Kirby Smart took over a program that wasn’t exactly without talent in 2016 and in rapid order has re-balanced the SEC East, with the potential of taking his 4th title in 5 seasons. Of course, this was enhanced greatly when Sam Pittman was on the payroll as he brought in the kind of offensive line talent and depth that we never quite realized during Mark Richt’s tenure. Although not exactly a reclamation project, it needed help which is exactly what has happened in less than 5 years and we owe much to Sam Pittman. Best of luck to you the rest of the way. I am a fan and always will be.
First, the unpleasantries. It’s never as bad as it first appears (or, as good for that matter), but at times it was pretty bad. I have a few thoughts.
1. Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, Punt, Punt, Downs, Punt, Field Goal. There you have it, the entirety of our first half offensive synopsis. Was this the worst half of offensive football under Kirby Smart? I’m not inclined to do the research at the moment, but I think it’s safe to assume it was. The red pants looked great, though.
We’re going to have to ride our defense for now. I hope it isn’t for the entire season.
2. The second half began as poorly as the first when James Cook fumbled the ball on a little 3rd & 4 swing pass that would have netted a first down, keeping Georgia’s first real offensive rhythm of the game alive. I just don’t know about Cook at the moment. All the reports during the fall camp have been glowing, but there is something amiss here.
3. So, with Arkansas now in possession of the ball and a 7-5 lead, they move down to our 3 yard line before Nakobe Dean sacked Felipe Franks, forcing Arkansas to concede a touchdown a kick a field goal. This was probably a turning point as the defense stiffened and ended Arkansas’ scoring for the afternoon. They never really threatened again until the last minute of the game when Kirby cleared the defensive bench.
4. It is generally accepted that teams improve the most between game 1 and game 2. Normally, we open with a cupcake or schedule one or two after a quality out-of-conference type game (should have been Virginia this season) to open things. This year, no one has the luxury of breaking in a new quarterback and tweaking a new offensive scheme. One thing that must get fixed is the penalties. Why were we so unfocused and undisciplined on both sides of the ball yesterday? Part of it might have been overlooking our opponent to a degree. Much of it was just lack of concentration. Sam Pittman also knows our tendencies, strengths and weaknesses and to his credit exploited what he could when he could.
5. The offensive line genuinely worries me. It isn’t for a lack of talent, but guys who were touted as having an excellent camp were getting whipped, especially on the edge, particularly at right tackle. Matt Luke has to figure out his lineup, and fast. Things got shuffled up in the 2nd half with much better results, but this is a concern. Trey Hill has got to figure out how to snap to the shotgun formation consistently if he wants to stay at center. Warren Ericson did a good job in the second half and might just keep this position going forward.
6. Inside zone blocking gives me the chills. Seriously. It isn’t like we were going up against one of the better defensive lines, either.
7. I’m not about to bash Dwan Mathis. The kid has been through a lot. A. Lot. I’m not letting him off the hook, either. His offensive line did him no favors and the penalties killed any momentum he might have been able to generate, too. But clearly he is not quite ready for prime time. We only saw a flash or two of his abilities, but he was probably thinking too much and just couldn’t process what was around him, as he simply held onto the ball way too long in many instances. The hit that Bumper Pool put on him was a teaching moment, for sure, and targeting, in my opinion. That rattled Dwan. I remember Aaron Murray had a similar freshman moment at home several years ago now by not getting out of bounds before getting lit up. He learned. We are going to need his legs at some point in the season - perhaps next week - in a key situation. Not having a spring practice and the inability to install a new offense in the first place really came home to roost.
8. There is a lot to work on, probably more than we can completely process in under a week, but strange times calls for strange football and here we are. We did win and our depth and talent did prevail, but we cannot get into a hole against anyone else on our schedule like we did yesterday. I do not envy the coaching staff.
Largest margin of victory during SEC opening week:— UGA Football Live (@UGAfootballLive) September 27, 2020
1) Georgia (27)
2) Alabama (19)
3) Florida (16)
3) Auburn (16)
5) Mississippi State (10)
6) Texas A&M (5)
7) Tennessee (4)
Hooray, I guess. Somehow, I’m not entirely comforted.
10. Positives? Sure. What really stood out to me was special teams play, particularly Jake Camarda’s punting - and he did get a workout: Seven punts for a 49.9 average and a long kick of 63. Jake has mastered the short kick and he consistently pinned Arkansas deep. Jack Podlesny went 2/2 on field goals with a long of 38, and 3/3 on extra points. Kearis Jackson is solid as a punt returner and looks very confident fielding in traffic and only needs a small crease to get downhill. He’s going to break one this year. Twice a solid return was damaged by holding. Ugh.
Tyrique Stevenson had a nice 23 yard punt return and Kenny McIntosh returned to kicks for a net of 91 yards (one return for 48 yards, his second for 43) and looks very dangerous. Special Teams get a solid A on the day.
