Sunday, October 28, 2012

Better, but not Best

Aaron Murray, God Love Him.

Did he lift the monkey from him back?  Hard to say for me.  To call Murray's performance yesterday a good one, I'd have to have one less eye and a Disney-Dawg's heart.  I will, however, give him credit where it is due.  Mike Bobo put the game in his hands in the fourth quarter.  We were only up by one, y'all.  We were holding on by one little point and Bobo decided to go with the passing game.  He picked the guy who had already tossed three interceptions to go out and win the game for us.  He decided that Florida may gang up on the run, and so the throws would be there.  Bobo bet on Murray....

and Bobo won.  So did Georgia.

Unlike previous big-game performances, Aaron Murray looked great on the final drive.  Of course, that was largely due to Malcolm Mitchell's clutch catch-and-run.

Did we get lucky with a penalty?  Yup.  Did fortune shine on us with an instant replay overturn?  It did.  Still, the final big throw had to be made.  Murray had to throw a back-shoulder pass (his specialty) to a receiver running a stop-route against tight man coverage.  In the past, Murray might have let that moment overtake him.  He might have sailed the ball over Mitchell's head.  He might have thrown it too far inside, and had the ball picked by Purifoy.

Not this time.

No, this time Murray made the throw.  He overcame three first-half interceptions.  He overcame a couple of big drops by his receivers.  He stood in the face of the blitz and tossed a pass that put his receiver in a position to break the game open with an amazing run.

The final statline is not impressive.  50% completion for 150 yards, 3 interceptions and 1 touchdown.

But, the one touchdown was a huge one.  When Aaron Murray absolutely had to make a throw, he made a hell of a throw...and Georgia won as the result.

Like I said, I don't know that the monkey is off his back....but it looks like the thing's grip is pretty damn strained.  The good news?  We should see the other Aaron Murray for the rest of the season...  you know, the one that plays amazing against bad defenses.  And maybe...just maybe, he'll prove to be the SEC's best in the SEC title game.

Go Dawgs!

Just call him Clutch

A kid who was known as a hell of a playmaker had not quite taken the fanbase by storm.  There were mixed emotions.  We saw the potential.  We had seen some results.  But, in crucial moments in the past (namely big games like the SEC title game), he had faltered.  Many thought perhaps we'd just been caught up in the hype of another highly-rated recruit, who seemed to have all he needed on the field, but perhaps not everything he needed between the ears.  Perhaps he wasn't the kind of player who will win you the game in the waning moments.

I'm talking, of course, about Malcolm Mitchell.  (See what I did there?  You thought I was taking a step back on my disapproval of BigGame Murray.  Nope.)

With about 7 minutes to go in the first quarter, Malcolm Mitchell caught his second of two consecutive passes.  He wouldn't catch another until Georgia's final scoring drive.  In the interim, he would frighten fans by catching a punt with three gators surrounding him and no fair-catch called.  He would inexplicably run the ball out from six yards deep in the endzone on kickoffs.  After his first catch on that final drive, he would even talk trash, and cost his team ten yards.  He didn't look like a player who was going to win the game for Georgia.

Then he made a clutch reception on 2nd down.  The play was initially called incomplete, but careful review showed Mitchell pull the ball in, turn, and touch his knee to the ground (ending the play) before the ball was stripped.  This gave the Dawgs a 3rd and five instead of a 3rd and ten, which was the key in the final play.  Because the Gators had to defend only five yards instead of ten, they couldn't sit back in deep zones.  They would have to play up on the Dawgs receivers, so as to not allow a quick-hitter for a first down.  Purifoy, the best cover-corner on Florida's roster, covered up Mitchell and played bump-and-run.  What's the best route-pass combination for that coverage?  A stop route, with a back-shoulder throw.  Murray made the throw, and that's why you may want to lean toward calling HIM clutch...but it was Mitchell's run-after-catch that was truly the gamebreaker.  Not only did he run a fantastic route and make a fantastic catch, but he read the men in front of him, made his cuts, picked up enough of a block to get a crease, and then exploded into the endzone.

It was clutch.  Bobo put the game in the hands of Aaron Murray and Malcolm Mitchell.  Murray had been struggling.  The receivers hadn't been helping.  But when the game was on the line, they came through.  Murray made a few throws, and then Mitchell helped his qb in the best way possible - by scoring a TD that would prevent the much-maligned Junior from needing to make another decision.  Murray wouldn't have to decide what coverage he was seeing.  He wouldn't need to go through his progressions and worry about forcing a pass.  No, Malcolm Mitchell had scored a TD that put the Dawgs ahead by 8, and Murray's big-game woes were gone.

