Having survived ‘ridiculous’ September, Dawgs must now stay hungry

The Dawgs, including Michael Bennett, have plenty of reason to celebrate. (Jason Getz / AJC)

The Dawgs, including Michael Bennett, have plenty of reason to celebrate. (Jason Getz / AJC)

I don’t think I can ever recall an opening month like the “ridiculous September” (as CBS’ Tracy Wolfson put it) that Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs just experienced.

But, let’s face it, after getting themselves pumped up to play three Top 10 teams, what might be an even bigger challenge faces the No. 6-ranked Dawgs: keeping their eye on the prize as they’re favored to win the rest of their regular season games.

Aaron Murray is hoping the lessons learned in September will be applied the rest of the way. “It’s been a brutal first month,” he told ESPN Saturday night. “I think we’ve grown up a lot. I think we’ve proved to the nation that Georgia’s for real.”

But, he said with the next breath, there’s still a long way to go and a lot of games to play. “We’ve got to keep getting better,” he said, and “stay hungry.”

So far in the 2013 season, Richt has done one of his best coaching jobs in making sure his players are ready for what they face. But he, too, might have an even bigger challenge in making sure the team doesn’t falter along the way against the likes of Tennessee and Missouri in addition to the biggest remaining hurdle in Jacksonville.

In that regard, perhaps the struggles of the porous Georgia secondary will give Richt the leverage he needs to keep his players grounded. As he said after Saturday’s game, “Right this very minute, our resume looks pretty good. It’s not going to be that pretty if we get whipped in the next week or two. If October is a crummy month, then everybody is going to forget about it.”

As the head coach sagely noted, “If we think it’s going to be any easier, we’re crazy. They’re going to be fired up. Their fans are going to be ready to go. If we think it’s going to be anything less than what we’ve been living through, we’re nuts. Every game is going to be a barn-burner until we get more stout on defense and continue to get better on special teams.”

Speaking of which, there were pluses and minuses in those areas on view Saturday. Generally, Georgia’s deservedly maligned special teams played extremely well, with Marshall Morgan’s 55-yard field goal, one of three he made on the day, and the recovering of a fumbled punt the main highlights. There’s still room for improvement, though. Most of Morgan’s kickoffs didn’t quite make the end zone and some that did were not deep enough to discourage a return. Still, the coverage was much improved and didn’t allow LSU’s fine return man, Odell Beckham Jr., to break a long one. (Speaking of Beckham, that one-handed snag he made of a Morgan kickoff going out of the end zone was unreal!)

As for the defense, as mentioned, the secondary played about as poorly as possible, and yet Georgia still managed to win. Much of that is due, of course, to Murray and Mike Bobo’s high-scoring offense, which has kept its torrid pace up even when key players go out hurt.

But while the secondary’s inexperience and arm-tackling are big problems that must be addressed — they were mainly responsible for LSU converting an alarming 10 of 15 third downs — there were positives on the D as well. Georgia’s run defense has improved dramatically over the past two and a half games, and holding the Bayou Bengals under 100 yards rushing is no mean feat. The defensive front generally played a fine game. In addition to holding the Tigers’ rushing attack in check, they sacked Zach Mettenberger four times (which makes Todd Grantham’s decision to drop back into prevent defense and not pressure Mett on that key third-and-22 even more baffling).

Leonard Floyd has a tremendous day against LSU. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Leonard Floyd has a tremendous day against LSU. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Special kudos to Leonard Floyd, who had eight tackles,a sack and two tackles for loss.

The silver lining is that it’s obvious there’s raw talent in the Dogs’ secondary that simply needs more playing time and some coaching up.

Youth is one thing we all outgrow eventually.

A few more thoughts and observations on Saturday’s game …

Murray deservedly was named Walter Camp Offensive National Player of the Week for the second time this season, and he’s also in the running for ESPN’s Capital One Cup Impact Player of the Week. To vote for him, go here. …

While the offense generally did a great job against LSU, with the line having its best game this season, there’s still room for improvement, as Bobo noted afterward. And one area that needs addressing immediately is those two bobbled snaps between David Andrews and Murray Saturday. The Dogs were very lucky not to have lost either one of those fumbles. …

How much did Saturday’s win over a team led by one of his former players mean to Richt? If you didn’t see it, check out those tears and that catch in his voice as he talked with CBS’ Wolfson after the game. In addition to praising the play of both Murray and Mettenberger, he hailed the crowd, saying, “These fans are unbelievable. Nobody does it better than Georgia. God bless everybody in this stadium.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen Richt that emotional before . …

