Well, I might as well give up trying to figure out what this group of Bulldogs is going to do when it steps on the field on Saturdays in 2009. I knew the Dawgs would score more than most people thought (I predicted 34 points), but no way did i for see the Dawgs giving up 41 and scoring 52 of their own. Here's a run down of what I saw out of the Dawgs last night.
Let's start with the bad, because there was plenty of it. While the game plan put together by Willie Martinez did what it was supposed to against South Carolina, it failed miserably against Arkansas. The Dawgs were repeatedly beaten short, deep, over the middle, and in the flats. In other words, the Georgia defense did very little to shut down Ryan Mallett all night long. Mallett has a great arm (even better than I thought coming in) and made some great throws, but in most cases he was simply playing pitch and catch with open receivers. Was the coverage really that bad? My answer is no and here is why. Georgia's complete failure to get any kind of pass rush allowed Mallett to take his time. A good quarterback with plenty of time will find someone open, no matter how good the coverage is. I felt like I was watching a Patriots game from a few years ago where Tom Brady had all day to find Randy Moss. There are major issues with the pass defense and luckily for Georgia, there is not another big time passing program on the schedule for the next few weeks.
Once again, the kickoffs were an issue. After a good week against Carolina and some decent kickoffs in the first half, the Dawgs seemed to go back to the directional kicking. Walsh ended up kicking 2 in a row out of bounds. Georgia then brought in Bogatay and had him kick a pooch kick which gave Arkansas position ahead of the 40. Giving teams with any kind of offense this good of field position is just asking to be scored on. Penalties were once again a major problem, but at least Reshad Jones managed to avoid any personal fouls this week. Other than the pass defense, the other major concern I have for Georgia going forward is the turnovers. Once again, two fumbles inside our own 35 left Arkansas with a short field and the capitalized on both. You can't keep asking the defense to get a stop and then turn around to head back out two plays later in worse field position they were in. Losing the turnover battle 3-1 every game is not going to cut it with LSU, Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn left on the schedule.
Now, onto the good things about the win over Arkansas.
The Dawg Nation can no longer doubt Joe Cox. The performance he put up last night may have been better than ANY performance Stafford put on in 3 years at the position. For his 375 yard, 5 touchdown performance, the Ginger Assassin (or Ginger Ninja if you prefer) was named National Offensive Player of the Week. Add in the dropped pass by TK, and Cox would have had over 400 yards and 6 scores. His passes had zip, the deep balls were on the money, and the decision making was great. He found the open man, be it Mike Moore, Orson Charles, or AJ Green and never doubted his arm. What a great performance.
AJ Green turned in another amazing game and is really starting to show what a difference being healthy makes. AJ had an amazing 2008, but in '09 he looks stronger, faster, and more confident. We may be looking at the best receiver to ever come through Athens and quite possibly the best receiver in the country. Richard Samuel's 80 yard run was a thing of beauty, but overall he had a pretty pedestrian night. I was very excited to see the great effort turned in by Caleb King. King ran like a man who was ready to be a top player in the SEC and I can only expect his carries will increase in the coming weeks.
We won the game and that is all that matters. We come home to face Arizona State before LSU comes to town. Let's hope Coach Richt and the staff make some changes, or we could be in for more shootouts this season.