season (In actuality, his offense has been better than the opposition's average surrendered in every game so far - but that's why I don't include this season....all the games haven't been played), he might just grow enough to be really good. If he isn't able to improve drastically, we get rid of him and hire a proven pro-style playcaller who can dissect what a defense is doing on the run, and give these talented kids the tutelage they deserve.
Go Dawgs.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Loser Comment I no longer want to see/hear/read

When teams lose, everyone makes excuses. Coaches, players, fans, etc. Everyone has excuses, but the one that follows is just plain dumb. It's not an excuse, it's not an explanation, it's an admission that your head is firmly entrenched in your anus.

"They gave us some looks we weren't expecting" or "They blitzed/ran/passed more than they have in the past"

Really? They did something you didn't plan for? You mean they didn't send you a script of everything they were going to do in order to allow you to prepare the perfect gameplan to dominate them? This is ridiculous, and speaks to a loser mentality. You absolutely HAVE TO EXPECT that your opponent will throw things at you that you haven't seen. What world do we live in where we think our opponent is going to run by some script and not vary it at all? I don't get that.

They blitz more than you expect? Pick it up. Everyone has an assignment. But, here's one very obvious guideline: If there is a guy wearing the opposing jersey, and you're between him and the ballcarrier BLOCK HIM.

They usually pass and now they're running? TACKLE.

They usually run and now they're passing? COVER RECEIVERS.

They usually play cover 1 and now they're playing cover 2? Work the short stuff.

They usually play cover 4 and now they're playing cover 0? Line up in Shotgun and find the hot receiver.

It's a useless excuse. This is what it really means: "That team we just played, they did a better job preparing, playcalling and executing than we did." That's what it means. Coaches who use those excuses just need to man up and accept responsibility. You got whipped. Deal with it. Learn from it. Coach better next week. If your excuse is continually "They did things we weren't prepared for," then it's time to find a new job. Perhaps you should look into weatherman openings in San Diego. Nothing unpredictable happening there.

Growing Pains

Well, I was wrong again. Now, this should come as no surprise. If the dawgs lose, I will have been wrong in my pre-game assessment. This is not to say that before the season I believed we would win every game. No, in fact I told many people I believed we'd be a 10-2 team with a loss to South Carolina and one more, and a win over Florida. I still believe we will likely finish in that manner. Florida isn't impressing me...and really shouldn't be impressing many. South Carolina has their program going, and Arkansas was more up to the task than I gave them credit for. Still, we could and should have won that game.

But we didn't. No, we're 1-2, and for the first time in Mark Richt's tenure, we're 0-2 in SEC play. Now, many bloggers across the Georgia fanscape will be blasting Richt, talking about how he should be on the hotseat. They'll be saying "Same Old Georgia" and things of that nature. Why? Because when negativity starts to set in, it's next to impossible to reverse. It will take a mid-season turnaround the likes of which we haven't seen in years to be able to get people on the positive train. There are things we should realize as a fanbase though.

First, while the defense gave up the score that broke our backs in the fourth quarter, they played a much better game than a year ago. Mallet threw for a bunch of yards, but it took big busted plays to beat us. Mallet threw three touchdown passes. That's two less than last year. He got a cheap one early and a cheap one late. For the majority of the second half, he was ineffective. Remember that, because it's going to come back with bite later in this blog. Still, we're in the first year of this new scheme, three games in, and we can see some improvement from defensive production a year ago.

HOWEVER

Where was the pass rush? This 3-4 scheme that is supposed to create so much confusion and so much pressure came up particularly lacking this week. We didn't have Mallett on the run too much. When we did, he frequently made bad passes. We had what, one sack? That's terrible. We absolutely HAVE to get more pressure. It's very likely that the guys are getting into the swing of the season. Sometimes as a pass rusher, you get into a rhythm of going against your guys in practice. You learn their tendencies, and develop your own in order to beat them. This becomes a problem when you face a different guy in the game who blocks you in a different way. Or, perhaps they were simply scheming the hell out of us. I don't know. I do remember us not getting to Garcia as well as I thought we would, too. Admittedly, some of this may be due to the fact that I'm coming in with higher expectations than I should, but still - I have to think if AA schools can get to Mallett, we should be able to.

Where were the turnovers? Rambo dropped one. Dent dropped one. If Dent keeps his hand on the ball, they never go up 7-0. If Rambo holds on to his, they don't get a field goal at the end of the first half. That's ten points we could have and should have prevented.

What's with the busted coverages? Ok, Week 1 - Bacarri Rambo gets sucked in on a double-move by a tight-end and gives up a touchdown. Week 3- The entire defense gets sucked in on a 3rd and 1 playaction, and Mallett hits a man so open, he could have stopped for a swig of powerade on his walk into the endzone. Maybe Arkansas was just fortunate there. They had a 3rd and 6, and a different play call before an offsides on UGA gave them the third and 1 which lead to the score. What's that? A penalty hurt us? No surprise. Still, we weathered it and scored on offense.

The next time they scored on us they were helped by a host of penalties again. But, it wasn't until a 3rd quarter wheel-route by their runningback exposed Justin Houston's inability in coverage that things became really scary.

