Quarterback play, Gurley likely to be key factors in Gator Bowl

GatorBowl 2014 helmetsTeams with 8-4 records that wind up in mid-tier bowls generally have a few nagging problems, and that’s certainly the case with Georgia and Nebraska, who meet again Wednesday in Jacksonville.

The Dogs’ defense has been a weakness all season long, especially the secondary. The Cornhuskers have been inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Both teams have had injury problems, and both have lost their productive starting quarterbacks, but the Bulldogs’ high-scoring, explosive offense, averaging 38.2 points a game, stuttered only briefly in the transition from Aaron Murray to Hutson Mason, while neither of Big Red’s two backup QBs really has gotten any real traction. Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr., who missed the final regular season game with an ankle injury, is the likely starter for the Huskers. He’s good at running the option but has completed just 53 percent of his passes and has seven passing touchdowns and seven interceptions.

No matter who’s at QB, Nebraska’s passing attack hasn’t been that impressive, ranking 93rd in the nation, though Georgia’s leaky secondary has allowed teams not known for passing seem to have success anyway (as in Auburn and Georgia Tech). Plus, the Dogs will be missing a defensive starter in Josh Harvey-Clemons.

Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah is one of the nation's best tailbacks. (Associated Press)

Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah is one of the nation's best tailbacks. (Associated Press)

Mostly, though, the Huskers have relied on a terrific running back in All-America selection Ameer Abdullah, who is averaging 6.2 yards a carry this season and has gained 1,568 yards with eight touchdowns. He’s likely to keep Nebraska in the game, though Georgia’s run defense has been its strength on that side of the ball and Abdullah will be going up against one of the SEC’s stronger linebacking corps and has been somewhat prone to fumbles. UGA’s defense has to make sure it wraps up those tackles, though.

The Dogs, meanwhile, have their own terrific back in Todd Gurley, who’ll go up against a Nebraska defense that hasn’t defended the run all that well. The Huskers also will be missing defensive end Avery Moss, who’s out of the game because of personal issues. However, the Dogs’ inconsistent offensive line needs to watch out for the other DE, Randy Gregory, who leads the Big 10 with 9.5 sacks.

Georgia playcaller Mike Bobo, who’s due a big raise after this season whether he flirts with Georgia Southern or not, also commands one of the nation’s better passing attacks, but they’ll be going up against a pretty stiff Huskers pass defense, so quarterback play is likely to be a key.

Georgia needs a good day from new starting quarterback Hutson Mason. (Associated Press)

Georgia needs a good day from new starting quarterback Hutson Mason. (Associated Press)

While a hesitant Mason got off to a slow start against Tech, he came back strong and doesn’t seem likely to regress against Nebraska. Probably the main concern for Georgia is whether the Dogs are likely to be slightly less motivated about being in Jacksonville than the Huskers, which could lead to another of those infamous slow starts that require coming back from 20-point deficits.

Still, even if the Dogs do start slow, chances are that Gurley will make the difference, and that’s a good thing. It’s also probably why Georgia comes into the Gator Bowl a 9-point favorite. If the Dogs perform up to their capabilities, that should be about right.

Go Dogs!

And Happy New Year everyone!

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

190 comments Add your comment

Cool Dawg

December 31st, 2013
11:07 am

Lets get it done Dawgs!! Lets make 2014 our year.

Flo- Ri- Duh

December 31st, 2013
11:12 am

“QB play & Gurley will be a big factor” —- who would have guessed?

Flo- Ri- Duh

December 31st, 2013
11:15 am

JHC could use a redshirt year to mature a little and gain some humility.

Flo- Ri- Duh

December 31st, 2013
11:18 am

As usual Tech finds a way to lose to an Ole Pee -is .

Big Al

December 31st, 2013
12:09 pm

Bill, (anyone) heard if Jonathon Rumph might declare for the NFL draft? Did he ask the NFL to provide a draft eval? I would like to see him stick around and help out next season. Thanks!

Jack Bull

December 31st, 2013
12:09 pm

Quick game script..
Dawgs start slow with a ‘Why are we here?’ attitude. Huskers come out throwing and go up 17-0 before we know it.
Huskers then do us a favor and go to the run. Allows us to get back in it. 17-14 at Half.
Huskers continue to abandon the pass, allowing the Dawgs to take the ugly victory, 31-24.
Mason ends up 23-42, 279 yds, 3 TD’s, 1 Int. Gurley rushes for 112 yds, with 89 yds receiving.
Dawgs D creates no TO’s once again.

That’s the way I see it.

bubba4dawgs

December 31st, 2013
12:23 pm

Well, I suppose we don’t need to watch the game. “Jack Bull” has it all wrapped up with his prognosis. Oh well, at least the DAWGS win!

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
12:39 pm

Mason should pass with flying colors but Gurley’s another story. His running style makes him susceptible to little dings here and there. I just hope he has been staying in shape over the holidays and keeping his hamstring loose. I guess we will see, huh?

I look for the defense to be stout against the run…but we may see a secondary step up. Hope it’s ours…GO DAWGS!!!

old dog

December 31st, 2013
12:41 pm

Gurley should definitely have a big game…. he was out of shape and still a little tender in the Tech game. I imagine he will turn it loose on the Huskers. Our o-line only needs to be adequate (thankfully) against not one of the better defenses in the country.
Since Mason is still new to starting, I hope the D does not put him in the situaton that we have to light up the scoreboard to win. If we can run and Gurley is on, ball control will help us.
I’m not a naysayer, but there have been many on Bill’s blogs who have tried to figure out what is wrong with the D. That speaks for itself. When everybody (notwithstanding whether they know the game or not) can see that our D is regressing at break-neck speed, and when the NFL players (see Jarvis Jones) say that the pro-game was much simpler to learn and play than CTG’s, it is time to start over. My wife (great gal but not a football mind) said during two games this year “They look like they don’t know what they are supposed to do”, well folks “There’s your sign!”

NCDawg

December 31st, 2013
12:47 pm

Reminder: A BETTER Nebraska team came in with the #1 pass defense in the nation last year and Murray ripped them for 427 yards and 5 TDs after a slow start. Nebraska has a highly rated pass defense for 2 reasons.:
1) In the B1G you either run the ball well or you throw the ball well. Ohio St is as close as it gets to balanced in that league.
2) Nebraska’s poor run defense allowed teams to bulldoze them and not have to pass very often.

It was true last year in this game. Everybody expected the Dawgs to run it and Nebraska stacked the line. They paid for it to the tune of 427 yards and 5 TDs. They may try to stack the box again in the hopes Mason won’t torch them but I think they may opt to avoid getting caught in that no man’s land again.

I have had this gut feeling that Gurley was going to have a big day. But it may not be from carrying the ball. Or at least not mostly from carrying it. Nebraska should be very wary of our back in the passing game. They may be good at pressuring the QB but that is really negated by throwing to our backs.

Kellogg may get some early time because he is the better passer. You would think that anything that can be done to get the ball in the air would be Nebraska’s top priority but Bo is pretty stubborn. It will be interesting to see what happens defensively for the Dawgs. The offense will score points… they score points on everyone… but will the defense get some stops? That’s the billion dollar question (inflation).

NCDawg

December 31st, 2013
1:03 pm

old dog December 31st, 2013 12:41 pm – Grantham’s defense was created to plug all the holes a standard 3-4 presents with a special emphasis on pressuring the QB. The scheme is overly complicated… no two way about it. Our guys have 20 hours a week to practice and they have real school work to do as well. They know just enough to be dangerous actually. They are confused at snap and then read and then react. If most them weren’t such fabulous athletes they would be burned even more often. Even then they are a day late and a dollar short much of the time.

My distress is that I don’t think that Grantham can simplify it because it is all interwoven. Pull this out and it leaves a gaping hole, pull that out and it leaves a gaping hole. I’ve watched this for 2 years now. Last year they knew what they were supposed to be doing most of the time but were still slow on the draw reacting. Being tentative on defense is death.

Looking at how our D has operated at times this year when behind and suddenly they are much more aggressive… I don’t know if I wouldn’t call the game as if we were down by 3 TDs right from the start. That is when they seem to play their best. It’s happen 3X and at the end of the SC and LSU games… in each case they were ATTACKING and WINNING the battle doing it. I don’t know specifically what was different but package that up and our defense is WAY better.

RiffRaff

December 31st, 2013
1:30 pm

“While a hesitant Mason got off to a slow start against Tech…..” Really? The game plan was to run the ball early and Tech was all over it. Only when Bobo went up tempo late in the second quarter did the team start to click. Georgia has been known for slow starts in the past regardless of QB.

7576DAWG

December 31st, 2013
1:40 pm

I think we are going to see an up tempo Offense. No huddle which is what Mason likes and will be a precursor to the way Mason will run the Offense in 2014. If Nebraska is not in shape they will be done by the half. Georgia could win by 17 to 21 points.

the rev al

December 31st, 2013
1:59 pm

Wish I could say that Grantham’s job will be on the line if the defense does not perform well but that is probably unrealistic.

Bill King

December 31st, 2013
2:35 pm

RiffRaff:
Yeah, really. check out Mason’s own comments after the Tech game about his performance.

NCDawg

December 31st, 2013
2:36 pm

Grantham is safe until next year barring a total humiliation ( I know it;s hard to imagine too much worse than what we’ve endured this year but it can happen) or he does something stupid like getting into a fight with Bo Pellini. That not out of the question, you know.

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
2:36 pm

Here we go again…

NCDawg

December 31st, 2013
2:37 pm

Mason had the jitters and he worked through them in the Tech game. Going up tempo helped him find a comfort zone.

NCDawg

December 31st, 2013
2:40 pm

The Brothers Grim haven’t weighed in with their usual cut and paste comments out of “How to ruin a blog in 2 posts”. LOL

NCDawg

December 31st, 2013
2:41 pm

So how are we “going again” Gutrake? The SadSacks haven’t invaded yet.

NCDawg

December 31st, 2013
2:48 pm

Speaking of Rumph…it would be really great to get him more involved. They’ve had nearly a month to integrate him into the rotation.

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
2:49 pm

I jumped the gun….my bad!

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
2:57 pm

Actually, I think you’ll see a lot of Rumph. Mason has a better comfort level with him–as well as Conley and Lynch.

Mason will be throwing to specific spots a lot, so Rumph needs to be precise with his routes…that’s one of the things he has struggled with…

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
2:58 pm

Rumph has had a tendency to get tied up with the opposing DB and it takes him off his route…

ARdawg

December 31st, 2013
3:56 pm

QB and receivers develop timing and trust and both pivot on the playbook. Rumph just was barely getting acquainted with Murray and now he’s having to learning it again in a short period of time to adjust to Mason. Rumph is good and he will eventually show it in a big way. Maybe it’s tomorrow

Dog4Life

December 31st, 2013
4:50 pm

Exactly NC Dawg. We do not have the time to truly learn this system. We need to attack attack attack and crap on this read and react stuff. I still believe that our DBs are better than many realize–due to the complexity of the schemes.

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
5:26 pm

D4Life,

Be careful about this “attack, attack, attack…” stuff. That creates a tendency to get fooled on a big play.

Yes, the schemes are more complex, but these kids are young. It has taken a little time for them to comprehend it. Furthermore, they don’t really “read and react…” like you think. Matter of fact, the biggest issue they have is being in the right place at the right time. Their reactive responses are due to their athleticism and it backfires on them from time to time.

I still say…learn the defense, learn where you need to be and wrap up on tackles.

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
5:35 pm

UGA’s Jarvis Jones was the best at being where he needed to be. It made him an All-American. He would never be remembered as an “attack, attack…” type of player.

For all you “purists”, check out Jones’ video footage if you can. He basically “clawed” down his prey. You rarely saw him in a mindless attack mode–he flew to his target and wrapped up. Oddly enough, it was his neck injury at USC that caused him to alter his game.

maconexpress

December 31st, 2013
5:38 pm

I wanna see more toss sweeps and the inside linebackers attacking instead of dropping into pass coverage.

CTG – “I want to bring in an aggressive-style defense that fans are excited to watch”

Practice what you preach coach!

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
5:43 pm

BaconEx-Prez,

Repeated toss sweeps are ineffective against faster defenses. I’ve already decimated your “attacking” advice.

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
6:09 pm

Must skin an overweight deer (gut-shot, at that)…but I will avail myself to you soon thereafter…

Any juvenile misbehavior from 35 and dawgfan will be dealt with in severe fashion when I return. Otherwise, remember that the rest of you are indispensable and loyal Georgia fans…the backbone of the DawgNation! Much will be expected of you for all of our boys’ sacrifices.

GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!

roughrider

December 31st, 2013
6:32 pm

Gurley would be a factor in any game, college or pro.

Erk Russell's Dog

December 31st, 2013
7:23 pm

With all of the upheaval in the NFL ,maybe Dogs get lucky and CTG is in the NFL next year as an assistant coach.

gtcaryd

December 31st, 2013
9:51 pm

How bout duke kicking the aggies ass.

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
10:03 pm

Yea…I have mixed feelings about that. Duke deserves some recognition, sure. TexA/M deserves to be put in their place, yes. But…this is…the…SEC. What the hell…

Potter

December 31st, 2013
10:31 pm

1- bobo— ranked porry 2010-2013 in:
oline/qb ranked poor in sacks allowed,
rb’s poor in rushing,
qb turnovers lost

2- hutson mason
had a 65 passer rating vs 83rd pass defense ga tech
nothing special as a qb

Potter

December 31st, 2013
10:34 pm

2013 top story: turnover margin

UGA finished winning all big games where won to margin, lost all big games when losing to battle

been true for 2 years richt uga don’t/can’t coach it

Potter

December 31st, 2013
10:40 pm

mason had a 57 qbr qb rating on espn, vs 85th ranked pass defense ga tech

http://espn.go.com/college-football/player/_/id/504004/hutson-mason

Potter

December 31st, 2013
10:44 pm

bob runs a turnover prone scheme, he’s been -20, -19, and -23 in turnovers lost, 7th-8th in sec in turnovers lost last 3 years.

can’t fix it.

http://www.cfbstats.com/2013/leader/911/team/offense/split01/category12/sort04.html

Potter

December 31st, 2013
10:57 pm

murray had 3 turnovers vs nebraska in 2012 bowl game, wonder if mason can beat that?

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
11:20 pm

Potter,

Do you mean police blotter? Incoherency and illiteracy should endear you to 35 and dawgfan…

Dude, sober up.

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
11:23 pm

Richt-rage? Is that what you’re trying to articulate? Are you fading in and out of consciousness?

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
11:27 pm

Are you trying to talk about Bobo’s award as coordinator of the year? Or is bob an imaginary friend of yours…

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
11:30 pm

Surely, there is genius in your posts. I’m just missing it.

Hairy Dawg

January 1st, 2014
12:23 am

Happy New Years!

Its time for Dawgs to start 2014 right by once again beating that sorry Big Ten. Bopellini should a never brought the Cornhuskrs back to face Dawgs. Dawgs will bop them by bigger amounts this year as Hutson has a break out game now with a month practicing with the 1s.

Final Score: Dawgs 52 – Nebrasak 17

Go Dawgs! Sick Em!

Columbus Dawg

January 1st, 2014
6:00 am

Now the blogs have a new village idiot with this Potter fella.

Columbus Dawg

January 1st, 2014
7:50 am

Hairy Dawg sounds like he is ready to open 2014 with a good beat down on the Huskers, followed by what everyone was hoping 2013 to be. All good Dawgs need to get behind Hairy, because 2014 is going to be BIG for the University of Georgia Football Program. I dated a girl in the mid nineties whose younger brother was a Hairy Dawg stand in, he mostly just did a couple of basketball games, and a couple of photo shoots, but I will always remember what he told us. He said that he was told by the cheer coaches that Hairy Dawg was to be completely optimistic in any situation, no matter how grim it looked that day. That UGA sports teams never quit, and that any situation could be over come, and that was how Hairy was expected to conduct himself. Always. I know that there is a lot of disappointment for the outcome of the 2013 season, but even without the injuries on O, the D was just not going to be what everyone hoped it would in 2013. I truly believe that beginning today 01-01-2014 will mark the first day of improvement seen on the defense. I think that B. Langley getting back on the field is a step in the right direction for the secondary. He is a true freshman folks, and all true freshmen are just not ready to produce in their first year. His size is needed badly, as Sanders Commings size helped him out. I think he will get needed experience and contribute in 2014 like he was being counted on to do in 2013. There are talented players to choose from to get the back end fixed, and the Dawgs front seven will absolutely be one of the best in conference. The offense will continue to break records, and while the passing stats may drop a small amount due to having a second to none rushing attack, the Dawgs O will not be stopped by ANY team going forward. I had a feeling that the thoughts of Keith Marshall taking a redshirt may surface due to the extent of his injury, but this just opens the door for the outstanding Nick Chubb to spell Gurley II. This means NO drop off at the tailback position. I don’t want to kick a Dawg while he is down, but Marshall just does not seem to have the balance to run between the tackles against good front sevens of SEC. Chubb on the other hand fights his way through the line of scrimmage just like Gurley II, and won’t be denied. This 2014 team will have a very, very good chance at the SEC title, and if they achieve that it means they are in the first ever playoffs in college football. That is all we can ask. Anything after that will require a little bit of luck and good bounces, but the Dawgs chances will be as good as anyone’s. Auburn is where it is today purely because of luck, and that is why most are not giving them much of a shot against FSU. Georgia will have a team that will dictate it’s success with solid, balanced play that will require much less luck to achieve the goals. The haters and naysayers can have a field day with this post, but Hairy Dawg will get the last laugh!

DawgVoiceofReason

January 1st, 2014
8:37 am

Happy New Year to all! An amazing CFA bowl game last night. Manziel was spectacular!

Gutrake

January 1st, 2014
9:06 am

Columbus,

Definitely a lot of luck went AUB’s way, no doubt. I knew they were a one-trick pony with Cammy.

COMMIT TO THE “G”!!!!!!

dawgfan

January 1st, 2014
9:13 am

Oh the Kool Aid is flowing like the mighty Mississippi on this blog.

Yum. So sweet and tasty on the lips.