ATHENS — It was a common sight, and a painful one for Georgia’s offense in the Alabama game: Quarterback Greyson Lambert standing in the pocket, looking around, looking around some more, and then having to scramble or throw an incompletion.
Lambert, who had only thrown one incompletion each of the previous two weeks, threw 14 of them in the loss to Alabama. When he did complete passes they were often dump-downs for little to no yardage.
So what was the problem: Excellent coverage by the defense or a failure to let it rip?
“Good coverage,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday, then added: “Mostly very good coverage.”
As in the problem was “mostly” the coverage, but one that Lambert needs to try to overcome by throwing the ball to a spot where the receiver would still have a chance to catch the ball. Not doing so plays into the hand of a defense like Alabama.
“That’s part of their deal,” Richt said. “They get you to go to your second or third progression while these D-linemen are really squeezing the pocket on your quarterback and making them uncomfortable. Because the more space you have in the pocket to step and to throw and see, usually you can make those tighter throws. But as you’re progressing down the field and these linemen are squeezing that pocket on you it’s just a tougher throw.”
Lambert actually did a good job of throwing the ball in tight windows in previous weeks. But he also had more time to throw against South Carolina and Southern. If he has similar space against future opponents, starting Saturday at Tennessee, then that’s great for Georgia.
But Alabama, by not blitzing much and focusing on pass coverage, may have provided a plan for Tennessee and other defenders. So in that case a quarterback needs to adjust.
“The bottom line,” Richt said, “is if I’m running a route the defender, if he’s covering me, he’s either on my backside, or my frontside, he can’t be on the front and the back and the side. He can only be in one spot.”
Backup quarterback Brice Ramsey did let it rip when he replaced Lambert for a few series, but it didn’t work out. He threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and Lambert came back in.
Two Georgia’s receivers pinned blame on themselves. Junior Reggie Davis said Alabama’s close coverage wasn’t anything unexpected.
“I just feel like we didn’t play to our full potential, and it showed,” Davis said. “Us as a group I don’t think we’ll ever point a finger. We’ll just blame ourselves, because it’s our job to be prepared for our opportunities.”
Senior Malcolm Mitchell also fell on his sword, saying “I could have ran better routes. I could’ve made it a little easier for the quarterback.” But he also was one of Lambert’s main targets, catching three passes and having several more thrown incomplete in his direction.
“There’s not one answer,” Mitchell said. “I think when you talk about something that’s so specific, there’s a lot of variations that could change the passing game. Think about it: If the receiver holds his route a little too long, it changes the timing. If the quarterback holds the ball a little too long it changes the timing. It’s just split-second decisions could change anything. And not only in the passing game, in the game overall.”