It always hurts just a little to look back at a loss. But hey, it's how we get better as bloggers. Ok, not really, but it is a little cathartic. So here goes. I'm just gonna type till the pain is gone. On Saturday I said you'd see:
1) Geno, Jeff and the boys. Indeed, we even saw a 3 man front with Atkins at rush end. But the defensive tackles didn't really dominate the line the way that I had hoped they would. And the fact that Geno will, according to Coach Martinez, continue to split time between tackle and end tells you about all you need to know about the progress of our fulltime defensive ends. That cannot be a good sign.
2) A.J. Green. Green's numbers, 4 catches for 52 yards, don't look all that bad. But with the exception of one long catch he was locked down for most of the game and we couldn't get anyone to make a catch to take the pressure off of him. A total of three wide receivers even caught passes. Michael Moore and Tavarres King totalled 3 catches for 10 yards. I'm not even sure how that's possible, but I think it indicates that Coaches Bobo and McClendon need to have a sitdown talk early this week and figure out what the heck went wrong. Rantavious Wooten and Marlon Brown didn't even see the field, an oversight that Coach Bobo admitted after the game has to be corrected. Dropped passes reminiscent of the Eason era cropped up at the worst of times. Until a credible second and third option crop up, A.J.'s going to be seriously hampered as a first option.
3) Punching and counterpunching. I said I was worried "that we’ll swing and miss on some of our counterpunches, which can get you dangerously behind against a prolific offense". I'd say that's a reasonable approximation of what happened. I was pleased that the defense was put against their own goal line on consecutive drives and responded by forcing a field goal and a four and out. Yeah, I said it. I've watched it over and over again and that spot was abyssmal. Kendall Hunter's forward progress had been stopped and the play was dead. Those were the kind of gutcheck stops we didnt get last year. Only time will tell if we can get them consistently this season. But the offense not only didn't get up off the mat after being punched, they never really came back out of their corner after round 1.
4) Keith Toston.Say this for Willie Martinez: when you hold that kind of offense to 307 total yards you should win. Neither Toston or Kendall Hunter ever really got loose. Zac Robinson's stats (11 of 22 for 135 yards passing and 39 yards rushing) were squarely underwhelming. The tackling was solid. Other than dropped interceptions (I counted 3) I really had no complaints on that side of the ball.
5) UGA 27, OSU 24. Quoth the blogger: This one really could go either way, and as it’s the first game of the year I’m really just guessing here. But I think that we’ll know a lot by the end of the first quarter. Either Willie Martinez will have a gameplan in place to stop OSU’s prolific offense or he won’t. Either our players will be ready to execute said plan, or they won’t. Offenses, especially offenses with new starting quarterbacks, tend to struggle early in the year, and I think we’ll see some of that. If however we can create one score on either defense or special teams, I think we’ve got a good shot. I also think Georgia’s distinct advantage on the offensive and defensive fronts will be on full display, especially in the second half.
At least I got the Oklahoma State tally right. But we didn't create any scores on defense or special teams. And the offense with the new starting quarterback struggled way more than I expected. Mike Bobo's charges must execute better if this season is going to go down as a success. Bobo must do a better job of putting them in position to succeed. To summarize, this offense must get much better in a big hurry.
But to be fair, I think it will. It was never seriously off track. It was a little off track a lot of times. The offensive line got a good push. But there was usually one guy who didn't quite clear the hole. Cox spotted open receivers, who then couldn't reel in the pass. It's an offense that's a click off of square, not an offense that's never worked before and never will. Most offenses struggle early in the year vis-a-vis defenses. This one just struggled more than most against a team against whom there was little margin for error to begin with.
We are still 0-0 in the SEC, just like Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt, among others. I'm willing to wager that, despite many predictions to the contrary, we won't start 0-3. In fact, I want to go on record right now predicting a double digit Georgia win in Athens next week. The Georgia team I saw today was, in this guy's opinion, much better than the South Carolina team I saw on Thursday. We also match up much better against the Gamecocks than the Cowboys. Dez Bryant for example was as good as advertised, and quite frankly is probably the best receiver we'll see all season by a mile. The fact that, one TD reception aside, he was essentially a nonfactor until junk time is very encouraging. If you're going to be down on Bryan Evans for getting burned by Dez Bryant on one play, you should be down on every safety in the Big 12, because it will happen to them, too. South Carolina has no one even close. And I'd be willing to bet that if we were able to contain Zac Robinson we should be able to curl Stephen Garcia into the fetal position.
Finally, I'm also wiling to wager that we learned a lot more from losing to OSU than we would have from beating up on Western Kentucky or Georgia Southern. Trust me, over the next six days Joe Cox may get better at spotting receivers, but Eric Norwood won't get any faster when it comes to covering them. The longterm benefits of playing a game like this to start the season don't just disappear because we lost the game.
It's been 13 years since any of us saw our team start the season with a losing record, and I think our coping skills are a little rusty. In fact, if you'll recall (and believe me, I hate to point this out), this is the first time since Mark Richt took over that we've had a losing record for the season, at any point during the season. But there's a helluva lot of difference between losing to the #9 ranked team in the country on the road while breaking in a new quarterback and losing to Georgia Tech after leading at halftime. This game was in doubt until the latter part of the final quarter, even with little help from the officials and no help from our own offense or special teams. This game was qualitatively different from any of last year's losses, and though it hurts now, in the long run playing this game was still the right thing to do to prepare for SEC competition.
The point is that a lot of folks in red and black are seriously overreacting right now because they're in a position which they are completely unfamiliar with. Feel free to be cynical, it's a logical response. I don't expect many to share my optimism at this point. Just don't be irrational. Realize that there was a lot of good out there on Saturday that we can build on. As a general rule your wins are never as good as they feel, and your losses are never as bad. This game was a good example of that.
Branden Smith must learn that no matter how fast he is, returning kickoffs from 7 yards deep in the endzone will not end well a majority of the time against BCS special teams units. He also needs to stay out of Prince Miller's way when he has his feet planted on the one and is about to down a punt there.
For the love of Frankie Sinkwich, why are we the only team in America that refuses to or is unable to put the ball in the endzone on kickoffs?
While Drew Butler's stats will look great (57 yards per punt), a couple of those punts were awful. Low liners that outkick the coverage will get you burned unless the returner lets the ball bounce, and you get a lucky roll. We got that combo three times on Saturday, but I have no confidence that will happen consistently.
Speaking of Branden Smith, I indicated in Wednesday's Over/Under that he might take a snap. He took one, so if you had the over on that one you're in the minority and you should feel free to brag about it. I was a little surprised that he was as involved as he was in the offense early, and while the results were just OK, I see potential there.
We need Caleb King back in the worst way, as the coaches simply don't appear to trust Carlton Thomas running the ball. Or, they do trust Thomas and just did a crummy job of working him into the gameplan. Take your pick. Perhaps the best thing Richard Samuel did all day was blitz pickup. He stopped a couple of linebackers dead in their tracks, and didn't truly miss any that I saw.
If I could have only changed one thing about this game it would have been the turnovers. We had three, they had none. In a close game between good teams the turnover battle and special teams are usually the deciding factors. I don't know that we would have won if Carlton Thomas hadn't coughed it up deep in our own territory and we'd been able to pick off Robinson once in his. But I think there's a very good chance of it.
For all the talk this offseason about nobody standing around waiting for Stafford or Moreno to make a play this year, it looked a lot like nobody on offense was stepping up to make one. That's gotta change as well. I'll be back on Tuesday with some South Carolina gameweek stuff. Until then, in the name of Robert Edwards's knee, please turn off the Morrissey and . . .