Onsides kick Part III: Coach John Lilly takes ‘complete blame’

Vanderbilt's Oren Burks got underneath Georgia's Reggie Davis to recover the pooch onsides kick by the Commodores in the fourth quarter this past Saturday.

ATHENS — Add John Lilly’s name to the growing list of people taking blame for Vanderbilt’s successful onsides kick this past Saturday.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt and kick returner Reggie Davis have each raised their hand to claim fault for the 48-yard bloop kick recovered by the Commodores at the Bulldogs’ 17-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, no harm came of the breakdown as Vandy failed to score on the possession and Georgia won 31-14.

But as coach of the Bulldogs’ kickoff return unit and implementor of onsides-kick strategy, Lilly claims his culpability trumps the other two.

“I take complete blame for it,” said Lilly, who is co-special teams coordinator as well as tight ends coach for the Bulldogs. “I know Reggie (took blame) even while we were still at the stadium. I said, ‘no it’s my fault.’ … If things don’t happen right, I’m the one looking in the mirror saying, ‘what have I said or not said or done or not done for it to happen the way it did.’ We had more than one guy not do the right thing, which to me is on me.”

The alignment Georgia used is the same that most every team in the country employs, with eight of the 11 players within 15 yards of the kickoff tee, two slightly deeper near the sidelines and a single safety (Davis) back around the 10-yard-line. The breakdown came when Georgia’s designated blockers on the front line looked up for the ball rather than blocking the oncoming defender. Then the kick took a hard, dead-left bounce upon landing and eluded Davis.

The Green Bay Packers fell victim to the exact same strategy in the NFC Championship Game last February when Brandon Bostick failed to field the bloop kick, the Seattle Seahawks recovered and went on to score the winning touchdown in a 28-22 victory.

“The first meeting we had when we installed (the onsides strategy), the first play we showed was Green Bay and Seattle in the NFC Championship Game,” Lilly said. “The guys at Green Bay have to live with that the rest of their lives. I don’t know if they’d have won the Super Bowl or not but they would’ve played in it if they execute that play. It’s something you know and you talk about a lot any time we meet or practice it.”

Lilly also is in charge of Georgia’s place-kickers, which include senior Marshall Morgan. The prolific-scoring senior also missed two fields (37, 40 yards) against the Commodores. But Lilly is confident Morgan has worked out the kinks.

“He’s a guy that has performed to the highest level of his career in practice up to this point,” Lilly said. “What he did the other night surprised me a lot, quite frankly. He hit too high on the ball on the first one. That might’ve been the worst kick I’ve seen in his career. … The other one he hit pretty good but just didn’t hit it accurate.

“He hit it good today. It’s not something I’ve greatly concerned about spiraling into a bad deal.”

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