I caught ESPN Classic’s replay of the Capitol One Bowl game between Georgia and Michigan State Thursday night and was struck again by a couple of things about the Dogs’ performance.
One was, of course, how poorly the offense played in the first half, continually shooting itself in the foot. The turnovers. The penalties. Matthew Stafford’s inconsistency.
Even if he doesn’t have near Stafford’s talent and can’t make some of the passes Stafford could, if Joe Cox can just maintain his level of play on an even keel this season, minus the peaks and valleys, I think it’ll be a big help.
The special teams play also was lousy — a subject we’ve covered here extensively.
The other notable aspect of the bowl game was how much better the defense performed compared with much of the rest of last season.
Perhaps it was Mark Richt letting them go full-speed and tackle to the ground in practice before the bowl. Maybe they thought they were playing for Willie Martinez’s job. Whatever, they swarmed to the ball and kept the Dogs in the game until the offense finally got on track midway through the third quarter. It helped that Georgia apparently felt comfortable covering the Spartans’ receivers man-to-man much of the time, allowing the Dogs to go after the quarterback more, resulting in six sacks.
A definite highlight offensively was Michael Moore, who picked up the slack from an ailing A.J. Green and heavily covered MoMass and snagged six catches for 97 yards. I’m hoping he’ll step up big again this season when A.J. routinely will draw double-coverage. Tight end Aron White had a really nice TD catch, too.
Still, watching that replay and the way the Dogs again failed to put together two good halves of play was disturbing. Yes, in many respects that was a different team from the one that will be fielded this year, but the failure to play an entire game at peak level has been a recurring problem for the Dogs in recent years.
In fact, figuring out how to solve that problem may be the biggest challenge Richt and his staff face.