Still, we weathered it, came back and tied the game. We stopped Arkansas, and got the ball back with a chance to win. When the offense puttered out, it was up to our defense to stop them again. We were woefully inept in our attempt. Mallett sliced the defense apart and hit a wide open Greg Childs who (like those before him) walked into the endzone untouched.

Arkansas scored on three big pass plays, all of over 20 yards. All three came on busted coverage. All three were a result of baiting an overly aggressive defense and then capitalizing on that aggressiveness. If you're going to play aggressive defense, you have to be able to get it done. You have to make sacks, you have to make picks, otherwise, you're going to be hit for big plays.

Still, I believe that in the long run, the move to the more aggressive style will pay off. These guys will get better, they will learn. Cummings will learn when to jump a route, and when not to. The pass rushers will learn how to get off blocks and make sacks. Dent and Rambo will learn how to hang on to interceptions. When you play a style of defense that forces the other team to have to make the big play, you will usually come through. Unfortunately today, we faced team who was able to hit on those big plays when they became available. In short, we just aren't good enough at it yet.

And still, we could have won that game.

But how were we still in it?

Well, somewhere towards the middle of the fourth quarter, Mike Bobo realized what he needed to do to win. He realized that I-Formation Play Action wasn't the way to move the ball against this team. He realized that the best playmaker on his offense is #11, and he should put him in the best position possible to make plays. That position ISN'T taking a snap, then turning his back to the line for a fake before turning around to locate receivers. We haven't developed a running game in the first three weeks of the season. Even against ULL, we didn't run the ball particularly well. But, we have a quarterback who's doing a pretty good job of hitting his receivers. So, maybe, just MAYBE we should be using the pass to set up the run instead of vis-versa. Our line has definitely been better in pass protection than in running, despite the pre-season hype.

Don't get me wrong, Murray got hit today, and hit more than I want to see. His pocket collapsed more times than I care to remember. Still, he kept his head about him (for the most part) and didn't do anything too careless. In fact, at times I felt he was too careful. One play that sticks out in my mind is when the pocket held decently, he moved up into it, all his receivers were covered, and he could have run...but instead he moved, planted, and then got sacked because the line can't hold blocks for ten seconds. Had he run three steps, we would have had a first down, as it was 3rd and 1. Still, for the most part, the line gave him time to throw.

Murray's biggest error of the day? The 1st down interception he threw coming out of the half. That pass was way off the mark - completely atypical of Murray.

Still, our defense stopped them on the ensuing possession, so the damage was minimal. Then, in the final quarter, Murray had two fantastic possessions. He showed calm beyond his years in leading two fast touchdown drives, tying the game and putting us in a position to be able to win. Then, when we got the ball back, Bobo screwed him over a bit. Why do I say that? Because on third and 4, Bobo called a play where a tailback is responsible for cutting a man coming off the corner. That's no big problem...but you usually see cut blocks like that on plays when the ball will come out fast. You see blocks like that when a quarterback is going to take a three step drop and fire a quick slant or in-route for a first down. But, every receiver in the progression was running running a deep route of some sort. There were no short outlets. We needed four yards to keep a winning drive going. Instead, the man who Ealy cut was able to get to his feet and sack Murray.

Now, perhaps I'm being too rough on Mike Bobo. I've been one of his proponents for a long time, and maybe that's because of my personal relationship with him, I don't know. It's entirely possible that the 3rd down in question featured a route combination that included a slant or quick-in, but the receiver didn't run it. Perhaps it was a slot-option, and the slot receiver chose the wrong route. I don't know. What I do know is that it makes no sense to have no short option on 3rd and 4 at the 50 with less than two minutes and the nation's best kicker. We really only needed another 15 yards to secure the victory. How do we not call a play that has SOMETHING at the first down marker?

But, that's not the first call I took issue with. Long before that call was the 3rd and 9 playaction. Absolutely no one bit on the playaction - because we hadn't been running the ball well at all. Also, there was the "Wild Dog" stint with Ealy taking the snap. I guess this thing is here to stay, and I can see where it might have some limited success....but I don't think it's a sparker. I don't think it's the formation and play selection set you use when you're in a hole. Maybe when you're tied, or only up by one, you throw something like that in to catch someone off guard. But when you're playing uphill, why would you want to tip your hand in that way? If Ealy is lined up there, one of two things is happening. Ealy is running it, or he's handing it off. That's all.

Although, I did see a possible wrinkle on the one he handed off. It's possible that in the future, we'll see Ealy hand it off to the Slot coming in motion, then he'll pitch it to Murray who will throw to an open receiver downfield because nobody would see that coming - except for the guy who just typed it into his blog, and the 27 or so folks who read it. Murray came back on a fake reverse, and I can just see Bobo calling for the reverse-pass in that lineup. Why? Because it's a crazy gimmick play that will fail 95% of the time, but when it works, you look like a frikkin offensive genius.

