Even the loss of Aaron Murray shouldn’t derail the Dawgs

Hutson Mason should be fine in his first start for the Bulldogs. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Hutson Mason should be fine in his first start for the Bulldogs. (Jason Getz / AJC)

You sometimes don’t know how much you’re appreciated until you’re no longer there.

Take Aaron Murray, for example. Despite all those impressive numbers No. 11 has wracked up over the past four years, a lot of college football observers outside the Bulldog Nation have tended to take him for granted. Good, solid quarterback, they’d grant, but he only ever danced around the edges of Heisman conversations.

However, now that his final season playing for Georgia has ended prematurely, these folks are coming out of the woodwork to hail Murray’s importance to the Bulldog attack, reminisce about his ownership of rival Georgia Tech, and to declare that without him playing behind center UGA will be hard-pressed to continue its dominance over the Jackets Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Some Vegas pointsmakers took as much as a touchdown off the projected point spread for this game in the wake of Murray’s injury.

Now, I’m as ardent a Murray supporter as you’ll find, but I also know three things about Georgia’s offense that should allow it to overcome his absence:

  1. Hutson Mason has been in the program as long as Murray, getting the same coaching from Mike Bobo, who’ll still be calling the shots Saturday. Assuming Bobo doesn’t suddenly go into a three-runs-up-the-middle shell against Tech, I see Mason spreading the ball around to numerous Georgia receivers just like Murray would — and like Mason himself did when he took over midway through the Kentucky game. The only concern I’d have is if it’s a close game at the end; engineering last-minute drives was Murray’s specialty. Mason hasn’t had to do it yet. But otherwise, I think he’s ready.
  2. Bobo. I was impressed that he recognized last week that, coming off a disappointing close loss to Auburn, he needed his troops to have a fast start. Georgia took the ball when it won the coin toss and wasted no time scoring. That’s what’s needed again this Saturday. If the Dogs can get off to a fast start like they did against Kentucky (and, more pointedly, like they did last season in Athens against the Jackets), it not only takes pressure off UGA’s new starting QB, it also takes Tech out of its game. The triple-option isn’t designed to play catch-up. As Tech’s Paul Johnson noted this week, “We don’t want to get into a game where it’s punch/counterpunch.”
  3. Murray may be gone, but Todd Gurley is back. And with him in the lineup, Georgia’s offense and its offensive coordinator tend to play a whole different game, no matter who’s at QB. Tech may focus on slowing Gurley down in Georgia’s running game, but they’ve also got to contend with him becoming a major part of the passing attack in recent weeks. And then there are Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten and so on. …
Todd Gurley runs in last year's big win over Georgia Tech. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Todd Gurley runs in last year's big win over Georgia Tech. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

None of that is to say I don’t have concerns about Saturday’s matchup. Under Ted Roof, the Jackets’ defense is markedly improved over the past couple of seasons. They’re 10th in the nation in rush defense, 17th in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. Still, against the four best teams they’ve faced, the improvement has pretty much vanished. Hence their four losses.

Of course, as always, I also wonder just how well Todd Grantham’s defense will do against Tech’s triple-option offense and its annoying (and frequently borderline legal) cut blocks. Georgia’s been pretty stout against the run this season, ranking third in the SEC in that category, but I worry a bit about the secondary being caught out of position (as on Kentucky’s long TD run last week) or allowing the Jackets to suddenly catch them sleeping with a long pass play. Basically, it’s going to come down to just how disciplined the Dogs’ defenders remain, and whether Grantham calls an aggressive game that disrupts Tech’s option plays.

And then there’s always the elephant in the room when you talk about the 2013 Georgia Bulldogs: special teams disasters. Avoiding those is a big key to a UGA win.

Lastly, AJC columnist Jeff Schultz keeps saying he doesn’t think the Georgia players are going to be up for this game, the first in three years where they’re already out of contention for the SEC title. I think he’s wrong, simply because it’s Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and the Bulldog players get told all year long how important that game is. Plus, these programs genuinely don’t like each other. But I’ll grant that if the Dogs come out flat for this one it certainly could make wrecking Tech a much more difficult task.

