Lots of highs and lows for Dawgs in roller-coaster win over Gators

Garrison Smith had a big day for the Georgia defense. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Garrison Smith had a big day for the Georgia defense. (Jason Getz / AJC)

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.

Corey Moore had one of the game's biggest plays when he sacked Tyler Murphy. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Corey Moore had one of the game's biggest plays when he sacked Tyler Murphy. (Jason Getz / AJC)

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.”

Rhett McGowan was a go-to receiver for Georgia against the Gators. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Rhett McGowan was a go-to receiver for Georgia against the Gators. (Jason Getz / AJC)

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.

A jubilant Aaron Murray poses for a selfie with Georgia fans after the game. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

A jubilant Aaron Murray poses for a selfie with Georgia fans after the game. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

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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328 comments Add your comment

Boykin

November 6th, 2013
11:15 pm

Flo: Your fav word is TROLL! Why?

Prince

November 7th, 2013
12:21 am

Why not get Hutson Mason some valuable playing time since he’s our guy for the next BCS run? No BCS in 2013, so let’s start working towards the only goal every winner of a coach has, the BCS Championship. Who cares if we get to a Bowl like Shreveport in 2013? Let’s get Mason ready for 2014, since Murray blew 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 shot at BCS Championship.

Boykin

November 7th, 2013
12:34 am

Prince..Mason may be odd man out w/ other QB talent…

Finebaum

November 7th, 2013
1:36 am

Coach Mark Richt says Gurley will play vs App St. since he looks ready! Thats big news coming out of Athens and especially for Mark Richt.

dawgfan

November 7th, 2013
6:50 am

LOL @ “next BCS run.” I’m sorry but that’s funny.

Carry on…

Murray's passing records

November 7th, 2013
7:59 am

Here is how we finally evaluate Aaron Murray’s record as UGA QB. When UGA is invited to the Music City Bowl or the Liberty ( second invite in AM’s wonderful career) or the Independence Bowl, THEN WE WILL learn finally what his era represented. Not much.

Go Dogs
UGA alumnus, class of 71&73

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 7th, 2013
8:33 am

Ahhhhhh! Another beautiful morning & what’s that I hear outside? Birds? Not birds but Nerds! The lovely sound of TROLLS in the morning! Can’t beat it! The whining, crying, gnashing of teeth, the misery and droning of moaning – ain’t it grand!

You PUNKS don’t bother me. I just consider the source.

Richt will be back in 2014 …. get used to it.

**** Murray Murray Murray – your fav whipping boy. Just shows your utter ignorance of the game.
Murray will likely be a 2nd round draft pick (early) and those that know (not you) don’t give away 2nd round picks on a flyer.

Mason may be great – he may not be….. that is an unknown right now. I dd know he is your classic drop back passer and doesn’t move as well as Murray. The OL better expect to hold on for an extra second with Mason in there. Fortunately he will have most of the WR’s back with experience. Something Murray has been without since he & the team beat S.C. and LSU. It’s a team sport dimwads and Murray can’t block his blind side in the end zone or go out and catch his own passes. By the way he has had several passes dropped this year and I guess that is his fault to – according to you?

Like I said – you don’t rustle my feathers – I just consider the source.

Barnum&Bailey

November 7th, 2013
8:47 am

Duh is apropos.

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
8:48 am

The main reasons we have 3 losses is because of

Turnovers

Poor special teams

Dropped passes

Not injuries!!!

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
9:01 am

I would rather have ED orgeron as head coach. At least he would motivate us by getting us some in and out burgers.

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
9:02 am

Richt is the only coach that talks about the season physically wearing him out. If Richt is so tired why don’t he retire.

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
9:26 am

Dawgs 31 app state 21… Like I said Richt will need a nap at halftime.

dawgfan

November 7th, 2013
9:31 am

I think what the past 8 years has proven is that whoever our QB is they will take the blame for everything while Richt collects his millions and his adoring fans make excuses for him.

Good luck with that Hutson. Have fun.

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
9:32 am

We have given up 37 non- defensive points on the season….that’s the most in the sec by far. This is just poor coaching….do these coaches even teach the players how to hold onto the ball? Gee!

Bubs

November 7th, 2013
9:33 am

Agree with Flo-ri-duh, Aaron Murray’s 4 wins vs teams that ended up ranked in the top 25, out of the 18 game attempts, that 22% winning percentage is spectacular. NFL coaches will be really impressed with that. And Aaron ranking 81st in interceptions. And ranking 77th on 3rd down conversions. Murray is also ranked 50th in accuracy. So what if Murray also won the least percentage of any QB Mark Richt has coached? NFL guys love Qb’s that can’t win big games, can’t get a 3rd down conversion, are not accurate, and throw a ton of interceptions. Me and Flo-ri-duh, we is reel smartz about this kind of thang.

