Tuesday, November 10, 2009

DAWGS should appease their sweet tooth

Cupcake…cream-puff…call it what you will. The DAWGS had quite a treat this past Saturday in the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech and a tasty treat it was. A few days removed from a very pleasant Homecoming victory over Golden Eagles, I cannot lose the thought of what Georgia’s season may have looked like had the DAWGS been afforded the luxury of fattening up a bit on a couple of games against lighter weight opponents. David Hale mentioned this thought process in his live game blog Saturday. Playing a strong schedule has its advantages and too much of a sugary-sweet schedule is a bad thing, but maybe it is these “sweeter” match-ups that help a program like Georgia’s rank among the heavyweights at the end of the year.

Don’t misunderstand me. I take great pride in being able to point to the fact that the DAWGS have not been afraid to schedule a better grade of opponent in the last few years and that we plan to play several more quality and/or entertaining match-ups in the upcoming seasons. In a hardened and often cynical newsroom environment, this fact carries a great weight. From a fan’s perspective, Wifey and I love the intrigue and excitement that goes with an inter-sectional meeting. When we looked at the schedule for this year, Oklahoma State and Arizona State offered that unusual and enticing sparkle that a pairing against any directional school just can’t offer. The big SEC match-ups are always fun and exciting and we know exactly what they are all about, but it is nice to have a less familiar foe on the schedule from time to time. As for 2010, we’re making plans right now to make the trip out to Boulder, CO to watch the DAWGS tangle with the Buffaloes. We can’t wait to head out on what should be a fantastic trip.

With all that said, what Georgia may have learned and the experience that was gained from the performance this past weekend cannot be ignored. What happened “Between the Hedges” Saturday appears to have done wonders for the team’s confidence, especially the weary psyche of the defense, it gave the younger players a chance to find their legs and have some success, and it provided the coaching staff with an opportunity to better figure out exactly how to use all the tools they have in the toolbox. Having a positive result on tape from a game speed situation is invaluable when it comes to teaching the game and building the confidence of an individual player and a team.

Specifically, I have wondered this week about what impact having such a challenging schedule over the first half of the season has had on the DAWGS running game. If the early season schedule had provided another pay-check opponent, is it such a stretch to think that the four-back scenario that is just now clearing itself up would have been sorted out a bit sooner? I know there have been other factors involved at that position…injuries, the pursuit of offensive balance and so on…but seeing what happened on the field against Tennessee Tech definitely begs the question. Without being in the pressure packed situations that were a staple of Georgia’s early season games, the possibility certainly exists that there would have been more opportunity to work players like Branden Smith, Logan Gray, Rontavious Wooten, Marlon Brown and Washaun Ealey into the rotation to see what they could do when the band is playing.

If Georgia had followed the lead of their conference brethren and scheduled a bit lighter to start the year, is it too presumptuous to assume that the running game would have found its wheels a little sooner? It can be argued that a strong running game is the cornerstone of everything that Georgia is and does. An effective running game leads to balance in the offense and hopefully more production. Moving the ball effectively on the ground keeps the defense off the field and effects how the game is called defensively. Hopefully, all of that leads to the DAWGS being ahead more often late in games which would allow for the coaching staff to get the younger players some valuable game experience.

Couple the above ponderings with the fact that nine games into the season it has become obvious that the DAWGS best play-makers are all underclassmen and the evidence becomes even more convincing. What if the coaching staff had been able to see that prove itself out as fact ON THE FIELD earlier in the season? None of us can say for sure if anything would be different, but it is certainly an interesting possibility. One would guess that this week’s edition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will offer some insight into whether any of this carries any validity at all. If the DAWGS successfully find a way to continue to incorporate their young play-makers into the game plan against Auburn, maybe what happened against the Golden Eagles can be viewed as a lesson. It would support the thought that although not flashy, early season tune-up games should be a consistent staple of the future DAWGS early season diet. Those more flashy inter-sectional games against teams from the other BCS conferences will still be prized additions to the schedule, but instead of being the steak and potatoes of the out of conference slate we can happily think of them more as the sprinkles on top of our cupcake dessert.