That, my "Clutch."

Go Dawgs.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shot at Redemption

Collegiate athletes face more public tests of their ability than most people face in their entire lifetimes.  Every week, a player can be a hero - or a goat.  Not so in the lives of so many fans.  Also uniquely theirs, is the opportunity to spin perception on a dime.  In the early part of the 2012 season, Aaron Murray was seen as somewhat of a Heisman Candidate.  Many thought he had truly matured and become a championship-caliber quarterback.  He would finally be able to win the big games, to lead the Bulldogs back to the promised land.

Then South Carolina.

For the first five weeks of the season, the offensive line had looked quite strong.  They were opening big holes for young running backs.  They were holding their own against the pass rush, protecting Aaron Murray.  They were getting out to their assignments on the edge and allowing runs to get big yardage.

Then South Carolina.

A young pair of runningbacks dominated early competition.  They exploded for huge runs.  They ran out of arm-tackles.  They punished defenders instead of taking punishment themselves.  They garnered the love of a fanbase, and even of the media.  They found a nickname - Gurshall.  

Then South Carolina.

After the South Carolina game, the fanbase soured.  Our shot had been lost in many eyes.  We were again underachieving.  For the 8th time in 10 tries, UGA had lost to a ranked opponent.  That's not a record that instills a great amount of confidence.  Georgia was behind the eight ball.  We were forced to sit and wait, and hope that a miracle would happen.  We would have to hope that the team that had so thoroughly dominated our squad in Columbia that night would falter, that they would fail, that Steve Spurrier had not yet coached them into a position to run with success, but rather that being so unaccustomed to it, they would let it slip through their hands.

Then South Carolina....lost....and lost again.

So now Georgia, the team whose offense crumbled against South Carolina, stands poised to once again take the reigns of the SEC East Race.  The Dawgs did not impress against an overmatched Kentucky team.  Oh sure, Aaron Murray was back to early-season form...but what else would we expect?  He was facing a team that had no chance to match up with his receiving corps.  He wasn't in a "big game"... so naturally, he was going to light up the scoreboard.  A career day for him, but the stain from the USC game lingers.  The running game wasn't on point against Kentucky.  How then, can we expect it to be strong against Florida?  The defense was slashed-and gashed against Kentucky.  Surely Florida fields a better offense than the worst team in the SEC.

This is Georgia's "Rocky" moment.  This week is one of two things - a coming out party for a beleaguered team who will finally stand up and slap down a ranked team, or further proof that against the best competition, we just plain don't get it done.  After the South Carolina game, we were left broken and bloody on the mat.  But here we are, two weeks later, back on our feet with a chance to knock out the apparent champ, and pave our own way to center-ring to square off with (most likely) Alabama.

Can these athletes once again spin their perception in a 180?  Can they now shake the horror that has been the UGA-FL game for the better part of 20 years?  Can the young offensive line "Man-Up" and get it done?  Can those young backs once again remind a fanbase why they made all those grand comparisons to a bygone hero?  Can a quarterback, much maligned by writers such as myself finally stick it in our face and show us that on one day, on one great Saturday, he can play his best, against the best, and finally BE the best?  

Saturday is a shot at Redemption.  I'll be glad to eat crow if these guys can do it.

Go Dawgs.    

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shame On...

The fallout from the USC debacle has been substantial, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon, I'm sure.  The "Fire Richt" crowd is elated, as they now have fuel.  It's been a difficult row for them to hoe ever since that ten-game win streak last season.  Even the loss in the SEC-Title game was defendable by the apologists.  But now, now they can stand up proudly and thump their chests and say "See, we told you Richt sucks.  We lost to South Carolina!!!!"

Shut up.

In the wake of that loss, there have been a number of fingers pointed, a great amount of blame placed, and an uncountable number of sofa-A.D.s calling for a regime change.  There was poor fan behavior.  There was poor blogger behavior.  None of it, though, will do anything towards making the season any better from here on in.

And neither will this blog.

But, what I want to offer here are just a few opinions about the state of things Georgia Football.

Shame On ...

1. The fans who egged and rolled Christian Robinson's home.  You're almost as classy as an unshaven Gator Fan in jorts vomiting beenie weenies on himself.  Way to go.  The saddest part is that you were likely in a bar downtown just minutes later bragging about it.  I hope those who heard you telling that story inform the players of who you are, and where you live.  And I hope the ACCPD, GSP and Campus Police all forget to investigate the ass-whooping you take (which will be eerily similar to the one that inspired your actions to begin with).  Shame on classless fans.

2.  The Murray's Father excuse.  I'll start this by saying that I feel for Aaron Murray.  My own father had medical issues while I was at UGA, and I know how wholly distracting and troubling that can be.  So, it's not the fact that he's dealing with this that I say "shame on".  I'm saying "shame on" those who are using it as a an excuse.  I don't know when Murray found out about his father's condition, but I know that I read he found out "Just before the game."  Ok - that's awful.  That's awful for multiple reasons.  A), if it's not true- it's an awful thing to say just to excuse poor performance.  B), if it IS true, it is HORRIBLE that he was informed of that just before that kind of game.  I'm sorry, but unless his father is in danger of death (and thus Murray should leave Columbia and go be by his side), you shouldn't tell the kid about the procedure.  There's nothing he can do.  Let him play the game, then tell him, and he'll be able to deal with it.  C) If he knew for the days leading up to the game, he was in a bad position...but I'd have to wonder if the distraction manifested in practice.  Either way, it shouldn't be an excuse.  Shame on those who use it as such.

3.  My desire to believe.  I had almost turned a corner with AM.  Those who've been reading me for years know that I've held a "jury's out" opinion of him, because I've seen the amazing talent he has, and yet the tendency to wilt under pressure.  With the Tennessee win, I thought he had moved beyond it.  I saw a Championship-type bounce back in that game.  That was the first game (going back to the beginning of the 2011 season) where Murray had a pick-six and a fumble, and we didn't lose.  I did not blog about it, though...because at the end of the game, when we needed to prolong drives to seal the victory, he missed badly on a few passes.  I was cautiously optimistic.  Then the USC game.  Shame on me.

4.  The "if a few plays went our way" crowd.  Forget that.  That game was a T-Total Asswhipping.  Yes, if Bacarri picks that ball off the game coulda been different.  Sure, if Wooten gets into the endzone maybe we get something going.  Of course, if Commings picks that ball off, we would have had a shot.  Naturally, if we block Clowney better maybe AM throws better balls.  Absolutely, if Robinson could outrun Shaw they don't sustain their drives.  Yeah, if the block-in-the-back is called on the punt return, we're only down 14-0.  Sure, if we just keep running on that drive in the 2nd, maybe we punch it in.  That's a hell of a lot of maybes, y'all.  No, this wasn't a result of a few plays not going our way.  This was not a result of bad luck.  This was just an annihilation, plain and simple.  Shame on those (including some of our players, from the post-game interviews) who think otherwise.

5.  Bobo.  Now, you guys know I'm not a Bobo detractor.  In fact, I've probably been one of his biggest proponents ever since doing an entire series on whether or not he was cutting the mustard as an OC.  He's called some brilliant games this season.  This past Saturday featured some classic questionables, though (as did one series in particular against TN - but I digress).  For instance, Murray was having trouble with his accuracy.  That was obvious.  So why, then, did we continue to go back to the WR screens he wasn't completing?  He was constantly throwing behind his receivers on those.  Made no sense to me.  Then, when we had a chance to score, with 1st and goal, we ran the ball twice and picked up yardage each time.  Why did we stop?  It seems to me that this season he had been "going with what works" and "moving on from what doesn't"... but that seemed to change here.  And damn it, can we stop running end-arounds that get us two yards?  My guess is he's using it to set up something later in the season...but damn, it's frustrating to see a play develop so slowly and then get us very little.  Shame on Bobo.

6.  Whoever decided C-Rob should Spy a running QB.  There's really not much to say on that one beyond the fact that it's a poor decision.  Perhaps whoever is our "running qb" on the Scout Team doesn't have the quicks Shaw does.  I don't know.  When I watched the game, it was clear after one run that Robinson doesn't possess whatever it is that is needed (I'm guessing speed) to effectively spy a good running QB.  Let's cut that out. (btw...both of our next two opponent QBs have been known to tote the ball from time to time)