My problem with that - if you need a play like that to win you a football game, you haven't done a great job scheming that game. I think THAT was my main beef with Bobo today. I don't know, maybe it was getting rocked in the face during pre-game that threw him off. Still, for the first two weeks of the season, Aaron Murray has been the brightest light on the UGA offense. On his first drive, it was his pass to King and then his own athletecism on a bootleg that put the Dawgs in the endzone. How, then, do you not FEATURE him during the game? Give him a chance. Line the kid up in shotgun and force Arkansas' pass defense to stop you. It wasn't going to. If they drop enough people into coverage to take away that option, then you hit them with the draw. Bobo has a flaw, and it is the identity crisis of this offense. He believes this team is a tough run-it-down-your-throat team which can use that to open the playaction. He's wrong. This team is a pass-first, then hit draws and misdirection and screens team. He isn't scheming correctly, and until he does, we aren't going to be successful.

Something else - I have to put blame on either him or Mark Richt for this one - I understand they practiced with AJ Green getting snaps with the 1s and 2s all week. That's dumb. He took reps away from kids who were going to be playing. There was no reason to believe AJ's suspension would get lifted. Even if it did, I have a hard time believing he would have suffered greatly from not getting those reps. He knows his routes. He knows the plays. He ain't gonna forget how to catch. In this situation, you practice the kids you KNOW will be playing, and if Green gets to go, you consider it a bonus.

We didn't need Green to beat Arkansas. Is it a different game if he's on the field? Yes. Do we win the game with him in it? Very likely. Could we have beaten them without him? We were a blown coverage and a better catch attempt by Marlon Brown from doing so.

And that's the last thing I'll talk about - finishing. Champions finish ballgames. We've had some teams under Richt who really did that well. This year's squad isn't doing that yet. Against South Carolina, we were down by 8 in the fourth. Striking distance. Our offense didn't score when it had the ball, and our defense allowed Lattimore to take the ball down the field to inside the ten. Then, USC secured the win. Today, when the offense finally woke up, the defense made the stops necessary. But, with the game on the line, both sides of the ball failed. Murray got sacked, then Cummings jumped a route and watched a ball sail over his head to an open receiver behind him. Still, Boykin returned the kick far enough to give Murray a shot at the endzone. His pass was knocked down, directly in front of Marlon Brown, who got his fingers on the ball, but couldn't secure it.

And that has been the story of this team so far this year. They aren't finishing. Against USC, they didn't finish tackles, they didn't finish drives. Against Arkansas, they didn't finish the game. Great comeback, but for nothing more than growth.

Still, this team will grow. It would have been easy to roll over and die this week...but we didn't. We fought back and fell short. These types of games pay dividends. No one believed UGA would win the national title this year, and most didn't believe they could make a run at the SEC. I may actually be the only person who believes they can still make a run at the SEC. I'll blog about THAT tomorrow. Until then, I'm disappointed, but not dejected. The Dawgs will play better football, and they will win games - ten or eleven of them.

I had a friend tell me, "Arkansas is a bad team, and we're worse." I disagree - Arkansas is a good team, and we aren't quite that good yet. One thing that has been good to see - we haven't looked uncompetitive in our losses. Now, the question is how we take the step up to the point where we make our opposition look uncompetitive against us. I'll say it again - the last time UGA had a Redshirt Freshman qb, we weren't amazing. The next year, we were next to unbeatable. This team's going to go through growing pains, but it's all going to pay off.

Go Dawgs.

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!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

And then there was the offense.

Six points.

Six Points.

SIX FRIKKING POINTS.

All summer long, the team walked around saying "7-5" "7-5" That was supposedly their motivation coming into this season. That was what pushed them through the grueling mat drills. That's what had the receivers running routes and the linebackers doing tackling drills on their own. "7-5" became the mantra of this team.

Well, I hope they've been repeating "6 FRIKKING POINTS" all week. There's no excuse for that.

13 Points. That's what Southern Miss scored on South Carolina. Now, true that Southern Miss only scored 6 points until the final quarter when USC's deep reserves were in, and SM tossed a pass up to a 6'6" receiver, still the fact remains. UGA was outscored against USC's defense by Southern Miss.

That ain't Bulldog football.

People around the bulldog nation have already begun the talk. "Bobo is a Richt Disciple. Richt is too soft. Bobo is too soft. Bobo doesn't know what he's doing." These people are idiots. I know Mike Bobo. Mike Bobo was a graduate assistant when I was in my Junior year on the team. Even THEN Bobo knew more about football than 99% of the college football fanship. Now, we're a full decade removed from that. If you think Bobo didn't call a good game, raise your hand.

Now...if your hand is in the air, grab a nearby blunt object, and bring it down quickly onto the back of your head.

(pause)

Ok, now that the sensible people among us are still conscious, let's move on. UGA had limited possessions in the UGA-USC game. Normally, you can count on about 6 possessions a half, twelve possessions total. In an SEC game, you'll be lucky to come away with points on half of your possessions.

UGA had 4 possessions in the first half, only scoring on 1. We can be happy with neither the fact that our offense picked up only three points, nor that we scored on only one out of four posessions. Still, you can't fault the play calling. The first drive, in fact, looked fantastic. The first five plays were runs by Ealy, who gained 30 yards on those runs. We had moved from our own 30 to their 40. Then Murray made his first SEC road-game pass attempt, and hit Marlon Brown for a first down. Murray would end up 3/5 on the drive, but it was his last two attempts that would prevent the TD for UGA. On first at ten at the SC 16, Murray threw just a bit behind Orson Charles, and Charles couldn't pull the ball in. Had he done so, Murray's first "unfriendly confines" drive would have ended in a touchdown, the game would have been tied, and Georgia fans would feel a good bit different than we did. But, that didn't happen. Two plays later, Charles mishandled a short dump-off from Murray, and because he failed to bring it in cleanly, the USC defense converged on him before he could pick up the first down.

