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Georgia Football

Upon Further Review: UGA Football Put on Quite a Show

October 11, 2023

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ATHENS - No. 1 UGA Football put on quite a show Saturday night. In their first ranked matchup of the season, the Dawgs scored on their first six drives, and Carson Beck completed his first 12 passes enroute to career highs in passing yards and touchdowns.

The offensive explosion came at the expense of the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats, who were riding high after their beatdown of Florida the previous week. All the slow start demons were exorcised much to the delight of a raucous home crowd, resulting in a 51-13 blowout. This effort was what everyone, to include the Georgia staff, has been looking for all season.

Georgia looked vulnerable – “gettable” in the words of some analysts – and the matchup with Kentucky is historically one of the most physical games the Dawgs play each season. The question coming into the contest was simple – which Georgia team would show up? The one with the first half challenges, or the one who takes over the second half in an effort to leave no doubt? Could the second half Georgia become the first half Georgia? After the first drive, the answer was a resounding “yes”. This is not the Georgia of the recent past, as both offensive and defensive squads are manned differently than the championship teams of the last two seasons. This is a pass-first team, using Beck’s arm to set up the run. The defense, while good, isn’t the shutdown defense of the previous seasons. And there are still areas of concern that a tilt against Vanderbilt and a bye week can go a long way in fixing.

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1. The edge (again) – the Dawg defensive line, or really front 7, seems to get sucked into the play side of the line, leaving open counter runs and / or pin and pull offensive line blocking strategies. It is very difficult to run up the middle against Georgia. Opponents are averaging about 2.9 yards per carry from guard to guard runs. Pretty stout. However, that more than doubles when running outside the tackles. While the stats from Saturday night look great (24 attempts, 55 yards, 2.3 yards per carry) go back and watch the first two Wildcat drives. Ray Davis was finding running lanes just off tackle and Kentucky was moving the ball with efficiency. Penalties (wait, stupid penalties) and missed throws took Kentucky off schedule. By the end of the first quarter, Kentucky had to abandon its gameplan and throw more, which is not their strength. Bottom line – while the front 7 was better this game compared to the Auburn game, there is still room for improvement in edge setting. 

2. Pressure – Georgia is struggling to get pressure on the quarterback without blitzing. All 3 of Georgia’s sacks Saturday came via the blitz. Excluding the atrocious roughing the passer call on Warren Brinson, no defensive lineman was credited with a quarterback pressure. While Kentucky’s offensive line is good, it won’t be the best Georgia sees this season. Finding ways to pressure without sending the house is paramount as the season moves on. 

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3. Red zone defense – Again, the Dawg defense gave up touchdowns on the two red zone opportunities Kentucky had Saturday. Through 6 games, Georgia’s defense has allowed 11 of 13 red zone possessions to score, good for 73rd nationally. Of those 11 scores, 9 have been touchdowns. Poor tackling combined with poor execution is the main culprit. Better offenses (which are coming) may account for more opportunities going forward than what we’ve seen so far. 

Now, for the good stuff. And there was a lot of good stuff.

1. Carson Beck – this young man is growing into a playmaker before our eyes. Each week he’s gotten better. Against Kentucky he was flat unconscious. The layered throw to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (more on him and others in a minute) for the first touchdown was a beautiful throw after Beck had manipulated the safety to flow the opposite way. He had time to throw all night, but when the pocket broke, he didn’t panic. He’s looking for deeper targets now as opposed to getting rid of the ball quickly as we saw in the first few games. And with his arm talent, he’s delivering. Beck ranks #1 in the nation for passes that have resulted in a first down (87). The coaches trust him as do his fellow players. With a running game that hasn’t fully developed yet, Beck has elevated his play each game. 

2. Offensive weapons – so everyone knows Brock Bowers is Beck’s #1 target. As it should be. Bowers is not normal. But what Bowers’ current run of 3 straight 100 yard receiving games has done is create opportunities for other playmakers to emerge. And emerge they have. Rosemy-Jacksaint (Rojack) is having his best season in red and black while RaRa Thomas is quickly becoming a favorite target. With Ladd McConkey working his way back, Rojack and Thomas have become trusted options for Beck. Bowers’ presence is creating opportunities for other receivers to win one-on-one battles, and they are doing just that. Combined with superlative play calling, these weapons give Georgia multiple options that put defenses on the horns of a dilemma. Double Bowers and cross your fingers that the other options can be covered individually. Sit in a zone, and Beck will pick you apart.

3. Running game – by the end of the game, Georgia had amassed 173 rushing yards while no player had more than 54 yards rushing. This isn’t the same rushing attack Georgia fans are used to, though. There is no bell cow back. There is no home run hitter. But this running game continues to become more efficient as the passing game matures. In previous years, the run set up the pass. This year, however, Georgia is throwing more than they run. Saturday night’s run / pass split was 31 rushes and 42 passes. The efficiency, though, comes in yards per carry. Georgia averaged 5.6 yards per carry Saturday with Daijun Edwards leading the way with 54 yards. Edwards’ vision and quickness in traffic makes him very tough to bring down. Kendall Milton had several powerful runs where he either ran through a tackle or carried defenders with him. This type of rushing attack may be Georgia’s identity this season, and having healthy backs who are efficient with their carries make the Dawgs very hard to defend. 

I asked after last week’s game what the identity of this team is. I think Saturday’s win showed us a little more evidence as to who they are, at least offensively. The Dawgs passed on 58% of their plays Saturday. Of the first 14 plays (which resulted in two touchdowns) 11 were passes. This is who Georgia is offensively. The jury is still out on the defense. While good, there are still areas that provide concern with the toughest part of the schedule yet to be played. Is this team good enough to win another championship? Yeah…they are. Just not the way we’ve grown accustomed to seeing them do so. Can Carson Beck sustain this trajectory? Can the defense hunker down better? I don’t know, but damn if it isn’t going to be fun to watch.

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