Friday, November 16, 2007


FootballWeek 11

Opponent: Kentucky Wildcats

Kickoff: 12:30 PM

TV: Lincoln Financial

It was one of the most unique game environments I’ve ever been a part of. It was a roller coaster of a ride that saw this improving UGA team dismantle a very good AU defense and saw Brandon Cox cement a place in the Reggie Ball Honarary Favorite Player From a Rival Hall of Fame. It was difficult to explain and nearly impossible to predict, but in the end it was a beautiful thing.

About the AU game

First off let me say that was probably the noisiest, most raucous crowd I’ve ever seen in Sanford Stadium. From the opening kickoff it was just something special with the whole crowd dressed all in black. I admit I was skeptical about the benefit of the crowd turning out in black but it seemed to have an effect on the crowd, lending a sense of solidarity to the whole program. It was amazing.

As for the game, what else can I say besides we saw how absolutely lethal this team can be. Offensively, the emergence of Knowshon at the same time Stafford starts connecting with receivers downfield provides a balance to this offense that is truly scary (at least for opposing DCs). It all boils down to the OL though. That group is simply playing tremendously; opening holes for the running game, giving Stafford time, just an all around great job by that young bunch. Defensively I think we’re walking a fine line right now between our new-found emotion and something a bit out of control. Look, I understand several of those personal foul calls were close, but things like that little jig that Kelin Johnson was doing are over the line. We have to understand that playing with emotion and having fun still need to be within some limits. Johnson is a leader. He should know better.

That being said, I thought the turning point of the game was the late hit on Stafford. Prior to that we had given up 17 unanswered points, were down 20-17, had done absolutely nothing on offense for the better part of a quarter and looked completely frustrated. Enter a late hit on the sidelines (about the hit…normally I’d say it was questionable but given the earlier questionable calls on such plays, the refs had to make it). That play ended up being as big a turning point as I’ve seen in an athletic event, maybe since Cru Jones hit that backflip at Helltrack (pat yourself on the back if you got that reference). The very next play Stafford connected to Bailey long down the sidelines and we were off. From that point on we scored 28 unanswered to close the game. It was like Stafford needed to get knocked back on track. He did and we did.

UK Offense

· This UK offense is a scary one and they have the numbers, personnel, and balance to back it up. They average over 37 ppg (31 in SEC games). They are 1st in the Sec in passing offense and 4th in total offense and scoring offense. They’ve got a 1st round NFL talent at QB, some capable receivers and a solid running game. They’re not the gimmicky UK offenses we saw in the Hal Mumme days. These guys are just good.

· Leading the UK attack is senior, preseason Heisman contender Andre’ Woodson. If you don’t know how good this guy is, you must’ve been under a rock for the last two years. He currently owns the NCAA record for consecutive passes without an INT somewhere north of 300. For the year he’s completing nearly 65% of his passes and in the last two seasons has thrown 60 TDs to only 14 INTs. He’s a big, athletic kid at 6-5, 230, but if he’s scrambling it’s to find someone downfield more than it is to pick up yards with his legs. He’s a very accurate passer with a strong arm that knows this system very well and executes it with ease. He’s scary. He reminds me a lot of last year’s first overall selection JaMarcus Russell from LSU…big kid, incredible arm, always seems to throw a perfect spiral, fluid throwing motion, great touch.

· At RB, UK may be getting back their senior star RB in Rafael Little who’s been injured off and on all year. The 5-10, 195 pound scatback is a solid SEC RB. On the year he’s averaging over 6 ypc and he has over 100 career pass receptions and 1,000 receiving yards so this guy is an integral part of all phases of their offense. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball but is also capable of being a workhorse back, going over 100 yards in 5 of the 7 games he’s played in this year despite his on and off injury status. The one benefit of his injuries has been the development of freshman speedster Derrick Locke from Oklahoma. The kid has come in and been a massive help to their depth chart. He’s yet to fill out, but he’s as fast as you’ll find and if he gets a hole he’ll scamper for a ways. While he did go for 76 yards against UF on only 14 carries, most of his best games have come against lesser competition. He’s averaging about 4.5 ypc in SEC competition. He’s yet to show himself to be the receiving threat that Little is.

· As expected of a receiving corps with a QB the level of Woodson, there are more than a few options in the UK passing game. The top 3 WRs all have 40 or more receptions with none more than 48. They also each have a receiving TD of 50+ yards. Sr. Steve Johnson leads the team in yards (754), ypr (18.9) and TDs (9). He’s a big guy that isn’t the fastest guy on the team by his own admission but he makes all the important catches and always seems to get open. Fellow Sr. Keenan Burton leads the team in catches (48) after making 77 grabs for over 1,000 yards last season. He and Jr. Dicky Lyons have nearly identical stats on the year. All 3 are excellent options that help make Woodson look really, really good. Perhaps the most dangerous receiving option on the team is TE Jacob Tamme. Another senior, Tamme is the guy who always seems to spring open just enough on 3rd down to make the big catch. He’s averaging just over 10 ypc and has 38 grabs on the year.

· The UK OL has struggled at times this year keeping Woodson upright, giving up nearly 2.5 sacks per game but considering the number of times they throw the ball it makes a little more sense. The unit is a mix of upper and underclassmen, starting 2 seniors, a junior and 2 sophomores. They’ve been a bit inconsistent in terms of their protection, struggling while giving up 6 sacks to UF and 3 each to Miss St and Vandy, yet they didn’t allow a sack against LSU even after 3 OTs. Size-wise, their interior looks a little small, going 285, 290 and 287 from left to right. Given how well Atkins and Owens have been playing up front, we might be able to get a push up there.

· Bottom Line: This UK offense is a very balanced one that efficiently gets the ball spread to the numerous playmakers they have on the ground and in the air. Little is a big key to their offense. Without him they become more slanted towards the pass. Woodson does a good job of protecting the ball and has only thrown an INT in 4 of his 10 games this year although he did throw 2 against us last year. This offense is tough to scheme because they do different things so well. They love to spread the field in a shotgun look and run Little or Locke on a draw so getting a push from our DTs could disrupt what they’re trying to do (it never hurts). The bottom line is they’ve scored points on just about everyone but like our offense, they’ve had some hiccups, only scoring 14 against Miss St and 23 against SC. The difference between our offenses is that their struggles have come recently while ours were early.

· Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: This is such a balanced team and Woodson is such a solid passer it’s hard to say what one matchup could prove the biggest key. They’re an excellent 3rd down team, converting more than 50% so getting them in 3rd and long will be key. To do that I think we’ll need more big performances from Owens, Atkins and Weston inside. If we can get a push there and make Woodson move, eventually it will result in big plays. He’s good enough that we won’t see the Cox effect take over but we should see it start to pay off late.

UK Defense

· As strong as the UK offense is, the defense has held them back from becoming a dominant team. They are 97th nationally in rush defense (10th in the SEC), a surprising 19th nationally against the pass (6th in the SEC) and 63rd (10th in the SEC) in total defense. They average giving up over 197 yards per game on the ground. Their scoring defense is actually 11th in the SEC, yielding over 28 ppg. They’ve given up 30 or more 5 times through 10 games and are running into an offense that’s clicking as well as any in the country.

· Up front the Wildcats most productive DL is 6-3, 268 pound sophomore Jeremy Jarmon, whose 10.5 TFLs and 9 sacks lead the team. His 9 sacks account for nearly half of UK’s 20 on the year. He’s also an impressive 4th on the team in tackles, including 10 against LSU. Opposite him is Dominic Lewis, a senior who’s, well, a senior. At DT, UK uses a rotation of guys.

· The UK LB corps is the strength of the D. WLB Wesley Woodyard (Lagrange native…get ready to hear that about 40 times Saturday) is having a phenomenal year, leading the team in tackles including 18 against Arkansas (his 102 tackles are 50 more than the second place man). MLB Braxton Kelley is another fine player although a bit undersized for a MLB at 6’ and 225 pounds. Johnny Williams holds down the SLB spot. All 3 starting LBs are in the top 6 in tackles. Their lack of sacks conveys their lack of blitzing (at least successful blitzing). Former UGA target Micah Johnson is currently the backup at MLB and he gets a lot of playing time. He’s a LOAD.

· UK uses a pair of sophomores at CB in Paul Warford and Trevard Lindley. Lindley leads the team in INTs with 2 and is a physical CB, getting involved in a ton of plays (2nd in tackles). Their defensive stats clearly indicate they’ve gotten good CB play this season. Safeties are solid, if nondescript in Roger Williams and Calvin Harrison.

· Bottom Line: We’re clicking on offense like we rarely have in recent memory. We’ve been especially solid on the ground recently and that’s an area that UK is particularly bad. They’ve yielded the following rushing yardage totals to a few teams this season: 324 (Kent State), 338 (Arkansas), 261 (LSU), 200 (Miss St) and 239 (Vandy). That probably has as much to do with the lack of passing yards against them as anything. Teams have had tremendous success running the ball, why should they pass? I think we’ll see more of what we’ve established the last few weeks, solid, effective running game that allows the play action passing to key off of it. All of it boils down to successful OL play. UK struggles getting in the backfield defensively (61st nationally in sacks and 86th in tackles for loss).

· Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: Just watch Moreno. He’s the most infectious player I can remember. He’s really, really good. He makes plays. Watch him every play and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I got a kick out of watching him last week on a pass play, trying to find someone to block, moving around the line as quick as he would on a running play. The kid just loves the game.

The UK Game Overall

Looking back at last year’s loss to UK it’s a different story than the one I rermembered. We outgained them in passing yards and rushing yards (and subsequently in total yards). We had more 1st downs. We were above .500 on 3rd down conversions and held them to a mere 5 of 13 on 3rd downs. I was trying to remember what went wrong when I got to the bottom of the box score, that area where they cover turnovers. We turned the ball over 4 times last year. It’s important to remember that UK turned it over 3 times, so it’s not like it was the only reason we lost, but it just shows how much turnovers can counter other offensive successes.

