At second glance: More observations on Georgia-Florida

semerson@macon.comNovember 6, 2013 

UGA_v_FL

Georgia tail back Brendan Douglas leans into Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins to keep from getting pushed out of bounds on a first quarter run.

GRANT BLANKENSHIP/THE TELEGRAPH — gblankenship@macon.com

My apologies for getting this one out later than usual. Between the trek back from Florida, and a small matter of forgetting to set my DVR last week, it took until Wednesday to finally get a hold of a broadcast of the game. So for what it's worth, here are some additional notes, thoughts and observations upon re-watching Georgia's 23-20 win over Florida:

The Gurley Effect

- You could tell right away the difference Georgia has with Todd Gurley. His first carry was a 26-yarder down to Florida’s 7. The line opened up a huge gap to the right, big enough, it should be pointed out, for J.J. Green or Brendan Douglas to hit. But on this run, two Gators were converging a few yards behind the hole, and they may grab Green or Douglas, or at least slow them down. Gurley whizzed past them. And prior to that, the guess here is Gurley’s innate vision – an underrated part of his arsenal – gets him to the hole quicker.

- One play later, Gurley scored on a 4-yard run, pushing his way across. Green and Douglas probably don't score on that.

- And on the 73-yard touchdown catch, I don’t think there’s much chance any other Georgia tailback makes that free safety look that helpless.

- That said, Douglas and Green did pretty well too, especially at the start of the third drive, when Gurley was out. (I'll have more on Douglas later.) But those two are much more useful as changes of pace than as featured runners.

- Georgia’s offensive line was rolling in the first half. I’m not sure the linemen would say this, but I also think there’s a heightened confidence when they know they’re blocking for Gurley. Then when Gurley came out, they kept it up for Green and Douglas. As Aaron Murray was saying all week, Gurley's presence just seems to lift everybody's spirits.

- You could see Gurley was winded after the 73-yard run. Actually, you could see it at the end of the run.

Chippiness

- After raking the officials over the coals for the targeting calls in the Vanderbilt game (justifiably), I would be remiss in not pointing out that this crew (a different one) was restrained at times. And yes, that's despite all the calls that were made. On Georgia’s first drive, you can see an official talking to Gurley as he went back to the huddle, after some shoving between Gurley and a Gator.

- Of course, the two that really mattered were on Florida. The personal foul that essentially ended the game, giving Georgia a first down. And the unsportsmanlike penalty that ended up making a difference was the call that pushed Florida's first field goal back another 15 yards. The TV broadcast doesn't offer enough insight into how legitimate those calls were.

Georgia offense notes

- Mike Bobo's "let it rip" quote was taken by some fans to mean to try the downfield passing game. But the main emphasis was any pass, and just an overall desire to relax and forget which receivers he doesn't have. You could tell early on that Murray was taking it to heart. Michael Bennett's presence was a huge help in the short passing game, especially on third downs, but Murray's accuracy was also top-notch. There were a lot of passes that look easier than they really are, especially outside timing passes.

- There was downfield passing in this one, at least at the start. Maybe it doesn’t qualify as a deep downfield pass, but on the third play Murray tried to hit Wooten with a 20-yard pass to the sideline, but the coverage was good. And on the first play of the second drive Murray tried to hit Reggie Davis about 40 yards downfield on a back-shoulder, but Davis didn’t turn at the right time.

- John Theus seems to have officially supplanted Kolton Houston at right tackle. Houston did play some, as did Watts Dantzler and Mark Beard, but the starting five got most of the playing time.

Georgia's defense early

- The 82-yard completion on Florida’s first drive got overlooked because it didn’t prove consequential. On the play, Shaq Wiggins just got plain beat. There was no safety help because Quincy Mauger picked up the slot receiver, with Damian Swann (playing the star) staying at the line, which seemed to be his assignment. It was just all on Wiggins, but also a very good play call by the Gators, catching the Bulldogs off guard.

- Wiggins had a rougher game. He also was beat on a fourth-down conversion on Florida’s opening drive of the second half, this time because he gave too much of a cushion. The aggressiveness that Wiggins had been displaying this season was missing on those plays.

- That said, the defensive subbing in the secondary paid dividends. It may be why there was enough energy in the second half to make some stops, as opposed to the Vanderbilt game.

Florida's rally

- Obviously you start with the lateral that Arthur Lynch dropped. I wasn’t sure, watching the game in person, how much room Lynch had if he caught that ball. But on replay I’d say it’s about an 80 percent chance he gets the first down. As for the pass itself, it seems an inch or two forward, but I agree it was the correct call not to overturn it on replay, as there wasn’t enough evidence either way.

