The previous Saturday saw Georgia scratch and paw their way to a closer-than-the-score-indicated win over a game bunch of Missouri Tigers. Thankfully, the scheduling gods had the foresight to entice
pay Florida Atlantic University (3-9, 2-6 in SunBelt Conference play in '12) to travel north from Boca Raton for an expected butt-whippin'. As with Buffalo, and to a certain degree Mizzou, this game - despite the big margin of victory and 5,723* yards of total offense - certain facets of team play raised more questions than answers.
Carl Pellini's Florida Atlantic Owls came out of the blocks with a purpose in the first half. On the
Boca Burger's visitors opening drive, they marched 46 yards in 12 plays only to fumble deep in Georgia territory when Chase Vasser crashed an FAU receiver. Malcolm Mitchell, making his 3rd defensive start because of continuing suspensions affecting our secondary, recovered at the Georgia 26.
Georgia promptly drove 71 yards in 7 plays to open the scoring when Aaron Murray dove in from 1-yard away. The key play on the opening drive was a Rantavious Wooten's end-around for 24 yards.
FAU and Georgia traded punts on the next two series, but the Owls scored with under 4:00 remaining in the first half when Damian Fortner ran 43-yards to pay dirt past an utterly confused and disgusted secondary. Georgia 7, FAU 7.
The following kickoff pinned Georgia deep at their own 6 yard line. Keith Marshall promptly ripped off 20 yards to get out of the hole, then Murray began picking apart the Owl's secondary with successive passes of 34, 10, and 24 yards to get Georgia inside the Owls 2 yard line. Keith Marshall scored on the next play to put the Dawgs ahead 14-7. Five efficient plays, 94 yards in 1:19.
FAU opened the second quarter by promptly driving the ball with more big plays against a still discombobulated Georgia defense, tying the game as the 2nd quarter got underway on a 2-yardtouchdown pass. This particular drive was highlighted by a 48 yard pass on 3rd and long from Wilbert to to set up FAU at the 2. At this point, my flat-screen was in real jeopardy of getting an empty long-neck thrown at it. Maddening. Dawgs 14, The Fightin' Pellini's 14.
Both teams swapped punts mid-way through the 2nd quarter. Georgia's 6th possession of the night resulted in an 8-play, 67 yard scoring drive culminated by Aaron Murray's second 1-yard touchdown run of the evening. Dawgs 21-14.
FAU's next drive stalled after 33 yards, and punted. Georgia got the ball with 2:33 left before halftime. Aided by two costly FAU penalties, Aaron Murray went deep and found Michael Bennett down the middle for a 67 yard touchdown pass. The Owls received the ball with 1:34 left before the half and ran the clock out. Halftime: Georgia 28, FAU 14.
There was never any doubt that Georgia could score at will, but the defensive gaffes - particularly in 3rd down situations - was most troubling. At any rate, the flat-screen survived.
Georgia received the 2nd half kickoff and picked right up where they left off prior to the break, going 6 plays for 85 yards with Arthur Lynch catching the ball and tip-toeing just inside the pylon for a nifty 36-yard score. Georgia 35, FAU 14.
Todd Grantham's halftime ass-chewing must've worked as FAU went 3'n out for the first time in the game on the Owls first possession of the half. Georgia got the ball back, gobbling up yardage in huge chunks before Todd Gurley scored on a 38 yard run at the 10:18 mark in the quarter. Tavarres King hauled in a 25 pass to open this particular drive as the rout was on. Dawgs 42 - 14.
FAU punted again on their next possession, another 3'n out. The Dawgs again began to zip down field and were about to score from the Owl's 8 yard line when Murray threw a horrible interception in the end zone for a touch back. This turned out to be insignificant, as on the very next possession, Amarlo Herrera picked off Graham Wilbert and returned the ball 35 yards in front of the student section for a defensive touchdown. Dawgs 49 - 14.
The 4th quarter opened as FAU went for it on 4th down, but came up short on the Georgia 35. At this point, Christian LeMay spelled Aaron Murray and promptly hit Justin Scott-Wesley for a 43 yard gain to the FAU 27. Ken "Boo" Malcome rushed the next 3 plays down to the FAU 1, where LeMay took it in to cap off the Georgia scoring for the evening. Dawgs 56 - 14.
Unfortunately, LeMay also capped off FAU's scoring for the evening when he threw a pass that was picked off by FAU's Adarius "Sugarfoot" Glanton (I made the "Sugarfoot" part up) for a 42-yard pick-6.
Georgia 56 - 20. Mark Richt continued to clear his bench with wholesale substitutions as the 4th quarter wound down.
T. Kyle King probably said it best in his wrap-up, which was most prescient:
The metaphor, though, was hard to ignore, as the Georgia football team, like the Georgia Tech electronic billboard, is largely functional yet just slightly off. The Alabama Crimson Tide are the No. 1 team in the country for the simple reason that they play their best in all three phases of the game for 60 minutes every Saturday. The Georgia Bulldogs are this close to being that good, but they aren’t there yet, partly because we have not seen the full starting lineup take the field together, but mostly because the Classic City Canines just can’t seem to play that elusive complete game. Can you imagine what the ‘Dawgs would look like if the defense we saw against the Missouri Tigers appeared in the same game as the offense we saw against the Florida Atlantic Owls? I’m looking forward to seeing that some Saturday this season, but it hasn’t happened yet. Until it does, Bulldog Nation will continue to hold its collective breath and grouse about 36-point victories that were harder than they had to be.
Damn, that boy can write.
Of course, Yours truly had to poop in the pool with this little gem in the subsequent comments:
At some point in the season, we put it all together. Maybe this will happen at Columbia, SC.
Anyway, an imperfect win against a totally outmatched team is still a win despite the fact that the first half saw much confusion on defense and the maddening, continuing trend of allowing big plays on 3rd and long. This would never get totally rectified, although there were some marked improvements in individual games. Sure, we didn't have Rambo or Ogletree playing, but by the third week of the season a team like FAU should not have rolled into Athens and racked up 316 yards of total offense with or without them. Mystifying.
Still, the offense was something to behold. Here are the highlights. It will be damn good to get Michael Bennett back this season. Kid's a player.
Next up, RedCrake revisits the Vandy game as the 2012 Year In Review cruises on...
Until then, GO DAWGS!
*I rounded up.