Look, folks have been speculating what Richt will do next to get this team motivated after the UF celebration and the black jerseys. I don’t know that Richt feels he needs to do these motivational tactics on a regular basis. I think he caved on the jerseys after years of pressure. I think he felt that we needed a psychological shake-up in Jacksonville. I think as a result of those successes he probably has a better grasp of the benefits these things might have on a team’s psyche but I don’t think he feels he needs to “come up with something different” each week. Especially this week. This week he can resort to good, old-fashioned revenge. He can show pictures of UK tearing down their goalposts. He can merely remind this team of the low point of last year’s season. I think that should be more than enough motivation. Couple that with the fact it’s Senior Day and motivation should certainly not be a factor.

As for the game, UK is a good team. They’ve knocked off the #1 team in the country. They’ve gone on the road and hung 40+ points on Arkansas. They beat us last year. We’ve got a shot at winning the SEC East and the only way it happens involves winning this game. Even if UT doesn’t lose one of their last two games, we’ve got an excellent chance of playing in a BCS bowl game. All of those possibilities hinge on a win this week. With all of that said and with the wave of emotion and success this team is riding I can’t imagine us coming out flat but this college football season has taught me to reconsider all of my expectations. After all, Kansas is ranked in the top 5.

Positional Notes

· We suffered no major injuries Saturday. I had thought that Chandler might have seriously hurt his knee when it buckled on that long catch he had on 4th down about halfway through the 4th quarter but it appears he’s fine.

· Rennie Curran is rapidly developing into the player we all hoped he would be. He’s becoming that guy that when there’s a violent collision on the field, you just know he was involved. Same thing that happened when Thomas Davis and Greg Blue were on the field a few years back. I guess when you average over 175 tackles per year for 4 years in class 5A football in GA it means you’ve probably got a nose for the football.

· How huge is the dual emergence of Sean Bailey and Massaquoi as downfield threats? Those two guys are just catching everything right now. Better yet, Stafford seems to be getting a real feel for the deep ball. I guess Bailey should’ve torn his meniscus a while back considering how well he’s played since that happened.

· Look, I know this is senior day and all but I would like to make a statement about Kelin Johnson. He had a great game with 2 INTs. With that being said, I think it’s important for Johnson to step up as a senior leader and understand there is a line that can easily be crossed when playing with the level of emotion that our team currently is. We have to cut back on the post play exuberance somewhat. The call that Johnson got flagged for was just too much. As a senior he knows better.

· Moreno is obviously a freak of nature. His first TD run (halfway through the 3rd quarter) would’ve been good in 2 hand touch and he had more than a few guys within reach of him. He’s SO shifty. As successful as he’s been this year (and it’s undeniable the effect he’s had on this team), I think Thomas Brown has earned the right to get a few carries. On the season they are both averaging 5.5 ypc and Brown seems completely rejuvenated by Moreno’s play.

Random Thoughts

· A friend of mine had a great analogy for Penn Wagers. He’s pretty much the stereotypical southern sheriff type of ego-maniac…smug, crooked…at least that’s the way he comes off. In the stadium on Saturday he sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown because the mic was so bad. I was surprised to hear it sound so clear on the telecast. That guy is approaching the Al Ford level of officiating, something I thought impossible.

· Verne Lundquist made the comment that we were wearing black for the first time ever but that’s not entirely accurate. As David Ching’s blog indicated this week (great blog by the way), the 1942 Football Illustrated showed Heisman winner Frankie Sinkwich wearing a black jersey. That was also the year we won the national title…also the last time we scored 40 or more in 3 consecutive games. Sinkwich is also wearing a black jersey in his Heisman portrait. While no one has actually verified if they wore black that season, those two things point to the fact we likely wore black at some point back then.

· Speaking of blogs, I’ve been kicking around the idea of converting the format of these things to a blog. If you have a strong opinion either way, let me know.

· That atmosphere Saturday was just pure fun. I mean everyone not wearing orange and blue was having a blast, recruits, fans, players, even announcers (Verne and Gary dancing was particularly “interesting”), well everyone except Penn Wagers.

· I loved the black jerseys but I hope we use some restraint in how often we see them. The less often they are used, the more special they are.

· How about Ron Zook at Illinois? Speaking of that game, how is it that UGA gets soundly dressed down for celebrating on the Vandy “V” after a win (even though it was entirely possible they were celebrating with the guy who just kicked the game winner) and no media personality that I’ve seen says anything about the nasty brawl that marred the end of OSU-Illinois game? I mean, our guys are jumping near a school’s logo, Richt animatedly goes after them to get them off the logo and we get the bad rep. Meanwhile Illinois and Ohio State start slugging at each other and I suppose it’s just chalked up to the emotion of the game.

· OK, I know it’s next week, but who had Kansas-Missouri being a game with serious national title implications between two top 6 teams? Not me.

· Looking back, it probably wasn’t the smartest idea to give out stuffed footballs. Pretty much a 100% chance those are going to end up on the field or at least getting tossed around the stands. Reminded me of the Chic-fil-A cows they gave out at the Peach Bowl that one year. Those things were everywhere.

Have a safe weekend,



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