So, yes, Georgia enters this year’s battle for the Governor’s Cup without its biggest team leader. But, barring any more unforeseen disasters, I think the Dogs still should be able to prevail. Again.

It’s the natural order of the universe, after all.

Now, let’s take a dip into this week’s holiday-abbreviated Junkyard Mail. …

Jim P. writes: Bill, Do you think Tech and others will try to blitz more often on a new UGA quarterback? And will Coach Bobo go more conservative and heavy on the run game, with a new QB? Or allow Mason to sling it more? Whatever works for the Dawgs is fine with me, but I sure am liking those passes to Gurley lately. Remember when Coach Dooley started passing the ball to Herschel? It was few and far between, but still ingenious back then.

I’m sure Tech’s defense will try to ratchet up the pressure on Mason, and there’s always the chance that Georgia’s offensive line will have one of its off days. But Mason reads the field pretty well and pretty quickly, so he should be able to get rid of the ball. And he does have Gurley in the backfield with him. Also, Bobo still had Mason throwing a lot against Kentucky and I’d be very surprised if that’s not the case against Tech. Like I said above, I think Mason should be fine.

Mark Richt doesn't think Will Muschamp will be looking for a job after this season. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Mark Richt doesn't think Will Muschamp will be looking for a job after this season. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Rockmart Dawg writes: Bill, what was up with playing Dallas Lee at center so much in the second half against Kentucky? Was David Andrews hurt? Those high snaps Lee was giving Hutson Mason were really scary. That’s exactly what we don’t need against the Nerds.

Mark Richt said on this week’s “Bulldog Hotline” that the coaching staff just decided to make a substitution and give Lee some snaps at center since he’s the backup at that position. Andrews is still the starting center.

Chris Houck writes: Bill, if Florida parts ways with [Will] Muschamp, do you think Georgia would make a run at him as D-coordinator? Who knows whether Muschamp would have any interest. As with most fans I haven’t been satisfied with the product Grantham is putting on the field but I don’t think you fire him unless you can truly make an upgrade. Muschamp would be a considerable upgrade in my opinion. Either way I think our D will be much better next year; if we can somehow get the D to elite level, i.e. top 15, I think the sky’s the limit for the Dawgs next season (barring injuries of course).

I’m not crazy about Grantham’s work, either, but I don’t see a change coming this season. And, as Richt noted this week, it doesn’t sound like Muschamp is going to be available anyway. The former Georgia player was a pretty successful defensive coordinator in his stints at LSU, Auburn and Texas, and he may well wind up back in a job like that if he gets fired as head coach at Florida, but it’s looking like that’s at least a season away.

And, finally, Jerry Jackson writes: Bill, I was really disappointed to see the Dawgs not come out in black jerseys for the final home game, as even Hondo on the pre-game show seemed to expect. I guess they really didn’t bother to order any this year. Seems like somebody at Butts-Mehre really dropped the ball on this one. It was the perfect opportunity to reintroduce those snazzy black jerseys without all the hype of a major game. Your thoughts?

I agree, Jerry, and Richt actually apologized for the lack of black jerseys on his radio show this week and said they should have done that. As for the proposal that’s grown in popularity over the past couple of years about making black jerseys the norm at the final home game each year, in honor of Senior Day/Night, the UGA head coach said, “I think that’s a great idea. I think that’s something we should consider.” Richt even went so far as to declare he likes the black jerseys so much that maybe Georgia ought to consider wearing them for any night home game. As he put it: “red in the afternoon, black at night.” It’ll be interesting to see whether any of this comes to pass.

That’s it for this week. Hope to see a lot more red than yellow in the stands Saturday.

Go Dogs! Wreck Tech!

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

72 comments Add your comment

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

November 29th, 2013
11:19 am

don’t expect a blowout vs Tech this years version of the Dawgs has a propensity for having games go down to the wire, but Ga wins

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

November 29th, 2013
11:22 am

Wow, a first without even trying. Thanks for all of your work this year Bill. It is appreciated. Any opinion on who’s next after Mason? I’m figuring Ramsey but it,s a long way to 2015

WDE

November 29th, 2013
11:38 am

Great article Bill Happy Holidays to you and your family, I agree a quick start for the Dogs will take a ton of pressure off of Mason. Starting is not the same as coming off the bench in a blow out, but I think the young man is ready. Love the idea of black jerseys for home games at night too !

