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15 Post-Orange Bowl Thoughts: Getting Back to Who We Are

Part 1 of the redemption tour is complete. Next up...

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Georgia at Michigan John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Although last night’s victory did not have nearly the drama that our last College Football Playoff victory had when we beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl after several overtime periods, the satisfaction of Georgia’s 34-11 victory over the Michigan Wolverines was just as sweet and sets up the exact same stage as we saw in early 2018. Only the venue has changed. I’ve got a few thoughts about it.

1. Yesterday, I had an observation about our first-possession scoring drought that I would like to see reversed (Point #7). Mission accomplished with mucho gusto! A team like Michigan is not built to get behind and come back, and they haven’t been in a hole like we put ‘em in all season long. Todd Monken’s script coming out of the gate was perfect, but this team still had to execute. On the very first play from scrimmage, Zamir White burst between the tackles for a 9-yard gain and the drive was on. Stetson Bennett’s 35-yard pass and stellar fingertip catch by Brock Bowers sent a message and sent shivers down many a Wolverine spine.

My God a freshman...

2. The capper on the opening drive was this perfectly executed pass in the flat to Brock Bowers. He absolutely deserved this score. Bowers is the best tight end in college football, bar none. Take that, Mackey Award committee.

Anyway, this is a great finish to the best opening scoring drive we’ve had all season.


3. Michigan had zero sacks last night. Stetson Bennett played the game of his career as he was accurate and athletic. He got out of a few jams with heat coming from the edge on more than one occasion with, I swear, eyes in the back of his head. His internal clock was perfectly calibrated all night long and his deep balls were excellent when he threw down field. His line: 20 of 30, 310 yards, 3 TD’s and no picks. Now, he did float a bad ball under pressure early in the 3rd quarter that he had no business throwing. He got away with it, but that just won’t do in 9 days. Other than that, he was flawless. The Mailman delivered, big time.

4. The Kenny McIntosh trick half-back option pass to A.D. Mitchell for Georgia’s 2nd score was a play that absolutely did not work in practice on many occasions. No one was more shocked that we pulled it off than James Cook who could have easily been the offensive MVP of this game.

“This whole week, he did not throw a good pass,” (James) Cook told reporters following Georgia’s 34-11 win that sent them to the CFP National Championship. “When it came to the game and Coach Monken called that, I was like, ‘hold on, I know you not about to call that and he did not throw a good pass this whole week.’ And he threw it. That was a good pass. He threw it. I was stunned. I did not know he would even call that. But Kenny that was a good throw. I give it up to him.” - Jake Rowe, 247 Sports

It was approximately at this point where my faith in everything in the Universe was restored.

5. Someone on Twitter said the McIntosh touchdown toss has only added more fuel to the “QB controversy fire.” That was a quality take, my friends. I did, however, spew a mouthful of really good 12-year-old scotch at the moment which I cannot get back.

6. The offensive line did a fantastic job, particularly Jamaree Salyer. By now, you have seen the evidence the evisceration of Aiden “No Sacks” Hutchinson. If you haven’t, you’re welcome!

Salyer made some money on this play. Hutchinson might have lost some.

Give Matt Luke some credit, too. As a unit, the offensive line did a great job and Georgia was generally successful on 1st and 10 running plays most of the evening. On the night, 35 carries for 190 yards and critical short yardage blocking on several occasions.

7. Our receivers were exceptional when targeted. Jermaine Burton’s long touchdown reception was artful and I believe he decoyed Michigan’s Vincent Gray to pull up just a notch on his route as Burton adjusted, ran under Bennett’s dime and took it to the house. I also believe that Gray underestimated Bennett’s arm strength. There seems to be a lot of that going around.

Nine different Dawgs had receptions on the night, with James Cook leading the way (4 receptions, 114 yards and a TD). George Pickens had a single catch, but it was a difficult first down conversion with a Michigan defender draped all over him. I don’t know if Pickens was held out by design with bigger things in mind on January 10th, or if he wasn’t quite ready to do more. Didn’t matter, did it?

