Seven thoughts, observations and notes at halftime from Sanford Stadium as Georgia leads Southern, 20-6:
1. Georgia’s defense has some work to do before next week. Four games in, this unit has had mostly good moments, but hasn’t put together a complete game yet. When it’s good, it’s very good, forcing lots of turnovers and three-and-outs. But the Bulldogs continue to give up a lot of productive drives, including two to Southern in the first half. The touchdown came after a fourth-and-8 was converted. Prior to that Southern converted four out of five third-down attempts. Yes, it’s not the kind of game you get up for, and so much about defense is emotion-driven. But the fact Southern was able to move the ball on a few drives, and convert on some third downs, again shows that Georgia’s defense isn’t where it quite needs to be yet.
2. Nick Chubb’s 100-yard game streak is in jeopardy. He only has 31 yards on nine carries at halftime. But he’s still got a shot thanks to the closeness of the game, as he’ll definitely play at least one series in the second half, possibly more.
3. This is Greyson Lambert’s stat line since the 0-for-7 start at Vanderbilt: 41-for-46, 543 yards, four touchdowns. An observation about Lambert: As the season goes on you see more and more interaction with his offensive mates, and comfort between them. During the first quarter he and Malcolm Mitchell plopped down on the bench together and talked, after a drive in which the pair hooked up for two passes. The two kept talking during the ensuing defensive drive. A short time later Chubb took a seat next to Lambert. It’s more than just taking the offensive linemen out for ice cream. Lambert now seems to be gaining a real rapport, on and off the field, with his key guys.
4. Mitchell in the game-and-a-half since venting his frustration about the passing game after the Vanderbilt game: 11 catches for 184 and one touchdown. I’m not going to say it’s directly related, but sometimes airing things out publicly is a good thing. Ask Shawn Williams and most other people around the team in 2012.
5. Brice Ramsey got his one series, and again looked good on most of the throws, showing the zip we all know he has. But he also had one overthrow to Mitchell that was almost intercepted on the tip. It’s a valid question whether giving Ramsey the reps at this point in the game is wise, or whether Lambert still needs to work with the starters. Prior to the series Brian Schottenheimer and Mark Richt met alone near midfield for about a minute, and when they parted Schottenheimer looked over at Ramsey and gave him the signal to warm up. So the guess here is the fifth drive was always the goal to get Ramsey in, but with the way the previous drive ended – on a sack – the coaches were mulling whether to keep Lambert in, but ended up sticking with the original plan.
6. Back to defense: Safety Jonathan Abram earned his second straight start, which says something. It’s the first time this season the fifth spot in Georgia’s secondary – after Malkom Parrish, Aaron Davis, Quincy Mauger and Dominick Sanders – has gone to the same guy two weeks in a row. The first week is was Rico McGraw at the star, then the second week it was Reggie Wilkerson. It’s unknown how McGraw would figure in if he were healthy, but Abram did have a quiet – and thus good – game against South Carolina, so it’s not surprising he was trotted back out there.
7. Isaiah McKenzie’s first punt return was on the one hand vintage McKenzie, but something for which he’ll be yelled at. He caught it at the 45, ran backwards to his own 25, finally cut upfield and finally went down at the 48. End result: The most adventuresome 3-yard return you’ll ever see.
Final thought: After a good start, the rest of the half was definitely quite “blah” for the Bulldogs. Offensively, it’s nothing to be worried about. But defensively, the Bulldogs need a better showing going forward.