Archive for September, 2012

Dogs’ defense gets another slow start but offense moves at top speed

Todd Gurley had another big game. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Todd Gurley had another big game. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Georgia’s defense once again got off to a slow start against a lesser opponent Saturday night, playing indifferently early on against Florida Atlantic, with the game tied 14-14 before the Dawgs finally started to clamp down.

The defense, which was missing a banged-up Jarvis Jones, played much better in the second half and, fortunately the UGA offense showed up ready to play against the Owls, with a school-record 713 net yards on offense as true freshman backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall both broke the century mark, with Gurley running for 111 yards on 10 carries while Marshall got 104 on his 10 rushes. Ken Malcome also showed some tough running on seven carries for 46 yards.

Aaron Murray had a productive night, completing 14 of 19 passes for a career-high 342 yards and two touchdowns. He did misfire on a couple of passes (both to Gurley) and threw an interception in the end zone, but fortunately the defense was back …

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Fan talk: Early-season optimism, Jarvis for Heisman, praising Bobo and more!

Get to the game early to celebrate the coronation of Uga IX. (John Kelley / UGA)

Get to the game early to celebrate the coronation of Uga IX. (John Kelley / UGA)

I don’t know how many fans will still be in the stands at the end of Saturday’s money game against Florida Atlantic, but this is one game where you don’t want to be late. Beloved interim mascot Russ finally will assume the title of Uga IX during a special ceremony that the university says is scheduled to take place with about 11 minutes remaining on the pregame clock. Kickoff is set for 7:35 p.m.

So get there on time for a rousing chant of “damn good Dog!”

Speaking of DGDs, Herschel Walker steals the show in the new Heisman TV spot. Check it out.

Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

Beach Dawg Living Among Gators writes: Bill, as always appreciate your on the spot insight on all things Dawg. People seem to be all giddy about Saturday’s win, but I’m having a hard time seeing that game as a defining moment. In fact, it gives me concern. Looking at the stats Mizzou played us pretty …

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What pieces need to fall into place for the Dawgs?

Aaron Murray has gotten off to a slow start in games but has finished strong. (Associated Press)

Aaron Murray has gotten off to a slow start in games but has finished strong. (Associated Press)

So, with Georgia having won the first of what are likely to be its three or four most challenging games this season, what needs to happen for the Dawgs to live up to preseason expectations?

In other words, what needs fixing, improving or tweaking?

Several folks I’ve heard from this week have pointed fingers at quarterback Aaron Murray’s slow starts in the first two games, and that’s certainly an area that could be improved. But taking into account the patchwork, hobbled, inexperienced offensive line Murray is operating behind, his early jumpiness and tendency to overthrow receivers is understandable … and his smooth play as the game progresses has been impressive.

Murray threw some really fine passes against Missouri, including a couple of touchdowns and several of the passes that were dropped by open receivers. As Buck Belue put it, Murray “delivered a big-game performance. … He …

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As the game turns: What was the deciding moment in UGA’s win over Mizzou?

Was Jarvis Jones' interception the play of the game? (Associated Press)

Was Jarvis Jones' interception the play of the game? (Associated Press)

For Sunday lunch, I joined my two brothers and my UGA freshman daughter at the Butt Hutt in Athens (recently honored for best barbecue in the SEC by Fox Sports South), where the staff obligingly put a replay of the Georgia-Missouri game on the tube for us.

Later, one of the servers stopped by our table to talk a little football, and the conversation pretty much focused on the same two players who drew much of the post-game comment and acclaim from fans and media alike — Jarvis Jones and Richard Samuel.

Jones, of course, was freakishly good all night, as I discussed in my post-game Blawg, making eight tackles, forcing a couple of fumbles (plus another that was ruled an incomplete pass) and snagging that interception that many (including me) consider the play of the game, the real turning point in the Dawgs’ win over Missouri.

And his showing became even more impressive when we learned after the game that he …

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Jarvis Jones, shorthanded Dawgs make the case for ‘old man football’

Jarvis Jones did everything that could be asked, including causing this fumble by James Franklin. (Shane Keyser / special)

Jarvis Jones did everything that could be asked, including causing this fumble by James Franklin. (Shane Keyser / special)

It was a classic case of misdirection.

Starting several months ago and lasting well into Saturday night, all fans and the media could talk about when the subject of the Georgia-Missouri game came up was how the Dawgs would be taking on the Tigers’ high-powered spread offense without four suspended defensive starters.

What everyone should have focused on instead was that Jarvis Jones would be playing.

Thanks to another remarkable effort by Georgia’s All-American linebacker, Mizzou’s James Franklin never could get any sustained momentum going in the two teams’ SEC opener. Jones spent almost as much time in the Missouri backfield in the first half as Franklin did, stopped running plays, caused fumbles. And then he capped off his evening in the fourth quarter by intercepting a Franklin pass and returning it to what the officials ruled was just short of the …

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Dogs’ big game against Mizzou renews a short but memorable series

uga mizzou secI’ll never forget the first time Georgia and Missouri played football for a couple of reasons.

