A weakened Georgia offense no longer can make up for the defense’s lousy play

Aaron Murray fumbles as he's sacked by a Missouri defender. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Aaron Murray fumbles as he's sacked by a Missouri defender. (Jason Getz / AJC)

The delicate balancing act that had Georgia still in the national Top 10 almost midway through the season despite having the SEC’s worst defense and unreliable special teams was basically built on the premise that all of that didn’t matter if the Bulldogs’ prodigious offense could outscore everyone they played.

But the injuries to key playmakers suffered against LSU and Tennessee pulled the foundation away from that precarious house of cards and the results were seen Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens: Missouri 41, Georgia 26.

Actually, having trailed by 18 points at halftime, the scrappy Dogs fought their way back into the game in the third quarter as the defense, which in the second quarter hadn’t looked capable of stopping their own grandmothers, held the uptempo Mizzou offense scoreless. The Dogs pulled within 2 points before giving up a score on a badly defended halfback pass.

Still, you thought maybe Georgia could pull it out. But Aaron Murray, known lately for his late-game heroics in Bulldog wins, ran out of cardiac comebacks, thanks chiefly to the offensive line, which had its worst game since Clemson and allowed him to be harried and hurried all day by the Tigers’ talented pass rush. The feel-good story of Kolton Houston didn’t feel so good Saturday, as he was repeatedly pushed backward and let his man get to Murray. It wasn’t just Houston, though. The OL in general played poorly.

So it was that when Georgia got the ball back with 4:25 on the clock and Murray had a chance to lead his team down the field to possibly tie the game at 34 (assuming a successful two-point play), the pressured QB instead threw an interception on the first play of the drive. (The officials, who were inconsistent throughout the game, failed to call an obvious roughing the passer penalty on the Tigers, despite having kept a Missouri drive alive earlier by calling roughing on a less blatant infraction.)

Anyway, Mizzou got the ball at the Dogs’ 33-yard line and put the game out of reach with another score shortly after that.

It was Murray’s second turnover to result in points for the Tigers — he lost the ball while being sacked in that horrible second quarter (Georgia’s worst in many moons) and Mizzou’s Michael Sam scooped it up and returned it 21 yards for a score.

Another turnover — due in part to poor blocking, young tailback Brendan Douglas fumbled at Missouri’s 6-yard line as the Dogs were threatening — cost Georgia a touchdown of its own.

So Georgia may have outgained Missouri in the overall stats, but the Dogs’ four turnovers loomed large. The fourth turnover on another Murray interception late in the game as Georgia was racing the clock to try and make it respectable with a garbage-time score didn’t really matter, but three of the Dogs’ four turnovers provided a 21-point swing in the game, and not too many teams can overcome that.

Other contributing factors: The offense, missing the likes of big playmakers Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley, had trouble sustaining drives thanks to an inconsistent running game (despite freshmen Douglas and J.J. Green’s stout efforts) and too many dropped passes, not all of them by inexperienced receivers suddenly getting playing time. Also, the punting game continued to be a shambles, with consistently low snaps resulting in short kicks and two timeouts wasted because Georgia’s special-teams-coaching-by-committee operation couldn’t manage to get the right personnel on the field. Too many untimely penalties didn’t help, either.

Mizzou's L'Damian Washington badly beats Georgia's Damian Swann on a scoring play. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Mizzou's L'Damian Washington badly beats Georgia's Damian Swann on a scoring play. (Jason Getz / AJC)

But without a doubt the bulk of the blame for Georgia’s loss to Mizzou falls on the defense, specifically the young secondary. While the defensive front, especially Ray Drew, played decently most of the time (though letting Mizzou’s backup QB run for a first down was pretty inexcusable), the cornerbacks were badly outmatched by the likes of L’Damian Washington (who had seven catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns) and the clueless safeties frequently were in the wrong place at the wrong time, providing no backup. It also didn’t help that Georgia’s defenders were giving Mizzou receivers about a 10-yard cushion much of the time.

Yes, you can expect mistakes when you have to start a bunch of freshmen in the secondary, but the fact that Georgia’s defensive backs not only have shown no progress in recent games, but seem to have regressed, is really disturbing. And it’s not just the young D-backs. Veteran Damian Swann had another rough game.

