Archive for October, 2011

Anyone really feel like celebrating another ugly win over Vandy?

Aaron Murray had a big night against Vandy, but the Georgia offense was inconsistent. (Associated Press)

Aaron Murray had a big night against Vandy, but the Georgia offense was inconsistent. (Associated Press)

After Saturday night’s game in Nashville a dispirited Mark Richt sounded like anything but a victorious football coach.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said, obviously a very unhappy man.

Yes, Richt acknowledged with Chuck Dowdle’s prompting, Georgia is keeping pace with South Carolina in the SEC East, but he said “we’re kind of limping our way into being tied for first.”

Dowdle, always Mr. Positive, sounded like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Georgia had won its fifth game in a row, fourth conference win in a row, and yet, he said to Richt with a note of surprise in his voice, “you sound disappointed.”

Richt, apparently more in touch with reality than the happy-talk interviewer, answered flatly, “I am disappointed. I’m thankful for the victory … but I’m disappointed in how we played overall.”

Richt had good reason to be downcast. A Vandy team that had only been …

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Fan talk: Do Dawgs need to quit playing it safe in fourth quarter?

Mark Richt has said Georgia needs to be able to "put it away." (Associated Press)

Mark Richt has said Georgia needs to be able to "put it away." (Associated Press)

As the Dawgs prepare to travel to Nashville for the Vandy game, it’s time to answer some Junkyard Mail. …

Bob Leonard writes: Bill, we’re midway through the season (wow, seems like it’s just flown by) and I’m starting to be optimistic, which worries me since I normally like to under-expect when it comes to the Georgia football program. (Less heartbreak that way.) I think the defense has improved greatly and the offense looks really good in spurts, usually when Isaiah Crowell is in there. But Georgia still doesn’t look like a team that’s quite ready for prime time. What do you think’s missing?

The biggest thing that’s missing, I think, is the ability to put away even a lesser opponent in the fourth quarter. Of course, the situation has improved from last year, when Mark Richt’s Dogs were flat-out getting beat in the fourth because they were plainly out of gas. But the Dogs are still getting …

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Dawgs need to take care of business against Vandy

If Mike Bobo isn't in "ball control" mode by the third quarter, Georgia will be in trouble. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

If Mike Bobo isn't in "ball control" mode by the third quarter, Georgia will be in trouble. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Playing Vanderbilt in Nashville Saturday is one of those “no respect” situations for Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs.

UGA is expected to win over the SEC’s designated jabroni, but other than notching another East Division victory it’s not going to do the Dogs much good in terms of getting back into that elusive national spotlight. If beating Tennessee in Knoxville couldn’t get the Dogs into the Top 25, it’s hard to see a win over Vandy accomplishing that feat.

Let’s face it, if the Dogs win big, as could certainly happen against a Commodores team that’s gone two games without scoring a touchdown, the reaction will be, “So what? It’s only Vanderbilt.”

Should Georgia struggle any against a decent Vandy defense, which does lead the country in interceptions with 14, it will merely reinforce the image of the Dogs as a team that can’t put away a lesser opponent.

And if …

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Richt’s aggressive stance against Vols likely to pay dividends later

Aaron Murray was pleased the Dogs had earned their head coach's trust. (Associated Press)

Aaron Murray was pleased the Dogs had earned their head coach's trust. (Associated Press)

A few more thoughts about Georgia’s win over Tennessee in Knoxville …

There was a lot of talk after the game about Mark Richt’s more aggressive approach in the first half, when Georgia went for it three times on fourth-and-short yardage. That ran counter to the coach’s stance several times earlier in the season when he had declined to go for it on fourth (including twice against Mississippi State), peevishly answering his players’ complaints about it by saying that if you want to make a first down, you do it in the first three tries.

Richt obviously rethought that view this past week. “I wasn’t in the mood to go for it on fourth down last week,” he said, because he “didn’t like what we had prepared.” But in the week before playing the Vols, he said, “we did a good job of putting a plan together. I had more confidence in what the offensive staff put together, so I was more decisive with …

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A sweet night in Knoxville for Mark Richt and the Dawgs

A banged-up Isaiah Crowell gets one of his two touchdowns. (Associated Press)

A banged-up Isaiah Crowell gets one of his two touchdowns. (Associated Press)

How fitting that when Mark Richt notched his 100th win as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday night, it was in the same place that he won his first signature victory a decade earlier.

OK, this time there wasn’t quite the excitement of the famed “hobnail boot” comeback at Knoxville’s Neyland Stadium, but considering all the turmoil his program has been through the past three seasons, Georgia’s 20-12 win over SEC East rival Tennessee had to be one of the sweetest moments Richt has experienced in some time.

The Dogs got a crucial win in their quest to turn a season that started out 0-2 into a return trip to the Georgia Dome thanks to another stellar performance by Todd Grantham’s defense, which held the Vols to a stunning minus 20 yards for the night rushing and mostly limited UT’s hot-handed young QB, Tyler Bray, to short or medium completions.

