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15 Thoughts: And a Californian (or two) Shall Lead Them

I cannot think of a better debut by a Georgia QB. That other kid from Cali is pretty good, too.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go!

1. Once last night’s game ended, I calmly turned off the TV, quietly put away my dishes, placed the cap on my game-day bottle and fed “Doodle,” our 18-year-old cat. In a normal year, I’d be up ‘til 3:00, watching PAC-12 ball. I gently slid into bed as not to disturb Mrs. DtD because she was fast asleep. Although she does care for our Dawgs and wants us all to be happy, she’s a normal person who would rather sleep than have her blood pressure elevate to dangerous levels by watching the 2020 iteration of Bulldog Football.

I did not lament the fact that we only rushed for 8 yards on 23 carries on the night. I only briefly considered (for now) all the penalties and ridiculously bogus calls by yet another inept SEC officiating crew that occurred late in the game. The intentional grounding non-call when Will Rogers was clearly in trouble and inside the tackle box was the most egregious. Malik Herring’s personal foul was borderline at best.

SEC officials. This Conference should demand better. Or, at least personnel that can actually, you know, see...

Nope, despite the fact that I just endured another incredibly stressful Georgia football game, I rapidly drifted off to la-la land with a big ‘ol smile on my face and you (eventually) did, too. We have our quarterback. J.T. Daniels may or may not have a bad wheel, but he does have a Norden Bomb Sight. He saved us. Without him we probably lose by a couple of scores to a completely depleted Mississippi State squad who deserves a TON of credit for showing up in the first place and playing their collective asses off. Despite all of our injuries and imperfections, I still slept the sleep of the saved and the thankful. (In case you haven’t surmised by now, it’s World War II references day here at Dawg Sports).

2. At no point during the game did I feel we could pick up a yard or two if we needed it on a 3rd and short situation. Fortunately, we were in several 3rd and long situations which dictated throwing the ball and J.T. delivered time and again in the clutch. Every one of these were vital to a winning effort as Georgia converted 8 of 13 on 3rd down. I’d rather not have to live this way, all things being equal.

3. On our last scoring drive, the stat line will only show 1 touchdown as J.T. hit Kearis Jackson on a 3rd and 20 play that covered 40 yards. Daniels actually should be credited for 3 touchdowns as Jackson dropped a perfectly lobbed throw in the corner of the end zone, and then Georgia Pickens dropped a pass on 2nd down that he easily makes 9 out of 10 times. The third time was the charm when Mississippi State’s safety got burned and Jackson adjusted on a slightly underthrown ball that gave us the lead for good.

This wasn’t a touchdown, but it was a DIME. Mobility, for the win.

4. Daniels’s throws as the game progressed just got better and better and his deep passes were spot on. This team has an incredible receiver room. Think of the guys who are either injured or not quite ready to contribute but should in 2021: Dominick Blaylock, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Arian Smith. There are guys like Ladd McConkey and Justin Robinson who are taking a red-shirt and figure to factor into a rotation that might be the best that has ever been in Athens. After the Florida game, it really appeared to me that all this potential would just wither on the vine for the rest of the season, at least among the starters. This morning? The possibilities are endless.

5. We completed passes to 8 different receivers, but Calabasas, CA native Jermaine Burton had a night of nights, with 8 receptions for 197 yards and 2 scores. Welcome back, George Pickens! Eight balls for 87 yards and a score. George had several key 3rd and long catches and should’ve had a few more that we negated due to penalties. Jackson hauled in 4 for 55; Demetris Robertson stepped up big late in the game with 3 targets for 45 yards.

If you have Jermaine Burton and George Pickens, if you’re not going to throw it up to them, don’t recruit them - J.T. Daniels, Post-Game

Truth to Power. Oh, and J.T.: Please don’t jump up in celebration like that. We’re Georgia and not-so-good things have happened as a result of celebrating. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated. - Every Georgia fan everywhere.

6. The offensive line pass protected adequately enough for the most part, but did give up 3 sacks. These weren’t necessarily coverage sacks, either. Justin Schaffer had a night he’d rather forget, especially in run blocking. The offensive line resembled nothing like they did during the Auburn game. I get that Mississippi State sold out to stop the run, but the run blocking was non-existent all night. Sure, it’s fixable and going forward no one is going to sell-out on the run now that we have a legitimate vertical attack.

