Sep 19, 2010

What Went Wrong? In-Depth Offensive Analysis

Before we get started into the next work-week, I figured I'd quickly take a look at yesterday's offensive gameplan and see, specifically, why it was so unfortunately bad.  

Buck Belue insisted today that it was "ignorant" to blame Mike Bobo's play calls for Georgia's last-minute loss to Arkansas, and that Bobo "mixed it up" and was aggressive.  Well, I'm going to have to disagree with Buck there, and I do wonder if he really got to watch most of the game while doing the Braves Pre-Game show.  

I sacrificed my Sunday afternoon to fast-forward through the DVR recording of the game and check out every offensive play, to see exactly what happened.  Those details are below.

But first I will mention this: Anyone who has ever played a football video game could have questioned the play calling in the 1st half of the game yesterday.  In the third quarter, I was dumbfounded as to why we were ONLY running play-action passes, and had almost ZERO plays out of the shotgun (something we even used frequently with an immobile Joe Cox at QB) or standard drop from center passes.  The play calls reeked of trying to be creative and "mix it up" without actually doing the most basic and simple things to actually accomplish that goal.  And guess what?  At some point in the late 3rd quarter, those changes finally started happening, and the Dawgs scored 17 points from then on out.

So what happened, exactly?

The First Drive:
Things started out well and with some pretty good variation.  The first drive featured a mix of 3 up-the-gut power rushing plays, 2 play-action passes, 2 Wild Dawg runs, and Murray's touchdown scamper.  The theme of this drive was that the running game worked so well, we could afford those 2 play-action passes, and it all worked to perfection.

The Second Drive:
Bobo decides to try the shotgun for maximum protection as Georgia is backed up by the end zone.  A shotgun handoff doesn't work, so then 2 shotgun passes in a row, and we're punting.  We were stuck in a bad spot and couldn't get out.  It happens.  

The Third Drive: 
The shotgun formation didn't work so well on the last drive, so we decide to do something a bit strange: 4 play-action passes in 6 plays.  A bit of play-action overload there, don't you think?  And what happens when the defense is starting to catch on to your continual PA attack?  Murray gets sacked on the last one.

From here we'll skip forward, because it's much of the same for a while.  Play-action passes and running plays that don't work too well.  Until the 3rd drive of  the 3rd quarter, when Bobo decides to bring the shotgun back, and Georgia manages a field goal.  

After that, the offense is ignited, the offensive plays are actually well-mixed, and two more touchdowns are scored.  

So as for that variation in the 1st half?

10 Play-action Passing Plays
3 Shotgun Formation Plays (2 were designed passes)
1 Standard, Under-Center Pass

Wayyyyy too many play-action passes.  Everyone knows that you need to run the ball well to make the play-action a viable option.  You've got to fake the defense into playing the run, and that way you buy time for protection and chuck it downfield.  But when the run isn't working so well and yet you keep running play-action passes?  You get sacked.

There were 6 sacks on Murray in the game.  FIVE of these were on play-action passes.  ONE was from shotgun formation, and that was that fateful 3rd and 4 that basically lost us the game.  We'll get to that in a minute.

The shotgun formation, on the other hand, keeps things in front of the quarterback.  They don't have to turn their back to the defense, and they have an extra few yards buffer between them and defenders.  For a rattled QB, it gives them much more vision of the field and an ability to make a better passing decision (and better ability to scramble and avoid a sack).  The shotgun is a favorite of offenses featuring mobile QBs, like young Aaron Murray. BUT WE ONLY SAW 2 SHOTGUN PASSES IN THE FIRST HALF.  Also notice the complete lack of normal, 3-5 step drop passes.  Only 3 in the entire game, 1 in the first half.

Play-action Passes: 6/12 for 97 yards and 1 Interception
Shotgun passes: 7/12 for 143 yards and 1 Touchdown
Standard Drop Passes: 2/3 for 13 yards

Georgia didn't start it's comeback until the shotgun formation was put back into the game.  Bobo strangely abandoned it after one drive where it didn't work out, and didn't bring it back until almost too late.  

1st: 2 PA passes
2nd: 3 PA, 2 shotgun, 1 standard
3rd: 1 PA, 3 shotgun, 1 standard
4th: 2 PA, 1 shotgun

And finally, for the play that defined the game.  It was 3rd and 4, and Georgia needed only about 20 more yards to kick a field goal and win the game.  We run a shotgun pass play, and Murray gets sacked, forcing us to punt.  The commentators mentioned that every receiver was running deep downfield, giving Murray no chance.  They were wrong, but not completely.