- John Theus deserves some credit for being heady enough to make the tackle on the play. But it didn’t end up mattering because the Gators scored two plays later.

- The importance of the Lynch lateral play may be a tad overstated. Yes, if it doesn’t happen, Georgia may get the first down, may move downfield, or if it’s not ruled a fumble, the Gators don’t score right away. That said, the Gators didn’t score on their next drive either. It was still 23-10 with 3:25 left when Georgia’s offense took over at its own 3. That was when …

- The safety sack happened. Loucheiz Purifoy just ran inside of Kenarious Gates, who was more intent on picking up a rushing lineman. Lynch was running a route and it wasn’t his block to make, as the coaches said afterwards. So if there’s blame, it’s on Gates, but credit also goes to the Gators and Purifoy for a good play-call.

- Florida’s two-point conversion to make it 23-20 was almost a mirror of Gurley’s 73-yard touchdown. The defense came on an all-out blitz, leaving a player (this time Florida’s tight end) comically wide open over the middle.

- What happened to Georgia’s offense in the second half? Well, for one it didn’t have the ball much: Three drives totaling 2:30 in the third quarter. And then a three-minute drive in the third quarter. In the first half, it was a case of Georgia’s offense dominating a great Florida defense. In the second half, it was a regression to the mean, with the Gators adjusting well. They focused more on stopping Gurley, and the Bulldogs couldn’t respond with the passing game. The running holes that were there in the first half were mostly gone.

- And what happened to Georgia's defense? Not much difference, actually. Florida racked up 254 yards through two-and-a-half quarters, but had just three points to show for it. It was when it got good field position that it got points, then momentum, and it took Georgia's defense making a big play to force the issue.

Corey Moore's sack

- This is how well Moore timed his blitz: Three seconds before the snap, Moore isn’t even on the TV screen. The ball is being snapped at the 43, and Moore is hanging back at the 31, looking like he’ll be in normal pass coverage. Then Moore starts sprinting a second before it’s snapped – maybe it was just blind luck, or Moore had been timing it all game. By the time Murphy takes the shotgun snap Moore is at the 40 and in a full sprint. When the tailback pulls left to pick up Ramik Wilson, that seals Murphy’s fate: The middle is wide open and Moore runs right through it, quickly catching up to Murphy. That proved to be the last time Florida’s offense took the field.

Georgia's final drive

It was a thing of beauty for Georgia, death by a thousand cuts for Florida. Keep in mind, that drive STARTED with 8:17 on the clock. Some notes on it:

- The drive lasted 15 plays and almost ended after three: Gurley barely leaned across the line, and bounced off a defender in the backfield. Florida had the line stacked to stop Gurley and he still managed to convert it. That’s another case of the difference that Gurley makes.

- Gurley also barely converted the second third-and-short.

- When Jonathan Rumph was on the field on second and third down, Florida should have known it was going to be a run play.

Gritty, unheralded Bulldogs

- Brendan Douglas’ performance was impressive. His 10-yard run on the final drive was critical, as Gurley had just come out of the game, gassed after carrying three straight times and five out of six. And his 21-yard run in the first quarter saw Douglas bounce off four guys before the fifth one finally brought him down.

- And then you have Rhett McGowan. His first-down conversion that was one of the keys of the final drive saw the former walk-on bounce off one attempted arm-tackle, then lean across the line while being pushed by another player. He also caught and pushed ahead on that catch at the end of the first half, setting up Marshall Morgan’s field goal to make it 23-3.

- So to review: That’s a freshman three-star (barely) recruit and a former walk-on making big, gritty plays for Georgia.

Three-point impact plays

- Marshall Morgan and field goal kicking ended up being the points difference in the game. But within that, a few overlooked moments:

- The 15-yard penalty after third down on Florida’s first drive, which pushed a chip-shot field goal into a missable one. And it missed. There’s three points right there.

- Aaron Murray’s 23-yard completion to McGowan in the final minute to set up Morgan’s field goal as the half ended. Maybe Morgan makes the 55-yarder anyway, but we’ll never know. So there’s three more points.

Final thought

There were a combination of bad factors (Lynch's flub, the safety, and Florida's defensive adjustments) that made it a game again. Gurley at 100 percent throughout the game may also have made a big difference. It was a solid, but not great, day for the Georgia defense. Ultimately Murray, the offensive line and the tailbacks (mainly Gurley, but also Douglas) won this game for the Bulldogs.

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