ATHENS – There are plenty of good things that could be said about Georgia’s offense in Brian Schottenheimer’s debut: Effective. High-scoring. Old school, in the best sense.
But another term has been thrown around more since Georgia ran the ball 38 times and only threw it 14 times in a 51-14 shellacking of Louisiana-Monroe: Vanilla.
No deep downfield passes. Only a handful of intermediate pass attempts. Even the rushes were fairly boring: No sweeps, no stretch plays. Two-thirds of the runs were between the tackles. And the ratio of run-to-pass would have been even higher had the final 9:54 been played.
Still, who can complain after the result?
“I’m fine with how we operated the other day,” tailback Keith Marshall said. “We put up a lot of points. So it could be vanilla, but if we put up enough points it doesn’t really matter.”
Still, it sets up the question going forward for Georgia’s offense: Will it remain this vanilla, or become more neapolitan as the opponents get tougher, and quarterback Greyson Lambert settles in as the starter?
The sentiment around the team is that it will indeed open up, whether it’s Saturday at Vanderbilt, or the week after against South Carolina.
“Our gameplan wasn’t that big coming in,” tailback Nick Chubb said. “We ran pretty much the same plays. I think we’ve got a lot more than we showed.”
Receiver Malcolm Mitchell, when asked if the offense held back in the opener, thought for a few seconds, then offered a very careful answer.
“I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘hold back.’ I think we did what was necessary, and didn’t do anything that was not necessary,” Mitchell said.
Schottenheimer hasn’t been available to the media since the game. Since he arrived he’s promised a continuation of Georgia’s pro-style offense, and praised the work of previous offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. But while Bobo opened up Georgia’s offense his final few years at Georgia, adding the no-huddle and going spread-heavy for one season, Schottenheimer’s reputation in the NFL was fairly conservative.
The caveat to that was Schottenheimer was calling plays for head coaches such as Rex Ryan and Jeff Fisher, who preferred a more conservative approach. So when he arrived at Georgia the question was whether Schottenheimer would feel freed up to air it out more. He did after all play quarterback at Florida under Steve Spurrier.
But his debut game being against Louisiana-Monroe probably wasn’t the game to do that.
“Obviously you gameplan against who you’re going against, so we didn’t show the whole playbook,” Marshall said. “But I mean, I think we’ll run the ball a lot, for sure.”
A good offensive coordinator also has to gear to his strengths. And Georgia is stronger and more proven at tailback, so a heavy run gameplan early in the season is no surprise.
Last year Georgia ran the ball 61.3 percent of the time. That was a high-water mark: It was only 49.1 percent run plays in 2013, when its tailbacks were hurt and quarterback Aaron Murray was in his senior year.
The previous two years, when Georgia won consecutive SEC East titles, it was 54 percent run plays each season.
“My guess is we’ll be pretty balanced across the board throughout the year,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said on Tuesday. “I don’t think it will be super-heavy run, although we have a lot of faith in our ability to run the ball. But we know you’ve got to throw and catch if you’re going to win the types of games we’re going to try to win here.”
Chubb also opined that “I think we’re gonna throw the ball too, a lot more this year.”
But if every game were like last Saturday, while it may not be too exciting for the fans, more than a few players would love it.
“That’s what I want,” senior left tackle John Theus said. “If we can stick to the run game and beat a team with a run game that is perfectly fine with me. That physical style of play is what we like, what we want. And if we don’t have to put ourselves in position to throw the ball then I’m all for it.
“But obviously Greyson showed that he can throw the ball, and we can throw it if we need to. Why fix something that’s not broken? So if we’re running the ball and it keeps working, hopefully coach Schotty just keeps calling it like it was. That’s what wins games.”