It was almost cute the way Les Miles implied after the game that the refs missed pass interference by Georgia on the Tigers’ last unsuccessful drive. I don’t suppose he noticed the three times his own team got away with pretty flagrant interference thanks to the officiating crew’s relatively relaxed enforcement of the rules. …

In addition to Saturday’s crowd being the loudest I’ve ever experienced at Sanford Stadium, I’m happy to report that the presentation of the game was glitch-free following the technical meltdown a week earlier against North Texas. And there was a new wrinkle added that’s a big improvement: The Redcoat Band is now being amplified so that more of the stadium can hear what they’re playing. Even with the crowd as noisy as it was Saturday, my section could hear the band much better than before. …

UGA basketball coach Mark Fox joined the fan Spike Squad at Saturday's game. (Jason Getz / AJC)

UGA basketball coach Mark Fox joined the fan Spike Squad at Saturday's game. (Jason Getz / AJC)

I really hope the hoop Dogs come through for Mark Fox this season, because he’s one really cool guy. Having the head basketball coach paint his body and don the outlandish gear of the fan Spike Squad Saturday shows you how “all in” the UGA athletic staff was for this momentous game.

Go Dogs!

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

351 comments Add your comment

Chris

September 29th, 2013
10:07 pm

Guess the fire bobo talk is over…now the concern is whether another team will swoop in and take Bobo away from us! Tons and tons of credit to Richt. What a turnaround from a couple of seasons ago to now. GO DAWGS!

ivari

September 29th, 2013
10:08 pm

first! ah haaaaaa!

UGAJOSH27

September 29th, 2013
10:22 pm

Looks like Richt’s job is safe for another week, no fan base is less appreciative of a great coach and a great man as our’s is. It’s about time we were as loyal to Richt as he has been to UGA

Jacket73

September 29th, 2013
10:23 pm

Doggies are overrated as usual. Now that Ted Roof is back in Atlanta we’re gonna slay the puppies come November.

Coach Paul Johnson will once again be deemed as the sheriff of Georgia!

UGAJOSH27

September 29th, 2013
10:25 pm

Jacket, it could happen…every 10 to 15 years you are bound to beat Georgia…just the law of averages

Flo-Ri-Duh

September 29th, 2013
10:30 pm

ivari – You weren’t 1st and can’t claim it but good (not really) try.

Like I pointed out earlier UGA is playing freshman DB’s because 4 DB’s were dismissed from school a couple of years ago…… two of them were Marshall (S) and Sanders(CB) who were highly ranked and probably be starting now. Grantham did not have a choice but to play guys that are totally inexperienced. So quit giving him grief over it.

That said the most troubling part of the defense is in the red zone. Much work needs to be done there – including run support as twice the LSU walked in untouched around the end.

ARdawg

September 29th, 2013
10:31 pm

Sheriff Moobs, now that is funny

Top Row Dawg

September 29th, 2013
11:06 pm

I think the defense stats will improve the next few weeks. Don’t see many QB’s like Shaw, Boyd, or Mettenberger on the schedule until we play McCarren at the dome.

Flo-Ri-Duh

September 29th, 2013
11:16 pm

Shaw went out with a shoulder injury and S.C. almost got beat by Central Florida. Word is he will be out at least three more weeks. Big loss for Spurrier.

KJ

September 30th, 2013
12:47 am

I see Goldenrod had morphed into Jacket73… yawn

“It was almost cute the way Les Miles implied after the game that the refs missed pass interference by Georgia on the Tigers’ last unsuccessful drive.”

Wow, I missed this; did that actually happen? What a little beeyatch; Miles should be kissing the feet of whatever god he believes in for being fortunate enough to luck his way into the title he has… seriously, is any coach in the country luckier than him?

Redfern on Capella V

September 30th, 2013
1:04 am

Two little facts to bust your bubble:

1. UGA is completely irrelevant outside the state of Georgia. Except for 1980, that has always been the case.

2. The dwags will never win anything big with phony wannabe coach Mark Richt.

You can return to your Kool-Aid now.

Whatchmacallit

September 30th, 2013
4:39 am

How about them Dawgs!!!

I have a new Nickname for the UGA defense ”The Cardiac Kids” Got to give them some credit, they have made a great stop against both South Carolina and LSU, when we needed it the most.

That was one hell of a game! What a difference a few good RB’s and just a little more depth makes.