Desert Fox

November 29th, 2013
11:43 am

Mason hasn’t been tested yet but so far he’s looked good. There may be a drop off in production compared to AM thus better hope the porous D doesn’t allow tech to run wild as it did against GA in Johnson’s first year as HC. Another disaster like that one will certainly require GA’s O to make every series count. It’s pretty much an even matchup this year considering our injuries and worries w/ST and CTG’s D. Hope the dawgs come out swinging. It’ll be a downer if Bobo doesn’t. Why these coaches never seem to learn from experience is mind boggling. Hope the dawgs come out on top and no team suffers major injuries.

Daniel#12

November 29th, 2013
12:02 pm

Ga. should beat Tech, but they should have beaten Climpson, Mizzou, Vandy and Allbarn. Gotta start fast and keep their foot on Tech’s throat. I wouldn’t object to another “I run this state” game. I don’t care about stats, I don’t think Tech can stop the run, as long as Bobo varies the running game and allows Mason to check off when Tech stacks 8 or 9 in the box.

Teasley51

November 29th, 2013
12:06 pm

Great column Bill! I totally agree. I hope UGA comes out fast and doesnt let off the pedal!!

Debriefer

November 29th, 2013
12:07 pm

Nothing should derail a team facing Georgia Tech. I’m surprised that a state with a population of 10 million can’t field two quality FBS football teams.

South Carolina and Alabama both have populations under 5 million, yet they manage to do it.

Georgia vs. Tech is on par with Alabama vs. UAB or Auburn vs. Troy.

Quayvon Hicks

November 29th, 2013
12:07 pm

If UGA gets up 14-0, 17-0 it’s game over. Like Bill King states “Tech isn’t built to play catch up” and they aren’t. Because they are a running team. Running eats up clock. If we get a big lead, then they’ll have to pass to get back in it and they aren’t a good passing team. I expect UGA to try and start fast to get a big lead. Hope to get the ball first

I-DOG

November 29th, 2013
12:35 pm

I think you are right, Bill. tech will have a lot of trouble stopping Gurley and Mason can throw the ball just fine and knows the system. I am looking forward to seeing him play with a week of practice as “the starter” for the first time in his career.

We certainly have to be worried about our defense against any opponent, but I like the fact that tech doesn’t have much of a passing game. We might be able to get off the field on some 3rd downs because of that and while I expect tech to gain a lot of yards, I’m hoping they result in field goals instead of touchdowns and they can’t keep pace with our offense.

I-DOG

November 29th, 2013
12:40 pm

OK, totally off topic, but given how poor the defense has played this year, especially in the secondary… should the coaches have moved Mitchell to cornerback last Spring or at the start of Fall practice?

I know that he got hurt after the first series of the first game, so it would have made no difference, but from a pure decision making standpoint, did it make sense to go into the season stacked at WR while the defensive backfield struggled so mightily with a potential answer for that weakness playing defense?

I understand that he was moved back and forth and maybe he wouldn’t have wanted to move back to CB despite the fact we really needed him. I’m just wonderingt was this a good pre-season decision by the staff now that we can see how vulnerable UGA was to the pass this year?

Bulldawg35

November 29th, 2013
1:44 pm

It’s all about winning the battle in the trenches in this one….if we do that we should blow tech out! But I am nervous about this game. We are 1-3 on the road. Not very good at all.

Starring Khigh Dhiegh as Wo Fat

November 29th, 2013
1:47 pm

If the D stays in position to stop the triple then I do not see the Jackets winning this game. The Dawgs will score. Pull out the flyswatter and swat the bugs. Stop the run.

Columbus Dawg

November 29th, 2013
1:49 pm

As long as Gurley is healthy it’s a Georgia win. It did not matter whether it was Belue or Lastinger in Hershel’s day, they were a great team either way. I know Tech is supposed to have a good run defense, but now that Gurley is getting back to normal he will “will” his way through Tech’s D, you will see. It will be a sight to behold!

