Let’s get straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail …
Mike Darnell writes: Bill, I was at the [South Carolina] game and was relieved by the outcome. At halftime, I was texting some friends to lament my belief that Georgia’s problem is the defense coordinated by Todd Grantham. I decided to do some research and came up with the following: In Grantham’s 4 seasons, and including only SEC, Georgia Tech and bowl games, the scoring average against Georgia is 24.3 points/game. Compare this to Willie Martinez’s last 4 seasons at 21.5 points; Van Gorder’s 4 seasons at 17.8 points and Bill Lewis’s last 4 seasons at 17.6 points. I then compared these same 4 defensive coordinators average points/game/loss over those same 4 years. They are: Grantham at 33.2 points/loss; Martinez at 32 points/loss; Van Gorder at 21 points/loss; and Bill Lewis at 22.5 points/loss. My point is that our offense must score an ungodly amount of points in order to win, and especially the big games. I’m tired of hearing about how poorly Mark Richt and Mike Bobo are doing. Grantham needs to step it up.
Also concerned about the defense is Jack Turner, who writes: Bill, I know that despite our up and down offensive line we have one of the SEC’s and nation’s best offenses thanks to Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Justin Scott-Wesley and the rest. It’s a good thing, too, because don’t we have just about the worst defense in SEC? What do you think, can the Dogs continue to be successful having to outscore opponents in shootouts, or will we see some improvement on defense?
Mike, I’m not sure there’s any value in looking at defensive stats from the Bill Lewis days (different era with different offenses, different coaching staff), but the comparison with Willie Martinez’s numbers is fair. However, despite that I’m not sure you’d find many UGA fans willing to swap Todd Grantham for Martinez. Still, Grantham is one of the higher paid defensive coordinators and this season presents a great opportunity for him to show he’s worth the big bucks. I’m hopeful that once Georgia’s young defensive starters get some more experience, things will improve markedly. As for Jack’s question, yes, Georgia statistically is the conference’s worst defense after two games, ranking last in scoring defense, allowing an average 34 points per game; next to last in rushing defense, allowing 211.5 yards per game; 12th in pass defense, allowing 249.0 yards per game; and last in total defense, allowing 460.5 yards per game. I think we should keep in mind, though, that the Dogs are also the only SEC defense that has had to face two Top 10 teams in those first couple of games, and in the first one they weren’t at full-strength in addition to having to start a lot of inexperienced players. Yes, the secondary has looked pretty shaky, especially freshman Brendan Langley against South Carolina, but I think their lack of experience has been exacerbated the lack of success the defensive front has had getting to opponents’ quarterbacks, in addition to allowing way too many rushing yards. I realize run defense is not Grantham’s strong suit, but rushing the passer is supposed to be, and so far that’s been a disappointment. On the positive side, linebackers Amarlo Herrera (24 tackles) and Ramik Wilson (22 tackles) lead the conference, and that’s with Wilson not having played that well against the Gamecocks. Yes, Langley got burned on a couple of touchdowns by the Gamecocks, but on one of them he wasn’t backed up by safety Corey Moore like he should have been. Also, the Dogs’ defense held South Carolina to just 6 points in the second half and got a big goal-line stop. It may be too early to declare that a turning point, but it shows what they can do. Mainly what we’ve been seeing is defensive players out of position, taking bad angles and not wrapping up tackles. Those are the kinds of problems that should lessen considerably as the season progresses.
Don writes: Bill, Just a thought: I think the Dawgs saw 2 of the most explosive offenses outside of Oregon that you can play to start the season. Both teams had veteran, very good quarterbacks and a lot of players back on offense. Granted, the defense has to improve, but just seeing that quality of opponent has to make you better doesn’t it? I have been a UGA fan since the days of Matt Robinson and Willie McClendon and to me Todd Gurley reminds me a lot of Lars Tate, a big tough guy. Herschel was a once-in-a-lifetime talent, but guys like Tate, Hampton, Worley, Edwards and Hearst are pretty good to be compared to, and I think Gurley may be the best of that group. LSU is the key game to the season, if the Dawgs get that one, I think they are set to run the table. Just hope the defense learns from what they have seen so far and continues to get better.
