Thursday, November 01, 2007


FootballWeek 9

Opponent: Troy Trojans

Kickoff: 1:00 PM

TV: None

That thing that’s on your face in early November is a smile. I tell you that because it took me a while to figure it out too. It’s all too rare that we get to smile this time of year. I like it. We should try it more often. A huge win (like old times) in Jacksonville coupled with several losses around us puts us at the top of the SEC East (1/2 game up on UT) and has scooted us up to the top 10 in the polls. Oh happy day. This week we get a dangerous out of conference opponent that has caused some teams some trouble this year so we’ll have to get the focus back and put the hammer down. All of a sudden this season, considered a loss after that meltdown at UT, has considerable promise again.

About the UF game

From the first play from scrimmage where we sacked Tebow, you could tell this team was bringing a different kind of energy than we’ve been seeing so far. Then came the first score. Then came that thing that everyone’s been talking about, the celebration. I debated even mentioning it here given the ridiculous amount of overblown comments made about it but I felt I’d be a bit remiss if I didn’t use this semblance of a forum afforded me to make some type of statement about it.

Look, it’s obvious Richt didn’t intend exactly what happened. What he intended was to get his players to loosen up. He got that. I don’t think he envisioned a full team celebration. His decision was basically an acknowledgment that we’d played far too tight for far too long and he wanted to remind this bunch of college kids that they were playing a football game just like they did every other weekend. What was interpreted from his request of the team to draw a celebration penalty on their first score was an expression of emotion that we haven’t been privy to too often in Athens. We saw a UGA team that was having fun again. Richt’s move would’ve certainly looked stupid if we had lost but we didn’t and I don’t know that you can separate the two, I’ve watched too many lifeless, tight, scared performances from more talented UGA teams down there for years (far pre-dating Richt’s arrival) to think that.

I thought we might change some stuff up coming out of the off week. I was pleased to see our defense get a little more aggressive but I was also pleased to see us get pressure without blitzing as well, as we continued to mix blitzes in with some of our typical defensive methodology. I was not expecting Knowshon Moreno to come out of the week off looking like a man possessed. I suppose I should have expected it as this kid has done nothing but impress time and time again, but honestly, who saw THAT coming? I remember watching another freshman that wore #24 back in 2001 and thinking I’d love to have a back like that. That was Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and he was setting (I think) an AU freshman RB carries record against us in Athens. It was a very similar performance. He was everywhere. Knowshon was everywhere. That performance certainly cemented his status in UGA-UF lore for all the red-clad folks (those wearing orange are trying to forget him) but something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot more of this kid. My God, a Freshman.

Troy Offense

· Troy uses the spread attack, just like UF. They’ve averaged nearly 35 ppg on the year and have scored 26 or more against everyone, including BCS foes Arkansas, Florida and OkSt. They are a balanced group, throwing (275 ypg) and rushing (175 ypg) equally well.

· If Senior QB Omar Haugabook is able to go (he’s got a hamstring issue), then Troy is a dangerous, dangerous team. Haugabook leads the team in rushing attempts (actually tied). He’s a very mobile guy that is also completing over 60% of his passes. He’s a little loose with the ball though, throwing 11 INTs this season to 12 TDs. He threw 17 INTs last year as well, so he’s prone to those. Along those lines, he’s thrown an INT in 7 of 8 games this season. If he can’t go, freshman backup Tanner Jones will get the nod. He’s only had 15 attempts this season so you’re likely looking at a completely different offense. Given that Troy can win the Sun Belt Conference this season and still have several conference games remaining, it’s hard to say how much they plan on Haugabook playing if he’s not 100%.

· Senior RB Kenny Cattouse is the guy that holds the New Jersey career rushing record, a few yards ahead of our own Knowshon Moreno. He averages over 3 catches a game so he’s got good hands. He’s averaging 6 ypc as well so he’s got good legs. Freshman Dujuan Harris has seen a good bit of carries this year as well though he’s not been quite as effective as Cattouse.

· The Trojan WR corps is interesting. They start in the 3 WR set and go 4 wide often. Seniors Gary Banks and Josh Allen lead the team in receptions and yards. Those two along with Cattouse are the only 3 guys on the team with more than 15 catches. They spread the ball around a good bit though, as 11 guys have 10 or more grabs on the year. Then it gets a little weird. In the redzone they don’t have a go-to guy at all, with 13 different guys accounting for the 15 passing TDs on the year. That makes it difficult for the defense to key on anyone.

· The Trojan OL (the starters anyway) is comprised of 4 juniors and a sophomore. They’re good sized, with each guy being over 305. The two OTs are shorter than average at 6-2 and 6-3. They’ve done a good job of protecting the QB this year, allowing only 6 sacks after giving up 28 last year.

· Bottom Line: Haugabook is this offense. Without him who knows how effective they’ll be. They are a balanced spread attack, the type of offense you really have to be prepared for. It’s the type of offense we’ve struggled with a good bit in years past, especially in OOC games. Considering the number of WRs they use, look for us to be in the nickel a good bit. This takes our SLB off the field. We saw that defense a good bit Saturday as well with considerable success now that Curran is playing well.

· Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: If Haugabook goes, the Troy offense will be as dangerous as they’ve been all year. Once again it’ll fall to our LBs to handle him. Ellerbe was everywhere Saturday, Washington didn’t seem to have any ill effects and Curran played well beyond his freshman designation. If those guys, Miller and Dent can keep playing at that level we’ll be in good shape but given the inconsistencies that have plagued every team in college football this season, we could certainly be in for a defensive letdown and if we get one, Haugabook and this balanced attack will make us pay.

Troy Defense

· As strong as the Troy offense is, the defense is questionable. These guys really are like UF lite. They do sport one of the more dynamic playmakers we’ll face all year in CB Leodis McKelvin though. As far as what they do well defensively, these guys are essentially the anti-Gators, struggling against the run but handling the pass very well. They average giving up over 200 ypg (101st nationally) on the ground but are a stout 7th nationally in terms of passing yardage against. They do a good job of getting after the QB, averaging nearly 3 sacks per game. Given our Jekyll-Hyde approach to offensive production this year, we can make bad defenses look better than they are and if we’re still trying to relive the win over UF last week, Troy will make us work for it.

· The Trojan DL isn’t the biggest in the world, but they are active and they have some talent. Former UGA DE signee Brandon Lang started the first 3 games of the season but hasn’t played since. I’m assuming he’s injured but I couldn’t find anything to confirm. Former FSU signee and GA native Chris Bradwell (who went JUCO after a turn at FSU) is listed as a backup DT but has played considerable minutes, starting 6 games and leading all DLs in tackles. Jr. DE Kenny Mainor has only started the last two games but he’s managed to lead the teams in TFLs (8) and sacks (5). At 6-3, 227 he’s a smaller DE like Jermaine Cunningham who we handled well last week in Jacksonville. Their interior group is deep, with several guys seeing minutes.

· The Trojans play a good bit of nickel package, so the end result is two guys, Boris Lee and Marcus Richardson, with the bulk of the stats. MLB Lee, an undersized (6-0, 212) sophomore, leads the team in tackles with 51, but on a team with 55 TFLs combined, it’s a bit surprising to see the team’s leading tackler with only one TFL. He does have 2 INTs and 3 fumble recoveries on the year, so he’s obviously using his smallish size to cover some ground and make some stuff happen. WLB Marcus Richardson is 2nd on the team in tackles. His 5 TFLs and 2 sacks point to him being more of a nose in the backfield type of player.

· The Trojan secondary might be as stout a bunch as we’ve faced all season. They’re certainly stronger than the group we just played. CB Leodis McKelvin is as a highly skilled athlete. The 5-11, 190-pound senior is a great cover guy, as his 2 INTs, 6 pass breakups and 8 passes defended indicate, but he’s also a stout tackler, ranking 3rd on the team with 40 tackles including 2.5 for loss. He’s an even more dangerous return man, needing only 1 more punt return for a TD to become the NCAA leader all-time. Opposite him is another capable CB in Elbert Mack, a 5-10, 165-pound senior. Mack is 6th on the team in tackles and leads the team with 5 INTs, has broken up 5 passes and defended 10 more. These are two solid CBs. The two safeties (a pair of juniors) are solid as well and rank 4 and 5 in tackles. Nickelback Sherrod Martin moves around a good bit and has piled up an impressive 7.5 TFLs and 3 sacks. Look for him blitzing.

· Bottom Line: When you have CBs as good as Troy does, you can afford to bring pressure from different folks. They’re an excellent pass defense team but they’re pretty bad against the run. They blew out Ok State (largely due to a +3 turnover margin) yet OSU managed to rush for right at 250 yards. Florida went for over 260 on the ground. The ground happy Arkansas offense (of course) went off for 350 yards in the season opener. Richt would like to get away from leaning so heavily on newfound plaything Knowshon Moreno but we might be riding him again this week as Brown isn’t healthy enough to go and the ground game looks like the mode of attack against this group. Look for a similar game plan this week to last week in establishing the ground attack then going up top. They have strong, aggressive CBs, so if we can lull them a bit then use quick guys like Bailey and Henderson to beat them at the line we might be more than willing to take our shot deep.

· Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: They have 1 LB over 6-1 and he’s listed 3rd string and is a freshman. I think Chandler could have a big day Saturday. He’s played well since that rough stretch against Bama and it’s doubtful he’d be matched up against their stout CBs so it would make sense that in our passing game we’ll utilize him some, especially if we’re trying to look to spell Moreno more.

The Troy Game Overall

We have to be VERY careful this week. This is a very good football team. They flat handled Ok State at home earlier this year. They have a dangerous QB and solid pass defense. They’ve won 6 straight games, which is saying something given the unpredictability of this season and their only two losses have come against Arkansas and Florida. They gave Arkansas all they could handle. We have to avoid the letdown this week. I’m not trying to slight Troy by saying we could be looking back at Florida and forward to Auburn but you could easily see it happening. This Troy team is a group that’s receiving votes in the polls. You could easily make a case they’re a better team than the Vandy team that took us to the wire not too long ago. We have to maintain that intensity and fire that we saw sparked in Jacksonville and carry it through the end of the season.