Starring Khigh Dhiegh as Wo Fat

November 29th, 2013
1:56 pm

I was at UGA when Herschel was playing. I have watched all the running backs, some truly great, since #34 left the hallowed hedges of Sanford. I think Todd Gurley is the best back I have seen, when healthy, since Herschel. He will run this state.

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

November 29th, 2013
2:24 pm

@ Wo Fat, I agree Gurley is the best since Hershel, but Rodney Hampton was a beast in his time as well. Until Gurley, I thought he was the best all around back since #34

Swanguard

November 29th, 2013
2:40 pm

Think Ramsey has away to go never threw much in high school and couldn’t lead his talent loaded very far I the high school playoffs last year,think he is ad good athlete that doesn’t bring much to the QB position

dawgfan

November 29th, 2013
3:26 pm

We need to beat Tech this year because I don’t see us beating a lot of teams next year. I foresee some dark days ahead with a new QB, new O-line, same sorry defense and the same sorry coaches. I think we’re going to stink it up pretty bad next year.

Hope I’m wrong, but I doubt I will be.

UGA Season Ticket Holder Since 1986

November 29th, 2013
4:57 pm

dawgfan reminds me of the lady on the commercial complaining about winning the $15MM lottery. “We’ll have to cancel the cable.” Give me a break.

We STILL run this State.

Rick

November 29th, 2013
4:58 pm

UGA always seemed to do a pretty good job against Muschamp’s defense at Auburn so who would want him?

Dawg89

November 29th, 2013
5:20 pm

Grantham’s defense is an enigma. It should be better than it is. As for mustcamp, why trade one egomaniac for another one.

dawgfan

November 29th, 2013
5:53 pm

What lottery has UGA football won under Richt?

THE Alameda Aerie

November 29th, 2013
6:09 pm

“Nothing should derail a team facing Georgia Tech. I’m surprised that a state with a population of 10 million can’t field two quality FBS football teams.”

“”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”

The reason is that Georgia Tech is a highly technical school that teaches engineering, mathematics, and science. The academic admission standards are light-years higher than at UGA. Tech simply can’t even consider the morons and illiterates that UGA routinely brings in as “Special Admits.”

true dog

November 29th, 2013
6:41 pm

….math and science? The football team is on the “M-train”, management. No engineering for those fellows!

roughrider

November 29th, 2013
7:11 pm

Tech seems to get good athletes for basketball and baseball but not football. Are the requirements different for the basketball and baseball players?

dawgfan

November 29th, 2013
7:14 pm

I guess if you think a “Survey of Calculus” is actually real calculus then you might actually buy the absolute BS that THE Alameda Aerie was shoveling in that post.

Tech fans are a joke.

dawgfan

November 29th, 2013
7:16 pm

No rough rider. The only different requirements are the level of BS and lies that Tech fans have to make up to excuse their poor performance on the field. The more games they lose the more important their academics become. It’s always been like that with these clowns.

Tech fans are a disgrace.

dawgfan

November 29th, 2013
7:35 pm

Just wasted 5 minutes of my life checking out Stingtalk.com. What an absolute embarrassment to the human race that website is. My God.

Alan

November 29th, 2013
9:45 pm

I always thought that the Dawgs should wear their Black jerseys during road games where the home team prefers to wear their white jerseys, such as LSU and Tech..I like them and would love to see them every now and then but no blackouts for big games…

The Tide is Rolling and Nothing can Stop it!

November 29th, 2013
10:02 pm

No kidding. Murray was the reason your defense was giving up points. And of course the backup quarterback is better!

RED DOG 77

November 29th, 2013
11:42 pm

Dagny + 0% Gurley + Hutson Mason – Hutson Mason + Ealey/King/Crowell = The Cesspool of the World

hassamgreen

November 30th, 2013
1:04 am

Get em dogs!!!! Just hope that Richt will give other QBs a chance!

HotDawg

November 30th, 2013
7:04 am

Another bamard d-bag comes on a georgia blog to spew his stupidity.
Bamards are psychotically obsessed with georgia. Must be be closet fans.
Sound familiar Tide is rolling?
Why on a georgia site, ever, but especially during ga/tech and your d-bag state has alab/aub week?
You’re on a georgia site because you’re a psychotic d-bag.

