As usual, this is all flying by too fast. Believe it or not, after this upcoming game we will have reached the midpoint of the 2011 season.
Our defense stood up tall again Saturday, completely shutting down a Mississippi State offense that is designed to get a lead and play from ahead. Instead, our defense only allowed them 3 points. As you'll see as you read on, it's not all gumdrops and rainbows... but once again, no one from the defense will be getting anywhere near this list this week.
A special shout-out goes to Bacarri Rambo, who was playing his second game with a heavy heart after the tragic passing of his unborn son. Rambo has had two exceptional games in a row, but even if he hadn't, he's earned a pass from this column. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to Bacarri at this time.
With the first five games of the season now past, our next challenge is a daunting one: marching into Neyland Stadium to play a night game. We'll need to be extra-ready for this challenge, so I'm letting the following people know that, for week 6, You're on Notice, Dawg!
1) Michael Adams - Why Michael Adams? Because he's a jerk, has stolen money from and is a disaster for University, and everybody that has ever worked with him hates him. Plus, I have it from a very authoritative source inside the UGA administration that he threw this really kickin' party last night in Jackson County and invited the whole team. I guess he figured, "What's the worst that could happen?"
2) Negative Nellies/Debbie Downers - Ok, let's revisit the situation. For the second week in a row, we have dominated an SEC team from start to finish, not allowing even one drive into the red zone. In fact, the defense gave up 7 points last week to a good offense and 3 points this week to an even better offense. Our offense is clearly full of talented players, but they are also very young and make boneheaded mistakes from time to time. Our mistakes on offense and special teams have directly cost us points in every game against a 1-A team this year, but we have overcome them for the last 3 games.
Today, we have a conference record that is better than .500 for the first time since November 20, 2009. Our overall record is above .500 for the first time since September 4, 2010. Is "above .500" the benchmark we're ultimately shooting for? No, of course not. It is a step forward, however, and one we desperately needed to reach if this team was going to continue to improve.
Yes yes, I know... we haven't scored 60 or more points in any game this year, and that is a horrible travesty. And we probably couldn't even beat the best high school team from the state of Alabama. (This picture has been lawya'd)
The "eyeball test" tells me that this team is just simply better than the last 4 teams we've played. We did lose to one of those teams, but our young kids on offense are getting better, and as long as they continue to improve, we still have the opportunity to have a very good season.
Your angry rants about how Mike Bobo is an albatross around our neck and how we're never going to beat a "good" SEC team are very constructive and entertaining and all*, but I must ask: Why are they necessary? Are you hoping to shame our team into victory? Or are you hoping that other fans will join your crusade in telling this team how much they suck after dominating an SEC team on the field? Or perhaps you're hoping that Coach Bobo will hear you telling him how much he sucks and resign in humiliation?
Look, the problems with this team are clear, and as most of you point out ad nauseam, they could cost us games later in the year. (And, by the way, the simple fact that a team loses to us does not mean that they're now a terrible team.) On this day, at this time, however, Georgia has a talented, young team that's improving, and will probably be the favorites in 5 out of its last 7 games (6 out of 7 if Vegas ignores that whole "can't beat Florida" thing).
Piss and moan when it's time to piss and moan. This is not one of those times. Get behind the team and support them, or risk being called an energy vampire.
* - No, they're actually not.
Let us count the number of times I want to hear this tired bellyaching from energy vampires again. Zero! Zero energy vampires! Ah Ah Ah! (This picture has been lawya'd)
3) Optimistic Ollies - Ok, I just couldn't think of a good name to pair with "Negative Nellies," but this covers the people who are now overly optimistic about the state of our football team. Let me just pop your balloon right now... despite the fact that South Carolina lost to Auburn last night, this team is still not going to be heading to the SEC Championship Game.
Our team has just dominated two SEC opponents on the field, if not on the scoreboard, but this team is just too flawed to have a reasonable expectation of running the table from here. And running the table (in conference) is exactly what we have to do.
In order to make the SEC Championship Game, we need South Carolina to lose at least one more game (which is probable, we can all agree). South Carolina doesn't play Alabama or LSU this year, though... the only good team they play from the West is Arkansas. So we can expect SCAR to lose one more game, but possibly not more than that... and if we lose one more game, we need the Cocks to lose another game, etc. And that's not even counting Florida. (I hate Florida.)
I'm proud of our guys for trying to improve from one game to the next, and I love the fact that we've physically dominated two SEC teams on the field, though not on the scoreboard. And I'll be standing in front of my TV,
toaster in hand cheering for them on Saturday night as they take the field in Neyland. I have no illusions that this team is greater than it is, however. We have still not proven that we can win a close game. We've dominated every team that we've beaten, and we lost gave away the one close game in which we've been engaged. There is no possible way that we're going to dominate the entire game against every SEC team remaining on the schedule.
We are what we are... and the 2011 Georgia Bulldogs are one of the best second-tier teams in the SEC. It takes a top-tier team to finish the SEC schedule with one loss (and beat Florida in the process). We are probably not that team. (Or, if we are, we would have to get very lucky in at least one close game.)
Don't be this guy. Have realistic expectations about your team's chances. (This picture has been lawya'd)
4) Aaron Murray - Coming into this season, many people opined that Aaron Murray was not David Greene, D.J. Shockley, or Matt Stafford, but was this close to being a great combination of all three. Well, so far this season, Murray appears to have all the mobility of David Greene (in other words, very little), all the arm of D.J. Shockley (in other words, inconsistent), and all the pass selection of Matthew Stafford (in other words, he'll throw it into traffic in a heartbeat).
