Sunday, October 26, 2008

After further review, the defense wasn't all that bad.....

...somewhere in the middle of watching the hometown professional football team get absolutely hosed out of a possible victory in Philadelphia, I spent some of the day today re-watching Georgia's 52-38 victory over LSU.

First of all, it goes without saying that the victory was sweet. This was the UGA offense that we've expected to see all year, and the one we've only seen flashes of a certain times throughout the season, finally put it together for 4 strong quarters. I think it is much more likely that this will continue to be the norm for the remainder of the season. The statistics don't tell the whole story, but from a personnel standpoint we certainly won't see a better defense than LSU this year. On the other hand, we might see a few (4, in fact) that are equally, if not more, effective:
  • Florida has exceeded most expectations on defense (maybe none more than my own.
  • Kentucky was statistically the best defense in the SEC before Florida hung 7/11ths of a hundred on them yesterday in the Swamp.
  • Auburn always has good personnel, but has struggled as of late.
  • Defense appears to be the strength of this year's Georgia Tech team, even though Virginia pretty much lit them up yesterday.

Still, Georgia was near unstoppable yesterday moving the ball, and it wouldn't have mattered who the opposition was. It is probably naive to think that the next 4 opponents won't try to find some way to adjust, but the fact is that if we execute on offense the way we did yesterday, or even reasonably close, we are not likely to lose again the rest of this season. Regardless of what LSU managed to put on the scoreboard, in the end the UGA offense more than likely would have been able to do what it took to win in Red Stick. As Bop pointed out last week, the offensive line is really starting to gel, and that has been the only real question mark to this point. Barring any more key injuries, this group figures to just keep getting better under direction of the best offensive line coach in college football.

More to the point of this particular blog, the defense was a slightly different story yesterday. 38 points, almost 500 yards, and a slew of fundamental and schematic issues left Dawg fans with alot of question marks about whether or not that side of the ball can hold up next week, much less for the rest of the tough season. But after watching the game for the 2nd time, I don't feel quite as bad as I first did.

First, from a statistical standpoint, realize that LSU got 218 of its 497 total yards in the 4th quarter, when the game was almost out of hand. Most of that came through the air. If UGA hadn't been firmly in control of the scoreboard, and the game had been closer, I think LSU would have gained right around its usual per quarter yardage (approximately 90 yards per quarter leading up to that point in the game), the yardage totals would have been in the mid-300's, and we'd all feel alot better about things.

Fundamentally, there were alot of things that happened in yesterday's game that were a little bit of an aberration. I thought LSU Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton's no huddle really gave us alot of problems all night. Not only were we having trouble figuring out which scheme we should have been in, LSU also seemed to be quick snapping the ball, and a few times we had defensive linemen that didn't even have their fingers on the ground when the play had started. We seemed very flat footed all game long. Florida probably sees that and may try to do something similar, but I can also assure you that if the coaches see the same thing I did, we'll be more prepared for it this week and down the road.

Tackling was much worse than usual yesterday. I hate to seem like I am picking on one guy, but Reshad Jones seems to be looking for the kill shot every time he has a ball carrier coming at him. He missed a bunch of tackles yesterday but still ended up with 12, which tells you how many opportunities he's seeing. Fundamental tackling problems aren't unusual for a young safety with as much talent as Jones has, but I expect to see #9 going at the ball a little more under control in Jacksonville.

Unfortunately, there are some things that were a little more troubling. I don't profess to be anywhere close to the caliber of Willie Martinez when it comes to football (and most likely no one reading this blog would either.) However, there are one or two calls that I'd love to ask Martinez about. To offer just one example....midway through the 3rd quarter, LSU had 3rd and 23 from their own 42, down 31-17. UGA lined up with 3 down linemen and dropped the other 8 into coverage. Jarrett Lee had more time than he was granted at any other point during the game, and threw a completion to a fairly wide open LSU receiver for a 15 yard gain, which could have easily been closer to a first down had the LSU player not slipped at the 27. I'm not sure why you would rush only 3 in that situation, and I'm not sure anybody smarter than me could offer an explanation that would satisfy me. With an opportunity to keep LSU out of field goal range, it seems to me that the better play would have been to rush 4 and bring a linebacker (or more), and make Lee throw it more quickly to someone underneath. Luckily for UGA, LSU got a false start on the next play and Colt David missed a long field goal, so no harm done.

The great thing about it, all of the above is easily remedied. Martinez had an off night, no doubt about it. I will say that he did blitz more than usual, and seems to now be more comfortable that we have the personnel to get away with more blitzing. It won't take much for Reshad Jones to return to the level he played at the week prior vs Vanderbilt. We'll practice against the no-huddle. No doubt in my mind that we'll collectively feel better about the UGA defense this time next week than we might right now.

Let's point out that there were plenty of positives on defense from Saturday. We've found yet another stud linebacker in Darryl Gamble. Personally, I think Justin Houston is making his case to become the starter at DE (he's the best end we have in my opinion.) Alot of defensive players also sit on UGA's special teams, which played one of its best games yesterday that I can remember in years. A few tweaks here and there, and the Dawgs could be ready for another monumental performance at the Cocktail Party this week. It won't be easy, but it is certainly possible, and reason exists for the UGA faithful to feel much better about the Florida game than we did a week ago.


