The re-watch of the previous game will occasionally make you re-think the narrative, offer up a perspective you hadn’t considered while initially watching in person, and make you regret your initial feelings.
Not this time.
At second glance, here’s a firmer look at what went wrong for Georgia in its 27-3 loss to Florida, starting with that anemic offense, and it’s very dubious play-calling.
BAUTA THE RUNNER? NOT SO MUCH
In the pregame show, Gary Danielson compared Faton Bauta to Joshua Dobbs, and pointed out Florida had trouble against Dobbs. So Danielson bought into the idea that Bauta was starting for his athleticism as well.
He only rushed it three times. And one of those was a sack.
After the game, Brian Schottenheimer and Mark Richt both said there were plays called where Bauta could have run if the defense had bitten on the read. If that’s true, it’s hard to tell on film.
Bauta’s first run, out of the shotgun, lost three yards. It looked like a run-run option where Bauta pulled the ball out of Sony Michel’s lap and kept it. The second was a scramble by Bauta on a called pocket pass.
There were only two other plays where Bauta clearly had a run option. (They resulted in a 9-yard completion and a throwaway incompletion.) There were a few more roll-outs, but most of the day, inexplicably, Bauta was in the pocket.
Bauta threw 33 passes. He was put in pure pocket situations 27 times. Ten resulted in completions. Three resulted in interceptions. Another was the missed pass to Jay Rome that could’ve been a touchdown, and another was the ball that Rome should have caught for a touchdown. Another was dropped by Reggie Davis. Bauta also scrambled once. Once he was sacked.
There was another play where Bauta rolled out to the right then stopped, and a pocket quickly formed, but Bauta hit Mitchell downfield for a 29-yard gain. A rolling pocket. Hey, that worked, at least.
One of the most dumbfounding calls, and which illustrated the ineffectiveness of the gameplan, was the third-and-1 on Georgia’s second drive: Brendan Douglas as the lone tailback, three wides. Douglas was tackled before the line of scrimmage. Right guard Greg Pyke looked to be the one who was beat. But why there wasn’t a blocking fullback – or why they didn’t try a sneak or a dive or a Bauta option run – I don’t know. If Bauta is in there partly for his mobility, you get creative and put in some zone reads and option runs. Either that didn’t happen or those plays just weren’t called.
Bauta’s third interception, the one in the end zone in the fourth quarter, also came off a roll-out. The puzzle there was why a roll-out was called to the short side of the field. The ball was snapped on the far right hash-mark, and you’re rolling right? How does that create room to make a play?
Another example of dubious play-calling: When Georgia was pinned at its own 3 by a punt in the second quarter, the first play was a Sony Michel run up the middle, gaining one yard. No play-action, no roll-out, no use of Bauta’s legs to get out from the end zone.
- Isaiah McKenzie was noticeably on the field a lot. He was healthy enough to go in motion a few times, including one time as a decoy for a receiver handoff. So if he was healthy enough to do that, it’s strange that little effort was made to get him the ball.
- It may have been when Keith Marshall came in the game – midway through the third quarter, when Florida’s defense started to play back more – but Marshall looked pretty good. Maybe not quite explosive, but his vision to the hole was good. Kinda makes you wonder why he wasn’t getting touches earlier.
BAUTA’S PERFORMANCE OVERALL
It wasn’t a great game for Bauta, obviously, but he did have a command of the offense, and seemed comfortable with the pocket. (Why he was in the pocket so much is the issue.)
Still, Bauta’s first pass was a bad omen: It was a bit high to a wide-open Michel in the flat. If it’s right there in stride then Michel has plenty of open space to do his thing, and again, who knows what happens. Bauta also missed Terry Godwin on the next play, a receiver screen which could have gained some yardage. One play later Schottenheimer called a draw play on third-and-17 to Douglas. This was an understandably conservative call, but also points to the lack of confidence in Bauta’s downfield passing.
The second interception, when Bauta was hit and the ball was returned to Georgia’s 5: Right tackle Kolton Houston was beat on the play. Bauta had to have better awareness, but he was trying to pump fake and then go deep to Malcolm Mitchell down the left sideline. Mitchell did look like he was going to get open … but that was also depending on Bauta hitting the deep ball. Again, a big risk when on third-and-7 a roll-out or something to utilize Bauta’s feet might have sufficed.
The missed third-and-1 pass to Rome looked like the fault of both Bauta (a bit behind Rome) and Rome (still had his hands on the ball after turning around.)
