When the sun rose in Columbia, Missouri, on Saturday morning, Dawg Nation was collectively wringing its hands in despair, wondering how (or even if) we were going to escape getting blown out by a Mizzou team (and fan base) that was feeling spunky after a win on the road against South Carolina followed by a bye week.
Before tea time even hit, however, the Georgia Bulldogs had emphatically answered that question amid a flurry of turnovers on defense, all of which were accompanied by a spirited raising of the the last 3 digits on one of their hands as they trotted back to the sideline with the ball. And to top the day off, some guy calling himself "Dr. SEC" tweeted out the following:
I have had two text in one hour from reliable sources who believe strongly Todd Gurley will be reinstated by Arkansas game. Time will tell.— Dr. SEC (@thedrsec) October 11, 2014
One of the people who text me feels so certain that he said I could give his name if UGA does not ask for time served this week for Gurley.— Dr. SEC (@thedrsec) October 11, 2014
I've never heard of this "Dr. SEC" before, and I know nothing about his Southeastern Conference medical credentials. But I come from a state that has been raised on Munson and Dooley, Penn Wagers and 4-game suspensions for selling a jersey from a crappy bowl, and suspicious anonymous tweets neither convince nor satisfy me. My team just beat Missouri, and you've got to show me.
(In other words, with apologies to Willard Duncan Vandiver, I'll believe it when UGA announces it, and not a millisecond before.)
Still, however, the fact remains that after a huge emotional blow on Thursday, our Dawgs came together, remained focused, and blew away a Missouri team after most pundits had written us off without our Heisman Trophy front-runner. If there were ever a time to break out my seldom-used flip to "You're (Not) On Notice, Dawg!" for the second time this early in a season, this week would be it. Here's the problem, though... we've got another game this week. And that game is against a team that is probably better than Missouri.
This week, we'll be traveling to Little Rock to take on an Arkansas Razorbacks team that literally took Alabama down to the last second yesterday before falling 14-13 to the Tide. (And even then, they only lost because their kicker missed a PAT earlier in the game.) On paper, you'd think that our defense matches up better against the Hogs than any team we've played this year, because Bret "don't call me Bert" Bielema's offense relies far more heavily on the run than any team we will face this year without the word "Tech" in their name. But Arkansas has suddenly been passing the ball very well in their last couple of games, as well, and we've already established the fact that every team in the
NFL Southeast SEC West is probably better than every team in the SEC East. Add onto that a potential emotional letdown after such a huge win in CoMo (and doubly so if we don't get Gurley back)... it's a prime spot for an embarrassing upset.
I just couldn't ignore how hard our Dawgs fought, though, and how well they played in such a key game. So, I decided to compromise this week. I'm letting the first 5 places in my list know that You're (Not) On Notice, Dawg! For the final 3 places, however, You (Are) On Notice, Dawg!
In no particular order:
NOT ON NOTICE, DAWG:
1) Hutson Mason - The much-embattled Bulldog QB definitely earned his way off the "on notice" list this week. He still didn't have any long completions (though he did take a couple of chances), but he did distribute the ball extremely well all game. One of the hallmarks of a "game manager" quarterback is that he doesn't do anything flashy, but he is efficient in doing what he's asked to do, and he doesn't make any mistakes that could potentially cost you the game. (For the opposite of what a "game manager" quarterback should do, please turn to the entry in your College Football Encyclopaedia labeled "Maty Mauk.") Mason also got a nice little "patented Mike Bobo fadeaway pass in the red zone" touchdown to Michael Bennett in the 2nd quarter, so that's a point in his favor, as well.
I was very impressed with Mason's work this week. We didn't have the oppressive, soul-crushing running attack to take the focus off of him, and he still stepped up and performed when needed. If he keeps it up, that kind of work just might be enough to take us where we need to go this year.
