The Bulldogs entered the season with questions aplenty:
How would Joe Cox handle starting QB duties?
Who would anchor the running game?
Would the defense recovery from a less-than-stellar year?
and others. Let's go through and see how and if some of the questions were answered on Saturday, with the caveat that one game does not a season make.
How would Joe Cox handle starting duty?
My grade - C
Cox looked good in the opening drive and ended the day with 162 yards going 15-30 on completions. But it was after the opening drive he started looking like an average QB, nothing wrong with being an average QB but you have to make good decisions and be able to step up when you need to do so. Joe missed several open receivers late in the game when the Dawgs were trying to rally and threw a few that could have easily been picked off. Cox had been suffering from flu-like symptoms so that may have had something to do with it. However he looked at times like a freshman quarterback on the field, not knowing when to ditch the ball and when to tuck it to avoid a fumble. These decisions are critical in a game that your defense keeps you in. I just didn't see any of the on field command of the game we had hoped he could muster. I'm not calling for his job, he needs a couple of games to settle in but in the SEC you don't have much time for learning on the job.
Who would anchor the running game?
My Grade - B+
Samuel ran for 87 yards and a respectable 4.4 per carry and showed toughness that should continue to develop as the season goes on. Our offensive line, much injured last year, showed up today and provided good pass and run defense. I think when Caleb King returns from a ham string injury, hopefully next week, we should have more of a 1-2 punch. One a side note Shaun Chapas did a nice job as usual at fullback, blocking and even pulling in a pass for 10 yards. Fullbacks often don't get the credit they deserve for their important but decidedly non-glamorous job. One of the things I like about RB Samuel is his second effort, he keeps his legs pumping and gets you those extra 1-2 yards with last pushes. One mistake I think Georgia made was getting away from the run game that served them so well in the first drive.
Would the defense recover from a less-than-stellar year?
My Grade - A-
My simple answer is yes, so far. The score itself might not tell the story, the defense performed very well against a touted "High Octane" offense. Dez Bryant had 3 catches for 77 yards, with 46 of those coming on a blown coverage TD. So yes, we had a couple of misfires but that happens. Bryant's second TD came towards the end of the game as it was obvious most of the wind had gone from Georgia's sales. It also came after a VERY questionable call on a personal foul on the Dawgs, a clean shoulder pad to chest hit was ruled a.... "too mean"? Maybe? Even the announcers called the refs out on that one. That call gave the Cowboys the ball in great field position after another great effort by the defense. Our DL did a good job clogging up the middle and holding their star running back to 75 yards on 23 carries. Two of the Cowboy scores came on turnovers in the red zone and accounted for 10 points. The other score that hurt was setup by a special teams failure which allowed a kickoff return by Perrish Cox of 70+ yards. This return set up a third quarter opening TD drive. All in all we held an offense that last year averaged over 400 yards per game to 307 yards, not phenomenal but respectable against a top 10 team.
My 2 cents
As if the entire article hasn't been, here's my overall impression of the game. Offense looked like what it was: A group with no real stand outs... Yet. AJ Green looked good (4-52) when he had the ball in his vicinity but keep in mind he was being guarded by one of the best in the nation in Perrish Cox. Also the freshman Orson Charles showed moments of promise as a receiver going 2-46 but also dropped at least one he should have had. Running game looked decent but definitely needs more help. Receivers could've looked better but we had 9 players who had a catch. Special teams most likely cost us one score but Special teams are a very strong suit of the Cowboys. For the most part, we handled their star players but simply shot ourselves in the foot with 2 costly turnovers and a stagnant offense. Cox has 2 more (healthy) weeks in my book to start looking like a leader on the field, consistently, or I'm thinking we at least give Branden Smith or Logan Gray some playing time.