There’s a lot to feel good about after Georgia’s win over Arkansas. And a lot to be concerned about, as well …
The biggest plus is Joe Cox throwing to A.J. Green, Michael Moore, Tavares King, Orson Charles, Aron White and A.J. Green some more. If Cox continues his trend of week-to-week improvement, look out!
Another plus: Richard Samuel finally showing his breakaway speed on that 80-yard touchdown sprint. But his two fumbles in the game are alarming. Caleb King looked very strong in relief. And like I said Sunday, take away Samuel’s long run and King was actually the more productive, reliable back Saturday. His passing protection came in for praise from Mark Richt, too. Samuel may hold on to the nominal starter’s spot this week by virtue of his touchdown run, but he better start holding on to the ball as well or he’ll quickly be relegated to backup. One thing King’s return should mean: No more wasting downs by trying to run Carlton Thomas between the tackles. Instead, hopefully, he’ll be used on screen and dump passes, where his open-field running ability can be put to use.
The offensive line opened up a gigantic hole on that scoring run by Samuel and did a good job of protecting Cox most of the night. But all those false starts and holding calls won’t cut it once Georgia is up against a conference opponent with an SEC-worthy defense, like LSU or Tennessee. Fourteen penalties for 93 yards just isn’t acceptable. Richt needs to get back on top of this situation in a hurry.
These Dogs don’t panic. And Cox has poise to spare. After coming back from being down 17-7 and 21-10 in the past two weeks, Richt noted in his Sunday media teleconference, “The guys are beginning to believe that they are not out of any game, and the more times you get put in the fire, it refines you and makes you stronger and tougher mentally. We’ve been in some battles and shown we can be the last one standing. However, we have to stop the self-inflicted wounds, and when we do that, we’ll improve tremendously.”
Yes, the turnovers have put Georgia’s defense into a short-field situation too many times. Opponents have scored 40 points off nine Bulldog turnovers this season. And yes, without the resulting scores off turnovers by opponents, the Dogs would have won more comfortably the past two weeks and might even be undefeated.
But that doesn’t change the fact that our pass defense has been absolutely wretched the past two games. Against South Carolina, they couldn’t stop the short pass. Arkansas barely bothered with the short pass because the Dogs were so vulnerable to the home run. At times Saturday night, Georgia’s secondary didn’t seem to have a clue where they were supposed to be. Richt brings a whole new meaning to understatement when he says that on defense the Dogs “have an opportunity to continue to improve.”
Still, the run defense was good and late in the game the overall defense got stronger. In the fourth quarter, the Hogs’ Ryan Mallett completed only two of 10 passes for 29 yards. As Rennie Curran noted in the Athens Banner-Herald: “There was a lot of times when we could have started pointing fingers and started turning our backs on each other, but we kept our head in the game. When the game got on the line, we got the stops that we needed. We’ve got a long way to go. We can’t keep giving teams the long balls and the busted coverages.”
Kickoffs. Jon Fabris is still in love with directional kicking despite the overwhelming evidence it’s costing Georgia field position. This is a clear case where Richt needs to step in and bigfoot his assistant. Even if Blair Walsh can’t consistently put it deep enough into the end zone for a touchback as much as the coaches would like, the odds of Georgia defending a returnable kick there are better than when Walsh tries to stick it in the corner. If the opponent is going to get the ball around the 40, at least make them earn that field position.
What else about Georgia’s performance has you elated or concerned as the Dogs prepare for Arizona State?