On a beautiful night in the South, Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks treated the University of Georgia Bulldogs to a rude awakening to the 2012 SEC football campaign. The University of Georgia was outplayed at every turn, and Spurrier’s team deserved every bit of a 35-7 thrashing of UGA. I am sure we will have time to reflect upon how to fix what happened…and every Bulldog will have a theory (cue litany of fire Richt, Bobo, Grantham, lack of discipline, poor coaching, players are thugs, outcoached, poor recruiting, poor conditioning, blah blah blah) on how to correct these issues, but at present, let us reflect upon the reasons UGA failed so miserably.
- South Carolina’s offensive and defensive lines absolutely controlled the line of scrimmage. All problems in the Georgia-South Carolina game really came down to this inscrutable fact: Football is won and lost on the line of scrimmage. The South Carolina defense was often three yards deep in the Georgia backfield within a second of the ball being snapped. I actually saw UGA offensive linemen pancaked and on their backs. Shockingly weak line play was the architect of defeat.
- Aaron Murray (because of point directly above) was ineffective…primarily because he was continually harried and pressured off the snap. Murray’s stats: Try 10-31 on for size. The pressure the defensive line of South Carolina placed upon all facets of the offensive was stunning.
- Georgia tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were ineffective. At one point, my wife leaned over and offered that Marcus Lattimore is a much better running back than either Gurley or Marshall. I’m not buyin’ it. I believe if each team swapped tailbacks, South Carolina still rolls. I lost count of how many times the UGA tailbacks were met with a wall of USC defenders IN the backfield.
- Georgia’s coaches were out-schemed early. Spurrier is considered a genius for a reason and his game plan was shrewd. I reckon that UGA’s defensive scheme was based upon stopping Conner Shaw and Lattimore first. Spurrier responded by continually throwing deep, putting Georgia’s safeties on notice that they better mind their watch (no matter, UGA was gashed deep). The play action passes were things of beauty, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a team (any team in any league) look as confused, overwhelmed, and generally lost as the defensive backfield for UGA.
- We did not lose because Steve Spurrier is an Evil Genius (although he is). What Spurrier has done is even more impressive (and should be worrying to all UGA fans): He has built a real football team. People are want to suggest we lost because of ‘schemes’ and ‘playbooks’ and such. No. We lost because for twenty years Steve Spurrier has proven he can consistently build better football teams than whoever happens to be the current UGA coach. Finally, his true genius emerges in Columbia: he builds teams.
Football’s stars are the quarterbacks, and the wide receivers, occasionally a linebacker or safety or punt returner. Football games are won or lost in the trenches, on the line. The UGA-South Carolina game 2012 was a clinic on this premise. This game was a lesson on the realities of real football, and real football teams.
We can examine (and probably will) ‘why’ UGA football teams fail miserably against opponents considered peers. Tonight however, my hope was to communicate the ‘how’, not the ‘why’. Hats off to South Carolina and Steve Spurrier.