2) Nick Chubb - Oh, baby. 38 (THIRTY EIGHT) carries for 148 yards. That's all you need to know right there. Macondawg and I were pondering at the Goat Roast what exactly Chubb's meme should be at Georgia. We have officially deigned to continue the, "I'm a Chubby Girl," thing, even though it's "ha ha funny." (That's as opposed to "ROTFLMAO funny," which is how funny a meme really needs to be in order to catch on.)
No, I think Macondawg and I have agreed that our signs and t-shirts for Nick need to say, "I have a Chubb. Do you?"
So let it be written, so let it be done.
3) Our Pass Rush - At times this year, we have struggled to get to the quarterback, which has left our secondary exposed on blitzes. We did not have that problem in this game. Actually, that's the "polite, journalistic" way of putting it. When it came to Mizzou's offensive line, we stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose. We just crushed their face.
It's fair to say that Maty Mauk had a truly terrible day with his throws. But he didn't have that bad day in a vacuum. He had a bad day because virtually every time he turned around, he had Georgia defenders in his face ready to pound him into the dirt. (And the one time he had approximately 6 hours to throw the ball, he threw it directly to Dominick Sanders.)
4) The Secondary - After being reviled and reprimanded ad nauseam for our first 5 games, our secondary had a huge time in CoMo. We had 4 interceptions. We only let Mizzou get 4 plays in the Georgia half of the field for the entire game (and 3 of those plays were turnovers). Dominick Sanders, Damian Swann, and Quincy Mauger all got a chance to feel the ball in their hands on Saturday (and Mauger got to do it twice).
And the best stat of the day... The Georgia Bulldogs shut out a ranked opponent in their own stadium for the first time ever. Ever. It had never happened under Vince Dooley, and it had never happened under Wally Butts. It doesn't matter if you think Missouri shouldn't have been ranked. They were. And we pitched a shutout. Magnificent work, defense. Just absolutely magnificent.
5) Lady Luck - As Larry Munson might have said, "Ol' Lady Luck didn't just smile on us out there, she flat-out kissed us on the mouth." That's not to say that all of our guys didn't fight their danged heads off, because they absolutely did. But I counted no less than 3 lucky bounces for us in the first quarter alone. Here are just a few of the most significant "lucky bounces" that I saw from the game:
- On the opening kickoff, Isaiah McKenzie fumbled. Fortunately, the ball squirted directly to Devin Bowman, who recovered it.
- In the first quarter, Chris Conley "fumbled" the ball after a reception (though I still think that was just an incomplete pass), but the ball was helpfully kicked right back to him by a Mizzou defender.
- Damian Swann's interception (our second of the day) was a heads-up play, but the ball was basically tipped right to him by the intended Tiger receiver.
- Reggie Davis just flat-out screwed up a punt catch in the 2nd quarter, but was bailed out by a "kick catch interference" penalty that was the "most judgement" of judgement calls. (It could have easily been not called a penalty, is what I'm saying. The Mizzou guy didn't make any aggressive motions towards Davis. He just happened to be standing there as Davis misjudged the flight of the punt, and when Davis took a step and a half forward, the Mizzou player got a lot closer to him without even moving. Davis really created his own "kick catch interference," so I'm not sure if I would have thrown the flag there if I were a ref.)
- Mizzou's Jimmy Hunt literally shuffled the ball right into Quincy Mauger's hands on Mizzou's first drive in the 3rd quarter, giving Mauger one of the easiest interceptions he's ever likely to get in his career. (Still counts on the stat sheet, though!)
Now, it doesn't matter how much luck you have if you can't capitalize on your opponent's mistakes and make them pay for them, and our boys made the Tigers pay dearly for theirs. But there's no doubt that we got more than a couple of lucky bounces and calls yesterday, and for that, I am thankful to ol' Lady Luck.
YES ON NOTICE, DAWG
6) The Secondary - Yes, I can have the secondary both "on notice" and "not on notice" in the same week. These are my math rules, not yours. Our deep defense still looked very suspect at times yesterday... those weaknesses just weren't exploited by the Tigers. Mizzou's hail mary/four verts route at the end of the 2nd quarter was a wide-open touchdown, except that the receiver dropped a perfectly-thrown ball. I'm not sure who the defender was on that route, but he was beaten by at least 3 or 4 yards. If the receiver doesn't lose his mind there, the score is 20-7 at the half instead of 20-0. That's a potentially big momentum swing.
And if you ignored the CBS "B" crew and their inept analysis and actually studied the replays on TV, the pass to the middle of the field was still open for Mizzou for a large portion of the day. It's just that we got so much pressure that Mauk was flushed out of the pocket relatively quickly on a large number of plays, so he just couldn't find the guy that was repeatedly open over the middle. (And not necessarily wide open, mind you. The middle receiver was usually covered, but he was covered by a defender running both behind and downfield of him. A well-placed pass to that receiver would likely have been complete for about 10-15 yards almost every time it was thrown... just like it usually is against this year's defense.)
In a game against a quarterback that had about 1 more second in the pocket (and who had good awareness, like many of the SEC's QB's do), we're talking about an entirely different game where the offense is marching up and down the field on us and forcing us to keep up with them score-for-score.
7) Celebrating This Win Too Loudly or For Too Long - Look, I don't want to be a Debbie Downer. (Ok, well, sometimes I do. But not today.) The win against Mizzou was amazing, and it was magnificently executed. But here's the deal: we've got an Arkansas Razorbacks team this week that is at least as good as Missouri. In fact, on a comparative basis it's probably better, since their game is straight out of Bert's old Wisconsin playbook: pound you with the run until you get lazy, and then chuck the ball over your head for a touchdown.
Now, it's fair to point to successful bowl games we've had in the past against the Wisconsin teams that played that same style, but this is not a bowl game, and this is not a slow B1G team. Arkansas is running that offense with SEC speed in place at the key positions.
And on top of everything else, we're playing this game in Arkansas' version of Legion Field: War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. War Memorial Stadium only seats about 54,000 people, and it's nowhere near as swanky as Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, but it's kind of a "spiritual home" for the Hogs and their fans, and they don't often lose in that location.
When Arkansas beat #1 LSU in 2007, that was in Little Rock. When they beat #18 LSU in 2002 in the "Miracle on Markham" that paved their way into the SEC Championship Game, that was in Little Rock. And when the Razorbacks upset #9 South Carolina in 2001 on a last-second blocked field goal to win the game, that was also in Little Rock. (Louisiana-Monroe also upset the Hogs in Little Rock in 2012, so that's not good for Arkansas, but it proves that big upsets still happen there.)
We absolutely cannot rest on our laurels and pat ourselves on the back after this win against Mizzou. If we do, Arkansas is going to paddle our little be-hinds real hard in embarrassing fashion on national TV. We have the tools to win this game, even if Todd Gurley isn't reinstated this week. In order to do so, however, we're going to have to be just as focused and just as dialed-in as we were yesterday. It's going to take everything we've got.
8) Bryan Allen - Do I really need to explain this one? What a terrible, disgusting, lowlife scoundrel. Shame on you, jackass, for intentionally targeting a famous player, luring him into committing the most ludicrous of NCAA violations, filming him, then shopping around your video to whomever you thought might be the highest bidder. (And no, I'm not going to take a dig at Florida as a part of this whole odious affair. Even a cesspool pit of college football stankery like the Gators wouldn't claim this imbecile.)
I would never condone physical violence of any kind against this person, but I do hope every person you encounter in the state of Georgia spares a moment of their day to call you a loathsome jerkwad for the rest of your life.
That's it for this week, Dawg fans! Like all of you, I'll be crossing my fingers for some good news on the Gurl front this week, then I'll be heading out to Little Rock this weekend. Mrs. Vineyarddawg and I will be joining the lovely Podunkdawg (and the vaunted, ruggedly-handsome-and-I-say-that-in-a-totally-hetero-way Mr. Podunkdawg!) in cheering our everloving fool heads off for the Dawgs in a hostile environment this weekend. If you weren't one of the lucky few to score tickets to War Memorial Stadium, however, be sure to tune in at 4:00 Eastern on the SEC Network! Until then...