7.  The Fire-Richters.  We lost a game.  Going back to 1892, Georgia has lost a game in every season outside of (I believe) three.  Shut up about it.  In fact, since I've been familiar with Georgia football, the only "good times" that have existed (outside of my own playing years, which were incredibly fun even though you guys call them a disappointment all the time), have been under Mark Richt.  I'll admit, I'm not a lifetime Georgia fan.  In fact, I'm not really a Georgia "fan" as it were.  I love the Dawgs.  I played there, and I will always cheer for them.  But, a loss doesn't ruin my day.  It doesn't destroy my world.  I don't really have to deal with it.  Know why?  I'm not playing.  I'm not coaching.  I'm simply watching the game.  So are you.  If your life is so void of accomplishment that you have to live vicariously through a bunch of kids whom you don't even know, you need to rethink your decision making paradigm.  I've said it 100 times, I'll take Richt 10 times out of 10 over a coach like Gene Chizik.  I may live my entire life and never see Georgia win a title, but as long as Richt is in the driver's seat, I know the program will be one I'd be proud to have my Son be a part of.  Can't say that for many of the programs out there.  Shame on the Fire-Richters.

8.  The Apologists.  We lost a game.  Got our butts kicked.  There's no "ifs and buts".  There's no "coulda shoulda woulda".  There's no "at least we have a great man as our coach."  There's no "young team".  There's no "suspended guys are rusty."  We got our butts kicked.  Now the team will have to figure out what happened, correct it, and work to salvage the season.  No apologies.  Just fix it.  Shame on You.

9.  Our Defense.  I'm not referring to players, or coaches, or playcalling or anything other than the actual PRODUCT that I see on the field.  I don't know where the blame can be placed.  Bacarri Rambo, a hell of  a playmaker, went up for a ball and didn't bring it down.  That's getting outplayed.  Jarvis Jones, a hell of a playmaker, got straight embarassed by Shaw's fakes.  That's getting outplayed.  Our pass-rush was ineffective for much of the night.  That may be a scheme thing, it may be a player thing, I don't know.  I'm not re-watching the game to find out.  Whatever it is, the defense isn't getting it done.  Say what you will about the end of the tennessee game, because I was there with you.  I said "when we had to get them off the field, we did, with three straight turnovers."   But then I also said, Championship Teams force field goals when their offense turns it over in the redzone.  We don't do that.  I watched Florida versus LSU and all I kept thinking was "Why doesn't our D fly around like that?"  They used to.  I feel like they were more intense last season.  I don't know.  I watch Florida's Elam just BLOW PEOPLE UP and always be at the ball and I, it'd be nice to see that in a Georgia Uniform.  Don't get me wrong, we have some guys who are making plays all over the field.  We have some strong young talent that I look forward to watching play for years to come.  BUT....against South Carolina, in the second half, when we absolutely HAD to get them off the field, we didn't do it.  Championship Defense do that.  We didn't.  Shame on our Defense.

10.  Bloggers like me.  The poison I've seen coming out of some of the blogs has been immense.  I'm not standing "above the fray" on that line either.  I know that for a fact.  Some of the things I write are seen as "picking on a kid."  I'm not.  I say things that are valid statements about gameplay.  You won't find me saying a kid is a bum with no work ethic.  You won't see me saying the kid doesn't care about Georgia Football, but only himself.  What I say is, this kid got outplayed, this kid didn't do his assignment, this kid needs to work on this thing or that thing.  These are all criticisms, and they're ones that I believe any sane player could read, and while the criticism could sting, he could also take it to heart and improve upon the play that inspired the comments to begin with.  But, the DisneyDawg crowd out there doesn't want us to say anything that can be seen as "negative"....ever.  They want us to accept everything with a smile and a "Thank You, Can I have another?"  Well, I don't really want another butt-whipping like that.  Shame on bloggers like Me.

Go Dawgs.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Worst Part of the USC loss...

will be the idiots who blame Richt and Bobo for Murray's ineptitude.  I will agree however, that it is absolutely their fault that he is still our starting quarterback, and that we do not have a different option.  "Time will tell" is no longer the answer IMO.  "Time has told."  The kid is now 2-8 against ranked opponents, and is terrible in big games.

Murray will graduate from UGA with records, records, records.....but if he doesn't do a complete 180 on his Big Game performance ability, he will never win a championship.

And, it's quite possible that he may submarine his coaches.  But then, they are the ones who hitched their wagons to him.

At least Chizik bet his whole future on Cam Newton.

Painful loss.  Now, a week of figgerin' out just what the hell happened, and getting ready to take on the rest of the slate.  Hold onto your hats, fans....this could get bumpy.

Go Dawgs