When is a Horned Frog a Duck….or a DAWG?

As I have stated clearly before, I really like a touch of black when it comes to the DAWGS uniforms. However, I like most Georgia people I know, have grown a bit weary of Georgia breaking out a new twist on the black every time we have a big game. On a related note, I will have more on Georgia’s big game trend coming soon. I guess I get Coach Richt’s position on this topic…(paraphrasing) being open to anything that helps keep the game fun for the players and maybe adds a little juice…but when the game doesn’t go your way it certainly leaves a bitter and hollow feeling in your gut for everyone involved.

I have seen other teams take a similar tact in recent years. The Oregon Ducks, backed by Nike’s Phil Knight, have an avalanche of uniform choices to choose from. So many, in fact there is a rule that no uniform combination can be repeated in a season. A few examples can be seen HERE.

Last year, Army donned a new look in the very tradition laden Army vs. Navy game. At first blush, I liked the Cadets look. However, the new look did nothing to change the foreseeable outcome of the game as Navy went on to win 34-0.

This week, the #4 TCU Horned Frogs are taking on the #16 Utah Utes in Fort Worth. A sellout crowd will be on hand for what looks to be the last major hurdle on the way to an undefeated season and all of the possibilities that come along with it for the Frogs. Enter the seemingly unavoidable costume switcharoo. This week, instead of the traditional purple helmets, black or purple tops and black or white pants, TCU will be breaking out these new Nike Pro Combat Uniform beauties:

You can read the full article and check out a slide show HERE.

I’m not saying that it’s not a good look. Frankly, I haven’t come to a decision on that one just yet, but I’m just shocked that it seems yet another team is trying to take advantage of a move that Coach Richt was so successful with just two seasons ago. (DISCLAIMER: I know that other teams have manipulated uniforms before CMR’s move, but I am a Georgia fan and therefore my perspective starts with the DAWGS and moves out from there.) Who knows if this is more a TCU “amp the guys” move or if it is just another Nike “Oregon Duck style” marketing ploy tied to a high-profile college football game. Will this move impact the game in any tangible or measurable fashion that spurs on the Frogs? At the end of the day, I don’t think it really matters. If TCU wants to add a little flair to the greatest game in the world that we know as college football, it has every right to do so. I just think that all of this alternate uniform business across the landscape of college football is getting a little out of hand. Changing a jersey color or a pant design seems within reason, but an outright overhaul for the sake of an event seems a bit much. I just hope we don’t see snarling bulldog teeth plastered on the Georgia helmets anytime soon.


Monday, November 9, 2009

BEASTS from the CFB landscape

Given that this week was Homecoming for the DAWGS and provided a very enjoyable (save penalties) and easy win, and the fact that I'm on vacation and have had more time to look around and write, I present to you performances from the CFB landscape that are worthy of designation as A DAMN BEAST!!!

BEAST!!! - Toby Gerhart, Stanford – 38 carries, school record 223 yds (5.9 ypc), 3 tds in the 51-42 upset win over #8 Oregon. Gerhart is an absolute tank. The Stanford power back had rushed for over a hundred yards by halftime against Oregon and did not have a run over 14 yards...impressive. Stanford is fun to watch. I didn't think Jim Harbaugh was nuts in saying his freshman QB Andrew Luck was the best quarterback in the land and there's something growing up on The Farm. The Cardinal are coming as a team and Gerhart is the big diesel engine that makes them go.

BEAST!!! – Zach Callaros, Cincinnati – 29 of 37, 480 yds, TD passing and 75 yds rushing and 2 TDs vs. UCONN. Tony Pike is a nice player and I like Chip Kelly as a coach, but it will be interesting to watch the QB situation in Cincy once Pike is game ready (*Pike was medically cleared this week, but had not practiced enough to be ready for the game according to Coach Kelly)

BEAST!!! – CJ Spiller had a school record 312 total yds vs. FSU. Spiller is a game changer in every sense of the word and the Clemson staff is putting him position to make plays for them. Good for them. Any chance we can get Branden Smith to run that wheel route out of the backfield for the DAWGS the way Spiller does at Clemson? That would be nice.

