Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Sublime Game in Jax

I finally had time to watch the DVR replay of the most sublime football game I have ever witnessed. The 2012 WLOCP won by Georgia 17-9 will go down as one of the all-time greatest hits in UGA football history. Indeed, for me, it was a great weekend beginning on Thursday night with family and great friends. I went to a Halloween Party Friday night as Wolverine (this will be relevant shortly)...

I was seated on the second row around the 15 yard line near the end zone where Malcolm Mitchell's Miracle occurred. He was so close to us I felt like we could slap him five as he passed by and then broke two more tackles to get into the endzone. If all the improbable things happen and UGA ends up in the MNC Game, that play will rank right up there near the top with Run Lindsay Run, as will the strip by Jarvis Jones that prevented the Gators from scoring late.

During the game, things were a blur of frustration and elation. On the one hand, we never relinquished the lead. But on the other hand, we were never more than a single score ahead. To call it a nerve-wrenching, nail-chewing, voice-losing emotional roller-coaster would be an understatement. Perhaps a few pictures are worth more than a few million words here.

What a beautiful sight!
I don't think I could verbally describe unbridled euphoria... but I know it when I see it. And these pictures show it.

This appeared in the AJC. Wolverine made the paper.
Wolverine also made it on TV.

And Wolverine again on TV.

Combining what I witnessed in the bleachers with watching the replay... I have a handful of specific comments and then I am moving on to Ole Miss.

-  Jarvis Jones continues to make me think he is Grendel and can crush a mead-hall full of our opponents when angered. His stat line from this game would make a damn fine season for many players: 12 solo tackles, 5 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 caused fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries.

- Zander Ogletree blocked his ass off. He flat out pancaked Bostic and McCray a few times. His brother, on the other hand, missed way too many tackles. Alec needs to tighten that up and stop leaving his feet. Surely this has already been brought to his attention in the film room... but if not, someone send him the memo.

- Todd Gurley ran with great authority and his ball security was impeccable. The comparisons to Trent Richardson are not a stretch at all. When Gurley needed a breather, I felt like Boo Malcolm would have been a better substitute because of the insane physicality of this game and Boo's physical running style would have perhaps been better suited than Marshall's.

- Jordan Jenkins looked nothing like a freshmen. He was disruptive and disciplined and played fast. I look forward to watching him play for many more games!

- Our kickoff coverage team played like kamikazes. Speaking of... I hope Sheldon Dawson is ok. Man did he fly down the field like a missile several times.

- Aaron Murray got it done. It wasn't his best game statistically, but like Buck Belue's Sugar Bowl... it was his best win (to date.) Importantly, he made clutch throws in the fourth quarter which directly lead the team to victory.

- Mark Richt - I love him.

- Defensive backfield - all of these guys played great from hanging in there on tight coverage, to coming through big on blitzes, to hanging on to interceptions, to proving great run support and open-field tackling. Time after time, these guys made plays. Rambo, Williams, Commings, Swann, Smith. Great job guys.

- Penalties... whattya gonna do. Both sides got punished.

- The Gators... For once, the Gators played a game like the Dawgs have played far too often during the past two decades. To the Gator folks that say they gave the game away... I know how you feel. And thanks, we accept your charity.

- Fans... Man was Dawgnation on the loose like a pack of 50,000 Junkyard Dawgs. It was great being there with y'all and experiencing one of the greatest victories of our time.

Now, on to Ole Miss! Focus. Play hard. Play smart. Win. GATA!!!

 By the way, the Wolverine chops are coming off tomorrow morning.

Monday, October 29, 2012

That Was Sublime

Wow. Just wow! This one was historic. Jarvis Jones is Grendel. That is all.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This is the WLOCP Week and It Seems Like A Wake

Living on Amelia Island, I always look forward to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party but this year it feels like we are awaiting a funeral. The team has barely had a pulse in the last two outings and the defense has been pronounced dead. Unless they can reanimate like in The Walking Dead and rise up to start eating Gator flesh... well... we are waiting for a funeral.

This would be an appropriate death dirge chant...
Where will we all be 1000 years from now? (hunnnhh)
Where will we all be 1000 years from now? (hunnnhh)
Where will we all be 1000 years from now? (hunnnhh)
Keep repeating that while pushing the boulder up the hill, only to have it roll back down.

