Some observations and questions arising from Saturday’s win over Arizona State. …
Georgia comes out of a tough September run of two road games and two home games, all against BCS schools, with a 3-1 record, which is about what the most optimistic of us had predicted before the season. And yet we still don’t really have a feel for what kind of team this is, except for the fact that A.J. Green is the best receiver in the country, even if the ESPN folks still can’t see past Julio Jones.
The defense has looked good in the two games where the offense didn’t look so good. The offense played great in the two games where the defense was terrible. Will they ever get on the same page? Is the offense as good as it looked against South Carolina and Arkansas? What happened to the defense in those two games?
The one consistent characteristic of this team so far has been turning the ball over. Each of the four games has featured three turnovers, and 14 of ASO’s 17 points were the result of a fumble by Caleb King and one of Joe Cox’s two interceptions. An exasperated Mark Richt told the Athens Banner-Herald: “I keep saying we need to stop these self-inflicted wounds, but I guess I’m not getting my point across. We may have to get a bit more drastic about that.”
Again, the master of the understatement.
One area in which the Dogs did make progress Saturday night was in penalties, cutting last week’s tally of 14 in half. Still, too many of them were procedural calls that shouldn’t be happening this far into the season. Particularly on back-to-back plays.
Georgia’s running game took a couple of steps backward. Caleb King and Richard Samuel had the occasional nice run but ASU was crowding the line of scrimmage and too often stuffed the Dogs’ running attack. Samuel didn’t seem to be running as hard and King dropped a couple of passes in addition to fumbling. The number of times when Georgia was unable to gain just one yard when it was needed is alarming.
Cox wasn’t particularly sharp in his passing, even after the rain stopped, but still managed to complete some big throws, mostly to Green, though Rantavious Wooten had a fantastic 27-yard catch. Too often, though, Cox seemed determined to throw into double and even triple coverage, overlooking open receivers.
Logan Gray got into the game at QB for one play in the red zone and pretty much everyone in the stadium, including the Sun Devils defenders, knew what was coming. His option run was stuffed. Talk about telegraphing your play.
The Dogs defense was generally pretty good. They had trouble with the run at times but got the best pressure on a quarterback so far this season and didn’t give up any big pass plays. ASU’s offense only scored one touchdown against the Dogs, and that of course was another case where the opponent was given a short field by an offensive turnover. Willie Martinez’s decision to give Bacarri Rambo more playing time paid off, as the redshirt freshman safety had four tackles, a pass breakup and an interception.
On special teams, another mixed night. Blair Walsh was golden placekicking and had a decent night on kickoffs (several of them pooch kicks). Drew Butler had a so-so night punting, averaging about 40 yards a kick but getting very little hang time on several of them. And on the other side of the punting game, Georgia continued to get basically nothing in returns. The Dogs did block a field goal, which again shows the benefits of using A-teamers like A.J. Green on special teams. But a couple of near collisions on kickoff receptions between up back Shaun Chapas and the kick returner made you wonder whether Georgia actually practices that aspect of the game.
The officiating by the PAC 10 crew was pretty bad. Aside from refusing to overturn an apparent bad call on a Green touchdown, they missed so many blatant infractions, including several holds and a face mask, that you had to wonder where they were looking. And then there was that bizarre sequence where they waved off a flag against an ASU defender who’d shoved an official out of his way. I wonder how that would have gone had it been Reshad Jones doing that.
A few off-the-field notes: The main Georgia student section on the North side lower level was packed two hours before the game and they stayed in place even when the pregame rains reached monsoon level. In fact, as the rain would get heavier, the students would cheer. … The Georgia players and student sections were in a dancing mood Saturday night as the PA went hip-hop heavy. I’m glad the players were enjoying themselves; now if they could just focus a bit more during the game, maybe they’d have even more reason to celebrate.