This year I've added a new feature, wherein I re-watch the game on TV and pass along further observations. It's still better to watch the game from the press box, but you do miss some things in the midst of tweeting and blogging. And in general a second viewing allows you to pick up some things you missed the first time around - or it reinforces some first impressions.
So after watching the game a second time, here's what stood out:
- I asked (half-rhetorically) the other day whether Aaron Murray had a bad throw. Well I counted as I went: Three drops, one intentional throwaway, two low passes under pressure. Those comprised all of his incompletions.
- You really have to credit Mike Bobo’s gameplan as the game went on: The quick-snapping and run-pass balance in the third quarter really seemed to wear down the South Carolina defense. Murray was great, but by the second half Gurley and even Quayvon Hicks were really gashing the defense. That had to be demoralizing to the Gamecocks, a reversal from the days of Marcus Lattimore not letting the Georgia defense get off the field.
- As we judge the defense going forward based on these two games, there’s reason for optimism and reason for concern. First, I really think the Gamecocks had a lot of success based on Shaw’s scrambling ability, something that Zach Mettenberger, Jeff Driskel and others don’t have. But the concern is that Shaw shouldn’t have had so much success passing the ball, and he doesn’t have nearly the arm that Mettenberger has. In other words, I think Georgia’s sack numbers are going to go up, especially from the likes of Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Josh Harvey-Clemons. But the secondary is going to have to get a lot better. There seemed to be a lot of zone coverage, and for the better part of three quarters Shaw picked that apart.
- Georgia’s overall defensive speed also seems down from the past few years. But I suspect a lot of that is just “playing speed,” which stems from comfort level. In other words, if you know what you’re supposed to be doing, you run with more purpose. Right now I see a lot of players out there still running tentatively.
- A re-watching doesn’t make Brendan Langley’s game look any better. There’s just no way around it, he was picked on early, late and often, and struggled. But Langley owned up to it during interviews on Monday, so it's no use rehashing it.
- Georgia’s first scoring drive: The catch by Michael Bennett, when Clowney hit Murray, obviously set the tone. But on the very next play Georgia went with a quick count and ran Gurley at Clowney’s side. It also gained a lot of yards. That was the balance that Georgia showed the entire game, and without a good running game Murray would have had a rougher game. At one point in the second quarter, Georgia called four straight outside runs to Gurley, and they all gained good yardage.
- Speaking of that, I’ve mentioned Georgia’s improved run ability this week, despite going against a seemingly better line. Well, an underrated part of it was South Carolina’s linebackers, who were smaller and more inexperienced than Clemson’s. On several runs up the gut Gurley and Marshall got a good push after the line. Five offensive linemen can push four defensive linemen, and when the linebackers aren’t much help, there’s your extra few yards. LSU’s linebackers aren’t going to be that small.
- The blocking of Georgia’s receivers is still underrated. Bennett had a key block to spring a long Keith Marshall run, and two plays later Chris Conley held a block for another long Marshall run. Georgia would score on that drive to make it 17-3 – on a Marshall screen pass in which Conley and Bennett also held their blocks well.
- By the way, that drive was almost all Marshall. He also had a long catch-and-run in the second half, immediately after Shaw’s fumble, which got Georgia deep into South Carolina territory. That was really Georgia’s one good play on that drive, which resulted in a Patrick Beless field goal to put the Bulldogs ahead 27-24.
Marshall is getting overshadowed by Gurley, which is understandable, but there isn’t a huge drop-off between the two, it’s just that Gurley is that great. Marshall is faster, however, and Bobo and Murray really seem to be figuring out how to use Marshall to play off of Gurley.
- That onside kick just completely caught the Gamecocks off guard. Barely one man was watching the ball off the tee. Kudos to Kirk Olivadotti’s prescience for knowing the Gamecocks wouldn’t be ready for it.
- Jordan Jenkins, who doesn’t have a sack this year, was antsy. He came perilously close to a late hit call a couple times when he leveled Shaw, but the referee correctly kept the flag in his back pocket. (He may not have in the NFL.)
- Georgia’s run defense was at times anemic; South Carolina’s first touchdown came on a draw play out of the shot-gun. There’s no way Brandon Wilds should have been able to waltz in from 5 yards out, but no one came close. Part of that was good play design. But not one player keyed on it, a sign of inexperience.
- Near the end of the first half, it’s been said that Georgia scored too quickly, giving the Gamecocks too much time. Well yes, they did snap quickly three straight times before scoring. On the other hand, each play was a Gurley run up the middle, and they believed the quick snaps were helping them to keep Clowney and the Gamecocks off-balance. And they were right. Plus, at some point you have to blame the defense.
- I see that Todd Blackledge went to Mama’s Boy. Good call, Todd, although I’m surprised he managed to find a seat. (On a side note, I find Blackledge to be a very informative color analyst. Believe me, it’s not easy to make quick analysis. He sees things pretty quickly.)
- On the other hand, Mark May said at halftime that Gurley had gained weight in the offseason to be at 230. Actually, he’s about the same weight.
- Ramik Wilson wasn’t so much out of position as he was, to be frank, not very fast. There were several plays he was around the ball, or at least in the area the play was going, but his catch-up speed isn’t up there.
- The big play for the defense (other than the fumble) came in the third quarter when Bruce Ellington lost a pass in the sun. (So Georgia held on third down, allowing the offense to get the ball back and take a 34-24 lead.) On second viewing, the sun really was Georgia’s best defender on that play, however the pass rush was also pretty good, and Shaw did a great job even getting that good of a pass off.
- This is when you deserve to win the game: You don’t make silly mistakes while your opponent does. A couple key penalties helped Georgia’s offense, including a Clowney substitution penalty (he didn’t get off the field fast enough) that gave Georgia a first down, rather than a third-and-2.
- I said last week that Murray should probably scramble a bit more to overcome the line problems. He did that a few times in this game, even though the line overall was better. The two sacks happened too quickly for Murray to do anything.
- The Scott-Wesley 85-yard touchdown was a bit less astounding on TV than in person. When watching it in person, I actually saw Scott-Wesley wide open before Murray threw it. So, nothing really to add there, just that buying a ticket (or having a press pass) is worth it.
- There was still plenty of time left after that touchdown, which made it 41-30, and the Gamecocks marched quickly downfield. That made the goal-line stand by Georgia (and play-call by Spurrier) that much more important. Mike Davis came really close to scoring on third down. The fourth-down play was on the goal-line. Why Spurrier lined up in the shotgun and went option, I’ll never know. Grantham was a bit too chesty afterwards about the play call (“I’ll take all day) but he was also right. They should have just had Shaw sneak it. Still, Amarlo Herrera deserves credit for a great play there, and the much-maligned Ramik Wilson also arrived to prevent Davis from leaning away and in.
- Finally, the play that sealed the game was the screen pass to Hicks, which took the ball from Georgia's own 2 out to the 25. At that point Georgia huddled up and started killing clock. Gurley went 10 yards on the next play, and it sure looked like the Gamecock defense knew it was over.