7A. I’m not sure why Bowers wasn’t utilized more in the 2nd half. We seemed to force things on occasion to John Fitzpatrick who didn’t have his best night. The way #19 started the game I thought he was destined for another 100+ yard night.

8. Bottom line, the offense rolled up 521 total yards of offense on a top defense. We left points off the scoreboard at the end of the first half (Kirby was a bit pissed at Bennett for clock management) and the 3rd quarter left a lot to be desired as we put together a drive late in the quarter that was killed by penalties. I thought the chop-block call was questionable at best. This score could have been well into the upper 40’s and perhaps should have been, but the issue was never in doubt. We cannot leave points off the board in a few weeks. I know it, you know it and Kirby knows it.

9. The defense we saw last night is real. The defense we witnessed on December 4 was a mystery. I thought Nakobe Dean played about as well as he ever has during his time at Georgia. Derion Kenrick was the games defensive MVP, but Dean was probably more deserving in my mind. His sideline-to-sideline anticipation, pursuit and tackle for loss was as impressive as anything Roquan Smith did during his time in Athens.

At this point, Michigan fans became aware of something called “SEC Speed.”

10. Did I see Julian Rochester play last night? Did I see Julian Rochester make a tackle in non-garbage time, too?

I did! You might have missed it if you blinked. Rochester played a big part in the 2018 Rose Bowl victory over Oklahoma (wearing #5 at the time). Last night, he was wearing #92. I thought this was a pretty special moment for a Damn Good Dawg who is a huge part of Kirby Smart’s program because he has been with the program almost as long as Kirby himself.

11. Michigan had 91 total yards rushing. Prior to last night, they were averaging around 225 yards/game. The Wolverines ended up with 237 receiving yards, with a good chunk of this in garbage time (along with their final score. It’s a theme).

Georgia’s defense was simply smothering all night long. Four sacks and 7 tackles for loss forced the Maize ‘n Blue to get out of their comfort zone early and often. Their leading receiver, tight end Eric All, had 4 receptions for 63 yards and much of this in traffic with a good effort by freshman QB J.J. McCarthy who had to play more than planned because of his dual-threat nature.

12. Mercy, Travon Walker.

13. Watching Jordan Davis pursue a runner laterally and then bring him down behind the line of scrimmage is one of the finest things in life. Witnessing a focused defensive effort from everyone has restored my faith in everything. Nolan Smith had a great game with 8 tackles, 5 solos and 1 sack. Quay and Travon Walker did what they do all night long. Lewis Cine made some key stops from his safety position and tallied 4 solo stops. Eighteen different defensive Dawgs did the dirty tackling deed down in Dade and it was delicious.

13A. Boom.

14. Shoutout to Jalen Carter, too. I focused on him as much as possible and he commanded a lot of double teams and Michigan just couldn’t account for everyone, freeing up other guys to do what they did. Michigan only took a couple of deep shots because they simply couldn’t set up in the pocket, but give them credit as Kendrick let a receiver get behind him and Quay Walker had a tough assignment on another long pass that ultimately resulted in no points because Michigan had to convert on 4th down and they failed.

Michigan lost one fumble and threw two picks. We did not capitalize on any of these in terms of scoring which is a bit disturbing. In this game, it didn’t matter. If we are fortunate enough to get a turnover or 2 next week, we’ve got to do better.

15. Jake Camarda was stellar on special teams as his kickoffs consistently went well out of the end zone boundary. He punted twice with a long of 54. Jack Podlesny was 2 of 3 on field goals and perfect on extra points.

I was thrilled to see Kirby Smart “discourage” the ice water bath as the clock was winding down last night. I know in that moment those kids wanted to douse their coach in the traditional, cliched celebration that would normally come after a big bowl game win. However, this is only part of the equation.

Enjoy this victory, everyone. Savor it. January 10th will get here soon enough and if we play with the effort we gave last night, we might all be happier than we are in this moment.

Now, for the dumbest post in the history of Twitter:

That’s all I’ve got. As always...