We settled for 3. Georgia wouldn't touch the ball again until 4 minutes into the 2nd quarter. On first down, Murray threw the ball just a bit too far for Isreal Troupe, but Washaun picked up 8 solid yards on second down. So, it's third and two. This is when people get picky on Bobo. Bobo called a pass play. Murray rolled to the right, and had a man, but a spectacular play by USC Defensive End Devin Taylor threw off his timing, and forced him to scramble a bit. Then Taylor was able to catch Murray from behind. We punt.

We force a punt and get the ball back. Then came the decision to put Ealy in to take direct snaps, and fail to gain a first down. Ealy did gain 6 yards on first down, but the two subsequent plays netted only 3 more yards. I don't know how that's going to be a successful look, unless he actually chooses to hand it to Smith on one of those plays. At any rate, we punt again.

They score another TD.

Our next drive ended after three plays when Aron White missed a catchable pass that would have been a first down. Another punt. We shut them down, and get to the half. Ok. Halftime. Regroup.

UGA came out like GANGBUSTERS in the second half. A combination of completed passes and steady runs took the Dawgs fifty seven yards down the field in a little over five minutes. It was a solid drive. The Ealy ran for only one yard. Then Murray threw incomplete. Then came a call that baffles Joe Everyman any time it comes. Bobo called a QB draw on third and 9 from the USC 14. Why make that call? Why put Murray in the position to have to pick up 9 yards with his feet? Well, because it's unexpected. That's the ONLY reason to call a QB draw on a 3rd and long. Sometimes you'll call it throughout the course of a game to slow down a pass rush. But, USC had not been getting to Murray. No, this call came purely because Murray is a playmaker (possibly the best one on the offense at the moment), and he was being given a chance to make a play. He just came up short. So, three points...but a solid drive.

On USC's next drive, the inevitable finally happened. A flustered Steven Garcia coughed up the ball. I knew it would happen at some point, even said as much in my pre-game blog, and I was happy to see the prediction come true. When it happened, I saw this as the moment the game would turn. I had watched Murray leading our team against their Defense, and had a feeling he was about to really turn it on and leave them in his wake.

Three plays, three complete passes and 73 yards later, UGA was staring at second and goal at the USC 3. The play came in, the Dawgs lined up, and I could feel the call. It was going to be Ealy into the endzone. Then, came the wiggle. I don't know if it was a twitch, an itch, or just a son of a b&%*h, but Isreal Troupe moved in his stance, and the Dawgs were penalized five yards. On the next play, Ealy fumbled the ball away, and the game turned on a dime.

UGA forced a punt, but the Gamecocks changed the field position well. UGA started from its own ten, and couldn't get going. Three and out. Dawgs forced another punt, but then suffered another three and out. When USC stole the ball from UGA in the third quarter, I believe they may have stolen our belief as well. I just don't know if the offense was Man Enough to rise to the challenge in that situation. They'd been playing from behind all night. Everytime they'd put together a good drive, something had happened to prevent highest success. It just didn't seem to be their night.

Did they give in to doubt? It's possible. I don't know.

What I know is, they had much to be happy about, and much to learn from. I also know Bobo called a good game. For one reason or another, the boys just didn't quite execute like they needed to. But they'll improve. They'll get better. Hey, if nothing else, Murray didn't throw an interception, didn't make any crazy decisions, and didn't put his team in a position to lose the game. Now he's faced it. He's stared down the barrel of an opposing SEC crowd, and he looked good doing it. That's going to give him confidence. He's only going to get better, and as he does, so will this offense. Watch for great things, you're going to see them.

Go Dawgs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Being Man Enough...

A few years back, just after I graduated UGA and left my beloved Dawgs behind in GA as I headed west, a challenge was laid before the Bulldogs. It was said that they weren't "Man Enough" to beat Alabama. All they did was go out and whip the Alabama Crimson Tide.

I am a Bulldawg. I am Man Enough to admit that I was wrong about the game this past week. There is no way I could have foreseen the level of ineptitude I witnessed on the part of our defense on the first half. That's not to suggest I was happy with the play of our offense, but it was the total collapse of defensive technique from week one to week two that overshadowed it all. Don't get me wrong - I'm going to get to the 6 points scored total later in this blog - but the lack of fire and fundamentals on defense were far more disappointing to me.

Marcus Lattimore is a good back. He is strong, he has great balance, he has great low-end torque. He's everything you want in a Jeep. Our defense made him look like an M1 Abrams tank on Saturday. For the entire first half, and for the final drive of the game, our boys were just that - boys - playfully batting at an iron beast rolling down the main street of our town. This is unacceptable.

