Last week, I did not do a 15 Thoughts because there was truly only one thought which had already been expressed by many: The sad end of Aaron Murray's career at Georgia because of an ACL injury. I could not top what had already been expressed by many, and the win against Kentucky was just background noise. No one cared about stats, and the end result which was never in doubt. The Dawg Sports community expressed what I could possibly say in a few feeble "15 Thoughts."
(FLASHBACK: In 1978, Georgia Tech had us in a 20-point hole. I got off work at the old Kroger on Broad Street at 1 o'clock, hopped into my '76 Chevy Nova and raced towards Sanford Stadium. By the time I took my seat at halftime, I thought it was over. In one of the best games ever played Between the Hedges, Georgia came back, lost the lead, and then won it late. Saturday's game was a different kind of comeback, but the result was the same: We dug ourselves out of a monster hole, and broke Tech's hearts while nearly giving ourselves a coronary.)
Let's get the (mostly) bad stuff out of the way, shall we...
1. It was mentioned in the post-game threads and I will mention it again here. Paul Johnson dialed up an exquisite offensive game plan for much of the first half. Now, it doesn't take a genius to throw the ball on Georgia. It's been so easy all season long, even a caveman can do it (I'm tempted to insert a Zach Mettenberger picture here, but that would be crass). As has been the case for most of this season, the Dawgs were handicapped in the defensive backfield: Shaq Wiggins, who has really come on of late, was out with a concussion and Trey Matthews was gone as well. I don't know if this would have made much of a difference early in the game, but it didn't help.
2. My biggest concern going into 2013 was the defensive backfield. My biggest concern going into 2014? Our defensive backfield. I'm not going to call out anyone, but feel free to do so in the comments. You saw what I saw, and this product is stagnant. I don't think it is talent. We need a coaching change here. Pronto.
3. We played a "solid" game on Special Teams. This season, "solid" is defined by executing a long snap, not dropping a long snap, not muffing a punt and covering kickoffs - the
we take it for granted simple stuff. Rather sad, no? As it turned out, any one gaffe in this area of the game probably spells doom. Marshall Morgan remained perfect and should get some serious consideration for the Lou Groza award.
3a. Ask Nick Saban how important Special Teams are. Auburn didn't win this game as much as Bama lost it. Now, their kicker is receiving death threats. Isn't that special? Roll Damn Tide!
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Losing. It happens...
4. The offensive line was inconsistent. As with the defense, they did played better in the second half of the game, but until Georgia's first score just before halftime when Mike Bobo finally decided to go up-tempo, they were collectively ineffective and could not block anyone. They came out flat - as did the defense. This is inexcusable. There were several false-starts (again), and I am hesitant to pin this on a new quarterback under center. Mason has been in the program as long as Aaron Murray. It's not like he ain't taking snaps in practice. Inconsistency is the consistency. Changes need to be made, sooner than later.
5. I love Todd Gurley, you love Todd Gurley, but he whiffed in pass-protect on more than one occasion. Todd is just about as big (if not stronger) than the dudes coming off the edge for Tech, or anybody else, and should be able to stone just about anyone. He graded poorly yesterday in this aspect of his game, but this is certainly fixable. Oh, and I am glad Jeremiah Attaochu is graduating. That dude is a beast. Still, some of TGII's pass-protection blocking was, well, Caleb Kingsonian in it's effectiveness.
The good stuff...
6. When we were down 17-0, I felt pretty glum. When Tech got the ball on their own 8 yard line at the beginning of the second quarter and methodically drove down inside our 10, a touchdown probably seals the deal. Tech had not been held out of the end zone all season long when they were first and goal. We forced a field goal. This was huge. Oddly enough, I felt a twinge of hope...
7. ...and when Gurley scored just before halftime, knowing we were getting the ball back to start the second-half, I knew we had a puncher's chance.
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Can you imagine this guy when he's healthy? I can.
8. Hutson Mason started the game 4/8 for 43 yards and a horrendous interception that led directly to Tech's second touchdown. A lesser quarterback in another system might have panicked. He didn't and got his rhythm and mechanics back, most evident when the up-tempo style that he is most comfortable with was implemented. Chris Conley ran some great 10-15 yard sideline routes, Michael Bennett was solid finding the seam over the middle. All those practices throughout the season proved there has already been a chemistry established between Mason and his key receivers. Artie Lynch made a great grab on our first scoring drive after dropping one on the play before. I'm gonna miss that Chowda' Head.
9. I think Mason is going to do great things in 2014. How clutch was the 4th and 6 conversion to Michael Bennett from our own 39 for an 11 yard gain to mid-field when we had to have it and had to score? A lesser quarterback in another system might have panicked. End result of this drive was Todd Gurley's 2-yard plunge to get the Dawgs within 3.
10. Todd Grantham dialed up right side (short side) pressure in anticipation of a pass, which is exactly what Vad Lee attempted to do on Tech's next possession. Lee threw off his back foot and Josh Harvey-Clemons picked off a wounded duck setting up the eventual tying field goal. Say what you will, but again the 2nd half adjustments had much to do with our victory, holding Tech to 7 points over the final :30 minutes of regulation football. We do this to anyone and I'm a happy camper.
11. In overtime, Todd Gurley - despite feeling the effects of a season's worth of pain - said he felt stronger than he did before the game, and it showed: 50 yards (the maximum, if my math is correct) on our two possession and two touchdowns. What a luxury when you don't have to risk putting the ball in the air.
12. Ramik Wilson is a premiere SEC linebacker. He played his heart out again and tipped the Vad Lee pass that got batted 47 times before it fell harmlessly to earth.
13. Hutson Mason's numbers were not gaudy, but his stat-line for a first ever start on a
neutral hostile field were impressive: 22/36, 299 yards, 2 touchdowns and a pick. There were a few drops, and he did miss a few plays but made great decisions throughout except for his early interception. He managed the game and produced when he had to. Next season, barring another calamitous rash of injuries, he'll have all kinds of weaponry back. 2014 began at 3:41 yesterday in Atlanta.
14. What a great day for college football all over the country. I applaud Brady Hoke for his decision to go for 2 against Ohio State. I cannot understand why he did not roll his quarterback out, though. Poorly designed play. Ohio State has an offense. Their defense sucks. IF they meet FSU in the BCS Championship, they'll get lit up.
14a. Has Beelzebub suddenly forsaken Saban because Auburn is now the highest bidder? It's not crazy, It's Football in Alabama...
14b. Does anyone think Mizzou can beat 'em in Atlanta next Saturday? The Tigers from Columbia played a tough game last night and pretty much held JFF in check. Missouri has a very good defense. This should be an entertaining game. If Auburn prevails, I will have to pull for Ohio State to meet FSU...a thought that makes me gag either way.
14c. Suck it, Spurrier (and whilst sucking it, retire.) And Dabo Swinney has just about replaced Ray Goff as Spurrier's personal biotch!
15. Mark Richt is 12-1 against Georgia Tech. Deal with that Ratio, Tech.
This season has been a grind to say the least. Despite all of the injuries beginning in the very first few minutes of the season in Clemson, to the absurdity of officiating and our own poor play at times, this very young team held together and finished the season at 8-4, with a chance to go to a decent bowl game. I question some of our coaches, and will always wonder "what if" given the plethora of offensive talent this team lost early on. I will never question the heart of the 2013 Georgia Bulldogs. They never, ever quit.