Good day, UGA. Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. In today’s edition, we think the unthinkable ahead of this weekend and put the dogs on patrol in our own backyard.
Reliving the Nicholls nightmare
The only way to conquer your fear is to face it, and this weekend my fear is that Georgia will follow up its upset of Auburn with a letdown loss for the ages against Louisiana-Lafayette. Why am I afraid of this? For one, as thrilling as the Auburn upset was, it was not an impressive win. Georgia scored no offensive touchdowns and stopped an offense with a QB that had a dead shoulder. But the main reason I have this concern is because the Bulldogs came sickeningly close to losing to the only other cupcake on their schedule, Nicholls, earlier this year.
In the aftermath of that scare, Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation wrote about what went wrong for Georgia. The Bulldogs have fixed, or at least have come close to fixing, some of those problems, while others persist. Let’s take a look at a few things Emerson pointed out to see how Georgia has progressed from its second to second-to-last game:
The blocking — Emerson went real in-depth on what went wrong for Georgia’s offensive line in this game, but I’ll sum it up in one word: everything. While the line does continue to be the weakest unit on this team, it has improved steadily as the year has progressed, having its best game last week against Auburn, giving up no sacks in the second half. At the time, this makeshift, veteran unit was still in the midst of learning to play Smart’s offense. Mistakes were expected. Don’t expect as many this Saturday.
The play-calling — The offense as a whole just couldn’t find a rhythm against Nicholls, which can be chalked up to Jim Chaney’s play-calling. Chaney’s decisions on offense continued to befuddle fans after that, culminating on a disastrous fourth-down call against Vanderbilt that cost Georgia the game. Like the offensive line, though, Chaney’s play-calling has also taken a turn for the better as of late. He moved to the booth from the sideline against Kentucky, and Georgia’s offense had one of its best games of the season. No doubt he’s been better lately, but the prospect of a boneheaded call in a big spot still lingers.
Jacob Eason — This is where we start seeing real improvement. In the first two games of the season, before he was named a starter, Eason showed all the physical skills needed to be a top QB but was clearly unseasoned in the managerial aspect of the position. Kirby Smart made the right call when he named his starter the week after Nicholls. That week, Eason engineered a game-winning drive against Missouri and has continued to show competency running Georgia’s offense. Through experience, Eason has acquired those managerial skills, and I have no doubt he’ll be in complete control against ULL. In fact, this game should be a good respite for him after facing Florida and Auburn the last two weeks.
OK, so maybe I shouldn’t be so worried about this game. In addition to all that above about the offense, the defense has also improved tremendously. And ULL is a 4-5 team in the Sun Belt. This really shouldn’t be a challenge for Georgia. If it is, it will be because a lot of the problems that popped up against Nichols are rearing their heads again.
Who will step up?
So who needs to step up in order for Georgia to handle its business against Louisiana-Lafayette? I think it could come down to the performances of these three players:
- Nick Chubb: Although he rushed for just more than 100 yards against Auburn, Chubb is still not playing like his old self. And he’ll have a tough time this week, as ULL only gives up 118 yards rushing per game. After a spate of fumbles this season, Chubb’s No. 1 objective is to hold onto the ball. After that, just make sure the Cajuns have to respect the run, so passing lanes will stay open for Eason. He may not have success on every down, but as long as Chubb is pounding the rock, there’s a chance to break a run and house it.
- Riley Ridley: As good as Isaiah McKenzie is, the best you can do with him is to give him the ball on sweeps and slants and hope he finds space to make a big gain, which he often does. But Eason needs a receiver he can throw to against more physical corners. A legitimate downfield threat will open passes underneath and give UGA’s rushers move room. After two amazing catches last week — one in which he shrugged off a pass interference call, then snagged a catch with one hand, and another in which he toed the sideline while falling out of bounds — Ridley has emerged as the prime candidate to fill that role. He has shown little consistency this season, though. Eason and Ridley will have a chance to nurture that connection against ULL, which is ranked 81st in pass defense.
- Roquan Smith: Just this week Smart was bragging on Smith, calling him a “new-age” linebacker in the wake of his performance against Auburn. Smith is quick lateral mover, built perfectly to sniff out the ball when defending the spread. Just like he did against the Tigers, Smith will be looked to to lead the charge against ULL’s high-tempo spread.
If talking about the UL-Lafayette game isn’t getting you pumped up for Saturday, try watching the highlights from last week’s upset and then see how you feel.
Autumn Fire: Integrity
Not pumped enough? I guess you just need some Tammi and Marvin.
Still not running through walls?
Some RTJ will cure that.
UGA hoops edges Furman
Georgia basketball moved to 2-1 this season with a 84-78 win over Furman Thursday night at Stegeman Coliseum. J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten were on fire, scoring 28 and 27 points, respectively. No other Bulldog scored in double-digits. However, Juwan Parker provided some big buckets when it was needed. As exciting and fun as it is to watch Maten and Frazier put up big numbers, Georgia is going to have to find another scoring option if it wants to make the tournament this year.
But a win is a win, so there isn’t much to complain about. Plus, Mike Edwards threw down this dank yoke, so that’s nice.
— Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) November 18, 2016
BVG is back
Former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder took in Georgia basketball’s win on Thursday. You’ll be shocked to learn he still looks like he plays bass for Brooks & Dunn.
— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) November 18, 2016
- Not high on noon: Why Georgia has so many early kickoffs (Seth Emerson, Dawg Nation)
- Georgia Mailbag: A little football, musical side notes, and yes … black jerseys (Seth Emerson, Dawg Nation)
- Georgia College of Engineering helps to protect Bulldogs RB Sony Michel (Matt Schoch, Dawg Nation)
- Smart speaks on 2016 scout team players who could leap in 2017 (Jason Butt, Macon Telegraph)
- UGA football team near bottom in SEC graduation statistic (Lee Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald)
- UGA offense finding more deep ball success (Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald)
- Vince Dooley reveals two schools he almost left Georgia for, and the game a cross burned at halftime (Marc Heim, AL.com)
- Fittingly, Hugh Durham and Dominique Wilkins enter College Hall of Fame together (Chip Towers, Dawg Nation)
This is the last Mannequin Challenge video you’ll ever need to see. (Seriously, everyone can stop making and watching them now.)
— Ryan T (@Ryan_Thomas02) November 16, 2016
Enjoy the weekends, folks.