"But Dukes...isn't Grantham's 3-4 to blame? If we had four guys on the line..." Shut up. No. Grantham used a variety of sets with both three and four down linemen. Neither slowed Lattimore considerably. The problem wasn't in the positioning of our players. The problem wasn't in the scheme. The problem was in the fact that we didn't wrap up on tackles. The problem was that when we hit the guy in the backfield, he'd gain nine POSITIVE yards. That has NOTHING to do with scheme. It was a total role-reversal from week one. In week one, our defense went out to kill someone. In week two, it was like we were trying to feel them out - and got punched square in the jaw.

Now, let's not forget, even with the success of ML running the ball, he didn't gain every first down on their two first-half scoring drives. He chewed up real estate, he chewed up clock, but our defense had opportunities to get off the field on 3rd down and didn't accomplish that task. There was a screen pass where Brandon Smith dove to make a hit instead of running through the tackle. If he ran through the tackle, they don't get the first. There was the "phantom spot" first down, which was an absolutely AWFUL call both on the field and by replay, but those happen. There were a couple of third downs where we simply fell off tackles that would have stopped the Cocks short.

Bacarri Rambo was driven into the endzone on Lattimore's first TD. Then, on Lattimore's second TD, Rambo didn't even make a play on the ball. He stood behind the pile as Lattimore bounced off to the right and scored.

I imagine Todd Grantham had just about enough of that crap in the first half, and tore the defense a new one in the locker room. There is no denying that when they came out in the second half, they looked quite different. Our defense stuffed them for two straight plays after our opening half fieldgoal. Then, someone jumped offsides. That's an annoying penalty...but it shows they weren't resting on their heels. The next play was something they hadn't done all day - Garcia went deep and hit a man in triple coverage. It was an excellent pass, there's just no other way to put it. But then, Justin Houston picked up another sack and a fumble. UGA had the ball.

On their next two drives, our defense threw up stops, giving our offense the ball with a chance to do something. Then came the final drive when SC again relied heavily on Lattimore, and our exhausted defense couldn't buck up and stop him - until they were already in fieldgoal range to seal the win.

The fire of the defense in the second half gave us a chance to win. The lack of points by the offense prevented it.

Now, do I mean the offense was BAD? NO. I mean it didn't get the job done when it had to. Murray looked very solid again. He completed 67% and threw no interceptions. We're 1-1, and that sucks. I'm not happy about it. I find an interesting similarity to 2001, when a Redshirt freshman was QB, and our team was 1-1 coming out of the UGA-USC game, with a 14-9 loss. That season, we didn't go on to greatness...we were 8-4. The next season, we went 13-1 and won the SEC. Had the rest of the college landscape behaved, we would have run for the title.

Does that mean I want to wait until next year to be good? No. But I also don't believe Saturday's performance was portents to the end of the world in Athens. I'll be back to blog about the Offense later.

Go Dawgs.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dawgs will thump the Cocks.

Everyone is saying this game is going to be tight. Everyone is saying the vegas line of Cocks by 2-3 points is dead-on. Everyone is saying the Dawgs only rolled last week because the competition was so far inferior. Well, I'm here to buck that trend. I'm not going to say the Dawgs will run away with this game by seven touchdowns, but I fully expect a 14 to 21 point victory. Now, why in the world would I say something like that? What would possibly get into my brain and make me believe that suddenly UGA should be a two to three touchdown favorite over South Carolina?

Well, in order to log such a win, UGA needs two things to happen. We gotta shut them down, and we gotta light them up.

Can we shut them down? Yes. Grantham's new defense is far and away better than what Martinez fielded last season. The pressure he will send at Garcia will be something he hasn't seen in some time. This defense is more complex, with more movement, and more blitzing from multiple sources. Grantham will gameplan better than Martinez did. If you watched the game last week, you should remember that for the majority of the game, we always had players in the area where the ball was going. That's not coincidence, people. That's game study.

Do you know when the Gamecocks last faced a defensive coordinator who had just come from the NFL? That would be in their 13-31 loss to Tennessee a season ago. Monte Kiffin was not confused by Spurrier, and Grantham won't be either. Now, this SC team is definitely better than last year's. But, they aren't going to be significantly better than last week's. Last week, Garcia was hitting wide open receivers. He was hitting receivers who greatly overmatched the coverage guys. Also, he had the benefit of rarely being under pressure. In fact, Garcia was not sacked. He was rarely hit. The Golden Eagles seemed to only blitz hard when Connor Shaw was in the game. That resulted in three sacks. Something tells me Grantham is going to blitz a good bit more than that.

Don't get me wrong at all. Garcia is a seasoned quarterback. He's not going to crumble immediately under pressure. He's been playing in the league for years, and has seen his share of punishment. But, he does have a hot head. Once we start hitting him, he will become more aggressive. He will become more risky. This will result in turnovers.

In last week's game, South Carolina had over 200 yards rushing. 53 of that came on end-around by Ace Sanders. Now, I'm not saying it's impossible to pop that run against us, but our speed on defense is somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 times faster than that of Southern Miss.

Will USC score? I believe they will. But I also believe they will score less than 14 points. Their kicker is too good to imagine he won't hit if they can get the ball inside the thirty...and I think they will play well enough to do that.