The first half was a strange one, with both teams …

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Georgia-Tennessee: Something’s got to give on third down

Can Tyler Bray pick apart Georgia's defense like Kellen Moore did? (Associated Press)

Can Tyler Bray pick apart Georgia's defense like Kellen Moore did? (Associated Press)

With the Dogs traveling to Knoxville this week, I decided to check in with my old friend Joey Ledford, who’s been living in the Peach State for many years but still owes his primary allegiance to the land where folks dressed all in orange aren’t necessarily wearing leg-irons.

Here’s Joey’s Volunteer take on this year’s Georgia-Tennessee game:

The Vols have made a lot of progress since last year. We have a lot more depth, and we have a surprising amount of talent considering how young we are. Get this as a football stat — next year, when you guys had really better look out for us, we will have 19 returning starters.

All that said, we suffered a major setback on our fourth offensive play two weeks ago against Florida. Imagine losing A.J. Green for the season in your first series against a conference foe. That’s the equivalent of what happened to us when Justin Hunter tore his ACL. This guy was …

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Fan talk: Is Aaron Murray’s sophomore slump perception or reality?

Aaron Murray throwing interceptions has skewed the perception of how well he's playing. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Aaron Murray throwing interceptions has skewed the perception of how well he's playing. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

If having the other Bulldogs jump on the “G” could get our Dawgs that riled up, imagine what a week of having to listen to “Rocky Top” in practice could do. I know I’d be ready to tear someone’s head off and I’m hoping the Georgia D feels the same way come Saturday. Anyway, time to check in with the Junkyard Mail and see what’s on your minds as the trip to Knoxville approaches ….

Lamar Westbrook writes: I know Aaron Murray is a good QB, last year he proved it, but this year he is a liability to us. I hear Hutson Mason is playing as good or better than him in practice but he does not see the field any. I think Murray would start playing better if he felt threatened by somebody taking over his job. I think he knows the job is his no matter what and this makes him wreckless with the ball. If he doesn’t clean up the picks, it’s going to cost Georgia against a better team …

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What worries you most as the Dogs head to Knoxville?

The poor play of Georgia's offensive line in pass protection is affecting Aaron Murray (Associated Press)

The poor play of Georgia's offensive line in pass protection is affecting Aaron Murray (Associated Press)

As the Bulldogs prepare to journey up to Rocky Top, what worries you most as a Georgia fan?

Is it the loss of ace pass rusher Cornelius Washington, who might have been expected to apply considerable pressure on Volunteer QB Tyler Bray? Are you remembering how Kellen Moore picked apart the Georgia defense when he wasn’t under any pressure?

Are you fretting about the continuing special teams problems and wondering just what Mark Richt’s going to do if a game comes down to the choice between going for it on fourth down or calling in Blair Walsh and the field goal unit?

Does the fall-off in offensive production in the second half over the past couple of games worry you the most?

Or is it the shaky play of sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw three more picks Saturday?

Actually, I think most of Murray’s problems, and perhaps even some of the second-half offensive …

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A few reasons Georgia Bulldogs fans should feel great (or not)

Isaiah Crowell showed some nifty moves again Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Isaiah Crowell showed some nifty moves again Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

A few more reflections on why a Georgia Bulldogs fan should feel great after the win over Mississippi State …

Isaiah Crowell might have a long way to go in terms of SEC caliber stamina, and he’s also still looking for his first long touchdown run after Saturday’s apparent 49-yard scamper was ruled out of bounds. But he’s already shown he has the moves to be a big-time running back. His elusiveness on that erstwhile scoring run brought quite a few wows from the crowd. …

The defense continues to impress and improve, breaking up more passes in the past couple of weeks than a Bulldog fan can remember seeing in a long time. …

Brandon Boykin returning punts as well as kickoffs is a smart move on the part of the Georgia coaching staff. He had two nice returns Saturday and it’s a pretty safe bet he’s going to break another long one all the way sometime soon. …

One of the big reasons the D is looking so good …

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Dominating Dogs defense makes up for lackluster offense

The Dogs' John Jenkins slams Ladarius Perkins to the ground on a day when the Georgia defense dominated. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

The Dogs' John Jenkins slams Ladarius Perkins to the ground on a day when the Georgia defense dominated. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

It’s beginning to look like if you want to see the Georgia Bulldogs offense in action, you better catch the first half, because judging by the past two games they’re taking off most of the third and fourth quarters.

Fortunately, for the Dogs, their defense is playing a full four quarters and Saturday against Mississippi State the D turned in a dominating performance, holding the Maroon Bulldogs to a measly 56 yards on the ground, with an average of only 1.6 yards per carry, and letting Dan Mullen’s vaunted spread option convert only 27 percent of its third-down tries. Georgia also had five sacks on the day.

The only thing the D didn’t do was score, and they likely could have if they’d held on to several almost-interceptions that were dropped. As it was, they did manage to snag two picks.

Still, there’s one overwhelming conclusion that you have to …

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