Well said, Don. As I wrote after last Saturday’s game, I think Gurley is the best tailback in the nation.
Pete Talmadge, who last week was pretty down on Mike Bobo, writes this week: Bill, after taking our shots at Bobo and company last week, let’s give him (and the entire offense) credit for an imaginative, well executed game plan vs USC. The first TD pass to [Arthur] Lynch and especially the pass play to [Quayvon] Hicks at our goal line in the 4th quarter were impressive. Murray and company were able to keep USC’s vaunted defense on their heels. To gain over 500 yards of total offense and score over 40 points without a single turnover is a remarkable feat that should quiet Murray’s critics for a while. Finally, the most satisfying part for me was we ended the game with a bang — not a whimper, which is why we can crow about a beatdown over the Evil Genius.
You summed it up pretty nicely, Pete, and I’m glad you were willing to judge Bobo objectively. Offensively, it was a great day for him and the Dawgs.
Chad Moon writes: Hey Bill, this is from a huge Dawg fan living in Shreveport, LA. Do you think this upcoming game vs. North Texas and possibly any other games this season we will see [Hutson Mason] get some quality playing time to better get him game ready for next season much like Greene-Shockley? Thanks.
I don’t think you’ll ever see a Greene-Shockley-style rotation, but while Aaron Murray will start and no doubt play against North Texas, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see quite a bit of Mason in relief. After all, Greg McGarity said playing time for the bench is one of the reasons you schedule cupcakes!
Zackariah Craig writes: Longtime UGA fan and happy with the win. I think Murray was more game manager [against South Carolina], which allowed him to avoid mistakes. Do you agree? Also, I feel between Gurley and Marshall, UGA can ride them to an SEC title. Marshall is a matchup nightmare in the passing game and Gurley is Gurley. What do you think?
Um, did we watch the same game last Saturday? The quarterback in red wearing No. 11 who I saw extending plays by rolling out and directing receivers as he made some big-time plays was a heckuva lot more than a “game manager.” But I agree with you completely on Gurley and Marshall.
Jason Long writes: Bill, I agree that the crowd was louder than usual at the game last week against South Carolina, but let’s face it, the Dawgs were playing awesome, the players were already fired up, and the crowd had a lot to cheer about. In watching other games around the SEC and the country, our music selection played in Sanford Stadium for kickoffs and throughout the game is really quite lame for a football game. “Teenage Wasteland” is a great song to listen to riding down the road, but it sure doesn’t get my blood pumping, and most certainly not the players. How can we get some more current music played that the players would feed off of, and thus the fans? Even if it is not current, something that gets everyone more fired up. Who can we speak to about this? Thank you for your articles Bill, I enjoy reading your work!
And Gary Taylor writes: I have visited Clemson for 2 football games. Once last season for the South Carolina game following the GA/GA Tech game in Athens; one great day of football with my dad! Then again for the game last week. A couple of things were pretty obvious in sitting through both games. The stadium gameday environment is loud and raucous. The fans were loud, but the PA system is definitely one of the loudest I have ever experienced! They pipe in band music through the PA system and the nonband music is loud and really seems to inspire the fans, which in turn pumps up the team. I know the complaint in Athens is that the crowd sits on its hands and we can’t hear music (especially the band), so why don’t we utilize a similar style? It seems foolish to not better us the “home field” advantage Sanford Stadium offers.
Meanwhile, Bin Minter has a little different view: My family has had season tickets to UGA home games since the sixties or seventies, and I grew up going. I can remember what it was like before the jumbotron and speakers, when it was just football, the band, a scoreboard, an announcer, and cheers. The 2007 Auburn game notwithstanding, I miss those times. While the opening montage is great, those in control of stadium “entertainment” do a horrible job with their song and video collection (drinking from a cleat?!?). I would posit that the music they blast actually saps crowd energy at times. Take the beginning to the second half, for instance. When the Dawgs came back on the field, that should have been a loud moment, but all I can remember is the urban song blowing my eardrums out. It’s as though they keep trying to recapture the Soulja Boy magic from six years ago. Surely I can’t be the only person with this complaint?
