Thank you Jody.
Kickoff: 3:30 PM
In a weekend filled with upset after upset, we struggled early defensively and saw a few offensive drives stall out before finally waking up and destroying an overmatched Ole Miss team. It was scary for a while but the end result was far better than the one that awaited half of the top 15. This week is a chance for revenge on a team that hung 50+ on us in
About the Ole Miss game
Where do you start to describe this game? The score was not at all indicative of the struggle we had on our hands. Ole Miss carried over all the momentum they established in the UF game and came out ready. They utilized that massive OL to open huge holes in our DL all day, which allowed their RBs to get yardage in chunks, which in turn opened up their passing game. Just a rough day defensively for us, but you have to give it to Ole Miss. They played extremely well offensively. Their QB was accurate and smart, rarely miscuing on attempts and constantly putting his guys in good position to make a play on the ball. His opening TD toss was thrown as perfectly as you’ll ever see one. Great coverage on that but you can’t defend the perfect pass. The defense rose up in the end though, and coupled with our explosive offense, we were able to turn a tight game into a rout.
Speaking of that offense, wow, I don’t know what to say. Yeah, we gave up two sacks (on the same series, although one was a scramble that almost got back to the line), but the OL once again played tremendously. Our RBs had some holes and when they didn’t, they seemed to make their own. When you average over 7 ypc as a team, something is obviously working. I don’t recall two RBs each being as effective as what we saw Saturday. Both were lethal. Brown seemed to feed off the energy of Knowshon and played like a guy having fun, trying to make folks miss as opposed to playing like the little back that always tries to prove he’s not little by running folks over. It was just an all around solid offensive performance against a defense that was overmatched. This was one of the rare games of the Richt era that you could make a strong case for the offense winning the game when the defense was scuffling. Yeah the defense only gave up 17 points, but once we got up multiple scores in the 2nd half, it took Ole Miss away from their ground game that had been working so well. Perhaps the most impressive thing all day was our drive in the 3rd quarter that saw us answer their TD that tied it at 17. We went 80 yards in 2:23 and only used 8 plays, picking up yardage in chunks (7 of the 8 plays were for 1st downs or TDs). Unreal. It was a solid win in a typical trap game…now on to
· This UT offense is not a prototypical UT offense, especially ones under OC David Cutcliffe. They have a veteran, senior QB, a handful of RBs that are serviceable, an OL that has played pretty well, but they don’t have that deep threat at WR, a longtime strength of the UT offense. Traditionally with UT you could count on solid RBs, solid OL and a fleet of amazing WRs. Not so this year.
· At QB, Eric Ainge is the senior starter that heads the UT attack. He led UT to wins over UGA in
· At RB, UT sports a bevy of capable backs, with Jr. Arian Foster leading the way. The big 6-1, 225 pounder is an experienced back that suffered through an injury-plagued 2006 (yet somehow managed 3 TDs against us last year), but has bounced back to average 5.0 ypc this season. He’s only topped the 100-yd mark once this season (against Southern Miss), but he’s a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. LaMarcus Coker (2nd in carries and yards), Lennon Creer and Montario Hardesty provide incredible depth and allow the offense to sustain a TB injury with ease. The top 3 backs all average right at 5.0 ypc or better. Their top 4 RBs average over 4 receptions per game combined, so look for their involvement in the passing game as well.
· The UT receiver corps is a shadow of the units they’ve put out in the past. The loss of Meachem, Swain and Smith and their nearly 2,500 yards receiving has seen a dropoff in individual receiver production, but overall, they’ve actually been decent statistically. Each of their top 3 receivers has already topped his career numbers on this short season. WRs Lucas Taylor, Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe each have over 20 receptions so far.
· The UT OL is a nice mix of veterans and young guys. They have good size, averaging just over 300 pounds a man. They’ve only given up a couple of sacks this season, which has as much to do with their scheme as it does their talent. Short drops and quick passes don’t give the DL much time to get to the QB. Considering how much they’ve thrown the ball though, the fact they’ve only given up 2 sacks is impressive. This OL is prototypical in terms of size and given Fulmer’s past as an OL himself, he’s always seemed to have solid OLs. This one is no different.