I usually look at this game and try to figure out what I think the Dawgs must do to win the thing. But, at this point, I am going the other way and channeling Munson at his poor-mouthing best. There is no way we can beat these guys. They are just too big and physical and they have all the momentum. Our defense is adrift like a rudderless ship. And while our offensive line is struggling to block for the run, their pass protection is terrible. Our Quarterback is 0-49 against ranked teams. Mark Richt is 0-211 against ranked teams. Our University President is 0-976 against ranked teams. The Gators are ranked #3. We are doomed. Let the talk about the 4 of the last 19 begin anew (ignoring that we did win 3 of the last 8). We will be lucky if we even score. This could be as bad as Herschel's final game against Florida, but in reverse, in which we lose 44-0.

There is only one thing that gives me even the slightest glimmer of hope and that is the shape of the football. If the damn thing was round, we would be done. But, it ain't round and therefore it could take a few funny hops our way. We will need every break, every weird occurrence, every freak accident, etc to go our way. Our team just isn't man enough to win this toe-to-toe, mano-to-mano. To put it another way, we will have a slim chance of winning if we don't play like we are in Jacksonville and the Gators play like they are Georgia playing in Jacksonville. This means that we don't drop first down and touchdown passes, but the Gators do. This means we return a kickoff or punt or interception for a touchdown, but the Gators don't. This means that we don't have any touchdowns negated by penalty, but the Gators do. This means that we don't have a kick blocked or give up a fake punt, but the Gators do both. You see, these odds are long... but, in the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas, "You're telling me we've got a chance!" It's slim...we're talking frog's hair slim. But we do have a chance. And for that infinitesimally small chance... I will once again make the trek down to Jax for 4 hours of tailgating followed by hours of misery or ecstasy or a torturous mixture of both. 

While this may seem like a funeral, I will be praying for a resurrection. Come on Dawgs... Hunker the Fuck Down.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Was the 1966 GA-FL Game Worth It?

I was merely a toddler when Bill Stanfill and George Patton beat the ever living shit out of Steve Spurrier and knocked his Gators out of their quest for their first SEC title. Apparently in response to Spurrier whining about a late hit, Stanfill said, "Excuse me, Stevie, I didn't mean to step on your skirt." Probably nothing in his life had the impact of that demoralizing defeat, for he dedicated his coaching career to beating Georgia and he has damn well done that over and over. His thirst for vengeance fueled an 11-1 mark against Georgia as the Florida head coach and a 4-4 mark at South Carolina but now with three straight wins. He has always been able to motivate his troops to play their best game against Georgia and it is quite impressive how one with such a strong, singular focus can achieve their foremost objective with such a high rate of success. (However, I must note that 6 of his wins were against Ray Goff.)

South Carolina has a tremendous defensive line and one of the greatest SEC tailbacks in many years. But I am curious to see just how they will play against LSU and Florida and even Clemson.They will probably win 2 of the 3 but I doubt they will play with the urgency seen Saturday.

I will be happy to see him retire. I don't think there is another coach out there with quite the malice in his heart for Georgia. It just isn't possible.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Dawgs To Play Cocks With Bennett Out

The headline doesn't quite have the same zip as the legendary Lewis Grizzard headline from the mid 1960's. But, after the Dawgs take care of business in Columbia East tomorrow, we will all be a bunch of Happy Dicks.

This game is huge for both teams. I have read over at Get The Picture where some Dawg fans say this is the biggest game for UGA since the 1980 showdown with South Carolina that matched Herschel Walker against George Rogers. The Dawgs won that close game 13-10 and went on to an undefeated National Championship season. The comparisons are natural with both teams highly ranked and with both teams featuring national headline grabbing tailbacks - Marcus Lattimore for the Cocks and Gurshall (Todd Gurley/Keith Marshall) for the Dawgs. But, to me and from a Dawgs perspective, this game feels much more like the famous 2002 "Man Enough" game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Georgia is off to a 5-0 start and has looked pretty good in getting there but some doubt lingers about how tough this team is on defense and on the offensive line. In 2002, the Dawgs were 4-0 going into Tuscaloosa with the same doubts being bandied about and none more famously than when Pat Dye quipped that Georgia was not "Man Enough" to beat Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

So, here we are, ten years later, and the Dawgs have a major road test against a team that many wonder if we are tough enough to beat on the road. In 2002, the Dawgs out-rushed and out-passed Alabama and led the majority of the game until a late pick six put the Tide up by one. Then, in dramatic fashion, the Dawgs drove the field and won on a last second field goal by Billy Bennett. Tomorrow, we play the Cocks without our leading receiver, Michael Bennett, who we lost for the season on Tuesday with a torn ACL.

