OVERMATCHED: Dawgs Go Down In Dixie (South Carolina 35 UGA 7)

Team. Strong fundamentals. Strong line play. This is Spurrier’s genius. He builds real football teams.

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.

Closing Thoughts
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.

UGA-USC 2012 Quick Hits…End of 1st Quarter: Five Keys Redux

Better start tackling this guy.

21-0 Gamecocks up.  Let’s review progress from our Five Keys for the 2012 Georgia-South Carolina Football Game article.  Bottom-line: I agree with Kirk H.: Our defense looks completely lost.

1.  Georgia’s ability to protect Aaron Murray and open holes for the tailbacks.
The South Carolina defensive line is living in the Georgia backfield so far.  Games are won on the line and the Gamecocks’ defensive and offensive lines have so far way out-played UGA.  Bulldog Line Play Grade:  F.

2.  Aaron Murray’s ability to make sound decisions.
Who knows thus far?  The Bulldogs ran, what, 9 plays in the entire first quarter?  The interception was bad luck. Grading Aaron Murray:  Incomplete.

3.  Force Conner Shaw to beat us with his arm.
Conner Shaw is running wild (and beating us with his arm…although I think this is a product of play action bamboozling our defense). Grade:  A+ (for Conner Shaw).

4.  UGA’s defensive backs must play an inspired game.
Botched interception attempt by Rambo led to a 42 yard Gamecock gain.  Badly beaten on two play action passes.  Grade for defensive backs:  F.

5.  Special Teams Play/Turn-overs.
Another year. Another punt returned for a touchdown.  Resounding F.

Bottom-line:  The first quarter of this game supports critics who say we haven’t really been relevant since 2005.

Five Keys: UGA – South Carolina Football 2012

Wear them down, Georgia.

Well…it’s here. The battle of the titans, as the University of Georgia Bulldogs face the South Carolina Gamecocks on October 6, 2012 in Columbia.  We believe there are five keys that will determine the outcome of this SEC rivalry between UGA and South Carolina.  Frankly, the five keys are fundamental, and certainly not visionary revelations, but…watch for these keys during the game:

1.  Georgia’s ability to protect Aaron Murray and open holes for the tailbacks.
South Carolina’s defensive line, led by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, is stout…fast, big, and active.  UGA’s offensive line has been steadily improving and it is hard to argue with a Georgia offense whose scoring echoes the left coast Oregonians.  Georgia must protect Aaron Murray, which leads to…

2.  Aaron Murray’s ability to make sound decisions.
South Carolina will most definitely try to pressure Murray, as the Dawgs’ quarterback has shown deft precision when given time.  Conversely, as a sophomore, Murray demonstrated a disturbing tendency to make poor throwing decisions when pressured by the defense.  Murray must be willing to take a sack, throw the ball away, be patient.  By the way, I don’t sense that Murray necessarily forces the ball under pressure…it is almost as if he just doesn’t see the field as clearly.

3.  Force Conner Shaw to beat us with his arm.
It is crucial that Conner Shaw not be allowed to run wild.  Lattimore is may slowly beat UGA into submission, but Shaw is the greater danger.  In games this season, Conner Shaw is very quick to pull the ball down and run (almost as if he prefers to run).  The Gamecocks quarterback demonstrated beautiful passing downfield against Missouri, but Missouri’s defense is highly suspect.  It is imperative that the front seven for the Georgia defense contain Conner Shaw.  Which leads us to the play of the UGA defensive backfield…

4.  UGA’s defensive backs must play an inspired game.
Georgia’s front seven will have their hands full trying to contain Conner Shaw and Marcus Lattimore on the ground.  In pass situations especially, I would expect a fast spy on Conner Shaw (probably Jarvis Jones).  It is highly likely that UGA’s defensive backs will have one-on-one coverages, and the safeties and cornerbacks must rise to the challenge.

5.  Special Teams Play/Turn-overs.
These are self-evident to anyone who has watched UGA play football recently. Simply put, UGA must win on turn-over ratio and play well on special teams.  Game-changing special teams plays (returned kicks for touchdowns, blocked punts, etc.) by UGA would be nice, but really, in this game I reckon playing conservatively and smartly will be enough.