I don’t know what the answer is, but Todd Grantham and his staff better come up with something soon. Otherwise, until the offense gets back to full strength just about every game on the schedule, save for Appalachian State, looks losable.

Feel free to share your own views of Saturday’s Georgia-Missouri game …

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

252 comments Add your comment

TEXAS DAWG

October 13th, 2013
3:24 am

Kudos to Scott at GTP for pointing this out. This stat pretty much sums up our recent problems.
Number of 30 point games surrendered since the start of 2010 season:

Alabama – 2
LSU – 4
Florida -8
South Carolina -9
Vanderbilt – 14
Auburn – 16
Georgia – 18
Ole Miss – 20

Offenses may have changed, but they have changed equally for the other teams on this list. When you have been torched more than Vanderbilt, then you have a SERIOUS defensive problem and it has not just started this year.

NoAxeToGrind

October 13th, 2013
5:45 am

UGA will never win a National Championship while Mark Richt is the head coach at UGA. He alone bears full responsibility for the program. Youth, inexperience, failure to execute plays, incompetent staff, whatever falls on his shoulders and his alone. Vince Dooley won a NC during his 16th year of coaching. Does any UGA fan honestly believe that Richt will win a NC during his 16th year…or ever? As long as UGA fans tolerate this type of program, this is what they will get. They alone can decide what kind of program they want and no one else. The question is what kind of program do they want?

dawgfan

October 13th, 2013
5:54 am

NoAxetoGrind, I have been told by many a Kool Aider that we have no power or control over this whatsoever and that we should just sit back and enjoy all the Outback Bowl appearances because Richt is the greatest coach we’ve ever had and ever will have. It’s totally unreasonable to expect any kind of a championship out of this man, especially a national title which we all know is 99.9% luck.

Just thought I’d pass that along. That’s the standard response you’ll get out of the Richt Fan Club.

dawgfan

October 13th, 2013
6:15 am

I think the biggest thing that’s lacking under Richt is toughness. We only play at our best when the bounces are going our way and we’ve got momentum. When we get some unlucky breaks and need a major gut check to win we can’t get it done. This to me is the biggest obstacle for our program. I think other teams outwork us and outhustle us. Recall that Richt did not use all of the preseason practices that he was allowed to use this summer. That time could have been spent teaching the secondary how to play defense and teaching the punt team how to line up for punts. We could have been working on the silent snap count that arguably cost us the game against Clemson. But no, that’s no fun. Let’s hit the high dive at the pool instead!!!

I hate to say it because I really like Richt as a person and a man, but he’s just not a championship coach. That’s just the sad truth.

ZinoDawg

October 13th, 2013
6:33 am

These are hard times. Braves out in first round. Falcons are done. Dawgs have no D.

tell me again

October 13th, 2013
6:58 am

After taking my blood pressure meds after the game, I have realized this much after watching LSU and Bama play….their young defenses are getting better every week. Ours is not. Our offense, after so many player losses, still had us in this game after the half – if we had ANY KIND of a defense we would have won this game. I know the O line was less than stellar but the reason we lost was because our defense is as bad now as it was the first game and has made NO progress. I feel bad for Murray, he had all of the tools on offense this year in which to have a stellar year ~ and if he had ANY KIND of a defense to go with that offense he would have been in a position to have a truly memorable year. But after the injuries and the no show of the defense this year, I am afraid he will once again be denied that special year I think he and the team deserve. In any case, we are what we are at this point and it’s up to the coaching staff to regroup with what we have availble and make it work. This group has been scrappy in the face of extreme adversity and a monstrous schedule ~ I’m proud of this team and their effort. Some of us need to grow up and quit slamming the players and the coaches quite so much and put ourselves in their shoes for a moment and realize how tough all of this is for them. Now, don’t get me wrong ~ I think their is trouble in paradise on the defensive side of the ball, but that’s not a reason to go postal on the entire team and program. There is alot of football to be played ~ plenty of fun and cookouts to enjoy :) Go Dawgs!

