After a 45-31 win on Tuesday in the Capital One Bowl, the 2012 Georgia Bulldogs entered the history books as the 3rd team in school history to win 12 games in a season and will likely finish the season in the top 5 of both major polls. Many including myself wondered whether the Dawgs would show up with their best game in Orlando after the heart-breaking loss in the Georgia Dome. While the defense struggled and the offense gave up a pick 6 in the 1st half, the team showed a resolve especially after going down by 8 early in the 2nd half to pull away from the Cornhuskers. Let’s get to the rundown.
What Went Well
The Dawgs scored early and often, and the defense took over the game in the 2nd half. We saw a game where the Dawgs came in with a businesslike mindset and never wavered from the mission at hand.
Offensive Balance – The Georgia offense exploded for almost 590 yards of total offense and 43 points against the nation’s top-rated passing defense. I’ll admit I was surprised that our receivers could get behind the Nebraska secondary any time they wanted to. Pelini decided to keep the Dawgs from running the ball at will, and Aaron Murray absolutely lit up the Nebraska defense. The offensive line kept Murray up right consistently and opened enough holes for Gurshall that the Huskers really had no answer for what we were trying to do.
Pass Rush – Jarvis Jones breaks David Pollack’s single-season sack record with 2 of the Dawgs’ 5 sacks. Alec Ogletree finished his Bulldog career with a big hit on Taylor Martinez on Nebraska’s last possession. Most importantly, the Dawgs’ defense did a solid job of containing Martinez when he tried to scramble for yardage. I worried that Martinez was going to do some of the same things Connor Shaw did in Columbia, but the defense prevented it.
Punt Block – The punt block on the Huskers’ first possession changed the momentum after we turned the ball over on our 1st possession while threatening. The team disguised and executed the block perfectly as it definitely looked like we were going to set up a return and then rushed two of the guys covering the gunners. The only negative was that Justin Scott-Wesley didn’t realize he only had to fall on the ball rather than attempting to corral after running full speed.
While we won and covered the spread, Nebraska stayed in the game much longer than I felt comfortable mainly based on our mistakes.
Interceptions – Murray’s two interceptions in the 1st half were both the result of bad plays by the junior quarterback. The first was a badly underthrown ball that hung up in the wind and killed a promising opening possession. The second was a throw that just didn’t need to be made because the defense diagnosed and blew up the screen.
Interior Defense – We clearly missed John Jenkins in the interior to provide the ability to rotate Jenkins and Geathers against the Huskers’ offensive line. I hope Tuesday showed Kwame that he’s not quite ready for Sunday wars between the tackles and needs a year as an every down player to improve his draft standing. Tuesday clearly demonstrated to me that the defensive line will be our biggest question entering the off-season.
Kicking – For as solid as Morgan and Barber became later in the season, they both had miscues yesterday as Morgan missed his one field goal attempt fairly badly with the wind and Barber had a shank once again with the wind. We’re going to be happy with these guys by the time they are done at Georgia.
A solid win that closes a really good season for 2012.
Offense – A. Without the 2 turnovers especially the pick 6, this grade is an A+. Just like in most games this season, we hit big play after big play, and it eventually demoralized the Nebraska defense. The final possession was backbreaking as Nebraska sold out to stop the run, Murray hits two big 3rd down conversions including a beautiful back shoulder throw and catch to Tavarres King.
Defense – C+. Take away the pick 6, and the game was not as close as the score indicated. We had troubles on defense especially handling the running game between the tackles. Late this season, we definitely showed some of the same issues we had in 2010 of defending the interior running game. With the exception of a couple of plays in the passing game, the secondary was solid for the day.
Coaching – A-. This grade may be a little generous, but Richt said the team was as ready as he expected them to be in the days leading up to the game. Bobo called a beautiful game and deserves a raise correlating to his value to the program as coordinator, QB coach, and recruiter. Grantham once again made good adjustments after the 1st possession of the 2nd half. Finally, I want to call out Tony Ball for the job he has done with the wide receivers this year. He dealt with a couple of significant injuries and plugged more guys in and got the most out of the talent. In particular, he turned Tavarres King from a wiry, talented kid as a freshman into a big play threat who will probably be one of the most underrated players to come through this program.
Look Ahead to 2013
I’m hesitant to get into any preview of 2013 given the current state of the cycle of early entries, attrition, and recruiting, but I think the 2013 team could be just as good as 2012 and appear to step back because of the record. The schedule will be difficult with an opening trip to Clemson, a home opener with the Gamecocks back in their traditional spot, an Athens date with LSU, and the traditional Big 3 (all away from Athens). If Aaron Murray comes back to rewrite the SEC passing record book and make a senior push for the Heisman Trophy, the Dawgs will be extremely tough on offense with a complete offensive line, Gurshall, and a bevy of talented pass catchers. Grantham and the defensive staff have a big job in front of them as they will have to rebuild a defense with only 4 returning starters [Garrison Smith, Amarlo Herrera (I’m counting him), Jordan Jenkins, and Damian Swann] if Jarvis Jones and Kwame Geathers decide to follow Alec Ogletree to NFL paydays. Right now, I expect that we’re going get into some track meets that look like Big 12 games. My heart says 11-1 with a likely loss to either South Carolina or LSU, but my head says 9-3 with losses to both USCe and LSU and either Clemson or Florida.
Those are my thoughts. I would like to read yours in the comments.