If Georgia is going to prove to be "Man Enough" tomorrow, the defense will have to come up with an answer for slowing down the guy who crushed our souls in the fourth quarter last year, Marcus Lattimore when he rushed for over half of his total of 178 yards. Lattimore is the type of back who seems to get stronger and stronger as the game goes on and this is discomforting considering the way a tired looking Georgia defense was gashed by Tennessee Rajion Neal in the fourth quarter last Saturday night.

If Georgia is going to prove to be "Man Enough" tomorrow, the offensive line will have to come up with answers for the devastating ends Jadaveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. At 6'-6" and 6'-8" respectively, these two will make it hard for Aaron Murray to throw over and around them when he is not running away from them. Among the many things that hurt the Dawgs in the game last year, it was probably Clowney's sack and forced fumble that was recovered for a TD that was the death blow. That play in the fourth quarter gave the Gamecocks a 10 point lead from which we never recovered. This year, the Clowney/Taylor duo account for 7 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

If Georgia is going to prove to be "Man Enough" tomorrow, our special teams must play well and possibly must play perfectly. In last years 3 point loss to the Gamecocks, our special teams missed a 33 yard field goal and allowed a fake punt to go for a 68 yard touchdown. This year, our special teams have been up and down and our extra point kicking has been an adventure to say the least.

So what will Georgia do to prove it is "Man Enough"?  On defense, the Dawgs will scheme to limit Marcus Lattimore. That means strong run support for the safeties and leaving the corners on islands in man coverage. On paper, Georgia's athletes on defense should be able to beat Carolina's athletes on offense. But we have to account for Spurrier's playcalling and adjustments. It will be critical for the Dawgs that Todd Grantham is on his A game in the coaching chess match. As much as we all hate Spurrier, he is crafty and resourceful. But, we should be better off in focusing on shutting down the run and challenging QB Connor Shaw to beat us with his arm. Shaw is a quite capable thrower and is also a running threat but his receivers are not nearly as dangerous as what we faced last week with Justin Hunter and Cordarelle Patterson. If we can't get to Shaw, like we couldn't get to Bray last week (until late in the 4th quarter) we could be in for a long day. Historically, the Cocks have hurt us with a tight end. Watch for that again. But, if the tight end is there best weapon tomorrow, it should bode well for the Dawgs. The worst case scenario is that they are able to remain balanced all day long between running and passing. Of course, the score of the game will dictate, to some degree, how they will call their offense so getting ahead of them early would be good to put pressure on Shaw and company.

So how do we get ahead of them early? Blame Bobo. Our offense will need to play wide open using all of its weapons and from all of its formations. We perform so much better when we are not conservative. It stinks that we lost Michael Bennett but the others will take up the slack. It is time now for Malcolm Mitchell to get back to being the receiver he was last season and the emergence of Marlon Brown as a clutch guy could make him the new preferred third down target. Then again, Chris Conley has made some clutch catches in his brief career as well. And let's not forget about our tight ends. But, we must also establish our running game. I believe that running the ball effectively and throwing the ball on typical running downs will help neutralize the pass rush of those bookends. It is on third and long that I worry about the matchups. For this reason, here is what I think is the whole key to the game... managing our offense to have lots of third and shorts (less than 3 yards) but when it is third and long, don't get too cute and be willing to accept that sometimes we will need to throw it away and live to fight another day.

I really wonder if we will continue to see big runs by Gurshall even against a defense as good as South Carolina. The best running back the Cocks have faced is Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy who they held to a 3.69 average on 13 carries. On the year, they are surrendering only 2.24 yards per carry. If we are going to run the ball well, we must keep them guessing by throwing on first down and by blocking better than we have all year. I think it is going to be tough sledding but I still expect to see our backs popping loose for a few runs of 20+ yards. It will certainly be great to see one or more of those turn into home runs like we saw last week.

Finally, and this is obvious and cliche but never more true... we cannot have the turnovers we gave away last year against the Cocks (and last week against UT in the second quarter) and we must have better average field position. I am sure that has been addressed all week so I will trust in our coaches and our players that we will do better in these areas.

I feel like this game is going to be one of maximum stress with much back and forth and a mighty struggle to pull away. But, I also feel like we are going to come home with a win. My guess... UGA 29 - S. Carolina 24.

Go Dawgs! GATA!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tuesday Musings

A handful of thoughts for this Tuesday evening...