Albanyrules

October 13th, 2013
7:13 am

it’s still possible to make the SEC championship game, and after beating Bama, climb to #2 and go to the national championship game. Strength of schedule should help and maybe we get that #2 ranking. So stop all the negativity.

Armydawg

October 13th, 2013
7:15 am

Issuing an All Points Bulletin for Kirby Smart!!! How long can we abide by this worthless, useless defense?

Burma Shave

October 13th, 2013
8:17 am

The dawgs have had
Such very high aims
When facing a good team
They go down in flames

BURMA SHAVE

Minnesota Dawg

October 13th, 2013
8:24 am

Disappointing loss. We kind of knew this one was gonna be a tough one with the defense facing a high scoring offense and our offense depleted. We still have a lot of games left. Mizzou has SC and Texas A&M. Could be a different story by the end of Nov. Go Dawgs!

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
8:28 am

I blame the o- line just as we should blame the defense. Come on now…the o- line has experience and depth with no injuries that I’m aware of….but they still can’t block! They were supposed to be the strength of the team. But they’re just an overrated bunch just like last years senior laden defense!!!! Maybe we need a better coach than friend!!!!! You guys notice that the defense play awful every game win or lose….but in our losses the o- line plays terrible…what that tells is that we will go as far as our o- line will take us! Despite our defense!

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
8:32 am

Albany rules….

Haha…we are not even going to make past auburn and fla….no way we will the east this year.

LuckyDawg

October 13th, 2013
8:41 am

The best thing that could happen to Georgia now is for Missouri and Clemson to both finish the season undefeated. The SEC Championship is probably out of reach, but a BCS bowl is not.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 13th, 2013
8:50 am

NCDawg

and those other fans who like tall glasses of kool-aid………….

Until this coaching staff decides to go out and recruit good O-linemen and coach them

Until this coaching staff decides that having a defense that can stop someone is important

Until this coaching staff decides to make special teams an important part of winning

Until this coaching staff decides to have more discipline in the area’s of turnovers and penalties

Until this coaching staff decides that the goal is winning championships every year

This program will continue to lose 2 or more games a year with an Outback bowl and a Chik-fil-a bowl game as a reward all while watching player after player go to the NFL

(talent is not the issue at Georgia)

Its not that hard to see reality staring you in the face

Chbeyer

October 13th, 2013
9:06 am

Enter your comments here

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
9:06 am

I will always look back on this year…as the season of what IT could’ve been. I think we would be 6-0 right now it wasn’t for injuries….I knew once Mitchell tore his ACL celebrating and gurley hurt his hip as well. I knew then that we going to be hit with the injury bug. How unlucky we are and I do think we are cursed! I also kept thinking if the offense could carry the defense for just a little bit longer till the young guys got more experience then we would be okay…..but oh no injuries ruined that plan as well. So here we are with our backs against the wall again…..we will have to win out and hope miizzou will lose 2 games….geez so disapointing this season may turn out to be!

Chbeyer

October 13th, 2013
9:08 am

And Grantham is a better defensive coach than Willie Martinez?

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
9:11 am

Tell me again….

That’s the problem right there…some of you so called fans…come to the game and just walk around talking to people…you even don’t know the score or what down it is….it’s just a social event to some of you….Cook outs…lots of fun….woopty do! The main goal is to support the team on game day…instead of a social event!

Mobile Dawg

October 13th, 2013
9:11 am

If we have to keep Richt, then all fans and supporters should bombard McGarity with an ultimatum, spend the dollars it takes to hire proven, well respected, OL coach, and DC. If Richt doesn’t like their personality and their religious beliefs, let him take his show on the road and become the missionary he desires to be. The man makes to much money to put this product on the national stage year after year.

Year after year the OL underperforms, the special teams stink, and we have no defense. So much for my positive attitude. Flat Tire has nailed every problem this program has, I’m back to investing in kool aid stock.

LHardingDawg, I’m sure I will make a lot of $$ off of you personally.

Mobile Dawg

October 13th, 2013
9:12 am

Flat, I have to disagree with your above post, “this coaching staff” has never demonstrated all the above traits you mentioned.

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
9:19 am

Damian swann= Bryan Evans

Grantham= Kevin Ramsey

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
9:22 am

The only players that had a good game yesterday was ray drew…Brendan Douglas and jj green….everybody else had an off day!

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
9:25 am

Tennessee beat us up physically and emotionally…..the over time game cause us to come out flat!’ I guess the vol’s got the last laugh…they basically ruined our season..

Bumpmaster

October 13th, 2013
9:29 am

With the UGA defense like it is, not sure if the offense was at 100% UGA would have still won this game. If UGA scored 40 and the other team scores 41 would still have lost. Mizz’s defense had a relentless front four which dictated this game and their offense had excellent players at the skilled positions.

Slick Richt

October 13th, 2013
9:31 am

I’m still stylin and profilin. WHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Hairy Dawg

October 13th, 2013
9:35 am

Its a sickening how all the bad fans blame Coach Richt for loss. Coach Richt didnt throw them turnovers or missed blocks that cause fumbling. The blaming for that falls on players stinkying it up. I heard bad fans booing yesterday instead a supporting Dawgs in our stadium. We got to get rid of bad fans and the players that cant play cause they turns out stinkys or loafing. Why we cant cut them loose or medicals them like Bammer doing roster manegement. I tell you why and it cause pointy head rules that Adams started and now Morehead continueing. McG got to man up to pointy heads and tell them Dawgs in charges. No more pointy head restrictoins on recruiting and rosters manegement. Then Coach Richt can have support for casting out wicked that loafing and not exposing talents.

Gaguy

October 13th, 2013
9:42 am

Grantham has gotten a pass due to NFL creds and the emotion on the sidelines. The scheme is not working. Changes are needed.

Dawg_Mike

October 13th, 2013
9:46 am

My biggest concern is that we see other teams with young defenses getting better as the season progresses. Obviously its good coaching. What in the world are we doing to coach these young pups up ?

UGA man, Class of 71&73

October 13th, 2013
9:46 am

The Murray era coincides with lousy defense. That is a shame and it is very similar to the awful Eric Zeire era.

UGA will never win big with the current ENTIRE staff. Missouri’ s coaching staff would transform UGA personnel immediately. UGA is in big trouble and the wheels are about to come off the vehicle.

I see UGA losing to all but KY and App State. The upcoming losses WILL BE ugly and heads should roll.
UGA alumnus 71 & 73

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
9:50 am

The rest of the games will be struggles except for app state. I don’t even think we get past vandy…going to be another nail biter!

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 13th, 2013
9:55 am

FUNNY ! I don’t see UGA losing to any other teams on their regular season schedule. The Reptiles were awful against LSU, Kentucky & Vandy are awful & App State & Aubarn won’t be near as good as Mizz-who?

Murray brought them back with a patch work offense but the defense an OL didn’t come through.

Gurley will be back and hopefully Bennett. I expect Mizz-who? will lose at least two SEC games with Franklin gone.

SEC East is still wide open but much like last year UGA would be taking on Bama with some of their key weapons out for the season – lost Bennett & Marlon Brown last year.

UGA man, Class of 71&73

October 13th, 2013
10:00 am

Liberty Bowl again. Murray can say I led UGA in four years to losing efforts in the Outback Bowl and twice in the Liberty Bowl. he DID HAVE a decent Game vs Nebraska and that game is his bowl game highlight.

This recent bowl history is very emblematic of Aaron Murray, Richt and Granthom.

I predict major, shocking changes BEFORE the season is over.

Vandy could be the beginning of the end for some coaches. UGA needs a complete overhaul on the coaching staff and that WILL RESULT in recruiting detections. Our opposing SEC brethren are using this fiasco right now to generate 2014 recruiting detections.

ugaclassof2004

October 13th, 2013
10:00 am

We’re a one trick pony. We lived with the elite offense and now we’re dying without it. Poor defense continues to be Mark Richt’s Waterloo. We have not fielded a great defense since the Pollack years 9 years ago. At this stage, I think it’s safe to say that UGA does not have an elite defense because Mark Richt chooses not to field one.