Murray is still staring down his receivers receivers with alarming regularity, and a good defense will make him pay dearly for that mistake. Not that he doesn't already pay dearly, of course. The pick 6 he threw yesterday was a line-drive throw into double-coverage. It was just too easy for the defender to step in front of that pass and take it to the house. And that's not to mention the interception intended for Malcolm Mitchell, which was also thrown into double coverage.
Herschel Walker would like to take this break to troll the quarterback, which he probably didn't really do as a player but totally could have done.
Aaron Murray can be magnificent at times, but he is maddeningly inconsistent, as well. Some may call this a "sophomore slump," but what I see is the same player that we saw last year as a freshman. It's just that defensive coordinators have a year of tape on him and know how to adjust... and Murray hasn't grown and improved himself.
One thing's for sure, though. We can't keep throwing touchdowns for the other team. We probably won't even be able to win while making those mistakes for another week. (I still wonder why Hutson Mason hasn't gotten more opportunities to play, especially in the 4th quarter yesterday... but the backup quarterback is always everybody's favorite guy when the current QB is struggling.)
5) Blair Walsh - I think, at this point, we can rule out the idea of Walsh simply having an "off week." If that's the case, he's "just" had an off half-season so far. Walsh is 6 of 12 on field goals for the first 5 games of the season, and went 2 for 4 yesterday. Granted, one of those attempts was a botched snap and hold, but it still counts, much in the same way that a mis-run route by a WR still counts as an interception for the QB when a defender reels the ball in.
I have no idea what's wrong with Blair Walsh technically and/or mentally, and worse, I have very little faith in his backup (Brandon Bogotay) to do a better job. I don't like this... I don't like this at all, especially since we already have problems winning close games. Not having a reliable field goal kicker makes it even less likely that we'll win a close game. Is Drew Butler's dad available? Maybe we can dress him in Blair Walsh's uniform and hope no one notices.
6) Coach Mike Bobo - At this point, I think the coach is on perma-notice. Yesterday's exercise reiterated Coach Bobo's clear strategy of shutting down the offense whenever the team is up by 14+ points. If Georgia is ahead by 14 points or more, Coach Bobo makes super-conservative play calls, basically just trying to kill the rest of the clock.
This is a good idea if you're playing in the second half of the 4th quarter, but tends to be less successful if it's still the first friggin' half. What's worse, Coach Bobo seems to be suffering under the errant belief that once he shuts down the offense, he can simply "turn it back on" at will. And this is extremely dangerous (and couldn't be further from the truth).
Once you lose the momentum and stop playing your best style of football, lapsing into a conservative quagmire, it's virtually impossible to immediately shift back to a more aggressive mindset, both for the OC and for the players themselves.
Look, I could go on for a few more hundred words, but the net here is clear: Don't shut down the offense before the 4th quarter, and even then only when we're ahead by 28+ points. We're playing SEC teams here, not 1-AA teams.
Just listen to Yoda, coach. It has worked out for a lot of people. (Well, except for all those people who were slaughtered in a sneak attack that Yoda didn't see coming for some reason but really should have. In fact, just forget I said that part, please.)
7) Isaiah Crowell (or, possibly our offensive line) - I'm really not sure who to blame for this one. Crowell is obviously amazingly talented, and early in games, the running game is dominant with him as the point on the spear. As the game progresses, however, he seems to get weaker, not stronger. Is it stamina? Do defenses adjust in the second half?
Or maybe it's the blocking of the offensive line. Much has been made of the fact that, based on average weight, our line is the biggest of any line in college or the NFL... but that's not necessarily a good thing. Big is big, but big can also mean "slow and tires easily as the game drags on."
I'm honestly not sure who's more to blame here... but unfortunately, no matter which one is to blame, there's no easy fix. It takes an entire offseason of conditioning to fix Crowell's stamina, and an entire offseason of lard-dropping mat drills to de-fattify a too-huge lineman.
Perhaps the coaches can find some way to make the running game grow stronger, not weaker, as the game goes on while this season is still going. For our sake, I sure hope so.
You know I ain't saying some of the guys on our O-Line might be too fat and out of shape, but... (This picture has been lawya'd)
8) DaveTheDawg - Man, this dude is totally an energy vampire. First of all, he's a Liverpool fan, and that's really all you need to know. Then he gets a football player drunk and encourages him to drive home, calls the cops, and has him arrested for DUI so he can finally create another post on the blog. And I have it from a very reliable source that this man hasn't mowed his lawn or consumed any butter for at least the past two weeks.
Dude, this is inexcusable. Step up your game, man.
I'll bet DTD is even refusing to breathe right now.
I really hope I'm not being too negative in the points above, because I'm proud of our team, and I'm ecstatic that we came out ahead in a game I predicted before the season that we'd lose. Unfortunately, as is always the case in the SEC, this week brings a game that is just as critical as last week's game was. In many ways, the Vols are about as good as I figured Mississippi State would be, and Miss. St. was about as good as I figured the Vols would be. So, I guess I'm saying I'm not overly optimistic about our chances in Neyland this week. Let's hope I'm wrong, though!