Going to do my best to make this a weekly feature of games I attend in person. I've read no articles, and have seen no highlights except for a clip of Childs' TD catch and no stats except for Mallett's line. This is my view from the cheap seats, 100% accurate except for those parts clouded by beer, a poor night's sleep, and the eight year-old down the row who, I swear to God, got up to get food or drink 10 freaking times during the game. So here we go.
* Ryan Mallett has an unbelievable gift. I wasn't completely sold on him until last night. The majority of his passes were thrown well before receivers came out of their break. We have heard so much about his arm strength that his touch has really been overlooked. He did it all last night. The first touchdown pass to Childs was absolutely perfect. Like, so good it almost seemed like a fluke, especially after four years of Casey Dick.
With that said, the red flags are there. When we got down and time was getting tight, Ryan seemed to try to get everything at once. He will try to make the impossible throw when the easy throw is there, and even when the easy throw looks to be the best option for a big gain.
Also, he's got to work on his composure. The slide two yards shy of a first down was disconcerting for a couple of reasons. First, I understand that sliding is probably what Petrino would have him do, but I like to think that if it were me, I wouldn't be sliding in that situation. I like to think that sliding wouldn't even be an option that close to the goal line, regardless of down or game situation. Of course, I would also like to think that I wouldn't piss my pants in that situation. I understand I'm likely wrong on all counts. More importantly, jumping up and running over to the official made my eyes bulge. That's asking for trouble, and I wonder if he did that because he immediately regretted not sliding. It was around that time that his accuracy started to take a serious dip. That was really his first mistake, and he started pressing to make up for it. It didn't work out.
* The defense is atrocious. Also, water is wet and the sun rises in the east. I don't know if Willy Robinson is a bad gameday coach, because his defenses are so bad fundamentally that it really doesn't matter what he calls. Losing Franklin certainly didn't help. They are getting behind us on the outside, so we go cover two to help the corners. That opens up the seam route with their tight end. Willy schemes to stop that, and Green gets an untested corner on an island with no safety support. Want to double Green? That leaves their other capable receivers with the same opportunity, and opens up the running game as well. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Regardless of his ability as a gameday coach, the lack of preparation and apparent lack of skills displayed by Robinson's defense falls back on him. We had guys unsure of where to line up. We had unnecessary penalties and inopportune times. And we had starters...talented players we depend on, displaying such a grotesque lack of composure that it was embarrassing to be a Hog fan for that one play.
Who is our leader on this defense? Who could it be? Certainly nobody on the line, as they were the opposite of intimidating last night. Jerico Nelson? Not when he's committing offsides on crucial third downs that enable a stalled drive to continue. Matt Harris? Just not seeing it. Who is it? It's certainly not Franklin. We are leaderless on the field, and it looks like they aren't getting much direction when they go to the sidelines. I am anxious to read what Robinson has to say in defense of the job he did.
* Far more troubling to me than the nonexistent defense was the absolute chaos that was special teams. I gave him a pass after Missouri State because it was mostly problems with executions, but after last night, I have to wonder what the hell John L. Smith is doing. Last night we had a delay of game on a punt when the ball was already inside our own five yard-line. That punt went less than 30 yards.
We had the kickoff return team line up on the wrong end of the field. This is Division I football. And they lined up on the wrong side of the field.
Finally, on one punt return, I'm pretty sure we used ten players. And if I'm not mistaken, we had NINE out there and ran one more on at the last second. To cover their gunner. Who was standing by himself. I really hope I'm mistaken.
But hey, Tejada made all his kicks, and we kept all of our kicks in-bounds.
* I don't know what happens to cause it because I'm always seem to look at something else, but we have a play where our outside receiver runs a crossing pattern and somehow rubs his man off, and this is going to be a bread-and-butter play all season. We ran it at least twice with Adams and once with Wright, and I have never seen a receiver so wide open. It's good for 25 yards every time, as long as Mallett puts it on the money, because it's a tough throw across the field. I was surprised we didn't go to it more last night, because Georgia NEVER figured it out.
* The jury is still out, but I think Joe Cox might be a little better than he has been given credit for. It should take NONE of the heat off of our defense, but he threw some really great passes last night. We made him look like an all star, but he is much better than the Casey Dick/Jonathan Crompton comparison he's been getting. I think he looked like a legitimate SEC quarterback last night.
After the game, a buddy offered this up regarding the rest of the season. "We are going to score 40 points a game. If you can score 50 on our defense, you'll win. If not, you'll lose." I agree in theory, except I am concerned that our passing attack won't be nearly as effective if our running game is exposed. Georgia had to respect it last night, and we made them pay.... once they abandoned that, Mallett wasn't nearly as effective. Something else that concerns me is how we scored most of our points. 1st and 3rd quarters, when the plays were almost certainly already scripted. Petrino seems to not do as well on the fly.
If Alabama starts out selling out against the pass and we can't run it well enough to make them stop, we are going to be in serious trouble. Like... "new guy at Sing Sing" trouble. It will be ugly early.