7. Anyone notice how high Trey Hill was snapping the ball in our first series? Good thing Daniels is tall, because a few of those snaps would have sailed 25 yards behind him. Hill settles in as the game progresses and this is something I have watched since Arkansas. Trey is a great center, but he’s still got this hiccup in his giddyup. Daniels had to make some athletic moves just to corral some of these snaps and quickly stick the ball into the belly of a running back.

8. The defense shored things up late in the game when it counted. It was the first 3 quarters that caused everyone watching a collective flashback to the Willie Martinez days. All I can say is we are missing Richard LeCounte terribly as he is the glue and the communication nerve center for everything that happens on defense. Jordan Davis is missed as well, but this game was always going to be about a 3-man rush and giving up a 10-yard soft zone in the middle of the field, while trying to play man coverage.

9. In the end, the defense did adjust and while bending did not break after State scored their 24th and final points of the game. Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, after scoring their final touchdown at the 5:17 mark in the 3rd quarter, had only 4 more drives of which 2 were “three-and-outs,” a quick 5 play drive (punt), and turnover on downs at the end of the game when Azeez Ojulari sacked Will “I never met a receiver I didn’t like” Rogers on 4th down to put them (and us) out of our misery. His stats: 41/52, 336 yards and 1 touchdown. He’s perfect for what Mike Leach does offensively.

10. There were no turnovers in this game, which I find remarkable. Any single turnover could have been a death knell for whoever committed this. Daniels had a single bad pass early in the game that probably should have been picked off. Conversely, if Lewis Cine manages to hold onto what should have been an easy pick during the 3rd quarter, he might still be running. Tyrique Stevenson jumped a route and nearly had a pick in the 4th quarter.

11. Why were we running the ball on first (and sometimes 2nd) down all night into a 7-man abyss? We found ourselves behind the sticks on early downs all evening. Still shakin’ my head. Todd Monken had some very good calls dialed up, but he had some stinkers, too. Collectively, we were probably out-coached by a team that was so depleted there is no reason why the score was as close as it was.

12. Jake Camarda bailed himself out with some very good punts late, but he also shanked one for 25 yards that could’ve been disastrous. However, MSU went 3-and-out on their subsequent drive. Jack Podlesny was perfect on the night, including a lone field goal of 42 yards.

13. We couldn’t run the ball, but give credit to our running backs in blitz pick-up. This was vital and a very well coached aspect of our offense.

14. Despite all the warts, I haven’t felt this good about the season and the future direction of the team since Auburn. The offense was energized and the receiving corps has a reason to believe.

15. J.T. Daniels is a gunslinger to be sure, but also showed tremendous poise for a first-time post-injury start, and touch on some deep balls that were just about perfect. His arm strength is the best since Jacob Eason and he’s only going to improve as chemistry builds with everyone that is receiver eligible. I’m not worried about the running game, especially considering how much this aspect will open up with teams that will have to play safe. What I’d like to see is more tight end usage, but in a game like last night they were required to block because the offensive line’s poor overall showing. I don’t know how the rest of the season will play out, or if it will play out as this damned pandemic is having a second surge. I do see real hope for the offense for what remains of this year and especially next.


So, let’s play a little tortuous “What If” here; only because it’s already being played elsewhere. Do we beat Alabama with a “healthy” J.T. Daniels at QB? Maybe. We were in that game until we weren’t and that one unraveled rapidly because of some bad QB decisions that resulted in not checking down to open guys at best, and throwing picks at worst. Bama was torching our secondary, but what if we are in a bona-fide tit-for-tat track meet? We couldn’t win a game like that until last night.

How about Florida? Despite our utter lack of offense after the first 15 minutes, we still had a puncher’s chance mid-way through the 4th quarter despite everything that had transpired. Maybe if our defense was completely healthy, we limit the damage. I absolutely believe the J.T. we saw last night would have lit up Florida’s overrated defense. Could he have been available for either game? It doesn’t matter today. We do have him in the present and the remaining games going forward are critical to our 2021 success. But the debate about J.T.’s availability until last night is going to rage throughout the offseason. What’s done is done. Ain’t no future in the past.

Reason for optimism? 401 reasons/4 touchdowns and a 96.2 passer rating, y’all.

Oh, and perspective: It can always be worse...

As Always, GO DAWGS!