At second glance: More of the same for Georgia

Georgia-Sony Michel-Georgia Southern
Sony Michel had a strong game for Georgia. The issue was elsewhere.

Here’s some inside baseball, or inside football, or inside rewatching-a-game-for-the-purpose-of-analysis: When setting my DVR for Georgia games I always record the show after it. And the show after that, even if it’s another game. My DVR can handle it. You may say: Well it was just Georgia Southern, a running team, surely you must’ve figured it would either be a quick rout, no chance of overtime, right?

Ha! I knew better. And I suspect many of you did too.

So here are my further reflections after re-watching Georgia’s 23-17 overtime win over Georgia Southern. As always, this is a closer analysis of the game upon re-watching, but in this case also a lesson for Georgia going into this week’s game against a similar offense.

Still, it wouldn’t be a second glance without our weekly delving into Georgia’s offense, which can always be more succinctly summed up by writing the following sentence: “Huh?”

But as always, I’ll also add more:

GEORGIA’S OFFENSE

Actually, whatever Brian Schottenheimer (and presumably Mark Richt) had drawn up to start the game was beautiful. The question is why the things that did work so well early on either weren’t tried enough later, or why there wasn’t enough adjustment to counter Georgia Southern’s own adjustments.

There were also the missed opportunities by Georgia, which was on its way to a rout early. Total yardage before Malcolm Mitchell’s fumble: Georgia 100, Georgia Southern 4.

There’s your shock-stat. But a re-watch reminds me that Mitchell’s fumble may not have been the turning point. It was for morale purposes, giving the visitors a spark, and some hope. They answered by going on a long drive, inside Georgia’s 10 … but then missed a field goal. And then Georgia drove back inside GSU territory – for the fourth time in four drives to start the game, by the way – reaching the 29. That’s when things began unraveling with Georgia’s offense.

So Georgia was into opposing territory on its first four drives, getting a touchdown, a punt (after a third-down sack), Mitchell’s fumble, and a missed field goal (after pass-blocking issues on second and third-down). So there was opportunity, but pass-blocking issues. Then what happened?

Well, let’s go back. What was working early on?

The first play of the game. Georgia is spread out, and thus so is Georgia Southern’s defense.

On the game’s first play, Georgia spread out five-wide, including Michel and tight end Jeb Blazevich. It was five-on-four blocking. That was the case for most of the pass plays on Georgia’s first few drives, and when Greyson Lambert had time, he tended to hit his man.

The exception came on the first sack, on the second drive, which was also a five-on-four blocking situation in Georgia’s favor. It appeared right guard Brandon Kublanow was just beat by his guy. Hunter Long was in the screen too but upon the snap he turned to the left, as if that wasn’t his side to block on the play.

As the game went on, however, you could see missed blocks by non-linemen: Blazevich on a pressure that resulted in a throwaway, Sony Michel didn’t pick up his man on a blitz sack, and several other plays where Georgia Southern just had well-designed blitzes and Georgia didn’t react. On some plays it may have seemed it was the fault of a linemen – such as when Long had the misfortune to be in the screen when Ironhead Gallon blitzed past him. It may not have been Long’s guy, he just didn’t come off his block quick enough to get Gallon.

But it also speaks to a lack of adjustments. As Georgia was facing more of these blitzes, the offense didn’t go to quick passes, like outside screens or quick slants, or even more play-action to perhaps ward off the blitzing. After the game Kolton Houston told me that “it’s hard to block eight people with five people,” and my re-watch largely confirms that.

The run-blocking was pretty good, or at least good enough. The only time Michel lost yardage was on a flubbed handoff.

There was also some bad luck and execution. Georgia went three-and-out in the second quarter (the drive after Georgia Southern tied it at 7) when Michel slipped and fell on second down, then Lambert grounded a third-down pass to McKenzie that probably wouldn’t have gained anything anyway.

And of course there was McKenzie’s fumble and touchdown return for Georgia Southern in the third quarter.

The short yardage calls at key times continue to be confusing. There was a third-and-2 when Lambert threw a deep incompletion to Mitchell. Underthrown, yes. Why not a simple run up the middle, who knows.

Mark Richt spoke with Brian Schottenheimer after Georgia Southern’s muffed punt gave Georgia the ball at the 31. The result was five straight run plays, including on short yardage.

Luckily for the Bulldogs the ensuing punt was muffed. At that point, as Georgia begins its drive, you see Richt saying something to Schottenheimer. Was it: Run the ball five times in a row, including on short yardage third and fourth downs? Well that’s what the Bulldogs did, actually converting those short yardage plays, then Lambert hit Godwin for the game-tying touchdown.

Some other offensive notes:

– Great downfield blocking by Mitchell, Jay Rome and Jordan Davis on McKenzie’s 23-yard touchdown run. The play was well-designed (credit Schottenheimer on this one) and well-executed by all 11 players.

