More observations and analysis after re-watching the Georgia-LSU game, this time the TV copy.
This was an exciting game to cover, and just as exciting to watch. When you're sitting in the press box, taking notes, writing your story - and then re-writing it, hoping to make deadline - you often have trouble truly appreciating what a classic you were watching. And this was a classic.
OK, I got that out of the way. Now let's deep dive more into the Xs and Os and other matters:
- Georgia’s scoring drive at the end of the first half, to go ahead 24-17, shouldn’t be overlooked: It could have been three-and-out deep in Georgia territory after a muffed snap on second down. But Murray threw across his body and on the run to convert, and the Bulldogs drove and scored. If not for that play by Murray, you wonder the potential difference in the game if LSU got the ball with a chance to lead by three or seven at halftime, and the ball to start the second half.
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- Here’s where Georgia having so many dangerous receivers pays off: Murray hit Conley on several back-shoulder throws, including the beautifully-placed ball to convert on third down on Georgia’s first drive of the second half. Those kinds of timing plays don’t work in single coverage. It also led to those coverage breakdowns by LSU, with safeties unsure which receiver to take. But defenses can’t afford to double much because there’s no weak link in the receiving corps, and they can’t give up the middle of the field to the run game. Throw in the fact you have a four-year starter at quarterback with quick recognition, and there’s your nearly-unstoppable offense.
- Opinion: While Georgia has had elite edge rushers in Justin Houston and Jarvis Jones, it has never had a tandem akin to Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins. It’s scary what a pair of edge rushers like that could do if used correctly.
- From Georgia’s viewpoint, the third-down breakdowns can be pinned almost entirely on the secondary – the pass rush wasn’t bad on those downs. But credit is also due Mettenberger. He showed incredible poise in the pocket, and man, what a gun for an arm. Also, I heard a lot of complaints from Georgia fans about too many three-man rushes, but I actually saw mostly four-man rushes. The three-man rush mainly came on the third-and-22 and that was clearly a mistake.
- Later on, I'm going to break down each of LSU's 15 third-downs, 10 of which were converted. But the third-and-22 stands out so it should be addressed. What stood out to me was a) only three down linemen, everyone else in coverage b) Beckham, who caught the ball, was covered at the line by Leonard Floyd. It ended up being zone coverage, but still, I’m not sure using your best pass rusher in coverage rather than send him downfield is the way to go.
- LSU, by the way, is spending this week hammering away on its third-down coverage too. The game-winning touchdown saw Scott-Wesley get wide open, and Bennett’s second TD catch (which made it 34-27) came on third-and-11, and saw Bennett get wide open in the end zone after the safety bailed. And its pass-rush strategy was also suspect, especially down the stretch. It went to some three-man rushes, and on the final drive Murray hit the underneath pass going downfield until the game-winner.
- I missed this on the sideline before the game, but CBS’ cameras caught Zach Mettenberger exchanging hugs with Dallas Lee and Mike Bobo’s father. It also caught Aaron Murray stopping on the Dawg Walk to hug a young woman with Down Syndrome.
- A big reason the blocking was better this week: The perimeter blocking was much better, and from the outset. The very first play of the game saw Gurley at first stuffed up the middle, but he adjusted and went left for an eight-yard gain. (Note: I'll also break down the different lineups Georgia had for the line each drive, and how those drives ended.)
- Murray’s interception: That was actually a bad series for Murray, probably the only one of the game. On first down his throw hit LSU’s Anthony Johnson in the helmet. (Not a bat down. Just right in the helmet.) On second down Murray was rushed a bit and threw it behind Rome. The interception came on third down, as Murray was trying to hit Marshall across the field. The problem there was the play was doomed, as even if Marshall hauled it in there was too much coverage and Marshall wouldn’t have gotten the first down. Johnson was being blocked by David Andrews, and just took a step back at the last second, which Murray didn’t realize. I think Johnson sensed Marshall running behind him and just reached up and grabbed it.
- One drive later, Murray was perfect: He hit Conley in the back of the end zone on a beautiful crossing-pattern pass. Great awareness by Murray to see the safety had helped on Bennett, leaving the back of the end zone open.
- Josh Harvey-Clemons played very well, it was just quickly forgotten because his big plays ended up going for naught. In the first quarter he had a nice leg-tackle on first-and-goal for a three-yard loss, and LSU scored two plays later.
- I noticed this watching the game from the press box more, but it bears mentioning again that Georgia’s defense was unready before a lot of snaps, especially in the secondary. At one point Gary Danielson astutely pointed out how Damian “Swain” – I think he meant Swann – was holding his hand up, looking for where to go. Several players alluded to this after the game, including Jordan Jenkins. Communication remains a problem on a young defense that is also subbing in young players.
- Speaking of Danielson, I really like his game analysis and how quickly he can point to something after a play. The production crew does an even better job of being in sync with him. The only problem I have with Danielson is when he gets on a high horse about the SEC or some other matter, sometimes overpraising coaches and ignoring warts. But he’s far from the only analyst who does that.
- Marshall Morgan’s 55-yarder was straight down the middle, and probably good from 60. Wowsers. (By the way, how come it’s always true that these long field goals are good from 60, yet when they actually line up for a 60-yarder, no one makes it?)