Buzz-off

September 30th, 2013
4:59 am

Redfern,

I guess UGa’s “irrelevancy” is the reason they have been declared the NATIONAL game of the week 3 times this season…..and they have only played 4 games. Don’t think your favorite team can say the same so your team must be more irrelevant!!!!! GO DAWGS!!!!

Buzz-off

September 30th, 2013
5:08 am

I agree with everyone about all the points UGa’s defense is giving up, but do you realize that Clemson, SC and LSU’s defenses (combined) gave up more points to UGa. Does that mean those teams should fire their defensive coordinators? I’m really excited about all our young kids on the defense. The way they rose-up against SC and LSU when those games were on the line reminded me of the old “bend but don’t break” Erk Russell defenses.

Buzz-off

September 30th, 2013
5:32 am

How bout Ray Drew!!! Had a big sack and a huge deflected pass on LSU’s last possession. I think he has arrived. Go DAWGS

dawgfan

September 30th, 2013
5:36 am

This gets back to what I’ve been harping on. Survived? A reason to celebrate? We lost a very winnable game people. Nobody should be celebrating anything. Nobody should be happy with 3-1. We could have done better. That loss could cost us yet another shot at the top prize. I also think we need to tone down this “3 top 10 teams in September” junk until the end of the year. South Carolina is not in the top 10 anymore and probably won’t return if you ask me. LSU is on the fringe with many tough games to come. Clemson is prone to last season collapses. That September schedule may not look nearly as daunting in December when the beauty pageant starts.

Let’s quit patting ourselves on the back and acting like we’ve done something. We’ve done jack flipping squat.

ndtaylor77

September 30th, 2013
5:48 am

Dawgfan, your football IQ is virtually nonexistent.

dawgfan

September 30th, 2013
5:51 am

Okay, we couldn’t have done better? Clemson is just sooooooo much better than us? Big fan you are.

GTBob polishes my shoes at the airport

September 30th, 2013
6:32 am

JAcket 73, that is the game we scared to death of for sure!?!
What a NERD. Ted Roof is a bust. Johnson is a joke. Tech is the third best team in our state. If you would play Georgia State you might be relegated to 4th.

Heather

September 30th, 2013
6:53 am

Yes, you’re exactly right, dawgfan.

Damn it, we won. I’m so disappointed in our performance. If only we could have won BETTER. There’s no reason to be proud of our team, because ultimately, the wins we have now mean nothing.
Allow me to go beat my head on a wall because we’ve won three games in a row. Shame on our team.

It’s too early for such foolishness.

PigIron

September 30th, 2013
6:58 am

As big a win as this was, it is critical for the team to put this one behind them and treat every upcoming game as a “big game”. Georgia will be playing with a target on their backs now. Teams that don’t have a shot at a championship will play Georgia like they’re playing a bowl game now that they’re in the national spotlight. Remember what happened to Kansas State and Oregon last year after Bama lost to TAM and they moved into the top slots. Becoming a favorite of ESPN and the various other sports media talking heads is a double edged sword. This is not a time for Georgia to let their guard down.

PigIron

September 30th, 2013
7:00 am

Heather

September 30th, 2013
6:53 am

Yes, you’re exactly right, dawgfan.

Damn it, we won. I’m so disappointed in our performance. If only we could have won BETTER. There’s no reason to be proud of our team, because ultimately, the wins we have now mean nothing.
Allow me to go beat my head on a wall because we’ve won three games in a row. Shame on our team.

—–

Heh!

I know that was meant sarcastically, but it sounds just like a Bama fan.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
7:04 am

Im hoping to see us run the score up in Jacksonville like 1982

AltamahaDawg

September 30th, 2013
7:33 am

Oh, I am sure you’ll find a way to dismiss the victory, if we did.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
7:35 am

And how is that

PigIron

September 30th, 2013
7:42 am

I understand that Florida will always be a big game for Georgia, but I’d worry more about Missou and Auburn this year. Jax should be a cakewalk. Florida won’t likely recover very well from losing both Driskel and Easley.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
7:45 am

Pig

I see what you’re saying but I’ve seen too many times that we should have gone down there and won and didnt

PigIron

September 30th, 2013
7:49 am

Of course, it’s a huge rivalry game and emotion will play a big part in it. I’m not recommending that UGA should simply shrug the game off as unimportant, only that Auburn and Missou are probably both more dangerous teams to face, talent-wise, than is Florida this year.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
7:52 am

Auburn bothers me most due to their offense possibly getting much better as the season goes on;

I really wished we were playing them this weekend and Tenn later on

Mobile Dawg

September 30th, 2013
7:58 am

Got to make some improvements on defense. A good pass rush makes a vulnerable secondary look much better. Mett had all the time he needed on most of his attempts. Our down linemen need to do a better job of beating their blocks at the line of scrimmage. Most of the sacks LSU gave up were due to stunts, maybe we should have stunted a little more? Especially on the 3rd and 23? A little more fullback please Bobo. Loved his performance against Carolina.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
8:02 am

Floyd and Clemmons looked good again on D

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
8:04 am

Mobile

I can agree on the 3rd and 23 but I bet Grantham was reminiscing the first TD LSU got is why he went to prevent; but they looked out of place when we did rush them

AltamahaDawg

September 30th, 2013
8:08 am

stop stealing my line, dawgfan.