SC_Dawg

October 13th, 2013
10:02 am

I see at least 2 probably 3 more losses on our schedule. Defense couldn’t stop my son pee wee team. If we had any type of defensive coaching we would have won that game. When a team lets the 2nd string QB run it down your throat all hope is lost. I’ve never seen more missed tackles and people out of position in my life. I’m not just referring to this game either. They lack the basic fundamentals of tackling and that reflects on the coaches. We WILL never win a NC with this coaching staff. I cant wait to hear CMR blame the Gov shutdown for this loss instead of poor coaching…

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
10:06 am

Flo- ri- duh…

I agree….if we do take on Bama we will be short handed just like last year.

Look at who we have lost

King- NFL

Brown- NFL- ACL tear last year.

Marshall – ACL

Bennett- ACL last year- meniscus tear this year

Jsw- ACL

Mitchell- ACL

Gurley- ankle sprain

We are cursed! We are cursed! Their is a dark cloud hanging over this program!!!!!

Art Farkman

October 13th, 2013
10:06 am

Come on man, they’ll beat Vandy, App State. Need to worry bout Fla maybe even Auburn, but Nat’l Champ game is out of the picture and even if UGA beats Bama in the SECCG the powers to be most surely will not take a one or two lost SEC team ahead of of an undefeated Oregon, Ohio State, FSU or Clemson but WOULD take a once beaten SEC team ahead of an undefeated Louisville team

m4a3e876

October 13th, 2013
10:08 am

Yesterday was pretty simple to figure out. The offensive line had to deal with a Missouri defense that wasn’t worried about our receivers. They committed to the pass rush and stopping the run. The offense still put up 26 points despite the turnovers. By the 4th quarter all Missouri had to do was tee off. Makes a difference how you call and play the game. This was a winnable game unless you go down 4-0 in turnovers. I feel bad for Murray. The real culprit (obviously) is the defense. It’s like with Willie — it’s the excuse of the year. I am a CMR fan but his mistake is hanging onto coordinators too long. Grantham should have been gone after the Tennessee and Kentucky fiascos from last year. Fundamentals are poor. Players quit on plays when they think someone else has the tackle — Corey “flat-footed” Moore is your visual aid but it’s been going on since the Clemson game. That’s on the coaching staff. Makes you wonder if 1)Grantham’s defense has too many reads for college kids and 2) He likes scheme more than teaching fundamentals. Too many missed assignments. The secondary has good athletes — looks like they are playing scared and confused. The one area of the defense that has improved is the run defense and in particular the play of the defensive line. Ray Drew is stepping up. Kudos to Chris Wilson. Can anyone say interim defensive coordinator? Youth is no excuse for bad fundamentals. Saw it last year in Ogletree — he could get run to the ball but had a lot of whiffs. That’s on the coaching staff, not on the kid.

DelServ Dawg

October 13th, 2013
10:09 am

There are two glaring problems with our football team. A poor defense and lackluster special teams. The latter needs its own coach and the former needs a new coach. We haven’t had a decent defense since Brian Van Gorder was defensive coordinator and before that Erk Russell. Now we can’t recall Erk, but why not see if Van Gorder will come back. I’m confident that we would be unbeaten if we had a defense coached by him.

Bulldawg35

October 13th, 2013
10:12 am

The startiing WR’s and the TE dropped a bunch of passes yesterday….just a very flat performance by everyone….to much to overcome getting down 28-10 after an overtime game the week before! Coaching is to blame…this season is likely lost!

huffsleeper

October 13th, 2013
10:25 am

How many years on this blog have people talked about poor special teams. What has bullheaded Richt done to fix it. The only thing he cares about is his ego. Those who come to his defense and trash those who want to fix it think they are helping UGA with their delusional posts. You are hurting our school. Change should have happened years ago.

Minus

October 13th, 2013
10:40 am

Always looking for a good laugh…win 1 national championship in the lifetime of UGA football, recruit in the top 5 each year but expect NC each and every year and don’t expect injuries or have the confidence that the backups who are probably higher rated than most other schools to expect them to perform. Both the RB’s playing last week and this week performed. Get over yourselves and support your team which will probably finish 10-2.