HotDawg

November 30th, 2013
7:07 am

Bamards are the lowest forms of life.

HotDawg

November 30th, 2013
7:14 am

The Harvey Updyke, bamards are coming to auburn this week. Better hide the women, children, and sheep. And fence off the trees.

HotDawg

November 30th, 2013
7:28 am

Interesting to see if Park can come in, redshirt and learn quick enough to start in 2015. Or does B. Ramsey have it all click for him by then. Coaches say he has the talent. But still hasn’t grasped Georgia’s pro-system yet. And who knows what top ranked, 2014 high school senior qb will come in following class. Either way, all the above better get it together quickly. 2015 will be here fast. And let’s hope we won’t need them to play in 2014.

dawgfan

November 30th, 2013
7:35 am

90% unbearable D-Bags = The Techie Nation.

I hope we win by one point in 8 overtimes. All the more pain it will cause these punks.

dawgfan

November 30th, 2013
7:41 am

This is truly hate week. I hope Bama emasculates Auburn and wipes that stupid smug grin off Malzahn’s face. That guy is a clown.

Dog4Life

November 30th, 2013
9:38 am

Special admits???? REG-GIE, REG-GIE, REG-GIE!!!!! THROW THE BALL OUT OF BOUNDS–MATH SKILLS–I THINK NOT!!!

old dog

November 30th, 2013
10:23 am

In a way, and this sounds like I am not a true fan, it is too bad that even CTG’s defense will look good against Tech………..and will in turn bring him back at least for next year. I’m a dawg through and through, but it would take Shakespeare a barrell of ink, 39 quill pens, and a long long time to write about how terrible our defense has been. We are lost, nobody knows their job, at least not all 11 on the field at the same time, and we are headed towards the bottom of the SEC. It is time to play real defense….lets go get a real d-coordinator. CTG could not stop folks when he had NFL starters at UGA. When the team suffered devastating injuries this year, the D did not step up and say “We got this!” How could thay? They were to busy thinking about 500 different things before the ball was snapped, thus ensuring they would be out of position, lost, and missing tackles as it took too long to figure out the chess move. Even the casual fan has got to see that CTG’s d is not working……it may do great somewhere else, but it is not working here!

flintriverdawg

November 30th, 2013
4:28 pm

chickens come home to roost……..for all you murray haters……….oh yeah, and thanks CTG, way to get that secondary ready………. we look sooooo lame!

dawgfan

November 30th, 2013
4:39 pm

Mason looks disinterested. Not impressed at all. This is your first start against an arch rival. Show a little life dude.

We are going to suck something awful next year.

flintriverdawg

November 30th, 2013
4:43 pm

they all look disinterested!!!!!!!!!!!

dawgfan

November 30th, 2013
4:47 pm

Most notably the head coach Mark Richt.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 30th, 2013
4:47 pm

O-line looks great today again

I wonder if we will here comments like ” I got beat off the edge and I realized they ain’t no joke.”

dawgfan

November 30th, 2013
4:56 pm

O-line with their 103 career starts or whatever it is getting physically whipped by Georgia freaking Tech.

That’s not coaching at all.

dawgfan

November 30th, 2013
4:58 pm

Oh my Go did you see that? Will Friend was getting on Mason to snap the ball. That clown has a lot of nerve getting on to the QBs about ANYTHING.

Wow.

dawgfan

November 30th, 2013
5:08 pm

Techies are nervous. You can feel it. This reminds me of us against Florida circa 2003.

We’ll see if we can do something about it.

flintriverdawg

November 30th, 2013
5:13 pm

CPJ realizes we might have finally woke up from our tryptophan stupor………

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 30th, 2013
5:15 pm

Anyone catch the Auburn Alabama game?

Anyone notice how excited both coaching staffs act?

Anyone notice the UGA sideline?

Anyone notice the UGA sideline acts like they are taking a calculus test

flintriverdawg

November 30th, 2013
5:22 pm

they are and they re flunking it