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?
FIRST HALF STATS:
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.
Tomorrow I'll bring some optimism back here.