- LSU’s kicker is very good too, but I’m not mentioning him because it was annoying as hell to spell his name during the game and I’m not gonna do it again now.
- The verdict on two no-calls in which Scott-Wesley and the fans wanted pass interference: The first time, yes there should’ve been a call, the second time there shouldn’t have been.
- Jonathan Rumph’s hamstring looked fine dancing on the sideline. Then again, so did Gurley’s ankle.
Here's a look at each of LSU's third downs, and what happened:
Third-and-5: Successful, Mettenberger completion. Good pressure, Mettenberger just fit it in there.
Third-and-7: TD pass. Mauger showed blitz too early. He hit Mettenberger as he threw, brought him down. But throw was off to Boone in single coverage, no safety to help.
Third-and-goal: TD pass from the 5. Five wides, no pressure, Boone cut across the middle, getting past Shaq Wiggins, no help because safety helped on Jarvis Landry. Nicely designed play, inexperience on Wiggins part by not jamming his man at the line, and great recognition by Mettenberger.
Third-and-8: Unsuccessful (first Georgia stop). Third-and-eight from near midfield. Leonard Floyd burst up the middle unblocked, Mettenberger hurried his throw, and Amarlo Herrera had spot-on coverage over the middle. If not for Herrera's coverage, it's a first down.
Third-and-7: Unsuccessful. Third-and-7 from midfield. Ray Drew with the sack from behind. Georgia went with a five-man rush, only two of whom started with their hand on the ground. TV copy didn't show the coverage, but you have to figure it was good.
Third-and-4: A 17-yard completion to Odell Beckham. Good pressure, Mettenberger just got off a great throw, and Beckham was a step ahead of Swann.
Third-and-7: From Georgia's 32: Incomplete. Georgia rushed four, Mettenberger rushed a short pass to Jeremy Hill in the flat, Hill couldn't catch it, and Herrera would have brought him down before the marker anyway.
Third-and-1: From LSU's 45: Jeremy Hill goes 16 yards.
Third-and-1: At Georgia's 30. First drive of the second half. LSu converts on a run up the middle.
Third-and-2: At Georgia's 21. Same drive. Mettenberger overthrows receiver in end zone. Georgia's defense gets lucky, with no safety in the flat - Swann is pointing in the area for someone to cover it, to no avail. Georgia rushes four, there's some pressure but not enough to rush Mettenberger's throw.
Third-and-8: At Georgia's 39. Touchdown pass to Landry over the middle. Georgia rushed four and the pocket closed quickly, with Floyd and another Bulldog near Mettenberger when he threw. But no one had the streaking Landry.
Third-and-1: At Georgia's 32.LSU converts barely on a read-option to Jeremy Hill.
Third-and-10: t Georgia's 31. Mettenberger has plenty of time against a three-man rush, and finds Landry for a 25-yard gain. Someone in pass coverage (Matthews, Mauger or Harvey-Clemons) could have jumped the pass, but mostly it was just a stupendous throw by Mettenberger.
Third-and-22: At LSU 13. Georgia with a three-man rush, only three down linemen. Mettenberger finds Beckham just beyond the marker. Floyd was on Beckham in pass coverage. Probably not a wise idea.
Third-and-10: Final drive. Incomplete. Four-man initial rush with a delayed blitz up the middle. Mettenberger is rushed, and Harvey-Clemons has good coverage on Landry downfield.
And just because, the decisive fourth-and-10: Four-man rush, with Jordan Jenkins leaping over the blocker and falls to ground, then Floyd jumps into the pocket. Mettenberger rushes his throw downfield, nobody is open.
Here's a look at each Georgia offensive line alignment:
First drive: Gates, Lee, Andrews, Burnette, Houston. (Georgia touchdown.)
Second drive: Gates, Lee, Andrews, Burnette, Houston. (Three plays, last one Murray's interception.)
Third drive: Theus replaces Houston at right tackle. (And springs a nice block on a Marshall run just before a TD pass.)
Fourth drive: Beard replaces Gates at left tackle, Houston back at right tackle for Theus. (Three-and-out).
Fifth drive: Dantzler in at right guard. Gates back at left tackle, Houston still at right tackle. (Good exterior run-blocking on Gurley and Marshall runs. But then stalled inside the 10 on two Brendan Douglas runs between tackles, and incompletion on third down.)
Sixth drive: Burnette back at right guard, Theus replaces Houston at right tackle, Beard at left tackle. (Georgia scores in the two-minute drill to end the half.)
Seventh drive (First of second half): Starting lineup of Gates, Lee, Andrews, Burnette, Houston. (Morgan's 55-yard field goal.)
Eighth drive: Beard at left tackle and Theus at right tackle. (Punt.)
Ninth drive: Back to starting lineup. (Touchdown pass to Bennett after offense given short field via Beckham muffed punt.)
Tenth drive: Starting lineup. (Field goal.)
11th drive: Starting lineup, but then Beard replaced an injured Gates for the game-winning touchdown. (Game-winning TD).
Final drive: Kneel-downs. Game over.