BEAST!!! – Houston true freshman kicker Matt Hogan 51-yd FG as time expires saves the Cougar’s hide. Case Keenum and the boys are unbelievable. I thought they had lost that game at least three times before they miraculously won it. I'll say this, they keep it interesting.

BEAST!!! – Jordan Shipley, Texas – 11 receptions, school record 273 yds, td vs UCF. This game is one that may make you want to split Heisman votes between Colt McCoy and Shipley at the end of the year. I do not agree. I still stand by my preseason pick that McCoy will win the Heisman and Shipley has been really good all season, but this past Saturday Shipley was absolutely dominant and was absolutely the catalyst for the Longhorns easy win over the Knights.



Looks like the folks at the SEC offices also TOOK NOTICE of one of our fine young DAWGS. Congrats MR90! GATA and GO DAWGS!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

DAWGS come up golden at Homecoming

The first weekend in November brought a beautiful fall day and the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles into Athens for Homecoming 2009 and a better all around day would have been hard to come by.

I could not be in Athens for this year’s homecoming festivities, but even listening on the radio the DAWGS level of execution against what was an admittedly inferior opponent came shining through. Couple that dominating performance with a W and you get the perfect cure for the indigestion brought on by a 4-4 start to the season. You can’t do anything about what’s already happened, so it was good to see the DAWGS take care of the business that was in front of them.

Here are a few more thoughts:

I’m not against adding a splash of black to Georgia’s uniforms by any stretch, but it sure was nice to see the RED hats and tops paired with those SILVER BRITCHES.

Two things about the defensive effort today:

1. A shutout is damn hard to pull off regardless of who you play and that fact, as well as the effort it took to finish it off, should be acknowledged, respected and appreciated.

2. Again, I know Tennessee Tech was over-matched, but regardless…the DAWGS held the Golden Eagles to just 55 total yards of offense and that is just beautiful to see. This is the second lowest output by a Bulldog opponent in school history. The record is 39 total yards by The Citadel in 1953.

A couple of offensive pieces of perspective:

1. Joe Cox was efficient: 10-13, 140 yards, 2 TD….that’s a pretty good day’s work.

2. Georgia finished with 304 yards rushing on the day. Did anybody think we would see that number at any point this season? Me neither. Kudos to everyone involved.

It was very nice to hear the young DAWGS have some success…gives me hope. Looks like I may not be delusional for feeling that way. Well, at least not delusional about that.

A whole host of young Georgia players contributed in a big way on Saturday. Orson Charles. Montez Robinson. Branden Smith. Washaun Ealey. Cornelius Washington. That list is not all-inclusive to be sure. Michael Moore was the first non-freshman to score a TD today and his tally made the score 38-0 in favor of the DAWGS. I think that is impressive. Although I had personally hoped to see a lot more of Marlon Brown and Rontavious Wooten today, Coach Richt said that game situations dictated that the game plan change and the DAWGS rode the running game. He added that he liked what he saw from the young WRs and that they did a good job of blocking in the running game . I’ll certainly take his word for it. Besides, if this season has shown us anything thus far, Georgia can certainly use every live rep it can get when it comes to running the football. Not a shot here, just stating the obvious.

On to everybody’s favorite section, the DAWGBEASTS.

MONTEZ ROBINSON, freshman DE - Robinson had three tackles and two sacks in the first half and finished with five stops. These were the first tackles of his career and his two sacks accounted for 1/3 of the team’s total of six for the game.

BRANDEN SMITH, freshman WC - Smith took a direct snap at quarterback and broke loose for a 51-yard TD with 3:01 left in the first quarter. Smith finished with 72 yards on three carries for the game. This was Smith's second TD run of the season after he ran for a 61-yard score on a reverse against South Carolina. Once again, number 1 proved he is a lightning strike just waiting to happen and is the very definition of a game changer.

WASHAUN EALEY, freshman TB – Ealey scored the first two TDs of his career Saturday scampering in from seven yards for his first career TD and then breaking free on a 44-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. Ealey finished with a team-best 89 yards on seven carries in the game.