– I seem to harp on this every week, but I harp on a lot of things with the offense every week: Lambert does well in play-action. He hit Davis for 24 yards, then Jay for 13 yards in the fourth quarter.

– Late in the fourth quarter a third-and-4 pass went off Mitchell’s fingertips. Mitchell told me that it was a timing route and the Georgia Southern defender “did a good job” jamming him when he broke his route left. So that’s some insight.

Here’s some opinion: Why a low-percentage pass on third-and-4 at such a critical time?

GEORGIA’S SHUT-DOWN (MOSTLY) DEFENSE

My impression leaving the game was that Georgia did a great job defending the middle runs, but needs to be deathly afraid of the outside pitch, and that Georgia Southern did the Bulldogs some favors with their playcalling.

My impression after re-watching the Georgia Southern game: Yes, but …

Here’s how I charted Georgia Southern’s plays and their results, and please forgive me if it’s not easier to read but this is a pretty long process and not easy:

Runs up the middle: 0, 1, 3, 2, 2, 2,  5, 2, 3, 1 (TD), 4, 4, 2 (high snap), 11, 1, 6, 4, 2, 2, -1, 4, 2, 0, -3 …. 24 for 59 yards.

QB option keeper: 1, 5, 48 (to the left on third down), 1, 8, 4, 20 (draw play up the middle on third down), 0, 2 (was a 13-yard run but penalty on the block), 1 … 10 for 90 yards.

Pitch: 7, -4, 1, 4 (converting a third down), 23 (pitch to right, reversed direction and went down left sideline), -5 (pitch was within the pocket, Jake Ganus all over the play), 6 (short of first down), 6, 11,  -4 (Leonard Floyd had the QB and the pitch-man) … 10 for 45 yards.

Simple run to the edge: 2, 4 (cut to outside), 0, 9 (cut too outside), 10,  -1 … 6 for 24 yards.

QB scramble: 9 (was a pass play), 14 (third down in OT) … 2 for 23 yards.

Passes: Minus-3 (screen outside that Malkom Parrish covered), incomplete (bad pass), 28 (wide open over the middle on third down),  17 (Parrish fell down), incomplete (Parrish batted away), incomplete (overthrown), 2 … 4-7, 44 yards.

Some thoughts:

– See how often Parrish is around the ball?

– Yeah, there wasn’t much success up the middle, but the Eagles kept doing it in order to try to set up the outside runs and pitches. Georgia Tech will probably do the same. You can’t run outside every play or the defense will set up its contain all the time.

– Therein lies the key for Georgia: Getting contain as much as possible. It actually defended the pitch pretty well most of the time, and even the quarterback keeper. It’s just the times it didn’t ended up resulting in some big plays. There were always red jerseys around the ball-carrier and even the pitch man. But on the big plays the ball-carrier was able to use his speed and dart through a hole. Georgia has to keep as many of those holes patched up as possible.

And yes, know who the pitch man is.

By the way: I still don’t know what Georgia Southern was thinking on that fourth down call. Never mind whether they should’ve just kicked the field goal – though I’d argue yes, considering how Georgia’s defense was playing at that point. But to call a run out of the Wildcat, well, that was reminiscent of some of Georgia’s third-down play calls the past month. And clearly that’s not a compliment.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

Jeremy Pruitt giving a pep talk to the team – including offensive players – heading into overtime.

Yes, that was Jeremy Pruitt speaking to the offensive huddle – or at least a bunch of offensive players, including Lambert – before overtime. 

– Something that escaped my notice at the time: Marshall Morgan, on the same night he met and embraced Devon Gales for the first time, made the tackle on his first kickoff. Morgan has told me before that he wouldn’t let what happened with Gales affect him on kickoffs.

– Davin Bellamy’s sack early in the second quarter escaped notice as a pivotal play. Maybe the Eagles don’t complete a pass anyway on the play, but it backed up the field goal to 31 yards, which missed. OK, there shouldn’t be much of a difference between a 23-yarder and a 31-yarder, but still, he missed it, and you never know how the game looks with another three points for the visitors.

– On the opening kickoff Reggie Davis just ran by the coverage, which on first glance I took a mental note that this was an example of the talent, speed and physical disparity between the two teams. The first quarter backed that up. Then the turnovers happened.

FINAL THOUGHT

If you want to buy into the idea that Georgia Southern might actually be a good team and there’s no shame in needing overtime to get the win, then go ahead. But early on there were signs that Georgia would get the expected dominant victory. That was squandered by two key fumbles, but also the return of the same issues the offense has had all year. Georgia’s defense, however, once again played well, and while that’s not a sign of automatic success this week, it should make the Bulldogs feel better. In other words, it should once again come down to whether Georgia’s offense can get out of its own way.

 

 

 

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