NOW

What about OUR offense against their solid defense? I think we're remembering defenses past. Yes, Stephon Gilmore is a man. He's a very very good corner. He'll be locking down whoever is our #1 for most of the night. However, USC doesn't have 4 of him on the field. He can't cover all of our receivers alone. The LBs are going to have to lock down our tightends and runningbacks, and I don't like their chances on that one. Norwood and the Brinkleys are long gone. They do not have the talent at that position like they have in years past. This was evident last week when slants, quick outs and screen plays were hitting for good yardage and first downs. Also, the pressure on Southern Miss's QB wasn't nearly what I expected it to be. True, they were playing a bit more Vanilla than they will this week, but still.

I do not expect USC to bring 8 in the box all game as ULL attempted in order to slow our running game. I believe this for two reasons. First, I believe they will think they don't need 8 guys in the box to slow our running game. They will believe that they can shut us down with four down linemen, and the reading skills of their linebackers. Secondly, Spurrier will respect Aaron Murray. He knows how good this kid is going to be. He knows how good this kid already is. He isn't going to risk this kid having a "coming out party" against his defense by trying to simply blitz his tail off. He knows that if he does that, Murray will make the reads, make the throws, and slice his defense up.

So, what does this mean? This means the running lanes that were so "hard to come by" (even though our backs averaged almost 5 yards per carry) will be a little more plentiful.

Murray is getting a few weapons back this week as well. Our offense is in good shape. Do we have AJ Green? No. Last year, he had 6 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Hardly a gamebreaker. Plus, our receivers have come out much better than they did last season.

Here's the skinny on it kids....UGA won this game 41-37 last season, and it took a last-second pass deflection by the smallest linebacker on the planet to secure that victory. In the year since that game, our offense has improved, our defense has improved. Their defense is not better than it was last year. Their offense looks to be a bit better, but I'm not falling all over it. They have a very solid runningback in Lattimore, but I don't think he changes the game for them. Garcia looks better than he did last season, but I don't think he lights us up without a Willie Martinez soft-zone look in front of him. Do you remember last season? He was throwing to a wide open Wesley Saunders all night.

It was too easy for Garcia. Tomorrow, it won't be easy.

Dawgs roll in Columbia. Go Dawgs!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Good Scrimmage, Dawgs...now, about that SEC game...

The first game has come and gone, and there were many things to be excited about. Aaron Murray looks everything the part. He'll grow into a very good quarterback. He's a playmaker to be sure. Do I expect him to play lights-out all season? Nope. I saw a few tosses yesterday that may have been going the other way if he threw them against a decent defense. Also, much like I said about Garcia's scamper to the endzone against Southern Miss, I don't think Aaron Murray makes it to paydirt on that run if the defense is an SEC defense. He's quick and evasive, but I have a strong feeling that an SEC linebacker or Safety would have closed on him and knocked him off into the hedges on that one. Our defense played very solid, very sound. There were a few missed assignments, which will happen - especially in game one, but when you hold ANY opponent to just over 100 yards total production, that's pretty good.

The game went very much like I predicted. Some of my details were off, but all in all we scored like I said we would, we shut them down like I said we would, and we gave up a garbage score - like I said we would.

More imporatantly, we accomplished something that has been far removed from Georgia football for a while. We stomped a lesser opponent into the dirt. There was no doubt about who was winning this game - but in recent years, our teams have been less than dominant against these cupcakes. We haven't been able to get the younger, less experienced players on thef field nearly as much as we'd like to. In this one, our second and third teams were making plays in the third quarter.

Now, let's not pretend our team is a National Title winner just yet. We did what we were supposed to. Now, on to the next test.

I've read articles this morning that said we need to be running the ball better. Well, we averaged nearly yards per carry - without the benefit of a huge 60 or 70 yarder to pad the average. Was our running game as dominant as many expected it would be? Possibly not. But, it definitely served our team to get the passing game going as well. This game was nothing more than a tune-up. It was a glorified scrimmage against an opposing force - against guys we don't see in the locker room on a daily basis. It was a chance to let Murray get his feet wet in front of 94,000 people.

Grantham called only a few basic blitzes - nothing even as interesting as what I saw from him at G-Day. The offense was very basic, and by the fourth quarter we had ratcheted completely down. Now, this is something that bothers me a bit. Don't get me wrong. I'm not of the opinion that we need to run the score up on a lesser opponent to improve season stats or impress voters. Scoring 72 against ULL won't get you any more credit with the voters than scoring 55 will. They'll think, "Well, Georgia whooped a team they should whoop. No big whoop." But, I don't understand the logic in putting Munzenmeier in at tailback and handing to him three times, then punting. The kid's a senior and has been a contributing player for quite some time. He's not getting new experience that will help him as the year goes along. Mason had what, five pass attempts? I'm not saying he needed to light people up...but I'd have prefered more than five pass attempts in a quarter and a half of work. I just think that when you get the 2's and 3's into the game, you let them run the offense. That's how they're going to learn. Let them run real plays, something they might have to run if the guy in front of them gets hurt next week. But no, we err on the side of class.

