Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thoughts after the Vandy game....

Ok, I'm troubled. I am seriously, deeply, and heart-wrenchingly troubled at the state of Georgia Fanhood. I'm not talking about the spirit of the fans. The stands remain full, the quads on campus are packed with tailgaters. This is not what bothers me. What bothers me is the pure idiocy of many of these fans. I stood in the student section for the first half of UGA's homecoming win over vandy, and the people standing behind me prooved themselves to know virtually nothing about the sport of football. The questioned every call, every play. They screamed at our players with vehement anger. And when one said, we should throw the ball to green, and stafford did, he started screaming "I Called it! I Called it!" I wanted to hit him. Moments later, he said "Now we just need to punch it in and stop playing for field goals."

I couldn't hold it in. I spun around. "Nobody plays for field goals. Don't be an idiot. Until the Tennessee game, we had one of the best Red Zone percentages in the nation, being 15/15 with 13 touchdowns." He promptly shut his mouth. I didn't hear many more "zingers" from that kid for the rest of the half.

It just bothers me. It's like discussing football with a Pac-10 fan. They don't really study the game...they just look at score lines and declare USC the greatest team on the face of the planet. It's annoying. The kids at Georgia that I was standing near were similar. It was as if they hadn't been watching the games...they hadn't been paying attention. Stafford leads the SEC in passing. Green leads the SEC in receiving. And this guy behind me wants me to be impressed that he "called it" when Stafford hits Green for a pass? Please. Now, when it's 3rd and 21, and this guy "calls" a pitchout to Moreno with a backwards pass to Stafford and a deep ball to Kris Durham for a TD, I'll be impressed.

So, beyond being bothered by the lack of true knowledge and understanding by the fanship who surrounded me, I was happy with the progression of the game for the most part. Our defense caused some turnovers. That was big. They also missed chances at about 5 more. Massaqoui and Green added to their touchdown totals, and Moreno added another big-league performance to his growing resume'. His TDs have slowed in the middle of the season, but he's still running the ball very well.

Vanderbilt was no easy task. My prognostication wasn't on-the-nose by any means, but the game went mostly as I thought it would. I couldn't predict Walsh missing two field goals. Nor could I predict a tipped-pass INT that set up Vandy's only serious challenge (and score) of the second half. Vandy got its first score after some help on one AWFUL PI call, and one that was much more just. Still, the fact that the Dawgs had only 5 penalties (half the season average) is pretty huge.

How did they do it? Well, Richt went after them! Richt set forth a new doctrine at practice last week. Anyone guilty of a penalty in practice would have to do grass-drills and gassers. What was the response? The players stepped up, admitting their own penalties, and calling out others for theirs as well. FINALLY. The players have finally reached a point this year where they're policing one another. The players are finding their leaders. The team is finding its way. This is the point where it started last season, as well. Vanderbilt. A last-minute win at Vanderbilt after a drubbing by Tennessee helped the Dawgs turn the corner last season. UGA wouldn't lose another game until this year agaisnt Alabama.

Now the question becomes....can they do it again? Have they matured enough? I say they have. I think this year has something that is far-and-away better than last year's Dawg team. They have true BALANCE. With AJ Green coming on as one of the best freshman receivers in the nation, and Massaqoui stepping up his production as well (against Tennessee, I have to say...Massaqoui had a big-time "don't forget about ME" game), the receivers are really coming through for Stafford this year. The drops have decreased by a GRAND degree from where they've been in recent years. So, what does that do for the offense? Well, it keeps people from keying in on Moreno as much. As the line develops, the fruits of this will really start to show up. See, earlier in the season, even though we had the balance in the offense, the line didn't have the experience to truly open things up. With every game, this line is learning more, developing together, and opening up more opportunities for Bobo to call different plays, and Moreno and Stafford to do what they do best - perform at a high level! Earlier this year, teams would be able to get a good deal of pressure against our O-Line without needing to Blitz. Now, though, the line is getting better, and it's getting tougher to pressure Stafford.

Defenses WANT to pressure Stafford. They REALLY don't want him to be able to sit back and throw the ball around. So, they're gonna have to bliz. That means people are gonna be open. That also means they can get hurt by the screen.....and we all know how much Bobo loves to call the screen pass. Now, if the opposition decides Stafford's arm is the biggest threat, they may decide to sit back in coverage, and risk only rushing four guys. If they do that, Moreno will gash them for 5 to 6 yards per carry. That's not good for them, either.

OF course, on that run UGA made last year, the defense was also playing on a very high level. This season, we've suffered some losses. Jeff Owens, out. Dannell Ellerbee, out. Now Akeem Habron goes down, and our LB corps gets thinner. But, let's be honest...the front 7 aren't the weak area of our Defense. The Dawgs are third in the nation in Rushing Defense, giving up 61 yards per game. But, we also have 3 of the top 40 rushing offenses coming up. We'll see how that goes.

Our passing defense, though, troubles me. We're 66th in the nation in Passing Defense. And, our 5 interceptions ranks 84th in the nation. That's ugly. Also, big plays in the air is how many teams have scored against us. Not too many teams will line up and ram it down our throats all the way down to the endzone. Just ask South Carolina, who gave up a fumble ON THE GOALLINE. But, in recent weeks, Vandy beat us on two passes into the corner of the endzone. Tennessee hit us for a big gainer inside the ten, and one in the corner of the endzone. ASU scored its only touchdown on a wide-open pass to an uncovered receiver. Even powerful Alabama relied on its air-borne attack to run up a big lead in the first half.

Our defense HAS TO SHORE UP its pass coverage. If it doesn't, every team we face has the tools to make it bite us.

LSU preview coming tomorrow. GO Dawgs!

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