The No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs started out conference play with a huge win over a very good Missouri Tigers squad Saturday night in Columbia.
With a final score of 41-20, one might think this game was a rout, but anyone who actually watched it knows it was still up for grabs in the fourth quarter.
Thank goodness—and USC’s medical staff—for Jarvis Jones, who basically put the team on his back and won the game for the Bulldogs. Jones had a late interception and a forced fumble, both of which set up the Bulldogs inside the Missouri 5-yard line and led to two Georgia touchdowns.
As nice as it is to start the season 2-0, there is still room for improvement for the ‘Dawgs. Let’s look at five areas where Georgia needs better effort if it’s going to contend for a championship.
True freshman Marshall Morgan looked spectacular in kicking field goals Saturday night—except for those following Georgia touchdowns.
Morgan connected from 52 and 41, splitting the uprights with plenty of leg on both attempts.
But he missed his first PAT, and lucked in another on a ricochet off the goal post.
Maybe Georgia needs to intentionally take some penalties on PAT attempts to move Morgan back to where he’s more comfortable kicking.
All kidding aside, Morgan and the Bulldogs can’t afford to give up gimme points in what are sure to be some close games later in the season.
Georgia had six false-start penalties in the game against Missouri. Nothing infuriates coaches more than moving the ball backwards because of avoidable mental lapses. These mistakes are all on the players and their focus—or lack thereof.
True freshman John Theus accounted for three of those penalties, and that may just be from a lack of experience. Or it may be because he had his hands full with Brad Madison all night and felt like he needed a head start against the speedy pass-rusher. Probably it’s some of both.
Excuses aside, Theus—and the rest of the offensive line—has to be more disciplined before the snap.
The Georgia receiving corps, overall, had a great night in Columbia.
Michael Bennett put up solid numbers and had some spectacular grabs over defenders.
Marlon Brown had a career night—eight receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Yet Bennett and Brown both had several dropped passes that Murray put right on the money.
Rantavious Wooten also dropped a very catchable ball in the third quarter.
Merritt Hall dropped a screen pass that was very well set up. Admittedly, Murray threw that ball a little high and with a little too much mustard on it, but Hall needs to make that play for his quarterback.
Going forward, the receivers are going to have to improve their concentration and make the easy catches Murray puts out there for them.
The offensive line looked better as a unit against Missouri than it did against Buffalo in the season opener, but it still has a ways to go before facing some of the better defensive lines in the SEC.
Where the offensive line really needs more effort is in run-blocking. The unit has to do a better job of opening up holes. Todd Gurley showed what he is capable of with the ball in his hands in the season opener against Buffalo, rushing for 100 yards on only 12 carries.
But aside from one standout, 42-yard run by Gurley, Georgia didn't look like a team with a trio of stud backs against Missouri. It should also be noted that if not for a great block by wide receiver Michael Bennett, that 42-yard gain probably would have gone for more like seven or eight yards.
The offensive line did look much better in the second half and started to push around the Missouri front. But it’s a four-quarter game, and it still has some improvements to make.
On a positive note, pass protection looked very good in this game for the ‘Dawgs—excellent in the second half.
Georgia started slow in the first half of both of its first two games. The Bulldogs are taking way too long to settle in and hunker down in the early going of 2012.
The Bulldogs held only a one-possession lead going into halftime against the MAC Buffalo Bulls. In the first quarter of the Bulls' game, it appeared as if either adrenaline or nerves were getting the best of Murray. He had a couple of big overthrows to a wide-open Tavarres King.
UGA looked particularly lethargic in the first quarter against Missouri. The ‘Dawgs gained only 30 yards of total offense in the opening period. Nerves appeared to rear their ugly head again in the early going of the Missouri game. Gurley took his eye off a pitch and ended up having to recover the ball for a huge loss on Georgia's first offensive snap.
Though the 'Dawgs played very well in the second half of both contests, they’re going to have to put together a complete four quarters if they hope to beat teams like Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida this season.