I haven't had a chance this morning to make my rounds to all of the sites to get their take on the Georgia game. But what I'm assuming to find is doom and gloom because Georgia held on late to beat Vanderbilt by five points. In the second half of this game there were a lot of issues for Georgia but ultimately they won the game. This one felt a little like Colorado last year where Georgia had control late and should have won but let the game slip away. But in this one it was Georgia that came out on top.
I was impressed with how Vanderbilt changed their game plan and executed on offense with Jordan Rogers after they left Larry Smith for dead. In the first half, Smith was flat out awful and it was clear that Vandy's game plan of attacking the edges was getting them nowhere. Vandy used a trick play to score a TD and got a huge KO return for a TD to account for half of their points on Saturday and this infused an energy in them that helped them almost come from behind and pull this one out. Vanderbilt with Jordan Rogers at QB is better than Ole Miss (they already curb stomped them early this year) and they are better than Kentucky so they aren't the dregs of the league that they once were.
From a Georgia perspective I have come to the understanding that this Georgia team is not a "great" team. They are not LSU, they are not Alabama. LSU and Alabama don't have games like this. What I believe is that Georgia is a good team. Good teams do have games like this where they barely beat a team of inferior talent. Georgia had just come off back-to-back emotional games in beating Mississippi State (a team that they had lost to by double-digits last year) and Tennessee (a rivalry game on the road). Georgia was also playing for the seventh straight week and was a bit banged up with it's best two offensive players either out for the game or severely limited. Those aren't excuses, they are facts that every team has to deal with during the course of a season. When you get down to it, unless you are contending for a National Championship, it's not how you win it's that you win. Georgia learned a lot of lessons in Nashville on Saturday night and they move on to Florida in two weeks with a 5-2 overall record and a 4-1 SEC Conference record.
Here are some other rambling thoughts about the game:
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- Georgia left a lot of points on the board offensively. Blair Walsh again missed two FGs. Aaron Murray missed Marlon Brown on the sideline of what would have been a sure TD. That's 13 points right there (although I'm pretty sure they converted a FG on the Murray/Brown miss so that would technically be 10 points left on the board).
- Special Teams is a big weakness for Georgia this year. Georgia gave up a KO return for a TD and also had a punt blocked (in addition to the 2 FGs being missed). Losing Special Teams loses ball games (see also: South Carolina). Take away the Special Teams mishaps and Georgia wins 39-21. Pretty much a blowout, huh?
- Georgia needs to be smarter about retaliating. Georgia had multiple personal fouls in this game for retaliating against Vanderbilt players playing through the whistle and/or for blocks Georgia players thought were dirty. I'm not here to condemn Vandy for playing through the whistle but Georgia guys need to be smarter here. Just because a guy gets in your face and pushes you right after the whistle blows you can't retaliate because you will be the one getting the flag thrown. Georgia plays with a lot of emotion on defense but they need to work on keeping their cool after the play is over.
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- The Middle Linebacker play was non-existant. I am used to seeing Christian Robinson, Amarlo Herrera and Mike Gilliard in on a bunch of plays but that wasn't the case on Saturday. I haven't seen any tackling stats but it just seems those guys weren't in position to make some of the needed plays when Vandy started running Rogers and Zack Stacy up the middle in the second half.
- Jarvis Jones. He was everywhere on Saturday night. I don't know how they count "QB Hurries" but I think he had around 15 of them (Jarvis was "credited" with one QB hurry for the game- give me a break). He was in the QBs face on every play it seemed. The SEC bloggers over on ESPN listed their "mid-year" awards and they put Kentucky's Danny Treveathan on the "All-SEC Mid Year" team as one of the LBs. He's a good player and leads the SEC in tackles but he just doesn't have the impact on the game that Jones has for Georgia. I don't know where the Georgia defense would be without Jones this year. Statistically Jarvis Jones had 6 tackles, 1 QB hurry and 1 tackle for loss on Saturday. Realistically, he was the MVP of the defense. Sometimes play just doesn't show up in statistics and that's why you can't always just look at the box score.
- True Freshman Ray Drew was another guy who jumped off the TV at me on Saturday. He got into the backfield on numerous occassions despite limited playing time. He was credited with a sack and a forced fumble in the game but he was in the backfield a lot more than that. He's going to be a good one.
- I like the physicality of the Georgia defense. They finish plays by slamming guys to the ground instead of merely tackling them.
- The coverage by the secondary was superb for the majority of the night and only gave up 149 yards on 11 of 31 passing by Vandy QBs. Vandy was throwing the ball into some tight windows because of the coverage of the corners. Georgia's DBs also picked off 3 passes in the game.
- The Wide Receivers need some kudos for their performance. Georgia's leading WR (true freshman) Malcolm Mitchell was out for the game but several guys stepped up. Marlon Brown caught 2 TDs, RS Frosh Michael Bennett had 7 catches and Tav King had a good game with 5 receptions and a TD.
- Aaron Murray seemed to find himself a bit tonight. He had his best game of the year and was making very good decisions until that last pick. So it's kind of positive/negative because he didn't finish strong but Murray's performance for the majority of the game is one of the reasons Georgia won.
- Going into the Florida game into two weeks Georgia should get two of their most dynamic defensive play-makers back in OLB Cornelius Washington and ILB Alec Ogletree. Having those two guys back coupled with guys like Ray Drew and Mike Gilliard, who have stepped up in their absence, should give Georgia some needed depth to close out games better on defense.
- Georgia without freshman play-makers Isaiah Crowell (who was obviously being held back due to being banged up) and Malcolm Mitchell is a much different team. Georgia was still able to score 33 points but without those guys on the field to help finish drives Georgia stalled out on a lot of drives in which they could have had more points.
- Kudos to Todd Grantham for having his players backs. Many in the media and on social media were quick to point the finger at Grantham for his mid-field shouting match with Vandy Head Coach James Franklin but all Grantham was doing was standing up for his guy. Post-game Franklin went after Georgia Safety Shawn Williams to give him a piece of his mind and Grantham stepped in and gave Franklin a piece of his. Williams did have one particular nasty late hit on a receiver that dropped a ball but besides that I thought he played a very good ball game and was all over the field. Williams also got another personal foul for retaliating with a push after a Vandy guy pushed him after the whistle. Williams has really become a good Safety for Georgia this year, he just needs to use his head a bit more at times.