· Bottom Line: UT’s problems this season haven’t been on the offensive side of the ball. This is a group that’s averaging nearly 35 ppg and is leading the conference in passing (surprisingly given their WR issues). The fact that they are 11th in the SEC rushing is more a factor of them getting down big in a couple of games and having to throw more. They have seemed to shy away from the run more than you’d expect, which is very odd given UT’s history of pounding the ball. They do a good job of protecting the QB, mostly because they throw those quick, short passes. UT’s WRs aren’t a deep threat type of scary. They’re more of a ball control, well-coached type of scary. Look for our CBs to play much closer at the line of scrimmage than we saw last week against the likes of the speedy Wallace and the week before against DJ Hall. UT’s running game hasn’t been overly effective but we’ve struggled at times this season defending the run. I think you’ll see them deviate from their pass-happy attack (they pass the ball roughly 65% of the time) to this point and try and run it at us, especially with the absence of Marcus Washington. We’ll need more production from our DEs if we’re going to shut their O down.
· Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: Ole Miss ran off tackle on us all day and you got the feeling their massive OL was just blowing our DEs off the ball. Fulmer would love nothing more than to grind it out like that, but I think you’ll see a more motivated UGA D this week. Watch our DEs against their OTs in both the run and the pass. If we can get some pressure on Ainge (difficult to do with their short drops) and do a better job shoring up those off tackle runs, we’ve got a good chance of slowing their potent offense.
· The real shocker this year has been the play of the UT defense. This defense has been lit up like the Hot Donuts Now sign at Fulmer’s closest Krispy Kreme, yielding 37.5 ppg (110th nationally) and 439 yards per game (95th nationally). This is a unit that’s struggling against the pass (11th in the SEC in pass yardage defense and 12th in pass efficiency D) and the run (9th in the SEC). Like Ole Miss, this is a defense we should be able to move the ball against.
· The UT DL sports a pair of bookend senior DEs in Antonio Reynolds and Xavier Mitchell. They each have 12 tackles on the season but combine for 0 sacks, 4 TFLs and only 2 QB hurries. The starters at DT combine for a mere 7 starts on their career. Neither has done much to distinguish themselves. There’s talent there, as Demonte Bolden was highly regarded coming out of HS, but they won’t remind anyone of guys like
· MLB Jarod Mayo leads the team in tackles (26) and is an experienced player after starting every game last season. WLB Rico McCoy, a So., is 2nd on the team in tackles. SLB Ryan Karl has started 17 games (including all of 2006) on his career. He had a big game in
· The Secondary is led by Sr. safety (and former CB) Jonathan Hefney, a kid with incredible speed and cover skills for a safety. At 5-9, 185, he’s small for an SEC safety. Opposite him is true freshman Eric Berry, a GA native whose father played at UT (and a kid we REALLY wanted last year but really never had a shot).
· Bottom Line: UT has struggled mightily this year. They’ve given up yardage and points to everyone they’ve played. They’ve been an equal opportunity defense, giving up yards on the ground and through the air. With our developing ground game, look for us to make them stop us running the ball on 1st and 2nd downs as we try to build a lead. The recent success of the running game will make the play action passing more effective, but we’ll need that young OL to protect (something they did with flying colors in their first road test). Much like
· Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: Watch Southerland. He had a phenomenal game last week, leading on several of those tosses and stretch plays and just sealing the edge for Brown and
The UT Game Overall
Don’t underestimate the importance of this game being the 2nd road trip for our young team. They were able to go into a raucous
I fully expect both teams to move the ball. UT has a solid offense, led by a veteran QB. They’ve also had a week off to scheme for this. I would expect us to give up yardage and make Ainge drive the field against us. Their running game hasn’t been as effective as in years past, but they might go to it in an attempt to keep our offense off the field. As big a blowout as last year’s game was, we only punted one time…granted we turned the ball over a couple of times, but we scored a lot. We have a much more dynamic offense this time around and UT’s defense is considerably weaker. Last year’s debacle wasn’t a defensive meltdown, at least not completely; the offense put them in a horrible position time and time again. Numerous 2nd half turnovers and special teams miscues saw us turn a 10-pt halftime lead into an 18-pt loss. 4 2nd half turnovers will generally kill anyone’s lead. We have to continue to protect the ball. It’s something we’ve generally been able to do this year. We haven’t created a ton of turnovers and if we can somehow pull in a few of those, it would greatly improve our chances.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Richt’s stellar record on the road as a head coach. That record includes a sporty little 3-0 mark in
Lastly, I think it’s incredibly important to remember the number of big special teams plays that have marked this rivalry in recent years. Damien Gary’s punt return for a TD in 2001, Thomas Flowers’ return for a TD in 2005…heck, even in last year’s loss we had a kickoff return for a TD from Brown and a punt return for a TD from Henderson. This is odd considering UT’s legacy of great punters. They are currently 91st nationally in net punting (10th in the SEC). I know they’ve already given up one punt return for a TD this year (Jackson for Cal had that nasty run), don’t be surprised to see another one this Saturday, there’s certainly a precedent for it and Mikey’s due for a long one.
