Halftime analysis: Seven thoughts

semerson@macon.comJanuary 1, 2014 

Gator Bowl Football

Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason (14) and the Bulldogs open their season against Clemson.


Seven thoughts at halftime from the Gator Bowl, as Nebraska leads No. 22 Georgia, 10-9.

1. Just like last year, Georgia trails Nebraska by one at halftime. But the score is much different, as last year it was a 24-23 shootout. The feel of the game is also much different, with the stands about half-filled, an on-and-off rain adding to the downcast atmosphere. The only thing adding some pizzazz this year is some chippiness in the second quarter, with two stars - Georgia's Todd Gurley and Nebraska's Randy Gregory - heavily involved. (If those were SEC referees, you have to think flags would have been thrown. Instead the Pac-12 refs, with their West Coast touchy-feely "can't we all get along" attitude, just separated everybody and moved on.)

2. Hutson Mason doesn't look very comfortable back there. His numbers are good (11-for-17 for 149 yards, no interceptions), but a lot of those yards have come after the catch. Gurley and Brendan Douglas, two tailbacks, have the longest catches of the day. A big problem is Mason hasn't had much time to throw. Gregory and company are getting a lot of push on the edges, and Mason hasn't responded well at times, scurrying instead of throwing it away. It may behoove Mike Bobo to go more up-tempo and hurry-up in the second half. It worked at Georgia Tech when the Bulldogs did that out of necessity.

3. Georgia is winning the stat sheet (197 yards to 130, and more time of possession). The difference is Reggie Davis' muffed punt. We'll have to ask Mark Richt afterwards why Richt was out there instead of Rhett McGowan, who has been more sure-handed. But my suspicion is it was situational, with the speedy Davis back there with the hope he could break one. Richt might also point out that McGowan nearly muffed a punt earlier.

4. Nebraska's defense came out keying on the run, and the result is a fairly mediocre game for Gurley, who has just 30 rushing yards on 10 carries. Overall Georgia has just 48 yards on 23 attempts. Again, Mason and the passing game aren't getting enough time to make the Cornhuskers pay.

5. Georgia's defense was playing really well before the muffed punt. Through four possessions, Nebraska had just 68 yards and had not gotten past midfield. Then the Davis drop seemed to throw the defense into a lurch, the same way it did in the second half at Vanderbilt. But I don't pin as much blame on the defense there. Yes, you have to respond better to sudden change. But when you've played four good drives, then are thrown right back out there to essentially defend the doorstep of the end zone, that's asking a lot.

5. Then again, Georgia's defense was lucky not to give up seven on the next drive. Shaq Wiggins was in position but evidently had no idea where the ball was, and just watched as the Nebraska receiver dropped the sure touchdown. Wiggins started, incidentally, as expected. Devin Bowman is the cornerback benefiting from the suspensions in the secondary, as he has come on in the nickel package. Bowman has hardly played this season.

7. This is turning into Arthur Lynch's showcase game, as he already has a career-high five catches. I wondered whether Lynch and Mason would have the same rapport as Lynch and Murray, who are close friends. Evidently there was no reason for that concern. Some of it may just be comfort level for Mason, who still seems uneasy in a less up-tempo game. Some if it may also be that's what the defense is giving Mason.

Bonus thought: My sense is Georgia, if it can avoid another big mistake, can wrest control of this game and pull away. Of course, I felt a lot more comfortable about that when Aaron Murray was the quarterback. Mason still has some things to prove. But it would also behoove Georgia to capitalize in the red zone. It's gotten down there three times today, and then gone backwards on a key play each time. It's time to punch some of those in.

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