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.