Georgia gets needed win but leaves room for improvement

Isaiah Crowell rushed for 147 yards but felt Georgia should've capitalized on more scoring chances. (AP photo)

Isaiah Crowell rushed for 147 yards but felt Georgia should've scored more touchdowns.

OXFORD, Miss. – Since the first two games of the season adjusted everybody’s expectations, let’s start with this: Georgia won a game on Saturday. Over an SEC opponent. On the road. These things aren’t taken for granted any more, not after a 2-6 stretch in the conference on non-hedged fields.

So in that sense, the Bulldogs’ 27-13 win over Mississippi was a step forward. It just wasn’t quite the sledgehammer maybe some had hoped for.

This was Ole Miss, one of the worst teams in the nation. It lost to Vanderbilt 30-7 last week. One group among the program’s normally relatively staid fan base, whose greatest focus generally is on picnicking in The Grove, even was moved to purchase full-page advertisements in five area newspapers. In so many words, they asked the school’s administration to strap coach Houston Nutt to a catapult and fire him into the gulf. Even angry Georgia fans haven’t gone that far when it comes to Mark Richt.

So the bar should’ve been set high Saturday for the Bulldogs. In many ways, they dominated an inferior opponent. They killed in real estate. The final yardage totals: 475 to 183. First downs: 25-8.

If this was Monopoly, the Dogs had hotels from Pacific Avenue thru Boardwalk, while Mississippi was mortgaging Baltic.

But the fact that Georgia struggled to score touchdowns and put this game away reaffirmed some of the team’s flaws. The Dogs scored three touchdowns (in the first six possessions). Then they fizzled. By game’s end, they had attempted five field goals (Blair Walsh missing three).

Richt accurately summarized, “When we get a defense tired, we need to stick a fork in them, and we weren’t able to do that.”

A road SEC win is better than losses to Boise State and South Carolina and a win over some pipsqueak from Myrtle Beach. But to beat Mississippi State, Florida, Auburn – maybe even Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky – Georgia will need to be better. Because every other conference opponent is better equipped than the Rebels to make you pay for a mistake.

Some of what happened could be attributed to the usual: dropped passes, missed blocks, etc. But some of it is on Richt. He didn’t send a great message to his players at the start of the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-1 from the Rebels’ 30, he sent in the field-goal team. The Dogs led 24-13. It seemed like the perfect time to try to pound the opponent for a yard and pass up a 48-yard attempt (hardly a sure thing). Richt played it conservative. Walsh missed.

Question: When a team starts the season 0-2 and the only win thus far has come over Coastal Carolina, shouldn’t there be a more aggressive approach?

Players tried to convince Richt to go for the first down. He later explained, “What I told them was if you want to get a first down, do it in the first three downs.”

Oddly, on the Dogs’ next possession, Richt took a huge gamble when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Dogs’ 44. Richard Samuel “made it by a thumbnail,” Richt said. (He later second-guessed himself, saying he should’ve punted.)

Georgia never was in danger of losing this game. It just never had the look of a wrecking ball, which is what you would’ve hoped for. Ole Miss had two touchdowns called back by penalties. Richt conceded, “It was a two-score [lead], and all it would’ve taken was one big play for them and it could’ve gotten really nasty and ugly, but the defense never allowed them to do that.”

There were positive signs. The defense was solid, allowing only one touchdown. Isaiah Crowell is turning into a game-changer. He rushed for 147 yards on 30 carries, including a 29-yard gain on third-and-9 from the Georgia 2 that launched a 99-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that Richt called “the biggest play of the game.”

But even Crowell, after the biggest day of his young career, found himself talking about flaws.

“I’m happy with how the team played, but I thought we could’ve played better in the second half,” he said. “We should’ve scored [more] points.”

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

719 comments Add your comment

Just The Facts

September 24th, 2011
6:37 pm

Good Win Dogs.

dawgerbrown

September 24th, 2011
6:38 pm

First gotta say glad to get the win.

Shine

September 24th, 2011
6:40 pm

Another mediocre performance by the Sheepdawgs and The Crumb (Crowell). Fire them all!!!!

Rodney Dangerfield

September 24th, 2011
6:43 pm

Congrats on your first FBS victory! Too bad, it is the fourth week into the season, though.

Dawg Tired

September 24th, 2011
6:43 pm

Dawgs need significant improvement if they are to beat MSU and/or TN.

dawgerbrown

September 24th, 2011
6:46 pm

But, when is Georgia going to play a complete game in all three phases? Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. The “D” looked much better, but once again we got outcoached on special teams. Why is it I can sit in my living room watching the game and after the Ole Miss touchdown say, “Watch out for the onsides kick”, but we aren’t looking for it? It is such a popular trend in today’s game to try an onside kick after you score to try to gain all the momentum. (Just like we did against South Carolina). I was amazed we weren’t ready for it. Having to try 5 field goals and not being able to score TD’s doesn’t bode well. Geting burned on the reverse on the punt return and the trick play seems to show that we still lack some discipline on maintaning assignments. Just the same, I love the DAWGS and hope we continue to improve game to game.

