Sep 20, 2010

The Offensive Line Problem: Partially Explained?

One more quick note about yesterday's post.  

I've seen plenty of fans, and the Georgia coaches as well, lamenting the failures of our experienced offensive line.  No, the blocking hasn't been great, but it should be noted that the offensive play-calling mentioned before could be partially to blame.  

I wrote yesterday about how Georgia attempted 10 play-action passes in the 1st half, to the point where everyone, EVERYONE (including the Arkansas defense) knew what we were about to do.  This led to 5 sacks on Murray.  

Turns out I understated the ridiculous amount of play-action plays that were called.  I showed that there were 12 total in the game, but I didn't count the 5 sacks and the few times that Murray ran after a play-action fake.  So there was more like 20 (maybe a couple more) play-action plays called in that game, and at least 13 in the first half.  13.

I'm no expert, but it's got to be more difficult to block on a play where the defense knows exactly what you're doing.  

Once again, this doesn't excuse poor execution, but it does make me wonder how the O-line would hold up with a better variety of plays being called.

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.

Sep 12, 2010


So many have pointed out by now that it looks like Aaron Murray was being controlled too much by the coaches yesterday.  After he went all scramble-crazy and took over the offense last week against Louisiana-Lafayette, Mark Richt and Mike Bobo likely gave him a friendly reminder that he needs to stop being a hero and protect himself.  After all, that was Coach Richt's mantra during the pre-season.  The idea has been to keep the offense simple and ease Murray into the gameplan.  Judging by last week's game, Murray doesn't want to play it that way.  He wants to run at it headfirst.  

Richt acknowledged the leash on Murray after the game yesterday:

“Even in the second half we were inclined to just call whatever the heck we thought we needed to call. I think early on you’re trying to, let’s make sure we can run the ball, be his best friend, all that kind of stuff. And call things that maybe don’t’ take an awful lot of thinking as far as progressions and that kind of thing. And try to get him off on a good note. But he’s handled everything very well and I think he’s prepared to just run the system as we have it.”

This offense will continue to struggle if Aaron Murray remains caged and treated like any normal freshman quarterback.  But he isn't a normal freshman QB, as we've seen from his play.  He has the potential to be great, starting now.  It is time... to do what must be done.  It is time.... to....

Sep 11, 2010

I Return for some Post-Loss Perspective

It was an ugly game all around, but I'm not going to be too upset about this one.  Maybe it's from being desensitized by losing 5 games last year (many in a frustrating way), but I just have to look at this from a "what does it mean in the long run?" viewpoint.

So here's the breakdown.

First, take a look at Georgia's schedule this year.

Sat, Sept 41-0 (0-0)
Sat, Sept 111-1 (0-1)
Sat, Sept 1812:00 PM ETTickets
Sat, Sept 25TBDTickets
Sat, Oct 24:30 PM ETTickets
Sat, Oct 9TBDTickets
Sat, Oct 16TBDTickets
Sat, Oct 23TBDTickets
Sat, Oct 303:30 PM ETTickets
Sat, Nov 6TBDTickets
Sat, Nov 13TBDTickets
Sat, Nov 27TBDTickets

If you had to pick which one or two games Georgia would lose this season, which would you pick?

Obviously not Louisiana or Idaho State.  Miss State, Vandy and Kentucky are usually SEC bottom feeders and not a huge concern.  Colorado is a bad Big 12 team.  Tennessee is down big time.  Usually Georgia fans expect to beat Georgia Tech (and Tech also lost to a terrible Kansas team today, a team which lost last week 6-3 to an FCS team).  

That leaves Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, and South Carolina.  Those are probably our 4 toughest games, and everyone knew it before the season.  The South Carolina game is our first tough game, away from home, and with a new QB, new defense, and no A.J. Green.  Knowing all of that information before the game, that would make a really good case to predict, IF Georgia only has 1 loss this year, that it could very well be to South Carolina.

So we really have 3 "tough" games left, and Florida is looking very down this season.  

In other words, if we were going to lose a game, it isn't surprising that this is the one.  Yes, Georgia usually beats South Carolina, but you can't win every game.

Second, look at the SEC situation now.  Our goal is to win the East, and it's looking like a race between South Carolina, Florida, and hopefully UGA.  If there was one East team to lose to, it might be good that it was the Gamecocks.  Take a look at their schedule.

Thu, Sept 21-0 (0-0)
Sat, Sept 112-0 (1-0)
Sat, Sept 187:00 PM ET ESPN3.comTickets
Sat, Sept 25TBDTickets
Sat, Oct 9TBDTickets
Sat, Oct 16TBDTickets
Sat, Oct 23TBDTickets
Sat, Oct 30TBDTickets
Sat, Nov 6TBDTickets
Sat, Nov 13TBDTickets
Sat, Nov 20TBDTickets
Sat, Nov 27TBDTickets

Look at that SEC schedule the Cocks are facing.  They have to play AT Auburn, against #1 Alabama, AT Kentucky and Vandy, against #14 Arkansas, and AT Florida.  That's ridiculous.  I feel pretty confident that even if the Gamecocks are better this year, they will still lose 2 SEC games in that schedule.  Maybe even 3 or 4.

That means if UGA can handle business the rest of the way, they will be FINE. Yes, easier said than done, but it isn't the end of the season yet, and I saw some things to be optimistic about.

Murray looks like a great QB for a freshman, the offense has playmakers and soon (hopefully) will have the best receiver in the country back, and the defense looked much better in the 2nd half (held the Cocks to 3 points and got  about five sacks).  

Plus, I think our new D's pass rush will work much better against Arkansas' defense.  Let's hope so.  

But still, the message is the same: Yes, it sucks to lose, but it's one game, and this season is FAR from over.  If we lose to Arkansas next week, I will be very worried, but for now, everything is still on the table.