For one, it was the first time I ever saw a live telecast of a Bulldogs football game. Actually, it was the first time anyone ever saw the Dogs play on TV, as the CBS coverage of the Jan. 1, 1960, Orange Bowl was the first time a Georgia game was broadcast.

The other memorable thing about that New Year’s Day was that I woke up with a bad case of the mumps, with both sides of my face swelled up like a balloon. But I was determined to see the game, so Mom propped me up with pillows in the TV room so I could watch Fran Tarkenton lead Wally Butts’ Bulldogs against Dan Devine’s Mizzou Tigers. (You’ll remember we encountered Devine again in a bowl 20 years later.)

Perhaps because I was sick or maybe because I was only 7 years old, I don’t remember much about the game itself other than my Dad thinking Georgia didn’t play very well despite winning what was largely a defensive struggle thanks …

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Fan talk: Hungry Dawgs, defensive doldrums, Samuel L. Jackson and more!

Fans want the Dawgs ready to play but don't want Aaron Murray too hyped up. (Associated Press)

Fans want the Dawgs ready to play but don't want Aaron Murray too hyped up. (Associated Press)

In the wake of the opening game, there was quite a bit of Junkyard Mail this week. Let’s check out some of it. …

Andrew Smith writes: Hey Bill, I just watched the Mothership’s view of what to watch for in Week 2. Todd McShay conveyed that he wants to see more hunger out of the Dawgs this week. With all of the hype and pressure Mizzou is placing on this game, do you think the captains and leaders of this team have everyone ready to play? If you imagine Munson asking that question it seems even more intense.

That’s the big question, Andrew, and I’m imagining you giving it a desperate growl like Munson. Sometimes Mark Richt’s Dawgs show up for these games loaded for bear (or Tiger), as in the first half of the SEC Championship. Other times, like last year’s Georgia Dome game with Boise State, they look like they’d rather be somewhere else. We don’t want them too ramped up (in …

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Richt’s Dogs need to regain their mojo as Road Warriors

Mark Richt's road record used to be a thing of wonder. (Associated Press)

Mark Richt's road record used to be a thing of wonder. (Associated Press)

Remember when Mark Richt’s road record was a thing of wonder?

Invariably, it was the stat that broadcast crews latched on to when the Dogs were playing an away game: Heading into Knoxville in 2007 Georgia was a remarkable 23-3 in true away games under Richt (not counting neutral-site games like the annual bout in Jacksonville with Florida or SEC championship or bowl games).

But the Dogs, who would finish that season ranked No. 2, somehow lost to Tennessee in Neyland Stadium that year, and while they bounced back on the road in 2008, including a big win at LSU, things haven’t been quite the same since.

There were regular season road defeats by Oklahoma State and Tennessee (again) in 2009, and then in 2010 the wheels came off, with away-game losses to South Carolina, Mississippi State, Colorado and Auburn.

Last season, a scheduling quirk meant the Dogs avoided a true road loss, though they dropped three …

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It’s past time for Aaron Murray to settle himself down

In his third year as a starter, Aaron Murray is still getting too pumped up? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

In his third year as a starter, Aaron Murray is still getting too pumped up? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

A few more thoughts and observations following Georgia’s home opener …

While he granted that Aaron Murray plays with “a lot of emotion” and “probably was really pumped up,” Mark Richt was about as pointed in his criticism of his veteran quarterback’s efforts early in the game as you’ll ever hear from Georgia’s head coach.

Speaking of Murray overthrowing wide-open receivers headed toward the end zone, Richt said: “Murray, he’s a veteran, and we get a wide open post for a touchdown, we’ve got to hit it. The guy’s wide open and you’ve got protection, it’s your job to put the ball on the money.”

Yes, Murray is still having to deal with an offensive line he can’t completely trust and young backs who sometimes whiff on blocks (with Murray getting sacked three times by the Bulls), but that’s pretty much been the case his entire career at UGA. And he looked much better in the second …

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Todd Gurley has a Dawgs debut worth woofing about

Todd Gurley lived up to all the hype in his UGA debut. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Todd Gurley lived up to all the hype in his UGA debut. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

On a sweltering day in Athens that saw mascot Russ going shirtless at one point and Georgia looking like a team that was missing several starters on defense, the positive fan talk on the way out of Sanford Stadium was Todd Gurley and … well, OK, that was about it.

But there’s nothing wrong with that, because Gurley’s debut as a Georgia Bulldog was definitely a performance to savor, with the true freshman showing those August scrimmage performances were no fluke: 100 yards on eight carries plus a 100-yard kickoff return for a total of three touchdowns. He’s the first UGA freshman to run for 100 yards in his debut game since Danny Ware in 2004.

Fellow freshman Keith Marshall, who had 46 yards on 10 carries, shows a lot of potential as an alternative back to Gurley but looked like more of a work in progress.

Overall, the Dawgs’ offense against the opening game opponent looked about like I expected: …

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