Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Outback Recap

Where to begin?  I'm sure if you're reading this, you've already hit up most of the other UGA bloggers and gotten their input.  I've done the same, and the themes seem to be pretty consistent across the board:  terrible performance from the OL (Bean is gonna have nightmares of Gholston for months to come), awful game management from the coaches, a defense that wore down late, etc etc etc.  I won't rehash what everyone is already saying, but there was one big thing that jumped out at me that doesn't seem to have gotten a lot of attention.  The one specific example of poor game management that I haven't really seen addressed is us sitting on our timeouts during MSU's final drive in regulation.

It was clear as Sparty marched down the field that our defense was gassed there at the end.  Now as long as the clock is rolling, I understand that you don't take a timeout and stop the clock.  However, once MSU crossed the 50, there were 4 different occasions where the clock was ALREADY STOPPED due to an out of bounds play or an incompletion, so taking a timeout would not have done anything to benefit MSU, but it could have been a huge benefit to our guys to have a chance to regroup.  Here are the times and the lines of scrimmage on UGA's side of the field:

:56 @ 38 yd line
:48 @ 18 yd line
:43 @ 12 yd line
:40 @ 12 yd line

Again, in all 4 of these situations, the clock was already stopped, the defense could barely catch their breath long enough to muster any sort of pass rush effort, and we were holding 2 timeouts in our back pocket.  There was no reason to be holding onto both timeouts, it was clear that if MSU scored, it was going to be with very little time on the clock for us to try to win the game.   I was PLEADING with my television, especially before the play at the :40 mark, for somebody..........ANYBODY to call a timeout and give the defense a chance to regroup (that was the play that resulted in the TD that was called back, but got them down to the 1 yd line).  In all reality, a TO should have been taken before the play at the 18 yd line with :48 to go.  Once they got into the red zone and the defense was sucking wind, it amazed me that nobody thought to give our guys a chance to regroup.  As it was, we didn't use a timeout until the Spartans were on the 1/2 yard line, and the resulting TD was already inevitable. From there, the game management just continued to go to hell in a handbasket.  

This game was certainly a reality check that UGA is a long, long, long way away from being a national title contender.  Our Strength & Conditioning did show improvement this year compared to the previous year, but needs to make yet another quantum leap between this year and next.  Our offensive line is going to have to grow up in a hurry, because we'll be replacing 3 seniors with mostly freshmen and sophomores, so having any expectation of the line being improved over this year's line, especially in the early part of next season, is probably wishful thinking at best. RB will continue to be a question mark going into next year, as will Murray's tendency to wilt in the big game spotlight, and our already shaky special teams will be working with 2 new kickers.  There were times this year that Richt really showed a desire to play to win though, I'm just hoping we see more of that next year. 

The other thing I would like to see next year, especially on the defensive of the ball, is more substituting throughout the game.  I know we had some injury issues Monday with Gilliard and Tyson, but we saw either only brief appearances or no appearances at all from guys like Herrera, Vasser, Drew, and Swann, and they are all guys who have shown they can at least be serviceable enough to relieve some guys for 10-15 plays a game and hopefully keep the starters fresh for things like trying to stop the opponent with less than 2 minutes to go to win the game.  I have VERY few criticisms of Grantham anymore, but the one I'm holding onto is that at some point he decides who he trusts, then from that point on doesn't seem to give anyone else a chance. So you end up with guys playing the entire game, and wearing out towards the end.  I really thought we would see the younger guys get more playing time as the season wore on, but once we hit the halfway point of the season, you barely saw any of those guys play.  Then, when a situation comes up like we had at the end of regulation where you really need some fresh legs to get in there and try to make a play, you don't have anyone with enough experience for you to trust them and bring them in off the bench.  We're lucky to have Grantham though, and that's really my only criticism of him.

To look at the other side of the coin, the program made some big strides this year.  The biggest one, in my eyes, is that we played with a high degree of effort throughout the season.  Even the Boise game, where we looked lethargic at times, was I think more an issue of guys not being sure what the right thing to do was, as opposed to not having a desire to play hard.  I may have questioned the mental toughness of this year's team at times, but I can't think of any time that I questioned their heart or desire.  The mental toughness is something that will come with experience, but desire is something that has to come from within, and I believe these kids have it.  If we make as much improvement from now until September as we did in last year's offseason, we'll definitely have some fun next year. I will not, however, allow myself to get caught up in the inevitable hype next year of us having the team and the schedule to compete for the national title.  I'm not saying it won't happen, I'm just saying I've been down that road of disappointment already. I'll be excited for the new season come August, and ready to cheer hard every game, but will leave the Kool-Aid behind.

I'm sure I'll have some additional thoughts later this week that I've forgotten to include.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

-Rev.

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