Some more thoughts and observations from Georgia’s win over Florida. …
My wife Leslie likes to quote a frequent saying from her old basketball coach about a loss being a loss no matter how many points it was by. To put a reverse spin on that, a win by 3 points means every bit as much as winning by 20 or more points. Especially when it’s over Florida.
Still, considering the roller-coaster ride the Georgia Bulldogs took us on in Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, it’s understandable that sportswriters were unimpressed and many fans were, like Mark Richt, feeling a bit subdued after the game.
Maybe it’s the historian in me, but I took the long view: a third consecutive win over the hated Gators was still reason to celebrate, no matter how ugly it was.
Of course, as is to be expected of such an up-and-down game — which began with Georgia racking up an incredible 250-plus yards of offense in the first quarter and ended with the Dogs desperately trying to kill clock and hang on for a squeaker win — there was a lot to fret about in the Bulldogs’ performance, as well as some outstanding efforts worthy of high praise.
The most frustrating aspect of the game was the Dogs not only letting the Gators up off the mat but doing so with a series of spectacularly dumb mistakes.
This is getting to be a pattern, unfortunately.
After Florida quickly scored following Artie Lynch’s ham-handed drop followed by a mental meltdown on a great screen pass call by Mike Bobo, I wrote in my notebook, “Georgia can’t seem to put anyone away.” As I was scribbling that, a text arrived from my son: “Cue Georgia catastrophe to break game open for opponent.”
It’s a scenario that has played out way too many times for the Dogs. True, as Richt said on his Sunday media teleconference, “You can’t predict the types of things that have happened,” but the one consistent fact is that, as the head coach also noted, “It’s mostly self-inflicted wounds. I’ve used that term more than I’d like to this season.”
Up to that point in the game, Florida looked pretty flat. After that, the momentum in the game visibly shifted and the Gators were rocking. As Richt put it: “We gave them a reason to get excited and it’s just tough to hold people off once they get their blood pumping again. … We’ve got to keep working hard to keep that from happening.”
Ya think? …
On the plus side, Aaron Murray was solid all day (16 of 25 for 258 yards with several balls dropped by receivers), had no picks or fumbles, and was absolutely clutch on that last drive when Georgia managed to eat up the remaining 8:17 on the clock. (And, again, kudos to Rhett McGowan for a couple of must catches on that drive, including fighting off a tackle and stretching out for a key first down, and to an obviously exhausted Todd Gurley for his extra effort in reaching for another first down.)
Other atta-boys go to placekicker Marshall Morgan, who made all three of his field goals (one of them twice, after Florida called a last-second timeout), including a 49-yarder, to make him 13 of 15 for the season; Brendan Douglas for some really tough running in relief of Gurley; Ramik Wilson for being all over the field in accruing his team-leading 11 tackles; Garrison Smith for his nine tackles, including two and a half sacks, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry; and especially Corey Moore for sacking Gators QB Tyler Murphy for a 14-yard loss on a crucial third-and-12 for Florida. …
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham deserves credit for calling an all-out blitz on that play and for his aggressive playcalling on the rest of that series.
But on the other hand (you knew a “but” was coming), it’s been an awfully long time since I’ve seen such poor sideline control of a defense as when Georgia called a timeout after it realized Florida was going to go for it on fourth-and-1 and then still managed to send 12 men out on the field, with the ensuing penalty automatically giving the Gators a first down. Moves like that, coupled with the general tardiness with which Grantham gets his defensive signals in, resulting in Bulldog defenders frequently hopping around to try and get into position as the ball is snapped, makes you wonder if the college game isn’t just a tad too fast for the former NFL coordinator.
Richt said it was the result of someone not hearing the call and getting off the field, but how does that happen during a timeout? To quote the head coach again: “We ought to have someone trying to count them up every time we break the huddle. We’ve got to do a better job of that just to be certain.” …
Speaking of playcalling, I heard from several fans after the game complaining that Bobo again “went too conservative” with his offensive calls, but that really only was the case on the series that began with just under 10 minutes left in the second quarter. After Gurley, who’d returned to the game from a bout of exertion-induced nausea, had ripped off a 30-yard gain to get the Dogs to midfield, Bobo followed that with a couple of unproductive runs by fullback Quayvon Hicks and backup tailback Douglas into the middle of the Florida line, and then a swing pass to Gurley to the short side that didn’t have enough blockers and ran out of room. Even the CBS broadcast crew called out Georgia’s offensive coordinator on that series.
But for much of the game Bobo made great calls, some of which didn’t always pan out. While the pass to Gurley that resulted in a 73-yard touchdown in the first quarter worked brilliantly, the screen pass to Lynch in the third quarter didn’t. But if the senior tight end hadn’t muffed the catch (and then staged a little pity party instead of covering the ball), that play looked like it probably would have been a really big gainer for the Dogs.
And while I’m not sure calling a play-action pass from the end zone was wise (it resulted in a safety because of a missed blocking assignment), it certainly can’t be called conservative!
One play call that I will quibble with was the failed fourth-and-1 conversion attempt in which Gurley took a direct snap but couldn’t get the first down. Bobo made it clear after the game that he thought Gurley should have been able to make it.
Yeah, with a fully healthy Gurley, I’d say that Bobo was correct, and it would have been another fine call. But it was pretty clear to everyone that Gurley was not his usual self by that point. …
So, all in all, a day of highs and lows for the Bulldogs, and yet any game against Florida that ends with the Georgia players doing a Lambeau Leap into the stands to join the fans has to be considered a good day.
The series has turned back the way it was for so many years (you know, in those days before Steve Spurrier that the Florida faithful consider prehistory).
As Murray winds up his playing days for the Red and Black, he and his fellow seniors can proudly say:
“We’ll always have Jacksonville.”
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg