Look Back to Arkansas and Ahead to Miss. St.

I couldn’t bring myself to post last week after the South Carolina game due to work and the frustration over the loss.  On the drive back from Athens today, I started organizing my thoughts while listening to the post-game show and driving the six hours back to North Carolina.  Today was a beautiful, sunny day in Athens and made me remember how much Athens stays in your blood even 20 years after leaving campus.

Look Back to Arkansas

Today, we took a step forward and two steps back.  We did what we have done for the last 3 years by rolling the ball out there and expecting to out-athlete the other team.  Our game plan especially on offense was mysterious and downright predictable.  As a result, we are now 2-6 in our last 8 SEC games.  The bottom line is that is not acceptable.

The Good

While I gave up with 10 minutes left and down 14, the team didn’t.  I decided to beat the traffic and get home before midnight with the score 24-10 after we failed to convert a 4th down.  At that point, it would have been easy for the team to lay down and get rolled.  They came back to tie the game and had a chance late to get in position to kick a field goal to win or send the game to overtime.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, and we lose.

Aaron Murray played well and has the opportunity to be an outstanding quarterback for the Dawgs.  The sack on the last drive was a mistake in judgment (we’ll get to the play call and pass protection in a minute).  He tends to stand in the pocket too long when things break down around him.  He throws a nice, catchable ball and wants to make plays with his feet and his arm.  When the game was put on his shoulders in the 4th quarter, he responded well and grew up a lot today.

Blair Walsh – the kid is phenomenal.  It’s too bad we didn’t give him a chance to win the game today at the end.  I’m convinced he would have kicked a 55-yard field goal to win the game today.

The Bad

Where to start?  I have to start with the offensive offensive play-calling.  The first 3 quarters we looked very predictable.  The Wild Dawg has never worked at Georgia.  It’s not in our personality.  Please, Coach Richt, get it out of the playbook tonight.  To call a pass play on our last 3rd down of the game was not a bad call.  A play where everyone was 20 yards down the field with no check-down receiver and let Aaron almost get his head taken off was terrible.  We have no offensive identity, and no one fears us any more.

The offensive line play was absolutely terrible.  We blocked a little for the running backs today but gave up six sacks to a defense that made Joe Cox look like a Heisman candidate last year.  For a group that Phil Steele had as his #1 O-line entering the year, they have significantly underachieved this year.  No one has played well on this unit this year, very disappointing.

The secondary had a day to forget today.  They looked like Willie’s Keystone Kops from last year from the first series through the end of the game.  Every one of Ryan Mallett’s touchdowns were thrown to receivers where there were no defenders within the 706 area code of the receiver.  I don’t understand why we are having breakdowns in the secondary due to the scheme.  Crossing routes and wide receiver screens killed us again today.

Look Ahead to Mississippi State

I’m not assuming anything at this point in the season anymore.  Our goals for the season are shot in the 3rd week of the season.  We haven’t lost to the Bizarro Dogs in 36 years, but we could find ourselves 0-3 in the SEC if we decide to mope around or not show up in StarkVegas on Saturday night.

Dan Mullen is doing a solid job at Mississippi State.  Their program is probably a 7-win program on the high end.  He is going to have them ready to play.  If we decide this game is important, we should win.  If we don’t, this season will spin out of control very quickly.

I’m interested in how the defense plays this coming week after consecutive weeks of being gashed by spread offenses.  This game will be our first game against the spread option.  We’ll see if Coach Grantham has learned how to scheme against college-style offenses.

The $3+M Question

The wolves are out in Athens after today.  I don’t know what to think after the last two weeks.  5-7 or 6-6 is a real possibility for the record at the end of the season if things don’t get fixed in a hurry.  Will Greg McGarity and Michael Adams make a move if this happens?  The offensive coaching staff at least will need to brush up on their resumes if the season ends up this way.  Coach Richt has probably built up enough capital with the administration to survive, but the seat officially becomes extremely hot going into 2011.

Can the staff turn it around?  I absolutely believe it.  Start by officially taking the training wheels off the offensive play-calling.  Murray is proving he can run the team if given support.  Coach Searles needs to get the offensive line back playing as they were at the end of last year.  The secondary must develop discipline within the scheme and in their tackling.  This team has 9-10 win talent with 5-7 win preparation.  It’s time for Richt and his coaching staff to put it together.

That’s it for now.  I would appreciate your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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