  • The running game through the first three quarters was an A+ effort for the entire offense. Marshall and Gurley are tremendous in space but the O-line has to help get them into space and then the receivers have to block downfield for the huge runs to happen. Marshall looks like he is gliding effortlessly when he is in his sprinting gear and the way he made the safety, who had an angle, tackle his vapor trail was most impressive. On Gurley's 55 yard TD, he did a great job cutting outside and then slowed up and gave an inside feint to set up the downfield block that sprung him into the end zone. That move was pure instinct. I don't think Bryan McClendon is teaching that in practice.
  • Durability... Later in the game we saw Gurley hobbling a little and then Marshall limped off after a collision. I was wondering why we wouldn't bring in Ken Malcome with fresh legs and his punishing running style. Or Richard Samuel. Was it a ball security concern with Malcome? Was it because Gurley still posed the biggest run threat? Was it because things were happening to fast to consider inserting Malcome?
  • Was Wootentheballcarrier certain to score a touchdown on that 3rd down slant in the fourth quarter? From my seat, it looked like there would have been no safety in position to stop him and he had already run past the corner. Damn. Just Damn!
  • I guess UT has a really good offensive line. Is that news to Tennessee people? Either that, or we were just playing way too soft against the run. They continued to move the pile on most carries and gain an extra couple of yards time after time. We can't be that soft against Marcus Lattimore.
  • I liked the couple of throws to our tight ends and want to see more.
  • I really really hope we got most of our "shitting the bed" out of our system in the second quarter so that we do not have a repeat of what happened last year with the Cocks, which eerily resembled what we witnessed for an incredulous 6 minutes against Tennessee.
  • Thank goodness Sanders Commings was back at corner. I hope the defensive secondary will gel even more this week for the second game that we have had everyone available. Oh by the way... we didn't have Alec Ogletree for the SC game last year. GATA Tree.
  • Tech losing to Middle Tennessee State by 21 points is pure awesomesauce. There are no other words.
  • The Alabama teabagger got 2 years in jail. There's getting drunk and doing stupid shit and then there is colossally stupid shit. Two years. Ouch.
  • Zach Mettenberger shaved his pornstache just in time for his trip to the Swamp where such grooming would have fit right in. Will it help his play? We shall see.

That's it for now. Go Dawgs! GATA!

UGA-UT Scare: I'm Glad It Happened

Remember the movie Hollywood Knights? Maybe Georgia had a little Turk in them Saturday night. Watch around the 8:30 mark to see what I mean.

So we made some huge mistakes. We threw a pick six. We gave away the ball deep in our territory two other times. We mishandled a punt and a kickoff making us start at the 1 yard line twice. We did most of this in a 6 minute span in the second quarter  that saw our 27-10 lead become a 30-27 deficit. I'M GLAD WE DID IT.

So we were unable to get first downs or score in the fourth quarter causing our defense to stay on the field entirely too long and play with the narrowest of leads in a game that should have been put away much earlier. I'M GLAD WE DID IT.

So we failed to stop the run or get a QB sack and yielded a Willie Martinez-like total of 37 points in defense. I'M GLAD WE DID IT.

We looked great, we looked terrible and everything in between, but we got a victory over Tennessee and tied the all-time series with the Vols for games played in Athens. I'M GLAD WE DID IT.

I have been a long believer in the adage "Success is a terrible teacher." Here are two more adages... "Iron is forged in fire"  and "The hotter the fire, the stronger the steel." Without a doubt, in the fourth quarter Saturday night, the fire was hot and the Dawgs had their backs against a wall to prevent Tennessee from tying the game or taking the lead. The pressure was dialed up and the coaches, players and fans all had to hunker down not just "one more time" but several more times. The result (defensively)... interception, forced fumble, interception.

Obviously, there are some "coachable moments" as a result of the mistakes made Saturday night from special teams to pass coverage to blocking assignments to catching the football on third down conversions. I am a glass half-full guy, so I will construe this as a positive.

Suppose we had not had the meltdown in the second quarter that handed Tennessee 20 points and the game had been an easy cruise to a comfortable victory. We would feel great about the win and more confident about the game with South Carolina this coming Saturday. But, what would we know about how this team would respond under tremendous pressure? The only other evidence we have is from the fourth quarter in Columbia West when, in a similar situation, Missouri had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead and we intercepted and forced a fumble on consecutive possessions to put the game away. The other three games were blow outs in which our starters basically only played three quarters. Now, we have had to fight, scrap and dig deep for the full 60 minutes and found a way to win. In my opinion, that should serve us much better than a comfortable win would have. So yes... I'M GLAD WE DID IT.