Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face the Pedal Tavernites of Nashville:
1) Brett Thorson has really come through. It’s always going to be hard to replace a weapon like Jake Camarda. But the Thunder Punter From Down Under is showing there’s hardly any regression.
In the last two games, Thorson has been called upon 8 times. There’s a total of 6 return yards from those punts. The yardage isn’t going to get him attention, but 7 of the 8 have been either fair catches or downed by UGA. That’s good hangtime. And in the Auburn game, he averaged 41 yards a punt, every one a fair catch, and every one inside the Auburn 15 yard line (3 inside the 10). If your offense sputters, this is a nice option to have in your back pocket.
2) I was honestly getting tired of every Bulldog touchdown being a bootleg by Bennett or a jet sweep by Bowers. While SBIV still has the team lead in rushing touchdowns, the Auburn game brought the stats a little more towards normality. Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton now have 4 end zone appearances each, and Kenny McIntosh has 3. Balance is good. And it keeps defenses honest, knowing that there are weapons across the board.
3) Do you need to get your passing game back on track? Are you looking for a respectable opponent, but one whose secondary is leakier than a sieve? Then do I have a solution for you!!
Vanderbilt is next to DFL nationally in pass defense. They’ve given up 400 yards through the air the last two weeks, and 300 yards or more in 4 of 6 contests. One of the others is Hawaii - so you understand context. The other is Northern Illinois, who completed 73% of 29 attempts. Vandy must have tackled well, because they sure didn’t break up any passes.
Since I have no clue what our offensive identity is, and the running game has been clicking the last 6 quarters, this seems like a perfect opportunity to get Stequavious and the Bulldog receivers back in sync. And it’s not like they need to throw in wrinkles – snap the ball, block the rush, run good routes, throw the ball to the red jersey, catch the ball. Repeat.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about trying to drag that anchor around:
1) Vanderbilt has options. Especially at quarterback. The athletic Mike Wright started the season under center, but freshman AJ Swann has taken over. Wright had respectable passing stats but was especially dangerous as a runner. While Swann is more of a pure passer, they still are mixing in some dual-threat packages for Wright. And as everyone saw, the Georgia defense is susceptible to a mobile quarterback extending plays (and some scripted draws). I didn’t note it at the time, but one play during the Auburn game we rushed 3, kept in a 4th as spy, and that Georgia spy was quickly watching Ashford run right by him. Even if Vanderbilt doesn’t take advantage of this, we’re about to run up against a couple of quarterbacks who are decidedly mobile.
2) The first quarter. I’m going keep making this same point until it improves. In the last three games, the Bulldogs have not exactly executed on those first 15 scripted plays. Aside from the Bowers 75 yard touchdown on the 2nd play of the Kent St. game, our first quarter possessions have gone thusly:
Muffed a punt reception, turning it over.
Threw an interception.
Ran 12 plays for a paltry 36 yards resulting in a field goal.
3 plays for minus 9 yards and a punt.
3 plays for 2 yards and a punt.
4 plays for 21 yards and a punt.
3 plays for 9 yards and a punt.
5 plays for 12 yards and a punt.
6 plays for 36 yards and a missed field goal. Progress!
And the Vanderbilt offense has its most production of any quarter in the first. As you’ve heard and will continue to hear, these are things that Georgia has been able to overcome versus inferior competition. After our bye week, the competition will be considerably stiffer.
3) I don’t know how we’re top 10 in the nation in 3rd down conversion percentage by our offense. The Bulldog offense has somehow surpassed the line to gain 36 of 71 times. Because it sure doesn’t seem like it (see above with my comments about punting).
And you know what? Vanderbilt is actually pretty good at 3rd down defense. At least sometimes. The ‘Dores held the high-flying and Sam Hartman-led Demon Deacons to a measly 4 of 12 on 3rd down. And even pre-injury Bryce Young got stopped on 5 of 12 attempts at Bryant Denny. Then again, Ole Miss was 8 of 11 last week. And Vanderbilt still gave up 45 points to Wake Forest and 55 to ‘Bama. Dammit, stats!
7 of 12 against Kent State was Georgia sleepwalking. 4 of 12 against Missouri said they were selling out to stop the run and it took a while for Monken to adjust the blocking scheme. 6 of 14 against Auburn was just about everything going wrong. Yet we won all 3 games, and scored 6 touchdowns versus the Barners. If only we can continue to be so fortunate.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia versus the Commodores of Vanderbilt. And as always…