The biggest way to equalize two teams that have a big talent gap is turnovers. Against Ok State, Troy finished up with a +3 in the turnover battle and rolled to a victory. Against UF they broke even (two apiece) and got rolled. Against Arkansas they finished +1 and were able to stay in the game and make it close for longer than it should’ve been. Of course this was helped by the fact Arkansas put the ball on the ground an astonishing 6 times (they only lost 2). We’ve done a great job of protecting the ball this season, hopefully we’ll continue that.

There’s not much you can take from last season, but we did hit that rough stretch that we rebounded from to finish off strong. That resurgence was triggered out of nowhere in that miracle of a game against AU. We dominated a team no one really gave us anything resembling a chance against. We used that performance to close the season with strong wins over GT and VT. Now here we are, a season removed and the win came a little earlier. Perhaps we can use that win to carry us beyond that little hiccup of a two week stretch (where we lost to UT and barely edged Vandy) though the end of the year. Basically at this point, you win out and you’re in a BCS bowl and that doesn’t even mean UT has to lose. Pretty crazy considering that after the UT debacle some UGA fans were speculating whether or not we’d be able to become bowl eligible.

Positional Notes

· Jarius Wynn moved back to DE and now brings an excellent combination of size and speed that we don’t really have in spades at the position. He certainly played well there Saturday. He won’t start but he’ll log plenty of snaps.

· How about a big pat on the back to Rennie Curran? He was all over the place Saturday and showed glimpses of what we can expect for the next 3 years.

· With Kelin Johnson essentially out look for Reshad Jones to get the nod. Yes he misplayed that first UF TD and occasionally he gets lost in coverage, but that kid has loads of talent and the more chances he gets out there the more consistent he’ll become. I fully expect him to have an INT or two before the season is over.

· Can we all agree that the WR play has been pretty solid this year?

· With Caleb King sitting last week it looks as though Richt is comfortable going with Jason Johnson as the backup until Brown gets back (hopefully after this week). With that said, I was more than a little surprised to see Johnson in on the first offensive play last week…even moreso when I realized he was lined up as a wideout.

· What else can be said about Moreno that hasn’t already been said? He’s so solid and doesn’t seem to tire at all. He amazes me with his decision making abilities by being able to decide when to hit the hole, when to patiently let his OL develop the play and when to just improvise. He’s special.

· Sean Bailey’s knee injury is a bit of a blow. Hopefully it’s one of those things where he can just play through it. A torn meniscus sounds rough but apparently can be played through without further damage.

Random Thoughts

· Gator fans can say all they want about the celebration being a slap in the face but easily the biggest slap in the face on Saturday was CBS’ decision to use REM’s version of Superman in their pre-game intro about Tebow of all people. I was shocked. Maybe next year they’ll use that song for Knowshon…or Stafford.

· My problem with the taunting call on Massaquoi was that he was doing the gator chomp. How many times has UF been flagged for that? I’d venture to say none. He was taunting the fans, not the players. There’s no reason to throw that flag. And another thing, how do you get 2 facemask calls on one play, one of which was supposedly a dead ball foul? And lastly (I swear I’m not a guy that usually complains about officiating), how in the world does a guy 20 yards downfield throw a flag for not having enough men on the LOS? That makes no sense at all. Head ref Penn Wagers had as tough a day as the Gator D.

· This game will mark the largest crowd that Troy has ever played in front of. The previous largest crowd was 90,244 against UF earlier this year. Prior to that, they had only played in front of one crowd larger than 85,000. Ever.

· I find it beyond laughable that UF fans after the game were implying that the celebration was going to really have the Gators ready for next year’s game. What about this year’s? They had more than 3 quarters to respond. If there was any question of whether the celebration was the right thing to do or not, that was answered by the faces of Meyer and Tebow…complete and utter confusion. Perfect.

· Not sure how many of you follow recruiting but UGA is assembling one of the top classes in the country. It’s loaded with talent at every position. The crazy thing is it’s 3 months until signing day.

· I don’t want to hear about how much more dangerous UF would’ve been with Tebow 100%. He played and played pretty well. The bottom line is that if Tebow had been 100% he would’ve taken touches away from Percy Harvin and that guy might be the scariest player I can remember watching us play against. He’s just deadly. Also, I haven’t noticed any asterisks in the record book about DJ Shockley missing the 2005 game.

· OK, I’m off the Journey kick. No more Steve Perry references or videos. I am now open to ideas for the remainder of the season.

· Oh and I’m pretty sure that Superman costume that Tebow was wearing in the 5th grade church play they showed during the TV telecast wasn’t padded. He’s been ripped like that since birth.

· Not sure how many of you caught Verne’s reference to “Boom Goes the Dynamite,” but for those of you who did, I thought it was brilliantly subtle. For those of you who didn’t, I present to you Brian Collins, internet legend. If you’ve seen it before, watch it again…this guy is far more entertaining than Stuart Scott. By the way, if you’re curious as to who hit the 3 that made the dynamite go boom, the answer is “The Man.”

Have a safe weekend,



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