I'll never understand the concept that "scoring is classless." What are doing, protecting the ego of a team that can't stop us? That's senseless. I'm not saying that we put Aaron Murray back in the game at the tail end, but I'm saying let that Van Dyk kid run the ball on a toss or something. Send Arthur Lynch down the field on a seam route and let Mason try to fit one in there. If their defense can't stop our two's or three's, then that's on them. These kids likely won't get much game-time experience once we get into the meat of the season (6 days), so why not give them functional snaps in the opener?

At any rate, what's done is done and we look forward to South Carolina. This one's going to be fun to watch. Spurrier's offense finally looks like Spurrier's offense, and the SC defense is REAL. Then again, so is Grantham's D, and Murray looks to have a good handle on the limited playbook he's been developing. It'll be intersting to see how the depth charts shape up this week as players on both teams return from suspensions and injuries. UGA - USC has become quite the little rivalry in recent years, with a loss to USC costing UGA the SEC East crown, and a shot at a national title in 2007. It's going to be quite the step-up in competition for both teams...can't wait to see it!

GO DAWGS!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mettenberger to LSU?

All of the Georgia fans out there who call for Mark Richt to be a strict coach and punish kids and toss them off the team need to remember their fervor for such discipline in the years to come. Les Miles has offered a scholarship to Zach Mettenberger, and I personally hope he takes it. Further, I hope we see him in the SEC title game.

Why?

Because I'd love to read the comments by people saying "We never should have gotten rid of him. Richt was an idiot."

That's the life of a head coach, damned if you do, damned if you don't. Ask yourselves - would you rather Richt have kept the kid on the team after showing bad judgment (what he did on vacation) and a lack of character (lying about it)? I know, I'm giving him alot of credit in suggesting his potential move to LSU could possibly be detrimental to UGA. We won't see LSU in seasonal play over the next four years, so the only chance we'd see Metts would be at the title game - and if we're there, then there's no evidence to support the thought that keeping him would have been a better choice than getting rid of him (Unless he beats us in that game).

I don't know...I'm just already looking forward to the potential storylines...and the blogosphere finding another reason to dig on Richt.

Good luck to Zach if he takes the scholly. It's easy to damn a kid who makes a mistake...it'll just be interesting to hear what UGA fans have to say should he prove to be a very successful qb elsewhere.

Go Dawgs.

Mason impresses in Debut.

I just wanted to get a head-start on the Lassiter newspaper's headline. Do I think Hutson Mason will play tomorrow? Yup. Do I think it will be in the first half? Yup. Do I think it will be because Aaron Murray is hurt? Nup.

Mark Richt isn't deaf to criticism. He's well aware that many around the nation have been questioning his decision to not play Aaron Murray for a single down in 2009. He also knows that his backup, who is a play away from being a starter, needs experience just as badly as his starter. Logan Gray is, for all intents and purposes (and much to the delight of this writer) out of the picture as QB at UGA. So, it's Murray, Mason, and a couple of walk-ons.

Now, people are quick to dismiss walk-ons...but I'll have folks remember that it was a one-time walk-on named Corey Philips who tossed the ball for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. Again, not saying either of these guys are stars...but to dismiss their ability simply because they didn't receive a scholarship is folly.

At any rate, it wouldn't surprise me to see three quarterbacks over the course of the game tomorrow. It also wouldn't surprise me in the least if Mason is getting snaps with the first team before half is out.

"Oh come on, Dukes. You're just saying this because Connor Shaw was playing last night for Spurrier." No, I'm not. I'm saying this because I believe Richt knows he needs to get kids experience, and this is the game to do it. Going into South Carolina, you don't want a situation where a kid gets his first meaningful snap - you really don't. South Carolina is a good team. First-snap jitters will be a factor. If you add to that the idea that it's a kid's first snap EVER, you're compounding the problem. Huton Mason does not provide a "change of pace" from Aaron Murray, so using them as a dual-quarterback system does not make sense. But, Richt sending Mason in to get some snaps with the ones - just in case - certainly does. I envision a game tomorrow where Georgia runs the ball early and often, and throws some early screen and swing passes to get Murray's confidence up.

Of course, Bobo is rather taken with the idea of the "big hitter" to open the game. So, don't be surprised if a call along the lines of "off-tackle x-go check-with-me" comes in. This isn't an actual name of a play in UGA's playbook - or if it is, then it was a lucky guess - but rather a concept. The coach calls in a run-pass option. If you read your big, tall, fast, star receiver is in man-man coverage, you go with the pass play, lay it up and let him go get it. If you read double or zone coverage, you make the run call, hand off to one of your solid runningbacks, and let him get five or six yards, opening your playbook WIDE for a second and medium-to-gain play.

Either way you slice it, we should have a good deal of success provided Murray keeps the ball out of the defense's hands. I don't know that I think Mason will see action in the first quarter, but I definitely believe we will have a comfortable enough lead for him to come in before the halftime whistle blows.

"DUKES! Are you not giving ULL credit? Are you letting them lull you to sleep? These guys beat Kansas State last year."

So?

Look, I'll give ULL all the credit in the world. They're coming in as David trying to slay Goliath....but we're not really Goliath. Right now, we're Goliath's sickly little brother. We have much to prove to take the "Goliath" mantle. Still, we are grossly more talented and DEEPER than ULL. There will be less than 1,000 ULL fans in the stands. Our guys are bigger, faster, stronger. Every card in the deck, both jokers, and the poker rules are stacked against ULL, and this isn't a game when they're going to shock the world.

