These aren't your daddy's Junkyard Dawgs. No sir. These aren't even your 2002 SEC Champion Dawgs. Both those teams were known for their smothering defenses.
As a matter of fact, these Dawgs barely show a resemblance to the Dawgs of 2008—a team who was identified more for it's two stellar skill players (Stafford and Moreno) than it's play on the field.
So, who are these Dawgs? As of right now, it is difficult to tell for sure as they seem to be trying to find their true identity.
The 41 points scored against South Carolina last week seemed like a fluke, as neither team, combined, had that many altogether in their previous six matchups. Many of us wrote the game off as a freak of SEC football nature and thought surely things would get back to normal this week against Arkansas.
How wrong we were indeed. Not only was this game just as action-packed and out of hand as last week's but we saw an explosion of offense from Georgia like we never would have imagined. A whopping 52 points from the red and black hit the scoreboard and it was done primarily through the air, not on the ground.
Better than that, our much maligned and endlessly beleaguered quarterback put a big ol' "kiss my grits" stamp on everyone who doubted not only his arm strength but his ability to lead this team offensively—accumulating 375-yards on 18/26 passing and tossing five touchdowns in a game that many picked us to lose.
It wasn't pretty but a "w" is what it will look like at the end of the year and for now that is all we need it to be: a win.
Just a few observations worth noting:
The secondary needs to make some big improvements
What on earth were our defensive backs doing? Better still, where were our defensive backs. Not only was the coverage bad, it was inexcusable.
There were a ton of plays where the Arkansas wide receivers were open with not one red jersey in sight. Even more, did it not eventually occur to coach Martinez that maybe he should make some coverage adjustments?
Ryan Mallett's primary target early on was Greg Childs. That was obvious to the fans in the stadium. Fans outside the stadium. Fans under rocks...so, why didn't coach Martinez do something about it?
No. 85 (Greg Childs) went berserk on the secondary for 140 yards on five catches...five. Do the math on that but it should not be tough to see that he was averaging nearly 30-yards a catch on our guys.
Add to that, someone please explain why Bryan Evans is still playing free safety. If nothing else, he proved on Saturday night that he may not need to be playing anywhere near the secondary. He's a nice fella and all but to get embarrassed that badly on so many occasions is grounds for a stint on the bench.
Brandon Boykin had some trouble too and took some bad angles on a couple passes that allowed the Arkansas receivers to come down with some big yards. He's still young, though, and it is clear that he has some serious potential to be good in time.
In the last two weeks, we have allowed All-American type numbers to both Stephen Garcia and Ryan Mallett. That's more than 700+ yards and seven touchdowns scored on the Dawgs secondary.
Is that all Willie's fault? No. Some of the responsibility does fall on our offense for turning the ball over in our own territory and giving opposing teams a short field.
However, it is clear that coach Martinez needs to adjust both his personnel and his playcalling schemes so that we are better equipped against the pass. Whatever he's doing right now is just not working.
Our special teams is a weapon
Drew Butler is some kind of awesome. If ever there was a silent weapon on the Dawgs' football team, it has to belong to the leg of Drew Butler.
Late in the fourth-quarter on a 4th-and-11, backed up against the shadow of our own goal post, Butler let loose a 64-yard punt that was eventually downed at the Arkansas nine-yard line.
That kick, as much as anything else, sealed any chance the Razorbacks had of mounting a serious comeback as the Dawgs were able to hold them to a field goal from that point forward.
Blair Walsh continues to be money on every field goal attempt. Was Billy Bennett this good?—there hasn't been a kick Walsh hasn't made and the coaches feel good about him nailing anything under 55-yards. That's a big time leg to have in the SEC.
On another note, why is coach Jon Fabris still using the directional kick? It's a bad idea and all it did for us on Saturday was give Ryan Mallett a short porch. One he did not need as the kid and his arm turned out to be exactly as advertised—the SEC West needs to be very aware of this team next season if Mallett decides to stay. They have some serious offensive talent.
Getting back to the directional kicking "strategy". though, it needs to be axed because our kickers have the legs to boom it into and out of the end zone more often than not and starting at the 20-yard line sounds a lot better than starting at the 40.
The offensive line looks good
The line play was phenomenal. Joe Cox was able to do whatever he liked back there and he did it early and often, throwing deep and down the middle for a ton of yards.
One big play in particular saw Richard Samuel take it 80-yards to the house untouched after a hole bigger than the Grand Canyon opened for him.
The only guy who was not able to take advantage of the offensive lines grace was Carlton Thomas. He had one carry for two yards—again. Thomas needs to be used in space and nowhere else. He is not built to run between the tackles.
Samuel finished with 104 yards on 16 carries (6.5 ypc average) but struggled with ball control again as he fumbled the ball twice, losing one. Let's hope this is not the recurrence of an earlier bad habit.
Of course, anyone else get the feeling that he was a bit more nervous out there knowing that Caleb King is healthy again?
King, for his part, played like a man possessed with a new need to prove his prowess as the best back for the job. He looked great last night (11 carries for 59-yards) and more impressive than the runs he made was his pass protection.
He looks ready to prove he's better than his critics think—myself included.
Overall, the Dawgs showed a lot of resiliency and poise by not getting rattled by the initial Arkansas onslaught. They held it together and came back to win a huge game on the road. That speaks volumes about where this team is mentally.
Next week will see a break from the SEC play and hopefully will give our coaches some time to develop some better schemes defensively while making the necessary personnel changes as well.
A.J. Green is a beast. If anyone is still not ready to concede that this kid is some kind of special, then you just don't like football. Green spearheaded the air attack and had the Hogs looking baffled at how he could so much with so little.
His hands were never more sure than they were last night and in this, his sophomore season, he's about to make a serious case for even more big-time accolades.
Enjoy the show while you can, Dawg fans, this guy will soon be called to a pro stadium near you.
Final line: seven catches, 137 yards (19. 6 average), and two touchdowns.
Next up: Arizona State
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