Good evening, Dawg fans. Well, that wasn't pretty last night. It didn't even leave us feeling particularly good afterwards. And yet... it still counts as a W on the ledger. And perhaps just as importantly, nobody got seriously hurt.
By now, y'all should know what next week's "On Notice" feature is going to look like on the blog. As a result, this week is going to be my chance to address the shortcomings and areas that need to be addressed for this team as they get ready for the Sunshine State Saurians. Therefore, I'm letting the following people know that, even though it's a bye week this week, You're On Notice, Dawg!
In no particular order:
1) Steve Spurrier - Welp, yep, the ol' ball coach done gone and done a little retirin'. 'Cept he's calling it "resigning." And that actually does make it sound more like exactly what it was, since the OBC basically just grabbed the keys off the counter and told the Gamecocks that he was going out for some smokes, but never came back.
2) Brian Schottenheimer - As you might be aware, I'm not exactly someone who advocates firing a coach on a whim or just because we had a couple of bad games. But what we've seen in almost every game from Brian Schottenheimer this season is absolutely inexcusable. Before the season started, he claimed to have understood that you can't stick with the kind of mega-super-conservative play-calling that he used in the NFL, because college is a completely different animal. Through the first 7 games of this season, though, we've seen ample evidence to the contrary.
Early in the season, those tendencies were glossed over because we rolled bad teams. Against Bama, we just got ground into a fine powder, so we basically got almost no usable information from that game. And against Tennessee, much of it could be explained away as shock from losing Nick Chubb on the first play. But against Missouri, Schotty has no excuses. The fact that we won doesn't change the fact that the play-calling in this game might have been worse than any game Mike Bobo ever called on the sidelines in Athens. Let's count up the FAILs, shall we?
First, Schotty calls games so conservatively that Mike Huckabee thinks the man should loosen up and be a little more liberal. Every single time we punt from inside the opponents' 40 yard line, I want to personally run down to the field and slap him in the face. Even if it's 4th and 15 from the 38 and you run a draw play that nets 5 yards, that's still giving them the ball on the 33. And that's versus calling a punt that more often than not is going to go into the endzone, so you're getting a net punt of less than 20 yards. It just makes no sense.
And still on that first point, we had 7 seconds left on the clock before halftime at the 28 yard line, and we were down by 3 points. Look, you have seven seconds left. What do you lose by at least trying to make something happen and calling a hail mary? At worst, you give up an INT on the other team's 20, and as long as you don't let them return it for a pick-6, it's no skin off your back. And you're sending the message that you're not going to quit, no matter what the situation is. But nah, let's just kneel on the ball and run out the clock. Why try to score? After all, scoring is so overrated.
Second, I have absolutely no idea what the hell Schotty was thinking in his running back rotation. I can understand why they took Michel out a lot, because it's true you probably can't give him the ball 35 times a game and expect him to hold up. But Keith Marshall almost didn't get any touches at all. Instead, we kept handing the ball off to friggin' Brendan Douglas, who runs like Refrigerator Perry, except he's about 250 pounds lighter.
Don't get me wrong, I like the feisty little Douglas. He has a great spirit and never gives up. But the same can be said about Faton Bauta, and we're not trotting him out there to try and save our bacon in a close SEC game. What we saw against Missouri yesterday is the absolute best performance Brendan Douglas is going to be able to give us. And he got a total of 24 yards on 9 carries.
Keith Marshall is light-years better than Brendan Douglas, but Marshall only got 5 carries on the day. Douglas got nearly twice as many carries, and Marshall matched him with 24 total rushing yards on the day. It's clear that Keith Marshall wasn't injured (or, at least, no one has said he was), so there's no reason to keep him sidelined. Marshall better damn well be our solid #2 running back from here on out. Get it right, Schotty.
Third, and finally for Schotty, if he ever calls another play this year where the call is a screen pass to Malcolm Mitchell, and Terry Godwin is Mitchell's only blocker, I'm going to have an aneurysm right there. Godwin is a great receiver, and Mitchell is both a great receiver and a great blocker. Let Godwin work on blocking during the offseason, but for god's sake, don't set him up as the only blocker on a play anymore. Florida's defense is going to be just as good as MIzzou's defense, so he ain't gonna magically get better in 2 weeks.
I swear... Schotty might be Florida's way of getting back at us for Muschamp. We don't exactly have a monopoly on secret agents that can bring down an organization from the inside, you know.
3) Kicking on special teams - Yes, technically the special teams won the game for us, because all we got were field goals. But Marshall Morgan also missed the chip-shottiest of chip-shot field goals late in the game. And we had the most devious, #EvilRicht style onside kick play fail miserably because even though Mizzou's players all 100% fell for it, Marshall Morgan's kick died 9 1/2 yards downfield, when it had to travel 10 yards before we could touch it. Ugh.