Georgia failed to convert run plays on second-and-1 twice, on third-and-1 once, and on fourth-and-1 once. Some of it was bad blocking. Some of it was – you know what’s coming – questionable play designs.
On a second-and-1 late in the second quarter, Georgia went Michel single back, no fullback, and the result was no gain. One play later, on third-and-inches, Schottenheimer called a pass and it hit the ground in front of Godwin
Georgia had three second-and-1s, and ran it each time. The first time, off-tackle, it gained 5 yards. The next time it was up the middle and didn’t.
On fourth-and-1, Schottenheimer called a pitch-out to Michel, who lost three yards when the outside blocking was nonexistent. Quayvon Hicks just didn’t bother to block his guy, but there was a general breakdown, plus the Gators weren’t fooled at all.
Georgia’s second drive, second-and-1. I-formation, Christian Payne at fullback and Douglas at tailback. No one accounted for the middle linebacker, who stuck Douglas up the middle. It looked like it might have been Isaiah Wynn who missed the block, but we can’t be sure.
Jeremy Pruitt had a really good gameplan. He spread out the defense in an effort to protect the edges, relying on Jake Ganus (and Tim Kimbrough in two-ILB packages) to guard the middle, and threw in a lot of blitzes.
And the blitzes were by speed guys. Rico McGraw came on a blitz early in the game to force Harris to throw the ball away. The only failing with the strategy was you had a lot of guys who couldn’t complete the tackle.
And of course if someone could’ve made a tackle then the back-breaking touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway could’ve been avoided. But credit also to Harris for making a play; and Georgia DID have someone there, Jonathan Abram was just beat at the line, and at the end of the play messed up by slowing down when Callaway slowed to catch it; if Abram had kept going he makes the play. It didn’t appear a case of a blown assignment or bad defensive call. A quarterback just made a play and a freshman safety was beaten.
The same thing happened on Harris’ 33-yard pass to Callaway late in the third quarter, which converted a second-and-24.
It wasn’t a perfect gameplan, but it appeared the best one. Harris just managed to make some plays, and in the end the defense folded because it was on the field too long. After Florida’s opening drive, which resulted in the missed field goal, the Gators’ next four drives totaled 45 yards on 16 plays, and all ended in punts. Something good was happening.
All in all, this was a good game for Pruitt and his defense. As he told me after the game: “We eliminate those plays, I don’t know, we get beat 7-3.”
- Ganus had another good game, even after briefly leaving the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Ganus is probably the defensive MVP this year – what does it say that a UAB transfer walks in and is the best player on the defense? (It says that Georgia whiffed on too many players in the classes that should have produced its current upperclassmen.)
- Davin Bellamy also had a good game at outside linebacker, filling in once again for Jordan Jenkins, who was out most of the game. Bellamy has ended up being much more productive than Lorenzo Carter, which no one saw coming before the season.
- The 60-yard run by Florida’s Jordan Scarlett had missed tackles near the line by Leonard Floyd and then Quincy Mauger.
- But the secondary also had good coverage on a lot of plays. There were still rough spots, but the young unit is improving.
- Danielson’s exact words as Florida prepares to punt on the final play of the first quarter: “This has to be painful for both offensive coordinators. They can’t find anything to latch onto early in the game. As I stand here and watch it, I just got a feeling it’s going to be a turnover.” A few seconds later … you know what happened.
- The design of the fake punt play was confounding. Forget that the intended receiver was a linebacker. Georgia lined up with two up-men, rather than the normal three, and Mitchell (the team’s best receiver) lined up wide right. So right away Florida is ready for something. Then Mitchell motions to the third up-man spot and gets the snap, then flips it back to Brice Ramsey. That seems way too complicated. Look, you’ve got a quarterback who’s been punting all game, by that point you hope Florida isn’t watching for the fake anymore, so keep it simple. Just try a pass out of the normal formation.
- You wonder if the game would have been any different if the first play had counted: It was the right call, as Hicks tackled the man from behind. But it was also unnecessary: Hicks’ man was in the process of missing the tackle on Michel. There’s got to be better awareness by a senior, but unfortunately that’s a reminder why Hicks, for all his abilities as a runner, doesn’t play in blocking situations.
Basically everything Florida got on offense was because of its athletic quarterback making something happen. Georgia, on the other hand, also had an athletic quarterback but got nothing out of it because it didn’t use him correctly. One team’s offensive coaching staff put its players in position to make plays. The other team’s didn’t. The blame for this latest Bulldog debacle does mostly lie right where most put it.