One damn yard. A single stretch of 3 feet or approximately 0.9144 meters if you’re German. This game really didn’t come down to that single ill-fated Isaiah McKenzie sweep, but that was an exclamation point to what was an inexcusable loss.
1. What bothered me the most is the regression that we saw in a particular phase of the game that has been a consistent bane of our existence for a long time. By now, everything that has been written about Special Teams has been read. How do you field that 2nd-half kickoff, Reggie Davis? Senior players should never, ever make that mistake. It was in that moment that I knew, in my heart of hearts, we were doomed.
2. The worst trait a cornerback can have is timidity. What I saw out of #12 was exactly that on a key play during Vandy’s only legitimate scoring drive the entire afternoon, giving up what ended up being a 27 yard gain. You can’t be a musician if you don’t have rhythm. You can’t be a defensive back if you play scared. Next man up, please.
3. In reference to Thought #2, the defense played well enough to almost bail out the other two phases of the game that utterly failed. I guess this is the only positive I can take away from this debacle. This team is geared towards defensive football. Kirby Smart and Co. are seeing some better results, but our deficiencies in the secondary are killing us.
4. Offensively, I thought this was Jim Chaney’s worst game as a play caller all season. Sometimes, running the ball to set up the pass needs to be adjusted. Pass the ball to set up the run, maybe? Jacob Eason still missed some plays that were there to be had, but when this kid gets into a rhythm he’s deadly.
5. A particular drive in the 3rd quarter, immediately after we scored our lone touchdown on a pass from Eason to Isaac Nauta and then forced a Vandy 3-and-out, saw us moving down the field again, with gusto. Then, Lamont Gaillard tweaked his back and was on the ground for a considerable amount of time. The entire offensive rhythm of that drive - up to that point the best of the day - just died on the vine in those 5 minutes it took to resume play. I think if we kick a field goal there, we may win. If we score a touchdown, we absolutely win. Here is the breakdown (via ESPN):
1st and 10 at UGA 13
(8:02 - 3rd) Nick Chubb run for 11 yds to the Geo 24 for a 1ST down VANDERBILT Penalty, unsportsmanlike conduct (Nifae Lealao) to the Geo 39 for a 1ST down
1st and 10 at UGA 39
(8:02 - 3rd) Jacob Eason pass complete to Isaiah McKenzie for 4 yds to the Geo 43
2nd and 6 at UGA 43
(8:02 - 3rd) Brian Herrien run for 3 yds to the Geo 46
3rd and 3 at UGA 46
(8:02 - 3rd) Jacob Eason pass complete to Terry Godwin for 6 yds to the Vandy 48 for a 1ST down
1st and 10 at VAN 48
(8:02 - 3rd) Jacob Eason pass complete to Isaac Nauta for 9 yds to the Vandy 39
2nd and 1 at VAN 39
(8:02 - 3rd) Sony Michel run for 10 yds to the Vandy 29 for a 1ST down
1st and 10 at VAN 29
(8:02 - 3rd) Jacob Eason pass complete to Terry Godwin for 7 yds to the Vandy 22
Edit: Gaillard is hurt on this previous play - momentum effectively killed.
2nd and 3 at VAN 22
(8:02 - 3rd) Brian Herrien run for a loss of 2 yards to the Vandy 24
3rd and 5 at VAN 24
(8:02 - 3rd) Jacob Eason sacked by LaDarius Wiley for a loss of 11 yards to the Vandy 35
4th and 16 at VAN 35
(8:02 - 3rd) Marshall Long punt for 31 yds, downed at the Vandy 4
6. The above was Nicholls State all over again when Eason threw the pick as we were driving to put the game on ice at the same end of the field. Young teams are so susceptible to the little things. This was the turning point.
7. Penalties. I hate ‘em. Yeah, some were bad calls, especially a holding on Kublanow that hurt us late. But this was a disturbing regression. There is no excuse for the procedure penalties. None.
8. We have two sure-handed receivers in Terry Godwin and Riley Ridley. Both made some incredible catches on hot throws that weren’t entirely “on the money.” However, these guys are not physical enough to block bigger cornerbacks. I thought Javon Wims earned more playing time and is the most physical wideout we have. Jayson Stanley did not catch a ball. Eason never looked his way on one particular pass when he could still be running. Michael Chigbu has got to make that catch that set up the ill-fated sweep to McKenzie that failed us. Isaac Nauta is a beast.
9. The offensive line ultimately failed. They did an adequate job in protecting Eason and at times, he had a ton of time to sit in the pocket. The run blocking simply wasn’t there, and no one could account for Vandy’s excellent linebacker and safety play in run support. Kudos to them, I guess.
10. Back to special teams: There had better be some real improvement heading down the stretch or people need to be fired. Rodrigo Blankenship’s success aside, the current state of this entire unit is dismal. Frankly, punts scare me. The “I need therapy” type of scared. Whether we punt (38 yard average yesterday, including some pooch kicks) or they do. This was supposed to be a strength. It is a liability. It’s worse than a Chinese fire drill. Isaiah McKenzie had a -0.3 average and no one could stop the rolling rugby ball until it pinned us back yet again.
11. Writing this is hard. Thanks for reading.
12. A systemic failure in almost every aspect of this game has now sub-divided the fan base even more. At this point, I really don’t care about the record. Sure, I want to win. More than anything, I want to see some progress and consistency. It’s all about 2017 now. Keep playing some young guys. Throw ‘em in the fire. What the hell?
13. I’ll be in Jacksonville in 2 weeks. This quite possibly will be the only game I’ll see in person this season. Do I expect us to win? I don’t know. But I do expect us to play better.
14. This is a young team with an identity crisis. I truly don’t know if there is any upper-class leadership right now, but I suspect that it is lacking. I’m not real optimistic about the rest of this year, and I never thought this team was going to be better than 8-4, maybe 9-3 with a break or two. A lot of folks are drawing parallels with the 2006 team. I’m not. Some are even bringing up Saban’s start at Alabama. Who really cares? Kirby Smart has a pretty good idea of what he needs to do. Georgia has been in decline since the final whistle after the 2012 SECCG. It’s really been death by a thousand cuts. The well-documented failure of an entire class (arguable, two) and the dysfunction of an entire coaching staff would leave any program shaken. It is far from reloading. It is rebuilding. I’m still bullish, but we were down a helluva lot farther than we’d like to admit. Having said that, it’s a lot more fun riding one up than riding one down. Just how far down are we? Remains to be seen.
15. The entire equilibrium of that locker room right now is struggling to find balance and consistency. If this is all we can muster from here until Tech, I’ll be fine with it. This is going to take more time than we thought, though. But why is anyone surprised? Change isn’t easy. I am not suggesting we should just “accept” losing to Vanderbilt, either, but this team has too many holes to even be considered as a contender. Where there is a wealth of talent at some positions, there exists a distinct lack of talent at others. We are going to have to recruit our way out of this, and are on our way to doing just that. Kirby Smart was handed the keys to a Ferrari. Trouble is, it has a flat tire, is mis-firing on a cylinder or two, and the timing is off. Repairs need to be made. Is the driver willing to spend the money on them, or just ignore the issues. I don’t think this is the case at all. Let’s see how she runs in the next few weeks after some thoughtful diagnosis.
Oh, look...A Bonus Thought: To all the Ole Miss fans who bombarded my Twitter feed last night with some fancy hashtags like #loser and #karma and #overrated, etc., I still stand by my assertion that Hugh Freeze is a cheater...
...and Ole Miss is the best 3-3 team in the land.