What then am I looking forward to? I'm looking forward to a GLIMPSE of what this year's squad is all about. I say a glimpse because I know Grantham ain't gonna tip his hand completely. He'll show a couple blitzes, he'll show a few different coverages...but we won't see anything close to what we'll see against, say, FLORIDA. Why? We won't need to. Bobo will be very similar. He may show a wrinkle or two, but not a great deal. The game will be fairly Vanilla, with the exception of a few possible trick plays. "Trick plays, Dukes? Come ON!" Yeah, I think there may be a trick play or two. Why? Because it's easier to pull them off against inferior competition, and if you show them, other teams have to prepare for them. End-arounds are going to work better against teams without great speed on defense. Flea-flickers are going to work better against DBs who won't be able to recover as well. I'm definitely not saying the UGA offense will be gimmicky...but I do think we'll see some kids get to do some out-of-the-ordinary things.

The last I saw, the betting line on this game was 28 points, with the over set at 41. I definitely say bet the over. Here's my best guess - King has two scores on the ground, add one by Munzenmeyer. Murray tosses 3 TDs - two to AJ Green and one to Orson Charles. I think Hutson Mason tosses a TD to Arthur Lynch late in the game, and Brandon Boykin returns either a kick or a pick for a TD. That puts UGA at 56 points. Is that crazy? Could be. I mean, I'm calling for some truly extraordinary circumstances. But hey, that's probably gonna be M.O. this season. Here's what I've learned - all the resarch and prognosticating and "trying to get it right" gets tiring and annoying. Besides, this is game 1. I have nothing to draw on. There are no "trends" for our defense. There are no "tendencies" on our offense. It's a blank slate. So, perhaps I'll just say what I want to see, and if it happens, AWESOME.

I want two things - 50 points on offense, and less than 10 surrendered on Defense, preferrably none (but I generally assume a garbage score of some sort).

Can tomorrow just get here already? Let's get it here, get it won, and move on to South Carolina....because THAT is gonna be a game!


Go Dawgs!

The Game

Today is a day unlike any other day a Georgia Fan will face in 2010. This is the day when all of last year's disappointments are at their most distant. This is the day when optimisim for a coming season is at its highest. The unknown stretches out before us, and we are on pins and needles for that first kickoff.

But let us pause.

Tommorrow the libations will be flowing, tailgates will empty, fans will rush into Sanford Stadium and get their first glimpse of a brand new team, and reality will set in.

But today, today we can project. Today we can use memories of former greatness to spark excitement and hope for the upcoming season. Some will look back to 2002, the last time Mark Richt was coming of an 8-win season. Some will think back to 2007, when a pair of solid runningbacks was set to share carries. Some memories will drift back even farther, to a time when a three-down lineman set on defense was the norm for Georgia. People will remember these days for far more than what they were - saturdays of entertainment. They will remember these days as days that made their lives better. Excitement will rush in today, and hope will be at its highest. Memories of the past and and unknown future will build in Georgia Fans everywhere until it reaches a crescendo, just at the moment when the kicker's foot hits that pigskin for the first time, and the crowd yells "DAWGS! Sic 'Em! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!"

In that moment, it will all be lost. In that moment, we will hang in the air just as that ball does...and when it finds its way to the hands of a waiting player, The Game will be ON.

By The Game, I'm not referring to the UGA-ULL matchup. Though the scene I've just painted does tie directly to it. No, by The Game I mean the season we've waited for - when all of the offseason moves and all of the player prospecting and all of the speculation finally plays out. This game began in earnest over a year ago. Mark Richt decided to keep Willie Martinez aboard to give his defense a shot at redemption. The 2008 campaign was very sub-par, but injuries and inexperience made for a fitting excuse. That excuse would vanish in 2009. So would Willie. Richt chose last year not to burn a red-shirt on his Blue Chip 5-Star Freshman Quarterback. He chose to stick with a fifth year senior, who had statistically one of the better seasons for UGA quarterbacks - if not for that pesky interception column which completely undid much of the positive work. Over the course of the season, Murray was never thrown into the fray - never given snaps which would have yielded vital experience. This was Richt's Game. He simply bet that a year of learning the system would be more beneficial than taking his lumps.

Those who believe Richt is too conservative and not a gambler should think twice. Richt has gambled quite a bit on this season. He has put the fate of his team in the hands and head of a redshirt freshman quarterback. Can this kid make the right decisions - or better, keep from making the wrong ones - and lead his team to victory in the toughest conference in America? He has put the fate of his team into the hands of an unproven defensive coordinator - though Grantham had limited success in some areas with the Cleveland Browns, his defense was not seen as high-quality. These are big gambles, and I believe they're going to pay off.

Many of the Georgia faithful out there have lost their way. They are no longer faithful. They are bitter, cold. They talk of Richt being on a hotseat. They say he'll never be on par with Miles, Meyer and Saban. They do not see how this team can be successful. But today, even they are excited...because tomorrow is brand new. Tomorrow is what we've been waiting for. Tomorrow, The Game is On.


Go Dawgs!