Not sure if I've ever seen a second half filled with more shambles than we witnessed yesterday. For some reason, I seem to forget that this is the norm when we travel to Nashville. It's never easy and its never pretty. This was definitely ugly. Once again we saw a pretty solid Georgia offensive effort, mixed with a bunch of insane plays from an inferior team to keep them in the game. The final five minutes of the game, particularly the last 30 seconds, was some of the most disorganized and chaotic football I've seen in a Georgia game.
Let's start with some of the normal and more positive aspects. The offense moved the ball pretty effectively without the use of their main weapons Isaiah Crowell and Malcolm Mitchell. I guess Crowell was not 100% or Richt was hoping we wouldn't have to use him, as he didn't really see action until the 2nd quarter, and even this was sparingly. Aaron Murray, despite alot the miscues here and there, is putting together another solid season. A 300 yd + passing game and 3 more touchdowns now make him the SEC leader in touchdowns. Up until the final drive he didn't turn the ball over as well. This interception was bad.... a few points on the board in this scenario would have put the game away or at least put us up by 8. Not the type of forced throw you want when you are trying to ice the game. He used his legs pretty effectively when need and spread the ball around intermittently to a bunch of different receivers.
I think the stars of the game were the receiving corps. Hello Marlon Brown. In the absence of Mitchell he obviously had his best game of his young career, and showed the glimpses of what we hoped he'd be as a highly touted recruit. His 121 yards and 2 TDs including the long answer after Vandy's late score were quite impressive. Michael Bennett is showing he can be the solid, good handed receiver, that Georgia has grown accustomed to a la Kris Durham (I'm not just saying this for obvious comparison reasons). He had 7 receptions which were crucial to keeping the drives going. I've always praised King's leadership and grind it out nature as a receiver, and he proved his worth once again getting the first touchdown. He was asking for the ball on twitter and got his early route he wanted. I still would like to see more utilization of Orson Charles. In the end without their best receiver UGA did a very effective job of taking shots where needed and spreading the ball around for a solid day in the passing game.
Richard Samuel. I take back about 33% of the things I said about you. A very solid effort and looked a little more inspired this week getting the start. He provided the necessary ground game to keep Murray locked in to the passing game. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come and he can balance out as needed with Crowell coming back versus Florida. I was a little surprised with the lack of touches by Carlton Thomas who's been running very strong over the past couple weeks. I guess the passing game was utilized to stretch the field instead of Thomas in the running game.
Blair Walsh. Donked his first field goal off the upright, but showed he is getting back to form with a 4-6 FG night, including a 53 yarder to get us on the board first. He's definitely not struggling with the distance, and I guess the miss from 50 was off the upright and not a shank which is good. His confidence doesn't seem too shaken, and I'm hoping that confidence will exist when needed at the end of games.
On to the awkwardness. The defense once again, like Ole Miss, played a pretty solid game and allowed half of the points off of ridiculous plays. I thought it was going to be a slaughter after we blew up their first two plays behind the line of scrimmage. The kick return and the half back option accounted for 14 Vandy points. The problem is that these special team and trick play freebies are becoming all too frequent. Don't forget when UGA was really looking to take control with a lead Vandy hit a wide open fake punt deep in their own territory. A stop / score here would have pretty much blown the game open. We did have four takeaways which led to another notch in the turnover margin department. Vandy was able to run the ball pretty effectively which we haven't seen in an opponent in a while.
Our redzone efficiency is horrid. I feel like the season has been one giant field goal kicking fiesta. We have to find a way to put six points on the board as we play better opponents.
The last two minutes were incredibly awkward, scary, and unimaginable if they had swung the other way. Rambo thought the game was over .... he even took a knee with the pick. We almost had a safety prior to Vandy giving the ball back. How you even allow Vandy to have cracks at the endzone when you have the ball with a minute and a half to go on 1st down is beyond me. The blocked punt took 10 years off of my life. Vandy was incredibly close to scooping and scoring, and incredibly close to catching the winning touchdown as time expired. This was a game that should have been over prior to any of this happening. How you allow a blocked punt or don't protect against this is insane. Inexcusable.
In the end, I guess another win is another win. Gutcheck game. Things were not going our way via penalties, trick plays, etc. and I guess I'll echo the sentiments that this was a game we would lose over the past 2 years. Still, you can't be very pleased with the notion that Vandy had a crack to beat you. I guess its still a win... every team that has good seasons has these, but my health would be better served if we would stop doing this in Nashville.
Grantham is a machine and I love the guy. You don't think his emotional verbal abuse of Franklin wont serve his reputation well with his players? His defense of Shawn Williams, and the tenacity he's showing is exactly what this team has been lacking. Richt is not this guy... therefore he needs these guys. I don't care if people thought it was classless or whatever, UGA has needed this. It was a highly emotional game, with the momentum swinging all over the place. Maybe he got a little heated, but I'll never be upset with the re-emergence of a little backbone in the Georgia program. Grantham may have just entrenched himself in the hearts of Dawg fans for a long time.
OK... we're finally here. We eyed these 5 games since the two losses. We won all five. Not pretty, but 5 wins, and much better than the opposite if we had dropped one. We're back in the polls at 24. We still have not put a solid game together or played our best. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this was against Florida? We're now eyeing down our biggest game of every year... I have not optimistic hopes as we've trained ourselves not to do this against the Gators. We've won 5 times since I've been alive. No hopes, no expectations, no nothing. Go win. Solidify your career Richt, and put us in the drivers seat for the East. Mississippi State you are the bane of my existence if we want to mention this. Auburn is our new best friend. We have a bye week to get Crowell, Mitchell, and hopefully a solid gameplan together. We have the same problem we've had the past 25 years, and its one of the biggest games in Richt's career to get back to where we want to be. We're not Bama or LSU, but we need to get back with a win in Jax. Florida is hurt and they will be hungry. Hopefully we are to. Let's pick up the pieces of our collective shambles and take care of business (if this is possible) in the Cocktail Party.