4) Greyson Lambert - Not all of our failures yesterday can be laid at Schotty's feet. Greyson Lambert correctly described his performance after the game as "rollercoaster." He had some good plays and made some good decisions, and he had some terrible plays and horrifically abysmal decisions. Just in the first half, 3 of his passes should have been intercepted by the Mizzou defense, including one where the defender was all alone, by himself, and had the opportunity run to Starbucks and grab a coffee before the ball came down... and he still somehow managed to bail us out by dropping the ball.
And not only that but on almost every single throw of more than 8-10 yards, Lambert criminally underthrew his passes. There were a couple of times early in the season when Lambert hit his guys in stride, but I haven't seen him do that since probably the South Carolina game. When you under-throw passes against good SEC defenses, you're going to get intercepted. It's as simple as that.
And on that long pass that should have been an armpunt, the defender was all alone because Reggie Davis cut off the route to an out route instead of a fly route. And that's the 3rd or 4th receiver that has done that with Lambert this year. Are all of our receivers really terrible, or is Lambert the one forgetting the routes? I can't say for certain, but either way, it ain't good.
5) Time of Possession/Letting the defense rest - This was the first game in which we actually won the time of possession battle, and we blew it away, holding the ball for about 16 minutes longer than Mizzou did. Some people claim that Time of Possession is the most useless stat in football, and those arguments have some merit. But when your offense can't finish a drive to save their lives, and you're going to have to rely on the defense to keep you within reach of the other guys, it make all the difference in the world to give the D a nice long rest on the sidelines to get recharged.
6) Whichever referees were in charge of calling pass interference in this game - I'll admit that I didn't really catch this when I was watching the game live, though I might have thought once or twice, "Man, that defender was really on top of our guy." On my DVR re-watch, though, it looked to me like Mizzou's defensive backs got away with PI a significant number of times, and on significant plays, as well.
On two long pass plays to Malcolm Mitchell in the first half (including the one where he was double-covered by the time the ball arrived and it could have been intercepted), the defenders had their hands all over Mitchell, and were clearly interfering with him raising his arms up to make the catch. That is textbook pass interference, but the refs couldn't seem to get their flags out of their pockets either time.
Also, on the 3rd and goal play when the Mizzou interception was overturned on replay, what nobody on the SEC Network broadcast team mentioned was that Jeb Blazevich was tackled by the second Mizzou defender (the one behind him) while the ball was still in the air. Regardless of whether the play was an INT, it should also have been a pass interference penalty on the Tigers.
The really ironic thing, though, is that we actually did get a pass interference penalty called on Mizzou in the 4th quarter during our game-winning drive. On that play where the PI was called, though, the ball crossed the sideline about 6 feet above Malcolm Mitchell's head. It was about as uncatchable a ball as you're ever going to see... and the officials called pass interference. Even though that call went in our favor, it was still an atrocious PI call. Somebody needs to give those guys some serious remedial education on what constitutes pass interference and what doesn't.
7) Dominick Sanders - I confess that I was one of the ones booing at the refs in the stadium when this call was made. During my DVR re-watch, though, I saw that this was 100% the correct call. Sanders was incredibly careless and made a horrible decision on this play. He came in head-first, launched himself at the player, and initiated contact with his helmet to the Mizzou receiver's helmet. Just incredibly dumb. And because of Sanders' poor decision-making, we're going to lose him for half of the Florida game, too. And that's a game where we're going to need all of our defensive players playing at their best (again).
8) Your blood pressure - Kind of funny for me to call this out right after raising everybody's blood pressure a little bit more over the last 6 points, but we have to remember that this is still a bye week. We've been gnawing our fingernails to the quick and wailing and gnashing our teeth non-stop over the last 3 weeks+, and it's beyond question that all of our collective health has probably suffered for it. Depression, stress, and sustained long period of screaming at god, your TV, and life in general takes its toll on you after a while.
Do yourself a favor, as I am going to attempt to do, and unplug a little bit. Plan to take a nice, relaxing walk on Saturday, or even a camping trip into the beautiful north Georgia mountains. Enjoy your friends and/or family for a few days. Prohibit the discussion of football as a topic around you for a couple of days this week at work. Believe me, once we get to next week, your health will thank you for it!
Well, that's all I have time for this week. In closing, as we prepare for the bye week, allow me to share a quick story: As I was writing this article, my 2-year-old son ran into my office and started playing with his Thomas the Train toy. He started it up and set it on the ground, and the train drove itself directly into the TV stand. He then ignored it, but it sat there, wheels churning but moving absolutely nowhere for about 30 seconds. Then it stopped for about 10 seconds, and then started churning its wheels against the TV stand again for about 30 seconds. Then it said, "Well done! We've been really useful today!" and turned itself off.
Today, I learned that Thomas the Train is a Georgia Bulldog.