Gerald

September 24th, 2011
6:47 pm

Shine:

Just curious … why are you blaming Crowell? He had 150 yards at 5 per carry. He has 400 yards in the first 4 games in his college career playing for a pass-oriented coach behind a makeshift offensive line. He and Murray are the 2 best things about this offense so far. Just hope that Richt and staff don’t ruin him the way that they did Caleb King, Washaun Ealy and Richard Samuel, 3 guys who really should have gone elsewhere (like Georgia Tech).

Mike

September 24th, 2011
6:49 pm

same old crap…..if this had been anyone except ole miss we would have lost….could of woukd of should of…blah blah yeah….we best a losing team….we suc plain and simple

Gerald

September 24th, 2011
6:49 pm

dawgerbrown:

“But, when is Georgia going to play a complete game in all three phases?”

You Bulldogs have been asking that question for the better part of 10 years, and especially since 2005. The answer to that question is the same as it has always been: when you get a new head coach. And if you keep playing the way that you did today (which isn’t good enough to beat Florida, Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Georgia Tech or perhaps even Vanderbilt) that will be next year.

The Grinch

September 24th, 2011
6:52 pm

I’m glad we got the win, but it seemed to me Richt was playing not to lose rather than playing to win. This is a highly talented team that scares absolutely nobody, and that isn’t what Georgia football is supposed to be.

Real Dogs!

September 24th, 2011
6:53 pm

The Dawgs are back! These dogs will roll through the rest of the schedule easily!!! Murray’s on fire and Crowell is the real deal! Dawgs run it out—book it!

JAWJeRDAWG

September 24th, 2011
6:53 pm

We did what we needed to do; we won. Now let’s get focused on Miss State.

Let the venom begin. .. Go Dawgs!

GeorgiaDawg93

September 24th, 2011
6:55 pm

This was a PITIFUL performance against a PITIFUL team! Look at Alabama….they keep rolling despite losing tons of talent to the NFL. And we can’t do JACK, despite another record recruiting class! Absolutely unaccaptable for a coaching staff paid MILLIONS! I am a UGA grad and a UGA fan, and to all the morons who reply to this with…”support the team…give them a chance…a great win…”…go back to your Bud Light and shut the heck up! It’s about time for the University of Georgia to win another National Championship–or heck..NOT lose to a Central Florida! With THIS talent, we should compete every single year, and sadly, wins over High School caliber teams encourage celebration! How far we have fallen!

JAWJeRDAWG

September 24th, 2011
6:55 pm

Well, I see it already has begun.

Soldierman

September 24th, 2011
6:56 pm

By most of the responses you would have thought the dawgs lost. It’s a conference win period. Sometimes you have to win ugly but the ultimate goal of the game is to win.

Soldierman

September 24th, 2011
6:56 pm

Oh BTW, Go Dawgs!

georgia87

September 24th, 2011
6:56 pm

Nutt was coaching for his job. Richt was coaching not to lose. The 44 seconds at the end of the first half, especially after Samuel broke the first run, was all I needed to see.

abravefan

September 24th, 2011
7:00 pm

BoBo is a terrible offensive coordinator. This team has top ten talent on the offensive side of the ball but their game is so predictable! HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU RUN ON THIRD AND LONG? Expecially when the passing game is going well and you have a talent like murray and excellent receivers! BoBo calls a predictable, boring game which will work with third world teams but it won’t win against the SEC’s best. DUMP BOBO…or in the meantime have Richt calling the plays!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hound Dawg

September 24th, 2011
7:05 pm

Crowell is the real deal…so you can’t really use sarcasm with him ‘Real Dogs!’…Crowell is the man on our offense. Just wait until he gets in better shape and a little bigger, he’ll be able to run it 40 times. He’s a beast. And will be one of the All-time greats before he leaves.

Hound Dawg

September 24th, 2011
7:07 pm

People were quick to jump on us when we barely LOST to SC, but when we WIN but not really in convincing fashion, they still want to put us down. You can’t win with the haters. Just don’t try guys.

G

September 24th, 2011
7:08 pm

Jeff if all you can complain about is not going for it on 4th down then wow that is better then a win. You still nitpick as always but it’s an improvement. Great opinion piece

Fred Dawg

September 24th, 2011
7:08 pm

1. Glad we got a victory.
2. We moved the ball well – and defense was very good.
3. Ole Miss is one bad team.
4. Our special teams was play was bad.
5. If we played any other team – we probably would have gotton beat – thank goodness for Ole Miss!

5150 UOAD

September 24th, 2011
7:10 pm

Russ has a TwoTwo. He must be proud.

