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You're On Notice, Dawg! Week 11

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UGA Sports Communications

We got a win. And we scored a touchdown!  More than one, even!  That was what we needed yesterday, and that's what we got.  Now it's time to move on to the biggest game left on our schedule: The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. (I always cross out the word "Deep" because our first game with Auburn actually predates the first game in the series known as "The South's Oldest Rivalry" between UNC and UVA. So the Georgia-Auburn rivalry is actually the South's oldest football rivalry.)

At any rate, Auburn's coming off of a big win last night against the Texas A&M Aggies, and if they beat us, they'll be bowl-eligible in a year when it looked like they were heading for the toilet bowl.  So they'll have extra motivation even beyond simply wanting to beat the Bulldogs. Therefore, I'm letting the following people know that, for Week 11, You're On Notice, Dawg!

In no particular order:

On_Notice_20151108

1) (Vacant) - I kept the honorary #1 spot vacant last week and it worked out ok, so let's try it out again this week.  In the words of the late, great Yogi Berra, I'm not a superstitious man, but I am a little stitious.

2) Brian Schottenheimer - This is going to sound inconsistent, since I was railing on Shotty previously for sticking to a dry, unoriginal game plan, insisting on calling plays that didn't work and refusing to try new things. This week, the OC dialed up some unusual formations and plays (which we'll get to soon).  He also switched back and forth between Lambert and Ramsey at the QB position when in "standard" formations, much like we did in the first two games of the season.  The problem is that our offense still seemed rather predictable, and Kentucky just doesn't have a good defense.  We were able to run all over the field on the Wildcats, and that means that we didn't really learn anything useful about what will happen when everything goes to hell on offense and we're forced to pass it again, like in our previous 4 games.

So since nothing has changed in the information we have about our offense, Schotty still gets the on notice nod. If we score enough points to beat Auburn by 24 points, I'll be singing a different tune.

3) Whomever is going to play QB - We technically had 4 players line up at the quarterback position in yesterday's game. It seems clear that Lambert and Ramsey are going to be the ones that are going to be making this stretch run for us, though, and neither was really called on to do too much against Kentucky.  Even with all the safe passing calls, though, we still had balls get knocked down at the line and almost intercepted, which is just crazy.  As I said, Kentucky's defense just simply isn't that good, and Auburn's is finally starting to show some signs of a pulse after their beatdown of Texas A&M yesterday.

I still think it's likely that Lambert is our best option right now at QB, if only because he tends to make safer decisions in his throws.  I think we've also seen that confidence is a big deal with Lambert, though, and he needs to get his confidence back up in order to have a decent game against the Tiglesmen. I mean, assuming the coaches don't just chuck Bauta back into the lineup or something. Who the heck even knows, man.

4) The Wildcat/Single Wing formation - I was actually excited to see yesterday that we ran the "Wild Dawg" formation more than just on the first play of the game (as was the case in Jacksonville). In fact, we ran two variations of a Wildcat-like formation:  one with Terry Godwin taking the snap, and one with Sony Michel taking the snap.

The problem is that every single time we lined up in those formations, we ran the exact same play. When Godwin took the snap, he always ran a quick option where he could hand off the ball to a back running up the middle or take the ball himself on an outside run. When Michel took the snap, it was always in an empty backfield, and we always had linemen pulling in the direction of the run in such a way that it look a helluva lot like a traditional "single wing" formation after the ball was snapped.

And hey, a couple of those plays worked ok against Kentucky, but you can't just keep always running the same play from a unique formation. In spite of our mockery, Will Muschamp is not an idiot, and he'll have his guys ready to recognize the wildcat and single-wing formations by next Saturday. If we don't add an extra play or two to run out of those formations, or even a pass option for Godwin or Michel, those plays are going to get blown up every time they're run.

And again, the bottom line is that Kentucky's defense is bad. We didn't have to pass, because we were able to just march the ball down the field and get enough points that it didn't matter.  But that won't be the case this Saturday. If we're going to use the Wild Dawg and single-wing formations again, it'll have to be with more than one option from them.

5) The offensive line - "Hey Vineyarddawg, we got 300 yards rushing on Saturday.  So why the heck are you putting the offensive line on notice?"  Well, I'm glad you asked that question, dear reader. One of the reasons our rushing attack did so well against UK is that we started finally running the ball out around the edges.  Instead of meaninglessly bashing our heads against the middle of the line over and over (a task for which neither Sony Michel nor Keith Marshall are best suited), we finally started calling some outside runs, and those are the situations in which Michel and Marshall perform the best.  Not only that, but our longest run up the middle, a 28-yard TD run by Terry Godwin, didn't come because of great blocking, but on a botched play were Godwin fumbled the ball, then recovered it and took advantage of the confusion to scamper away from the defense.

No, our offensive line continued its underperformance on straight-up runs up the middle. And to be honest, there's no reason to think at this point in the season that this area's going to get any better, so we might as well continue to focus on getting on the outside and putting the ball into space.  But of course, Schotty probably won't do that, so I have to call the O-Line out again, just in case.

