ATHENS- Now four days removed from Saturday’s disappointing 31-24 loss to Arkansas, I can see past my initial reactions and think with a clear head. Georgia has now accomplished two things that haven’t been done since 1993, lose to Arkansas and start a season 0-2 in the SEC. I will be honest and say I could see a rough year coming, but I did not completely remove my head from the clouds and look at the Bulldogs for what they are. They have won two SEC championships and one national championship in roughly 30 years. Georgia is an above average football program, but they have not emerged among the elite teams in the nation.
Football programs go through cycles and right now Georgia is going through a rough cycle that can in large part be attributed to poor coaching, poor recruiting, and a lack of discipline. In the Mark Richt area Georgia showed moments of being an elite team, but never quite broke through to win the all important national championship. Coach Richt is going to face one of his toughest challenges he has faced in his career because he is going to have to rally this team to find a way to salvage the 2010 season.
Other then a few blown coverages I believe the Bulldog defense is going to be ok. That belief is based on the assumption that Todd Granthem and company can improve Georgia’s fundamental tackling ability. The two glaring problems that I see in Georgia’s team are on the offensive side of the football.
Washaun Ealy is not the running back fans and coaches believed he would be. He has struggled to run the ball and provide any kind of a spark for Georgia’s offense. The Bulldog offensive line is very suspect but there were holes to be hit on Saturday. Ealey seems too tentative and never eager to run over defenders. If there are only two yards to be gained out of a play, Ealey gets two yards but never any extra. In Washaun’s defense, he is not a power runner. He is about the same size as Mark Ingram, but he is built differently. In my opinion, Ealey would be more effective if Georgia ran him off the tackle and around the edges. He has shown the ability to make people miss when he gets into space, but he cannot penetrate the first level of defenders on runs up the middle. Why Mike Bobo continues to pound the middle is a mystery to me because our offensive line has not shown the consistency to open large holes and Ealey has not been able to power his way through tackles.
The second problem I saw with Georgia on Saturday is Mike Bobo. It is easy to second guess and hind sight is 20/20 but I disagreed with his play calling late in the fourth quarter. While he had some poor passes, Aaron Murray brought Georgia back from down 14 points. I did not understand why Georgia abandoned the aggressive passing attack that led to two touchdowns when they had the ball with 2:28 left in the game. Bobo wanted to play conservative and get in field goal range so Blair Walsh could kick the game winner. Where did Georgia’s aggression go? Down by 14 points, Murray was allowed to sling the ball all over the field but when he finally tied the game he is not allowed to “finish the drill”. My dad always told me to dance with the one you brought which means to stick with what got you there. The Bulldogs had not had success all day with a balanced offense. Murray would fire passes down field until Tavares King or Kris Durham made a huge catch. The slow methodical drives were not succesful all day long, why would that change with 2 minutes to go in the game? Georgia should have used what got them back into the game to win the game.
My complaint with Bobo is not that he is an awful offensive coordinator, although I certainly do not think he is remarkable, but he struggles adapting to the game. He continues to call running plays up the middle when they are obviously not working. The passing game is what brought you back behind, why did that suddenly become too risky? If Murray throws an interception so be it. If Arkansas got the ball back with time on the clock, at least you gave Georgia a chance. Ultimately, we all know what happened.
A big positive from the game is that Aaron Murray was able to bring Georgia back from down late in the fourth quarter. He showed some leadership on Saturday and I believe that will be something Georgia can build on.
Will Georgia be able to break into the category of elite college football programs? Not this year, but the first step to getting there is to salvage 2010 and keep building on what they have. Solve the coverage problems on defense. find some consistency on offense and Georgia will be back in the mix for SEC championships in a few years. If not, Kirby Smart could wind up in Athens a year later then fans thought he would.