After re-watching the play, a few things become clear.  

1. Yes, Ealey missed a key block which led to the sack.  
2. Three receivers were, in fact, running deep down field.  In slow-motion, you can see that none of these guys had even looked back by the time Murray was getting hit.  He didn't even have a chance to pass to them.
3. One receiver from the slot (Marlon Brown, I think) did run a short route and crossed in the middle, but he was well covered and had only just looked back when Murray was sacked.

Any way you slice it, it was a bad play call.  With over a minute left and 2 timeouts, Georgia had the luxury of trying for a first down there.  We didn't need the homerun ball.  But the play-call seemed to want that.  Yes, the shotgun formation should have given Murray enough protection to make a play, and Ealey's mistake destroyed that.  But to only have ONE short route on such a crucial play is asking for disaster.  And that's what we got.  

So there you have it.  

I'm not going to say that the play-calling was the only thing that lost us the game.  The defense, while playing great for most of the time, didn't cut it at key moments.  And of course the offensive players didn't always execute, and as noted, Murray did hold on to the ball too long in some situations.  

But player error is to be expected.  They will make mistakes in every game.  But coaches are supposed to be the consistent, stable part of the equation that you can count on to hold things together.  And the offensive coaching was atrocious.  

I'm not calling for anyone to be fired.  But I hope that they see they same things I (and many others) did, and that they will now plan to make adjustments and NOT make the same mistakes again.  Because if the play-calls and coaching in the 4th quarter had been figured out by the 1st instead, Georgia would have won that game handily.  Hopefully they will figure that out, and good things can still happen this season.  

Tomorrow I'll bring some optimism back here.


  1. Earlier i tweeted out That the Senator had probably the best summation of yesterday's debacle. Clearly i was wrong. (no offense to The Senator intended)

    We've been on the road back home from Athens so i haven't watched the replay, nor do i really want to frankly. Now, i don't need to.

    This is illuminating. I've read it 3 times now in fact. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together. There were so many "wtf" moments from yesterday, it's a relief almost to see the puzzle come together like this.

    Thanks Noops-really, thank you.

  2. Just curious, what was Ealey's route on that play? Surely he was supposed to drift to the flat or something, since there was nobody to block and all? :-)

    "Any way you slice it, it was a bad play call.
    With over a minute left and 2 timeouts, Georgia had the luxury of trying for a first down there. We didn't need the homerun ball. But the play-call seemed to want that. Yes, the shotgun formation should have given Murray enough protection to make a play, and Ealey's mistake destroyed that. But to only have ONE short route on such a crucial play is asking for disaster. And that's what we got."

    I'm not saying I disagree with you necessarily, but hindsight is always 20/20, as we all know. Bobo is criticized, on the one hand, for being non-creative, not "opening it up," and focusing too much on an artificial kind of balance b/w run and pass. But then, here, when he does something unconventional, that's a sign of fail, too.

    If it is really that obvious that all we "need" is a short gain, then the defense is thinking the very same thing. If you only run the plays that everyone would expect you to run in a given situation, then that is the definition of uncreative, artificial playcalling.

    It's all game theory, right? At some point, when the D knows what the optimum play for the O is and so plans to stop it, then the optimum play for the O actually shifts to something else. Figuring out when that switch happens is why OC's have ulcers and salaries that Obama defines as wealthy.

    What would Michigan State fans be saying today if that fake FG in overtime had failed yesterday? But, because it worked, he's now a genius.

    If Ealey picks up that block and Murray hits Durham down to the 10 or for a TD, then Bobo is the golden child again today. Of course, it didn't work, but losing rock-paper-scissors doesn't mean you did something wrong.

    Also, and finally, here are two recent examples of times that the Dawgs were on the other side of this situation and got burned. "Knowing" that short yardage was all the other team wanted and was interested in, and all conventional wisdom saying that should be the case, the Dawgs loaded up aggressively and got burned for a TD.

    Case 1: LSU last year. After the horror-show call of excessive celebration and the ensuing long kickoff return, LSU was just barely out of field goal range and it was 2nd or 3rd and short. The Dawgs played a virtual goalline defense against the run formation that LSU was lined up in, and when he got through the first tackler (surprise, surprise), it was a TD. That was not so much a play call that expected us to overplay the short gain, but it illustrates that D's get burned when they think that what is necessary for the other team boxes in what's possible.

    Case 2: Why, yesterday, of course. On the final "drive" by Arkansas, Mallett hit two quick first down plays that put Arkansas just shy of field goal range (40 sumpin', right?) Petrino then dialed up a high-lo stretch on our cornerback, our DB took the bait on the fake hitch to the short route, and the long route down the sideline was wide open. Was Petrino crazy for not just taking focusing, in the final 30 seconds with 2 timeouts, on getting one more first down and kicking a 45-ish FG?

    Go Dawgs!

  3. I think another receiver ran a short route but was well covered it was a little hard to tell on the replay. Murray still held the ball for six seconds(which is too long) before getting sacked he should have thrown the ball. I did not like that play call.

  4. You're right Xon, and I'm sure that's exactly what was in Bobo's head when he made the call. They're expecting us to keep going for 1st downs to kick a field goal; why not toss it deep and go for the touchdown?

    Here's why: Because that's a much lower percentage play. Yes, if it had worked, Bobo would be called a genius.

    But this was a very different play than the one you mentioned earlier in the game by Arkansas. This was the game on the line for a chance to win.

    And in my opinion, Bobo was TOO aggressive on the call, and honestly, he was too aggressive with his entire gameplan. To call play-action after play-action with no regard to how well the running game is working is blind aggression. Expecting to be able to play-action 10 times in one half and putting that much trust into your pass blocking is aggressive.

    And on a 3rd and 4 with the game on the line, it's pretty aggressive to once again trust your pass blocking so much to have 3 receivers going deep.

    Personally, I feel like this is why the play calling is often such a problem. It seems our offense is always so interested in doing the "unexpected" that we end up being predictable. It's completely unexpected for a team to play-action pass that many times, but it still led to 5 sacks on Murray. It's also unexpected to run deep routes on 3rd and 4 with the game on the line, and... it led to a sack on Murray.

    But you're right, I shouldn't say straightforwardly that it's a "bad play call." It could have worked. In my opinion, though, it really wasn't the best decision.

  5. One theory put forth was that Bobo, while trying to exhibit his inter-ERK, actually got a concussion. This would explain the weird play calling and laying the blame for the sacks on a RS FR QB who is about the only bright spot on the O. Did he hold the ball too long yes is this his 3rd game and second against SEC speed yes. Did he try to carry this ridiculous O on his young back yes. And for doing all of that he gets blamed for the sacks. Every coach worth a dang knows that "The team wins the game but the coaches lose the game." Even if this is not true that is what you say to be the adult in the situation who is making hundred of thousands of dollars on the backs of these young men. Bobo is just plan stupid and stupid is as stupid does.

  6. Amen my man! I have been brewing a pissed of at Belue blog all weekend, but you just proved that he is an IDIOT.

    Someone needs to make Buck read this to Richt and Bobo. Then he and Bobo can go play golf while Richt gets on the horn to Mike Leach!

  7. I get more than a little tired of hearing the HOMERS defend the "coaching staff" of Coach Richt. Please note that Coach Richt DID fire his entire Defensive Staff except Rodney Garner our Recruiting Coordinator with all these arrests / suspensions that have left us 10-11 vs SEC East after the 2005 season. At the time, it was said he needed to do the same to the Offensive Coaching Staff. Coach Richt then did announce that he would take a prominent role in the Offensive Coaching Staff.

    On 9/17 prior to kick-off Buck Belue wrote a blog about us fans having to support Mike Bobo. His replies to that post have to pass moderation. I have never seen 1 of my replies on the Internet. But, WORSE THAN THAT, he REMOVED that entire blog - which had no replies posted to it I ever saw.

    Buck Belue acts as if Mike Bobo has not been here since Day 1, stolen from Jacksonville State as their 1-year Quarterbacks Coach for 2001 as ours by Coach Richt and then promoted to O.C. after 2006.

    Just whom is it who is responsible for the fact that we had prepared no QB for 2006 and lost 4 games, had prepared no QB for 2009 and lost 4 games, and no had prepared no QB for 2010 and have lost 2 of the first 3 games our 1st 2 SEC games ? I mean if it is their fault Mike Bobo, where are your offensive recruits in-state 2010 or 2011 ?

    Defending 3rd and 4 from the 50 at 1:04 tie game at HOME against Arky being anything but a quick hitting pass or possibly 2 runs going on 4th down to actually complete the comeback, ignores what has happened since the 2005 season, and ignores the fact that our Offense from 2001 all 10 years now has averaged the # 52 NCAA Total Offense and now is # 81 Total Offense. Two-thirds of those teams have no Defense at all and we are # 81 Total Offense.

    Who the F is accountable for that ? Aaron Murray ?