Upon Further Inspection

It’s easy to blame yesterday’s loss on the defense.  When your opponent gains almost two hundred yards on the ground, it’s safe to say that things probably didn’t go according to the defensive coaches’ plans.

Now I could be wrong about this. After all, I never played organized football. Most of my knowledge of the game comes from years of keen observation from the comfort of my couch and from playing pickup games during the weekend with friends. During those pickup games at the intramural fields off East Campus Road, I do remember times when we would intentionally let the other team score so that we could get the ball back. Somehow, I don’t think Coach Grantham shares the same strategic mindset.

Instead, after some difficult reviewing of the replay, it becomes increasingly obvious that our offense was the problem. I say “difficult reviewing” because not only was it tough to watch that game again, it seems that trying to watch anything through eyes that are closed or hidden behind one’s hands is a hard thing to do. Still, I was able to discern a few things.

But first, a quick preface. It’s been the prevailing thought in the Bulldog Nation these last few years that offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, is not up to the job. Some common complaints as evidence of his ineptitude include conservative and predictable play-calling, inability to adjust strategies during a game and the ability to do less with more. For instance, just two years ago, we had a number one overall draft pick in Matthew Stafford and a number fifteen overall draft pick in Knowshon Moreno leading the offense. Dawgs were ranked preseason number one largely because of these two Jedis on our team. Yet, we won nothing except for a bowl game we were supposed to win against some Yankees from some state school up north. Let me repeat that. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno ended their stellar careers at UGA playing in the 2009 Capital One Bowl against the Michigan State Spartans. Seriously. They should have been playing for the Multidimensional Universe Championship in the SUGAR Bowl against an army comprised of Prussian high command, Israeli officers, Green Beret sergeants and Viet Cong enlisted men. I’m pretty sure we would have won, too.

The chief problem with recent Dawgs teams has been the defense. Take a look at the last regular season game played by Stafford and Moreno, a loss at home against the Nerds. We scored 45 points and lost. That should never happen. Prognosis? Bad defense. With the hiring of Todd Grantham and a change in the defensive scheme, we are well on the way to fixing that problem. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the boys were in the right position during the match against the Gamecocks but they just couldn’t make the play. Some of that is bad fundamentals, which can be corrected. And some of that is facing an as yet to be determined but clearly heading to superstar status running back in Marcus Lattimore. The scheme is sound but the execution failed us. I don’t worry about that too much because once Coach Grantham gets his recruits in place and the defense is more used to running his scheme, improvements are very likely to be seen.

Here’s the interesting thing. If Coach Bobo is so bad at his job, how were we able to put up 45 points in that game against the Nerds? Sure, having Stafford and Moreno had a large part to do with it, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that the offensive scheme played a hand in their success as well.

And here’s where it gets frustrating. While I’m not yet convinced that Coach Bobo is terrible for the job, I will readily admit that I find some of his play-calling suspect. During the first half against the Gamecocks, our offense went three-and-out three times in a row. That’s no way to treat your defense. That’s like having heavy plates at your restaurant just because they look nice with no regard to the strain these plates might put on your poor waitstaff. It’s just not cool.

I understand that we had a brand new quarterback playing in just his first SEC game, on the road. Keeping the playbook simple so that your quarterback is not asked to do too much is quite understandable. But when your defense is clearly struggling after having given up an opening drive of 80 yards, keeping them on the field for over 8 minutes, it’s time for the offense to maintain possession of the ball for as long as possible. This means getting first downs. While we were able to accomplish this on our first drive, it ultimately ended in a field goal when the offense sputtered in the redzone. Our next three drives resulted in punts after three plays. That’s not doing your defense any favors at all.

It should have been clear to our coaches that Aaron Murray was up to the task of winning the game for us. His poise and command of the playbook has been touted all offseason. On top of that, he performed extremely well for a first year starter in a hostile environment. So why are our coaches effectively hamstringing our offense by keeping it so vanilla when Aaron Murray is clearly ready to step it up? More importantly, what are our plans going forward? Will we allow him to play like he can, like he did in high school, when he attracted our coaches’ attentions?

“We need to,” Richt said. “Even in the second half we were inclined to just call whatever the heck we thought we needed to call. I think early on you’re trying to, let’s make sure we can run the ball, be his best friend, all that kind of stuff. And call things that maybe don’t’ take an awful lot of thinking as far as progressions and that kind of thing. And try to get him off on a good note. But he’s handled everything very well and I think he’s prepared to just run the system as we have it.”

Thank you, Coach Richt. But, please, let’s come to this decision earlier in the process next time. This was a tough post for me to write and I’m all used up. Get the offense rolling, win us some games and give me a chance to recover. Like we should have done in Columbia, South Carolina. The defense and I would thank you profusely for it.

Go Dawgs!


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