First of all, the song by The Who played before kickoff at the beginning of Georgia home games is called “Baba O’Riley,” not “Teenage Wasteland” (though that’s a common mistake). And, honestly, I love it as a pre-kickoff song. On the other hand, I’m not crazy about some of the country and hip-hop songs that do blare from the Sanford Stadium PA (and, Gary, UGA is playing quite a bit of music during games these days), but I also recognize that some of those tunes resonate with the players and students a lot more than songs I might prefer — anyone else for The Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog”? I’ve heard more than one under-30 UGA fan say they think the team needs a contemporary song (a la 2007’s Soulja Boy track) to get the players and students revved up. Whichever side of the musical divide you fall on, if you’d like to make suggestions on the PA music or anything else you’d like to see changed on game days, you might want to try emailing athletic director McGarity at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smartt Dawg writes: There has been talk of declining attendance at SEC games and efforts to improve game day experience for fans that attend in person. I have season tickets (section 106) and at the South Carolina game, there was a camera crew with a large circular stand moving across the sideline. At times my view of the game was interfered with, particularly in goal line situations. I can’t remember a crew going across the sideline for the past several years. Will this continue or does it depend on whether the game is an ESPN, Fox Sports, SEC Network, or CBS? Though I love to be part of the game day atmosphere, this past week was the first time I can remember seriously considering staying at home because my view was not what I have been accustomed to.
I put your complaint/question to UGA Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton, who responded: “This was a sideline cart camera that was used for reverse angle in this game. There is always one on the south side for every TV game; however, one on the north side we have had maybe once or twice in the last 20 years. So it would be rare, I would say.”
Matt Cafaro writes: Bill, In week 5, Athens will host what will be the ONLY Top 10 game that week between LSU and Georgia, and you, I, and every other faithful Dawg out there knows in our hearts that “ESPN College GameDay” will invent some excuse as to why Wisconsin-Ohio State in Columbus or Chokelahoma-Notre Lame in South Bend deserve their time instead of us. I mean, it’s not like they haven’t been to Columbus, OH 148 times in the last 20 years. I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it does. It’s not every year we play a home game worthy of “College GameDay,” but I think back to games like the UGA-Auburn Blackout, where instead of going to Athens, “GameDay” went to a DIVISION III game! It’s like they’re trying to offend us. With the expanded Tate Center, there’s plenty of grassy-places between Tate and the MLC they could set up close to the stadium. To me, if “College GameDay” goes to one of those other games in those other towns they’ve been dozens of times, it means they’re seriously only ever going to come to Athens when they’re forced to, as they were in the 2008 Bama-UGA game.
While ESPN’s choice of “GameDay” locations can be hard to figure at times, I don’t think they have anything against UGA. If they don’t come to Athens for this year’s LSU game, it might be because they just featured a Georgia game opening week (albeit, at Clemson). From a purely superstitious standpoint, though, a lot of fans would just as soon “GameDay” go elsewhere, as Georgia hasn’t performed all that well in games where Chris, Coach and Herbie were on hand in recent years.
Finally, the AJC’s music maven, Melissa Ruggieri, passes along word that Jason Aldean’s historic April concert at Sanford Stadium is coming to DVD next month. “Night Train to Georgia” will be released Oct. 15. “That day in Athens will always be one of my proudest accomplishments,” Macon native Aldean said in a statement. “I’ve been working my whole career to get to this point where I can go into a stadium like Sanford, which I’ve idolized my whole life, and leave a mark. I watch it back now to remember the details because it was all overwhelming and a pretty surreal moment for me.” More than 60,000 fans filled the stadium during the concert, which also featured Leesburg’s Luke Bryan opening and Atlanta’s Ludacris joining Aldean onstage. You can watch a trailer for the DVD here.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg