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Georgia Football

How I Watched the Georgia Bulldogs Right After Major Neck Surgery

September 6, 2021

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I had neck surgery Wednesday. And while modern medicine is indeed pretty incredible, I had to adjust my normal game watching routine. I usually pace around - rarely sitting down.

I also get quite animated, which sometimes freaks out my 100 pound German Shepherd. Instead of pacing and commenting (loudly) I had to sit still with this big freaking neck brace and keep my throat from being irritated. Having to change my game watching routine caused me to spend a little more time thinking and observing the real time game play.

Around halftime, I had a thought. We had a saying in the Army that “first reports are usually wrong”, meaning that initial reactions are usually inaccurate. Waiting a little longer to respond, as the situation develops, enables you to make a better decision on more reliable information. Time after time, that axiom was proven true. And after watching the Clemson-Georgia game again, I think it applies to the 2021 Dawgs as well.

Allow me to explain. 

At first glance, the offensive (could be used as a noun or adjective) stats were not what any of us thought we would see. 256 total yards is bad - Real bad. But, this is the first instance of an initial report being wrong. Clemson definitely had a plan to counter UGA’s downfield passing, as JT Daniels rarely even looked past medium to short route schemes.

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While the TV coverage didn’t show a complete field view (one day I’ll actually buy the All-22 video service), it appeared that Clemson was dropping linebackers at the 10-to-12-yard range, while playing both safeties deep. By keeping everything in front of them, they could mitigate the mismatch opportunities that the UGA running backs brought.

Further, without a true No. 1 wide receiver or threat Clemson could match up without needing to double cover or bracket cover the receivers who were healthy enough to play. What that left was short range routes that, while completed, did not produce chunk gains that would force Clemson to adjust their coverage scheme. Daniels routinely let the ball fly in under three seconds to help mitigate the Clemson pass rush. That part of the plan worked, as Clemson was credited with only one sack.

Further, the health of the receiver corps played a large part of the offensive struggles, which is why this initial look at the 2021 UGA offense should be graded as “Incomplete”. Jumping to a season-long conclusion at this point is somewhat foolhardy.

The return of Kearis Jackson and Darnell Washington will definitely help, as will a fully healthy John Fitzpatrick. Losing Tate Ratledge on the 4th play from scrimmage didn’t help either, as a makeshift line had to adjust once more. But adjust they did, opening critical gaps in the Clemson defense late in the 4th quarter. What remains to be seen is what will the offensive line look like in three weeks at Auburn. So, again, let’s just call the offense incomplete... for now. 

I also don’t believe the first report of our defense. While holding an offense like Clemson’s to 180 total yards and three points is indeed amazing, I don’t think we’ll see that type of prowess each week. Clemson’s offensive line was putrid. DJU never took advantage of running lanes when they were there. And they were there.

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It certainly appeared to me that the UGA defensive plan was to make him uncomfortable by getting into his face. He rarely had a clean pocket, and was hit numerous times. I think we passed uncomfortable before halftime, to be honest. But, while I do believe this defense could be one of the best in UGA history, they took advantage of an offense that is more smoke and mirrors than substance.

Teams will eventually try to take advantage of an aggressive front seven, leaving the secondary exposed. I doubt it happens in the next three games, but it will happen. I believe the secondary, save a couple of dubious pass interference penalties, played relatively well. They weren’t challenged vertically too often, and DJU rarely had time to process through his reads. When he did, completions were there. It was fun to watch the defense at work Saturday night. My wife, who got introduced to SEC football eight years ago, was yelling on my behalf, multiple times remarking about how amazing the UGA defense was. But again, will a performance like Saturday night’s be the norm?

First reports….

Finally, it appeared to me that the coaching staff had a plan, and it was a good one. Perhaps the coaches saw something in film study that we didn’t. That maybe they knew they could hold Clemson’s offense to nearly zero production. And that the offensive gameplan reflected their confidence that this game wouldn’t have turn into a scorefest?

I do believe this was one of Kirby’s finest coaching moments. The team was ready. They made few mistakes, and quickly recalibrated in the face of two turnovers in plus territory. They overcame penalties (ten is way too many, by the way) and few momentum moments from the offense. This was a big game, and the team was ready. But again, I go back to the axiom of first reports. We are only 1/12th of the way through the season, hardly a time to make broad, sweeping prognostications about how this season will fare. I, for one, will relish the victory until next Saturday when we get to see a little more of this 2021 Dawg team. 

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