Tyson Campbell Zamir White nearly took the ball of the Arkansas punter’s foot right after Stetson Bennett hit Georgia Pickens on our first offensive touchdown of the game at about the 6:00 minute mark in the 3rd quarter. Campbell actually got to the ball before George Caratan’s foot engaged the oblong spheroid. Scott Cochran, take a bow.
11. Our linebackers are fast, fly to the ball and swarm. This might be the nation’s best overall unit. Nakobe Dean’s speed is impressive and Monte Rice is just a solid presence in the middle. He never seems out of place. His “facemask” penalty was probably something that won’t happen again this season, but I saw a lot of helmets coming off heads during this game and others, too. Jermaine Johnson was around the ball often. He did appear to have a should ding in the first half. Nolan Smith ended the day with 1 1⁄2 sacks and was constantly putting pressure off the edge.
12. Richard LeCounte is currently en fuego. Four interceptions in his last 2 games going back to the Sugar Bowl in January. He continues to make plays in run support, but is a bona-fide ball hawk and is deserving of his All-SEC 1st team accolades. He got burned in a mis-match vs. Arkansas best receiver, Treylon Burks. Felipe Franks was able to roll away from pressure, bought some time and Richie was suddenly in No Man’s Land. That’ll get fixed. Eric Stokes finally got off the career interception schneid in a big way with his pick-6 which put the game away late in the 3rd quarter. He held his ground perfectly anticipating where the throw from Franks would be and the rest is history.
Welcome to the pick-six club, Mr. Stokes.
13. The defensive line played well and Dan Lanning was able to rotate a lot of guys in and out keeping this unit fresh. The roaming linebackers benefitted by doing their thing and shut down the Arkansas rushing attack, which accounted for only 77 yards in 28 attempts (2.8 ypc).
14. I thought Zamir White was tentative in the beginning of the game and with no blocking who can blame him? After the half, with a changed-up offensive line, “Zeus” began to flash and he also began to really show some wiggle, juking would-be first tacklers out of their shoes a few times and showing some acceleration. I think Zamir is still getting his confidence back and by the end of the game, particularly after his first touchdown of the season, he’s almost there. Just gotta’ block for the guy. Kenny McIntosh should be the #2 back, IMO. I think Kenny has very good vision and is tough to bring down. Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards both got a touch. Overall, Georgia produced 121 rushing yards - virtually all in the 2nd half. White led the way with 71 on 13 carries and his long run of 20 was a spark...
15. ...speaking of sparks: Stetson Bennett was poised, confident and accurate when he finally got into a rhythm at exactly the 8:23 mark in the 3rd quarter - after Georgia stiffened inside their own 5 and forced Arkansas to settle for 3. Bennett took ‘em down the field with a combination of his legs and passing (finishing the day 20/29, 211 yards (7.3 yards per) and 2 touchdowns). He threw into some extremely tight windows and, more importantly, saw the field and was a calming influence on the team. His grit on the successful 2-point conversion was pure hustle and he stretched for the pylon and won. I don’t know how much we are going to have to lean on #13 going forward, but I feel a bit better today than I did 48 hours ago if this is the direction we must go in.
Stetson has bided his time and has experience. He’s certainly not the ideal build for a QB, but that doesn’t matter now. He might have to carry us a long way and can be successful as the new system gets integrated. Still, the QB situation is not settled...and that is a bit unsettling. Actually, I’m sort of freaking out. Time will tell (6 short days) if I need to be committed to Bellevue. Stay tuned. This is going to be a very, very weird season.
Case in point: We threw a touchdown to a tight end. I kid. I don’t kid. I don’t know, kid.
Richie doing Richie things.
- Auburn next Saturday, along with GameDay. Somehow, playing Auburn in the 2nd game of the season is like drinking tea with no sugar in it. It just ain’t right.
- Speaking of the PlainTigleaglesmen, they made some big plays vs. Kentucky who, like Georgia, did themselves absolutely no favors especially in the turnover department. Kentucky did acquit themselves well (at times) on offense, but had the “first game blues” to be sure.
- I’m not quite ready to ordain Florida the next big thing, although the media seems to be all-aboard. Their defense gave up a TON of yards to Ole Miss and if the Rebels had any sort of defense to counter, this game could have been interesting. Again, no one can judge much after a first game for anyone, especially this year.
- LSU officially rebuilding. This is where we’ll see if Coach “O” is actually a good coach or not. Mississippi State, on the other hand, just threw for another 150 yards as I typed. Amazing.
- Somewhere in a seedy Oklahoma panhandle flop house, Saggybottoms is drinking Aqua-Velva and eating gas station meat.
That’s all I have. I’ll try to do better next time.
As Always, GO DAWGS!