· Johnson appears set to start this week at safety, but he’s gotten knocked out of the last two games, so I’d expect to see a good bit of Jones and maybe even Banks in there this week. Speaking of Banks, he made some very nice open-field tackles on Saturday and certainly looked the part.
· Massaquoi continues to make the tough catches. At what point does he get credit for having good hands after struggling last year for a spell? He’s made at least 3 catches this season that were incredible.
· Yes, I know
· Haverkamp’s absence with an ankle injury might turn out to be a good thing, as Boling continues to impress. When Haverkamp does return, that’ll just be more depth we can rotate in.
· Jeff Owens apparently turned his ankle earlier this week but is expected to be ready to go. That’s huge for us, as he’s been a rock inside. He, Weston and Atkins have all played extremely well and Garner said Irvin is playing really well right now also, so we’re looking at a stout DT rotation.
· I don’t care if you like rap music or not, you had to enjoy watching the exuberance you saw on the UGA sideline when the PA system played the beat (no lyrics, just the beat) to Crank Dat by Souljaboy.
· Speaking or
· Look, I like baseball, I really do, probably moreso than your average college football fan, but I’m SO ready for the baseball season to be over with so ESPN (and other networks) will stop breaking in to good football games for highlights of baseball. Baseball is played at a different pace than football and it’s REALLY tough to switch gears back down to watch baseball after being set on football.
· I know Tubberville was pretty fired up after the game, but I found at least one of his comments pretty interesting. Maybe it was the post-game jubilation talking, but when asked about the 3 TD spread he said that Auburn hadn’t been beaten that badly in “years”…I guess he meant on the road…because I could’ve sworn we beat them 37-15 last year…for you non-math majors, that’s a more than 3 TD win.
· I wonder how Mike Patrick is handling the fact that Britney lost custody of her children.
· I’ve still yet to see anyone using the synched camera angles to determine a review. It seems so logical yet no one will use it. The FL-AU game was a perfect example. From one angle you can clearly see where the ball is when the knee touches but you can’t really tell the position of the ball relative to the goal. From another camera angle you can see the ball in relation to the goal but you can’t see the guy’s knee. At some point, some producer is going to revolutionize instant reply by doing a split screen of these….one would think anyway.
· The best separated at birth I got from a reader this week was David Cutcliffe and that announcer guy from the WWE. I mean they were identical, but I lost the images and I’m not a wrestling guy so I can’t remember the guy’s name. You’ll have to trust me.
· I thought
· Alright, I know I ramble a good bit about the pregame stuff, and judging by the late arriving crowd many of you might not have any idea what I’m talking about, but I feel the need to say something about our pregame music selections. Look, there’s a time and place for Journey. I’m almost positive that time and place isn’t 2007 in Sanford Stadium. It just isn’t right. Look, I’m not saying play current music at all, most of that stuff isn’t that good either, and for the most part, the pregame music is pretty safe…anything by the Rolling Stones, Black Betty, Mississippi Queen, that kinda stuff, just stay away from hair metal. It kinda solidifies our opponents’ comments that we’re stuck in the glory days of the early 80s. Steve Perry has no place in Sanford Stadium.
Have a safe weekend,