That was one of the most painful, gut wrenching, exciting, competitive, and all out strange games I have ever witnessed. Georgia and South Carolina put up a 78 points and the game still comes down to the final seconds. While there were plenty of things that were completely wrong with this game, the most important thing was right and that was the final score. We're back to 1-1, 1-0 in the SEC and all of our major goals are still in front of us.
Let's start with the things that went bad. Two turnovers in the first quarter led to 14 Carolina points and more importantly left the defense on the field for almost the entire quarter. While Branden Smith did have a nice return later in the game, for now he needs to be taken off of the return team. On the fumble return, the ball was kicked about 5 yards into the end zone and despite making the same mistake against OSU, he still brought it out. He is playing both offense and defense and I think that is enough for a freshman to handle.
Penalties were also once again a major problem for the Dawgs. While I think the call against Reshad was completely crap, most of the other penalties were the proper calls. After looking much more disciplined last week, the Dawgs fell back into some bad habits from last season.
But of all the things that went wrong last night, I think the biggest problem was coaching. The defense played fairly well but I did not see an adjustment to the South Carolina passing attack after they threw nearly 20 times in the first quarter. I know that the zone is designed to prevent long plays, but Carolina essentially ran short outs and passes to the tight end unchallenged all night. When the opposing team throw 53 passes, your linebacker should not have 15 tackles (as Rennie Curran did). We also failed to get any type of pressure from our defensive ends. It will be very nice to have Justin Houston back next week at Arkansas (and we need him more than ever with the announcement that Rod Battle will now miss the remainder of the season with a knew injury).
For the second week in a row, I also am left wondering what Mike Bobo is doing with the offense. Richard Samuel was running the ball great, but for some reason he disappeared for nearly an entire quarter. Then, we finally get Logan Gray in the game for a grand total of one play. And once again, Marlon Brown and Rontavious Wooten went unused (other than appearing on two plays after the Joe Cox sack and fumble that put the Dawgs at second and 30). Another thing that really bugs me is how we handle short yardage situations. In the past, it was a no brainer that we would turn around and hand the ball to the fullback. Last night on a second and 1, we run a stretch play with Carlton Thomas that loses 3 yards. Chapas has some ability, lets use him.
For all the things that are wrong, the Dawgs did a lot of things right in this game. Brandon Boykin, often overshadowed by highly touted Branden Smith, made a name for himself with the huge TD return for the toughdown, another 50 yard return, and a big interception. If Boykin can keep this play up, we may forget the loss of Asher Allen quicker than I thought. Branden Smith also had a nice game after his horrible fumble early in the game. The 61 yard run was a thing of beauty and he may be one of the fastest players in the SEC already. It should be a fun next few years watching this guy mature.
Joe Cox and Richard Samuel also played much better this week than they did against Oklahoma State. Samuel ran hard all night, breaking tackles and learning from the mistakes he made in week 1. He scored his first rushing touchdown of the season and I have a feeling we may see a lot more this season. Now, we just need to keep his running consistent throughout the game. Cox also came back strong, putting up some nice numbers. The interception was horrible and even he admitted to seeing Norwood. AJ Green had a phenomenal night and saved Cox's tail on a couple of occassions. Any person who thinks AJ Green is not the best receiver in the country should watch the replay of those catches he made last night.
While Boykin's play was amazing, a lot of credit also needs to go to Georgia's other MVP of the night, Rennie Curran. With South Carolina throwing short passes all night, Curran had 15 tackles, repeatedly preventing short gains from turning into big plays. And for the second year in a row, Rennie came up with a huge play to prevent a South Carolina touchdown. This guy played his heart out last night. I can't imagine what our defense would be like without him right now.
This was one of those games that hopefully teaches the team a lot about themselves. They have now faced two tough games, one a loss and one a win. If the Dawgs can take what has worked the last two weeks and cut down on the turnovers, the results should turn out in our favor in Fayetteville next week.