Dabo

September 24th, 2011
7:11 pm

The “REAL DREAM TEAM ” is in CLEMS@N. Goooooooooo TIGERS!!!

robdawg08

September 24th, 2011
7:12 pm

UGA needs a new kicker and a tackling clinic on special teams.
Walsh cort the Dawgs 9 points. The special teams cost the Dawgs 13 points. I saw UGA guys all around the runner with the ball and not even attempt to make a tackle. They just let the runner pass by. Otherwise the offense and defense played well. Walsh is a liability not a strength.

Dawgs still Stink

September 24th, 2011
7:12 pm

Lack luster performance as ususal by a Richt coached team.

Dabo

September 24th, 2011
7:13 pm

WHUPPED THEM NOLES!!!!!

cattle dawg

September 24th, 2011
7:13 pm

Enter your comments here

WmG

September 24th, 2011
7:14 pm

No as dominating as Vandy, but still – it’s a win.

Since Vince

September 24th, 2011
7:15 pm

This season is OVA…..

No Style points

September 24th, 2011
7:16 pm

UGA just plain sucked in the second half.

cattle dawg

September 24th, 2011
7:17 pm

Why can’t Richt step on a teams throat? Bobo just doesn’t have a clue.. I hope this team shows up next week and plays a complete game for a change.

750 K Choke Sign Artist

September 24th, 2011
7:18 pm

Grantham aint all what he is cracked up to be. Only 1 pathetic sack today.

BigTen

September 24th, 2011
7:18 pm

Go Georgia Tech!!!!!!!!

Downed Dawg

September 24th, 2011
7:19 pm

Wow, typical of the AJC (Athens Journal and Constipation) Tech is 4-0 and UGA is 2-2 and STILL UGA gets the bigger headline. Y’all do realize that Athens is 2 hours away and your offices are here in Atlanta, right?

No way

September 24th, 2011
7:21 pm

no way will the Dawgs beat Missy State next Saturday.

Jeff Schultz

September 24th, 2011
7:22 pm

G — Well, it wasn’t just that fourth-down call. In the end, team needed to get more points in an otherwise one-sided game. A win’s a win I guess but they have to be more productive in other games.

JB

September 24th, 2011
7:22 pm

let’s hope the way we played was a mirror of opponents abilities. That performance won’t beat a good team. Bama looks semi pro. We look mid tier ACC.

Jeff Schultz

September 24th, 2011
7:23 pm

Fred Dawg — Yes, special teams was awful. Richt used the word “regressed.”

Jeff Schultz

September 24th, 2011
7:23 pm

750 K Choke Sign Artist — Actually, Georgia had 4 sacks, not 1.

Same Ole Same Ole

September 24th, 2011
7:25 pm

Lets be real, the dawgs didnt look all that impressive to be contending for the SEC east title. I think Fran Tarkenton said it best when he said UGA was in Big trouble.

@750k Choke

September 24th, 2011
7:26 pm

You obviously aren’t very bright and were clearly watching a different game and got confused…. UGA defense had the following stat line….
First Downs Allowed: 8
Yds Rushing Allowed: 36
Sacks: 4
Points Surrenderd: 7

ImaDawg

September 24th, 2011
7:26 pm

I swear, to be so called fans, yall are never satisfied. After a 0-2 start, we are now were even at 2-2 while were progressing every week, not to mention still in the SEC East race. If ur not going to support them after a victory, STOP WATCHING! If u so called fans can coach, nevertheless play any better, get out there and do it. For anyone who is a true Bulldog fan, where was the state of the UGA football program before Coach Richt became coach? It was pretty much none existing. He is by far the best thing that has happened to this program and brought them to national prominence but all yall wanna do is complain about how we scored 27 points instead of 28. They won, get over it.

Good job to the entire program today. We still have room for improvement so hit the practice field and lets get better. I’m rooting for u and behind u 100% win or lose.

JB

September 24th, 2011
7:27 pm

downed Dawg. Tech has a small local fan base and your current students come from India, thus small headlines. You do have a good team this year and it looks like prime time to move it to 2 of last 11 this year.

5150 UOAD

September 24th, 2011
7:29 pm

Ole Miss, Miss St, UGA, & Kentucky Pick the order of 9-12……..talk among yourselves.

750 k Choke Sign Artist

September 24th, 2011
7:29 pm

Well those other three sacks must’ve come late cuz last count I had was 1 sack.

Johnny Vaught

September 24th, 2011
7:30 pm

Hope you had an enjoyable time in Oxford. I’m surprised you are not writing that Georgia is now on its way to a national championship. Neither one of these teams is as bad as you make them sound.

Jeff Schultz

September 24th, 2011
7:30 pm

@750 Choke: Straight off the official statbook: UGA’s defense had 4 sacks for 42 yards; Mississippi had 3 for 15. UGA allowed 8 first downs and 34 yards rushing.

Top Dawg

September 24th, 2011
7:30 pm

There is a lot to complain about for this game, but alas, this was, at least, improvement. (Do I sound like Mark Bradley or what?) :-)

Dabo

September 24th, 2011
7:31 pm

You puppies should watch an efficient offense in Clemson. We were again a machine today. Sammy Watkins is the real Deal!