ALBDAWG

October 13th, 2013
10:44 am

I still don’t get why so many people thought we would win the NC this year. You don’t win the NC without a D, and most of the D went to the NFL. Last year was UGA’s year to take it all, and some players thought it was more important to get high at Spring Break. Of course, there is the argument that Richt is the only coach in the SEC that cares if the players smoke pot. The NC was never in our grasp. Get it out of your head, and just pull for your team to do well. Everyone was saying that if we get past the first four games, it would be gravy. Well, no. It’s not. You have to play every week, one game at a time. We’ve had a couple of great wins. One in particular, SC, showed a lot of promise. But, there is a lot of season left. I am sure the coaches and the players all feel crappy about the loss. I do think there was a big emotional let down this week, and as much as I defend Mark Richt overall, I don’t think he had his team ready to play. Of course, every team has flat weeks, even Bama and Oregon. Stanford certainly did last night, too.

ALBDAWG

October 13th, 2013
10:48 am

PS. I know that the HC and DC have the ultimate responsibility, but no one has mentioned Scott Lakatos. He is the secondary coach. What is the disconnect? It isn’t the freshmen either. It’s Swan and Moore, who should at least know how things work.

1969 Graduate

October 13th, 2013
10:59 am

Bill, I agree with you. We could lose every game (perhaps including ASU) if we play this poorly.

It really is hard to say which was worst – defense, special teams, offensive line – but I’ll agree with you and give the nod for the worst component of our team to the defense.

It might help if we had an defensive coordinator. Our local pee wee team’s coaches (dads of 8th graders) would be glad to contribute their expertise; if would be an improvement.

We might play better. We might get lucky. The refs might see things differently. But, can we count on our coaches, and our players – with some exceptions – to come through and do what needs to be done? I think not.

I think we stunk up the place. I think our coaching staff should run the stadium stairs along with most of the players.

Missouri is pretty good, but we could have beat them had we played decently. Gotta tackle. Gotta block. Gotta catch the ball. Gotta snap the ball correctly.

I will probably be more optimistic by next weekend, but right now I’m not counting on much.

Our coaching staff sucks a lot worse than our players. Most of the team’s problems fall squarely on the coaches’ shoulders, but the players gotta play better no matter how lousy the coaches are.

Still, maybe we’ll turn it around (Says me, a die hard Georgia fan).

Go, Georgia Bulldogs!

DawgVoiceofReason

October 13th, 2013
11:00 am

Our secondary has no idea where they should lineup , who they should cover or where they should go once the play starts. They don’t hustle, they don’t hit, they don’t make plays on the ball in the air, they don’t intercept and they don’t tackle well. In short, they have been terrible so far. The coaches need to figure this out and get them going!!!

Tom

October 13th, 2013
11:16 am

The headline of this article says. It. All.

Even if–if–the offense had Gurley and / or Marshall and any one of the injured receivers and had somehow made enough plays to win this game, Georgia’s championship hopes were living on borrowed time.

The pathetic D would have bit the Dawgs on the hiney at some point in the remaining schedule. You know this to be true.

It’s probably just as well because now the team can forget the impossible dream and try for something more realistic, e.g. below the BCS title but somewhere above Shreveport.

The attrition on D was just too much for this team to overcome.

Xenophon

October 13th, 2013
11:34 am

Haven’t we been here before? As I recall, in 2008 we returned the nation’s premier quarterback, running back, and offensive line and pretty much disintegrated as the season went on. And, just like in 2008, the defense was horrible. There is something “Richtian” about all this.

John

October 13th, 2013
11:45 am

Kool Aid drinkers are looking for a way to backdoor a SEC Championship Game, then claim it as a successful season.

dawgfan

October 13th, 2013
11:47 am

I don’t think we’re done losing. Florida has the best D in the SEC. Auburn is better than predicted. Add a possible SECCG loss an the bowl game and a 4 or even 5 loss season isn’t out of the question. All with a QB who will own every SEC record in the book by season’s end.

Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

dawgfan

October 13th, 2013
11:49 am

Actually John I think a BCS at large bid is their rallying cry now. Who gives a crap about a BCS at large bid? I don’t.