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
9:36 am

The only way UGA ever wins the BCS…

Head coach- Pete Carroll

Ol coach – Ritchie incognito

OC – chad Morris

DC- bud foster….

Yep it’s the only way….book it!

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
9:38 am

dawgfan

I agree…..mason will turn the ball over just like Stafford did and Murray. While Richt will just continue to make excuses and throw mason under the bus..while Richt continues to eat off the high hog!

Bubs

November 7th, 2013
9:39 am

When Murray gets sacked or throws intercpeptions, I agree with Flo ri duh, it’s always someone else’s fault, I like to blame a lineman, or a coach, really anyone except the qb who got sacked or threw the interception. I’m sure the NFL guys will do the same and let Murray go free for the sacks and interceptions knowing he had no role whatsoever. Me and Flo ri duh, we is reel smartz.

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
9:40 am

Grantham is one of Richts worst hires…Richt just hired him to do his dirty work…like screaming at the players…something Richt can’t do.

short memories

November 7th, 2013
9:40 am

Living in a Mark Richt World of Paradise
At least flo-ri-duh wakes up happy in his richt world of mediocrity. They say ignorance is bliss. and blind loyalty is the easiest path. Saban likes having georgia fans like that around. Makes his job easier.

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
9:44 am

Biggest road wins in the sec

Bama over the aggies
Auburn over the aggies
sc over mizzou…

You guys think we will win a big road game this year? Bwaaaaabwaaasbwaaaa!
Auburn 62 UGA 24.

Bubs

November 7th, 2013
9:49 am

The teams drafting Qb’s, a lo0t don’t have good olinemen, so they look for a Qb that thrived without a good olinmen and won a bunch of big games. They will be reely impwessed that Murrays, in 4 years and 18 games against teams that ended up in the top 25, granted Aaron didn’t win a game aganst a team that finished in the top 25 in 2010 or 2011, but in 2013 Murrays beat LSU in a downyear after 9 defensive players went to the NFL, beat South Carolina after Lattimore left, beat Florida in a 2012 year where UGA had 9 players who got NFL drafted on defense and forced 6 turnovers in that game, and beat Nebraksa in a Bowl game even though he threw 3 interceptions, Aaron also beat Vanderbilt in 2012–that should impress those NFL guys reel good and all, I is reell smartz.

Bubs

November 7th, 2013
9:59 am

Murray is 2-8 record against teams that finished in the top 10, or are ranked in the top 10 right now. Won 20% of those, lost 80%.

Here’s Aaron records over the years against teams that finished in the top 25:
2010– 0-5
2011- 0-4
2012- 3-2 (2 wins were against #23 Vanderbilt & #25 Nebreaska)
2013- 2-2
Won 38%, lost 62%.

NFL guyz will be knocked over with that. Gootta be some kins of records there. He is soooo clutch.

Bubs

November 7th, 2013
10:02 am

Oppsy, I can’t add to good.

Aaron Murray actually won 5 of those top 25 games, out of 18 games, so if you want to count the 2 wins over #23 Vanderbilt and #25 Nebraska, that’s 5 wins out of 18 games against teams that finished top 25 or are top 25 right now
Won 28%, lost 72%.

Bulldawg35

November 7th, 2013
10:03 am

Todd gurley and Shaq wiggins are the only players that have swag! Richt should hire incognito to develop swag in the rest of the players!!!!

Bubs

November 7th, 2013
10:07 am

Aagianst teams that finished or are right now in the top 10:
2010- 0-1
2011- 0-3
2012- 1-2
2013- 1-2
Won 20%, lost 80%/

Me and Flo ri duh think that’s great. Bet the NFL guys will be rell impwessed.

Bubs

November 7th, 2013
10:15 am

Here’s Aaron Murray’s legacy:
He lost 72% of his starts against teams that finished or are right now in top 25
He lost 80% of his starts against teams that finished or are right now in top 10
He won 90% of his starts against teams that finished or are right now unranked

Bubs

November 7th, 2013
10:23 am

You think them NFL guys will note that Aaron’s 2 wins against teams that finished or are in the top 10, were against Florida in 2012 who was 78th ranked on offense in 2012 or LSU in 2013 when they lost 9 defensive players ot the NFL? Nope, probl;y wont even notice that.