Halftime analysis: Seven thoughts

semerson@macon.comSeptember 28, 2013 

Seven thoughts as Georgia leads LSU 24-17 at halftime:

1. This was a great recovery from Georgia, when it found itself down 14-7, and it can probably credit having been in two big games already. And it was a great recovery by Aaron Murray, shaking off the interception on the second drive. The Bulldogs also got 10 points on their final two drives despite not having Todd Gurley. (More on that in a second.) And the defense had a great in-game adjustment, after giving up touchdowns on LSU's first two drives.

2. Chris Wilson might want to put in for a raise at halftime, as his defensive line is just having a great game. Leonard Floyd is having a whale of a game. No sacks, but a ton of pressures, and also good in the run game. Ray Drew recorded the sack to force LSU's second punt. It was the first full sack of Drew's career. He had a half-sack as a freshman. Later, Chris Mayes had a sack after pressure by fellow linemen Sterling Bailey and Garrison Smith. The Bulldogs are doubling up the Tigers in total yardage, 306-155, and the difference is the rushing yards: Georgia has an astounding 143-13 advantage. Against LSU, that's pretty unbelievable.

3. I said this week that Georgia's best bet against Zach Mettenberger was a good pass rush, and that's been the case. The Bulldogs have sacked him twice and have pressured him more times. But the secondary is the problem. Damian Swann, the lone returning starter from last year, is supposed to be the dependable one, and he's been beat several times, including on LSU's first touchdown. Of course some of that is also due to freshman Quincy Mauger, who showed his safety blitz WAY too early, allowing Mettenberger to pounce. Personnel-wise, cornerback Brendan Langley started again, but Shaq Wiggins came in on the third play at cornerback. That continued, with Wiggins apparently the passing-down cornerback. Sheldon Dawson then came in later, and promptly gave up a long completion.

4. Gurley and Keith Marshall combination is back. They had nearly identical numbers: Gurley 73 yards on eight carries and Marshall 70 yards on nine. When Gurley got hurt, Marshall came in and promptly helped lead the team to two scores. Now the question is whether Gurley comes back and how healthy he is. He was testing his left ankle on the sideline, and looked pretty healthy as he sprinted to and from the locker room, and celebrated with teammates. But the Bulldogs will have to decide whether he's healthy enough to plant and run, and more importantly whether there's danger in re-injuring the ankle. Plus, Marshall's pretty good.

5. LSU's offense under Cam Cameron is so much better this year. One play exemplified it: Facing second-and-15, fullback Connor Neighbors went into motion to the left. Ramik Wilson debated for a second on whether to pick him up, and eventually slid over. Upon the snap, Jeremy Hill ran into the vacated space, hauled in a short pass from Mettenberger and ended up with a 23-yard gain.

6. Special teams observations: Marshall Morgan's first kickoff was fielded at the 1, not quite the hang time needed, and Beckham returned it to the 34. But his kickoffs gradually got better. Meanwhile, Georgia isn't getting much on its own returns, and Reggie Davis unwisely brought one out, getting tackled inside the 20. Collin Barber got a bit lucky on a shanked punt, which bounced and was downed for decent yardage. Morgan made a short field goal, while LSU drilled a 49-yarder. Overall, special teams isn't hurting Georgia right now, and after the past few weeks that's all it can ask.

7. So where do we see this game going? If Georgia keeps defending the run the way it has been, I suspect Todd Grantham and the secondary will figure things out enough to keep things in check. Grantham has usually been pretty good on halftime adjustments. Plus, Georgia's pass rush is really starting to make headway, and you wonder when Mettenberger might finally break and make a big mistake. Still, this second half falls mostly on Murray and the offense. Avoid the mistake, keep churning out yardage, and Georgia should win this game. But LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis is a pretty good tactician too, so he'll have some good adjustments, and Murray and Mike Bobo will have their work cut out.

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