The Georgia Bulldogs survived a nail-biter against the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday afternoon with a 51-44 victory that kept UGA among the ranks of the unbeaten in college football.
The Dawgs came into this game a two-touchdown favorite, but any Georgia fan will tell you that Tennessee has made it a habit of playing spoiler against superior Bulldogs teams in recent years.
There was a little bit of everything in this game—some good, some bad and some downright ugly.
Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers for UGA in its game against the Volunteers.
Marshall Morgan certainly has a lot of potential and should continue the tradition of great place kickers at UGA. A true freshman, Morgan has already shown he has a big leg. He has made two field goals from 50 yards or more already this season, and his lone miss came from 45 yards out.
And yet, Morgan has inexplicably struggled on extra-point kicks. Coming into the game with one missed PAT and one that lucked in off the goal post, Morgan hit the post again against Tennessee—this time not so lucky as it bounced off and missed. Morgan also had another extra-point attempt blocked.
Perhaps Mark Richt needs to consider a few false starts on purpose to move Morgan back to a distance he’s more comfortable with on extra points. Of course I’m kidding, but Morgan needs to work this out before it ends up biting the Dawgs in a close game.
Georgia has had more than its fair share of very good tight ends come through its system in recent years—Randy McMichael, Leonard Pope, Ben Watson, Orson Charles, the list goes on and on.
Although it’s taken some time for Mike Bobo to ease Arthur Lynch into the system this season, he’s coming on strong now and looks to continue that tradition of great tight ends in Athens.
Lynch had a great game against FAU with three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. On Saturday, he edged out those numbers for a new career high of 75 yards—also on three catches—which was good enough to top the stat sheet in receiving yards for the Bulldogs against Tennessee.
Georgia’s strength coming into the season was supposed to be its defense, a squad that returned most of the starters from a season ago when it ranked in the top five in the nation in total defense.
So far, that hasn’t exactly been the case this season. But the Bulldogs were at full strength for the first time this year with the return of suspended players Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo and were expected to improve.
Instead, Georgia turned in its worst defensive performance of the season, surrendering 44 points and 478 total yards to the Volunteers.
Yes, Tennessee is by far the most potent offense Georgia has faced thus far. Yes, Ogletree and Rambo returning has changed the defense and it will take a little time to adjust. Still, the defense should be back to form soon.
But that soon had better be really soon as Georgia heads to Columbia to take on South Carolina next week in what looks to be the toughest regular-season matchup on the Bulldogs’ schedule.
True freshmen sensation running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have been nicknamed “Gurshall” by Bulldog fans—a reference to UGA legend Herschel Walker. While it’s certainly too soon to compare either one to Walker, together they have put up Herschelesque numbers.
Saturday against the Volunteers, the two combined for a staggering 294 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Gurley is more of a bruising runner who is seemingly impossible to bring down by just one defender once he gets going. On the other hand, Marshall fits through creases and reaches top acceleration almost immediately and has the ability to make defenders miss in the open field.
With both these guys in the backfield, Georgia’s rushing attack should be second to none in the nation for the next few years.
After starting the season at cornerback to fill in for suspended defenders, on Saturday Mitchell moved back to the offense and was fairly impressive on that side of the ball.
Where he was less than impressive—much less—is on punt returns. It’s not a lack of production that should concern the Georgia coaching staff; rather it’s his decision-making as a punt returner.
Mitchell has already made some bad decisions on punt returns this season that cost Georgia yards in field position, and it only got worse on Saturday versus Tennessee.
On the first punt kicked to Mitchell, the ball had good hang time, and there was a defender planted right in front of him as he was fielding the kick. For some reason, Mitchell elected not to fair catch the punt and was rewarded with a huge hit that he was lucky didn’t result in a fumble.
Later in the game, Mitchell again failed to fair catch a ball and instead let it hit around the 15-yard line, where it rolled down to the Georgia 1-yard line before Tennessee downed it.
Mitchell is certainly a big-play threat any time he has the ball in this hands, so it makes sense that the Georgia coaching staff would want him returning punts. But until he proves he can make better decisions, UGA would be better off with someone like Damian Swann returning punts.
Georgia’s offensive line lost a lot of talent after 2011, including center Ben Jones who was a team captain and the on-field leader for the Bulldogs. So, obviously, the line was one of the biggest areas of concern for the Dawgs coming into 2012.
However, the O-line has improved every week and continued to impress on Saturday against Tennessee. The Bulldogs racked up a whopping 560 total yards against the Volunteers, which certainly wouldn’t have been possible without a strong performance from the line.
The unit consistently opened up holes for Marshall and Gurley and did a fine job of protecting Murray all night. In fact, Tennessee had only one sack—though it did result in a lost Murray fumble that led to a Vols touchdown—but it didn’t even appear that the line can be faulted for that.
Herman Lathers came through the line untouched on that play, but it was most likely due to a missed assignment by Todd Gurley rather than a lack of execution by the line.