Schlitz said...

Great read. I agree whole heartedly. As for the 3rd and 23, for some reason, all too often teams settle into a deep zone in this situation which can lead to disaster. I think Martinez, or any coach, can use that mentality against a QUALITY QB and make an arguement behind the reasoning. However, against Lee??? I'm with you, we should have brought some heat to get a quick pass or an unadvised deep ball (likely out of bounds or picked). Like you said, our D sat back on their heels a little too much and I'd like to attribute that to our offense lighting it up. I think we'll see a more aggresive D this weekend in Jacksonville and certainly hope our O will feed off the karma stirred up in Baton Rouge.

Bop said...

Yeah, I too really enjoyed this read. It's great to see another young kid (gamble) turn into a stud playmaker in front of our eyes. We are blessed with a wealth of talent and it should be pointed out how well the coaches have established the depth. Lord knows we need it.

The Dline worries me some. Not the players, but the lack of depth caused by the well known injuries and suspensions. That LSU oline (built by Searles) is pretty dang good too.

Reshad missed some tackles, but he seems to be developing well. His confidence level keeps going up. The tackles he and 35 made on speedy little T. Holliday bode well for the cocktail party next week.

As long as we play under control on defense next week, we should handle the soft, trick-dick offense of america's sweetheart CUM. By handle I mean 24 to 31 points...I fully expect Bobo to drop 40+ on them again.

Anonymous said...

I agree for the most part... although I'm not completely convinced that our offense executing at a level close to what they did at LSU will result in a victory in Jacksonville... unless our D steps it up as well.

Florida would happily get in a shoot-out with almost anybody right now. (Although for the first year that I can remember, we actually have the guns to shoot right along with them.)

I do love the way our o-line has come together... it's been almost a mirror image of last year's progression. Stealing Searles from LSU is one of the greatest coups in the Mark Richt era.

I'll say this... the key to last year's Florida game was the pressure our D-line put on Tebow. I'm not expecting this group to be able to do that, so that concerns me.

We'll get everything Florida's got... I can't wait.

Bop said...

"Stealing Searles from LSU is one of the greatest coups in the Mark Richt era." true Dog44.

Reminiscent of Donnan getting Garner from UT back in the day.

BayouDawg said...

Another nice thing to see was our receivers catching the ball in big time games. #1 seems to be #7s saftey blanket and #8 is his gun on the night stand. How about uno seis catching the ball that I am sure was meant to go out of bounds. Harris and Moore did their share.

Note on the special teams, especially kick off. I thought we did a great job on kickoff coverage. We kept the returner to the sidelines all but once, and that was the only time they got past the 30 if I remember correctly. If we can do the same against UF and force them to drive 70+ yds the entire game, then we will have a distinct advantage.

Anonymous said...

@ Bayoudawg: I was thinking the same thing on my way to work this morning. For so long we've called for Eason's head, but the receivers are really playing some ball this year. Durham's grab on the sideline was incredible.


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Anonymous said...

I can't disagree that the offense played well, incredible in fact. But I think you overlook that LSU's offense and our high-powered scoring machine scored the exact same amount of points.

And, why is it ok that our D gave up so many yards against the pass in the 4th quarter? A) we knew they were going to pass; and B) we had to stop them. We didn't and missed elusive WR's in the open field... that's not good going into next week. It'd be one thing to argue that we kept plays in front of us in the 4th quarter and made them work for it, but that's not reality.

Willie did blitz on that 4th down play. I swear eveyrtime he blitzes something good happens. Too bad he doesn't do it more (see LSU scoreboard, Bama scoreboard, 38 and 41 points...)

I do think that Willie's style (4-2-5) is solid against the spread and slow developing plays, since the DBs and LBs can maintain space and react without getting burnt too bad. That said we'll see how it goes with a healthy Tivo next week.

Finally, Brian Van Gorder gave up over 30 points ONCE in his time here. Willie seems to have no problem doing it a couple of times a season and the only reason we're not enraged is because the offense went apesh*$ and Gamble had a couple of big plays.

JJ said...

Anonymous @ 5:41 PM

I can't say I disagree with much of what you're saying. I am probably looking a little too hard for a silver lining, but hey that's what I do alot of the time. I know we are capable of better tackling, and I think we will do so next week. One thing to consider is that our safeties and Curran were probably so softened up from trying to hit the wrecking ball known as Richard Scott most of the day, it is probably a little bit understood that they'd shy away from the contact. Florida doesn't have the luxury of anybody even remotely close to Scott's size. I wouldn't be surprised if we lay a few decleaters on the tiny Gator speedsters.

Otto said...

The only way to slow UF's offense down is to attack. Like last yr I don't expect CWM to lay back.
I'm just glad that C. Scott won't be on the other team sat........I bet Curran is too