(Author’s Note: Because circumstances prohibit me from updating the Mark Richt Victory Watch, I offer instead initial impressions from today’s game, offered by a guy who hasn’t checked the game day open comment thread since before kickoff.)
Since C&F expressed concern that we might try to use it as an excuse, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way from the beginning: A.J. Green’s absence did not cost the Georgia Bulldogs this game. The South Carolina Gamecocks were without Weslye Saunders, whose career against the Red and Black suggests that the missing receivers were offsetting losses.
What happened in Columbia this afternoon was that two tough, evenly-matched teams played a clean, well-officiated game, and the better team won. What we saw largely was what we expected to see. We knew Stephen Garcia had matured, but we didn’t know how much. We knew Marcus Lattimore was the real deal, but we didn’t appreciate to what extent. We knew to expect a defensive struggle, and we largely got one. We knew there were questions about the Bulldogs’ defense up the middle, and we saw that there remains work to do in that department.
The only meaningful surprise was with respect to South Carolina’s supposedly suspect offensive line, which acquitted itself much better than expected (particularly in the first half). While I would love to blame the Bulldogs, I believe it was more a case of the Gamecocks playing well than the Athenians playing particularly poorly.
Yes, the ‘Dawgs still have work to do on their tackling, but Lattimore is a quality back and the defense was on the field for quite a while. Yes, Aaron Murray is a redshirt freshman quarterback, but his potential is obvious and his development is encouraging. It was disturbing that Georgia squandered all three of its time outs early in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs are moving forward, if only incrementally, in such areas as turnovers and penalties.
Ultimately, the lesson of this game is that both teams are who we thought they were, and that the Red and Black are not as far along as we had hoped they were. The future is bright with Aaron Murray at quarterback and Todd Grantham at defensive coordinator. It just so happens that the future is not now.