And stop pretending to speak on behalf of the rest of “us”. You have been disqualified from that.

Mobile Dawg

September 30th, 2013
8:11 am

Would have like to have seen the pick completed by the linebacker, that would have been sweet.

Flat, I don’t ever recall the prevent being effective. A good QB will usually find the seam. Just my opinion but when a QB is pressured he’s much more likely to make a mistake percentage wise. Our young secondary needs the help.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
8:14 am

Mobile

Yea I agree about the prevent; hence why I said they looked out of place when we pressured them

I wish Gurley would have been able to play; he was really on his way to have a huge game and I think we could have chewed the clock more with him giving the Defense some more rest

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
8:16 am

That was the loudest I heard the stadium since the 91 Clemson game; I woke up yesterday with my ears still ringing

AltamahaDawg

September 30th, 2013
8:20 am

What we need is an improved pass rush without the DC making that call. “pressure” is bringing extra people, so somebody is also not back there helping our young secondary. A trade off. That crossing route to the (RB,TE,WR) is the equalizer to bringing pressure repeatedly, and they were very good at it..

Fortunately, when they need chucks of yardage, and not just 8-10, in one minute with no timeouts, you can afford to bring the LBs.

AltamahaDawg

September 30th, 2013
8:26 am

Flat Tire, that you for doing your part.
(I did make it home to see it , at least)

AltamahaDawg

September 30th, 2013
8:26 am

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
8:28 am

rhbDAWG1

September 30th, 2013
8:28 am

dawgfan and others who worry about FANS being overconfident: It doesn’t matter if fans are overconfident, it only matters if the TEAM members are overconfident. I have pulled as hard as anyone for the dawgs but my stats are lousy; 0 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 starts and 0 wins and 0 losses. It’s not about us, it’s about the team members (including coaches).

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
8:29 am

I agree with your 8:20 post

Mobile Dawg

September 30th, 2013
8:29 am

Exactly my point, what can we do to improve the pass rush. Dline coach needs to step it up on rush technique. Teach them how to get off a block. With the 3/4 defense someone needs to be stunting every play though. Keep them guessing as to where the pressure is coming from.

Mobile Dawg

September 30th, 2013
8:30 am

Far to often we gave away what we were doing defensively. Youngsters will do that.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

September 30th, 2013
8:31 am

Im worried LSU might beat Bama

I really hope not I want a shot at Bama; Bama undefeated gives us the real shot at making it to the national championship

Ohio St wins out with their high school schedule; hopefully we play them and not Oregon

old dog

September 30th, 2013
8:31 am

The D has much room for improvement. Arm tackling, secondary folks not knowing where to be, and not quite enough up-front pressure. However, we still managed a win. Hopefully, Grantham spends more time than anyone watching the film this week. Even though up-front pressure would have helped, there were too many plays that the receiver was wide open. We are putting ourselves in the position that one slack game by the O and we are toast. I believe we have the talent on D, and we just came through a tough month well. But our O having to outscore everybody is not something to hang your hat on.

Mobile Dawg

September 30th, 2013
8:31 am

Tennessee game will be a good test for our defense. They are billed to have a top notch OL, I haven’t seen them play.

Mobile Dawg

September 30th, 2013
8:37 am

There’s a long way to go Flat, but what worries me are the undefeated teams above us. “Hypothetically speaking only” we beat an undefeated team in Alabama, if you have Oregon, Clemson, Ohio State undefeated we may not jump them, especially having lost to Clemson already. We still aren’t in total control of our destiny, but I like where we are. That coupled with a lot of voters are tired of the all SEC reign for years Richt loses another shot because of losing a game we should have/could have won.

DawginLex

September 30th, 2013
8:38 am

Tennessee sucks

We should score 50 on them for payback from 2004 and 2006

Mobile Dawg

September 30th, 2013
8:39 am

Lame Kiffin, where does he go next?