6) Georgia fans who are sad that we won and/or are rooting for Georgia to lose so Mark Richt (and/or other coaches) will be fired - I'll be honest and admit that I haven't actually seen anybody making this point after the UK win on the blog or even elsewhere on the internet. But I know those people are out there, and there definitely were people saying after the Florida game that they hoped we lost out so everybody would be fired.  So let me address this right now.

I don't ever like to be the "fan police," telling people who are "true fans" and who aren't, because the truth is there are a lot of fans out there who think of things differently and do things differently than I do, and for the most part, that's a good thing.  It takes people of all kinds and all persuasions to make the world go 'round.  As long as we all love the Georgia Bulldogs and are cheering for them to win, that's all I ask.

But you shouldn't ever, not for a single moment, be cheering for Georgia to lose. Even at the nadir of the Goff and Donnan administrations, I wasn't cheering for an opponent just so a coach would be fired.  Being a Georgia fan means you're cheering for the University of by-god Georgia, not for someone else. You don't like Richt/Pruitt/Schotty/(insert coach's name here)?  Fine, no problem. But you never... ever... cheer against your team.

Let me give you a great recent analogy from another sport which I follow closely: soccer.  During the 2015 Women's World Cup this summer, the USA Women's National Team (USWNT) was once again among the favorites to take home the trophy.  Unfortunately, we had a terrible head coach.  Her teams had significantly regressed technically during her tenure, constantly looked unprepared in games, and she had been absolute crap at developing younger talent to take the place of the old veterans on the team, many of whom should have been already retired before the World Cup, but nobody was there to take their place.

So we were going in with a head coach I absolutely thought needed to be fired.  No question, no hesitancy. But even then, did I ever, even for a moment, cheer against the USWNT during the World Cup?  Hell no, I didn't. They struggled mightily, as most of us thought they would, in the early stages of the tournament.  Then, once they got to the final stages, the old veterans picked it up for one more time and managed to somehow beat Germany in the semis and absolutely destroy Japan in an epic beatdown in the final. And the United States lifted the World Cup for a 3rd time.

And I was happy as hell. Yes, I knew that winning the World Cup meant there was a zero percent chance that Jill Ellis would be fired, and that the team had won in spite of her leadership, not because of it. In fact, that World Cup win might end up setting the USWNT back about 4 or 8 years, because it delays the changes that will be necessary in the system to field an elite team now that all the old veterans are retiring. But all that doesn't matter at game time.  When the game kicks off, I'm a fan of my team, and I'm cheering for them to win. And that should be the case with every Georgia fan, as well.  When the game kicks off, you need to be cheering for your team to win, and not be dour or depressed when they do win. We play the game to win, and that's what we should be cheering for our team to do.  No ifs, ands, or buts.

7) The freshmen - Believe it or not, we've only had 2 away games so far this year (Jacksonville doesn't count). Our first was a lackluster affair in that glorified high school stadium in Nashville, but our other away game was in a packed, raucous Neyland Stadium. And despite Auburn's lackluster record, Jordan-Hare will be just as rockin' this Saturday as Neyland was back in October. Our freshmen have a lot of playing experience by now, but 2 of our last 3 games are away games, and they still don't have much experience in a loud, hostile stadium like they will see on Saturday.  (To be fair, though, this will probably be the last truly hostile crowd they will see, since our final game is at the Joke by Coke in Atlanta, and half the crowd, as usual, will probably be Georgia fans.)

Our freshmen need to make sure they're prepared to perform in an environment like the one they'll see on the Plains.  The coaches need to prepare them, and they need to draw on their experience from Neyland see what changes they need to make to keep improving and playing at a high level. If they don't, we'll be in big trouble, since we rely on many of them to be big playmakers for us.

8) Our motivation - Look, the season's been over since about halftime of that game in Jacksonville.  (I mean, really, the season's been over since the first play of the Tennessee game... but it's actually, factually been over since we lost to the Gators.) But our players and our fans need to remind themselves every week that even though we can't win a championship this year, we are still the Georgia Damn Bulldogs. We still play every game to win. We don't fold up shop just because things aren't going our way and our season has collapsed into a rubble heap. We get back up, dust ourselves off, and keep on coming with all we've got.  But not only that... this week's game is against our oldest rival, the Auburn Tiglesmen. And our series with the Tiglesmen is currently tied at 55-55-8. If we win this week, we'll take a lead in the overall series record, which we haven't done since the Vince Dooley era (1988).

That's what I'm going be cheering for. And I dare say that our team is going to do their level-best to accomplish that, as well. The biggest test remaining on our schedule is this Saturday on the Plains in eastern Alabama. We'll have time to reflect on what could/should have been after the season is over.  Right now, it's time to get behind our Dawgs and cheer them on to victory in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.  And with that, I'll close with the words that were first coined by our Dear Mayor Emeritus Kyle Weblog during his tenure here:

Go Dawgs! Auburna Delenda Est!