Ranking Georgia Football's 10 Best Individual Performers in Win Over Louisiana
The first Georgia Bulldog Saturday—Between The Hedges—is in the books, and what a lovely day it was to be a Georgia Bulldog football fan.
The Bulldogs started the game a tad out of rhythm—allowing a 40+ yard return on the opening kickoff—but soon found their groove and cruised to a 55-7 victory over the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.
It was a well-deserved victory for Mark Richt's bunch who played well without starters Washaun Ealey (suspended), A.J. Green (team decision), and Tavarres King (suspended) on the field.
Todd Grantham's first game as defensive coordinator was marred only by a 60-yard touchdown to Louisiana's Ladarius Green on a play that safety Bacarri Rambo allowed to get behind him.
If not for that play, the Georgia defense likely would have pitched a shut-out in their home opener.
So, who were a few of the games best individual performers on Saturday?
Aaron Murray, QB
Murray was as poised as you would have hoped he would be standing in front of a home crowd of 92,000+.
He made few mistakes and showcased his above-average scrambling ability whenever necessary—including one scramble near the end of the second quarter that led to seven points. He spread the ball around well (10 players had one catch or more) and got good zip on his throws even when rolling out of the pocket. His decision-making was only questionable at certain points—particularly on what appeared to be a hail mary pass in the end zone that was nearly picked off.
He finished the game 17-26, for 160 yards, and four TD's (one rushing). His lone interception was on a throw to Kris Durham that should have been caught by the senior receiver.
Carlton Thomas, RB
Thomas had some nice gains on Saturday. He fought through the Louisiana defensive front well and didn't seem to have trouble netting positive yards. His 16-yard run on a second down, late in the first quarter, set up a touchdown leading to a 14-0 lead for Georgia.
The 5-foot-7 back from Frostproof, FL, took advantage of the extra playing time allotted him by the absence of Washaun Ealey—he was the leading rusher on the day for Georgia—finishing the game with 64 yards on 13 carries (4.7 avg).
Caleb King, RB
Despite the fact that he finished with less yards than Thomas, King ran strongly on Saturday and showed some of the brilliant flashes of greatness that led him to an 800+ yard season in 2009.
King broke tackles, juked, spun, and ran through Cajun defenders on his way to 49 yards and a touchdown in the Georgia win.
His most impressive rush came late in the first when he ran 20 yards for a touchdown—Georgia's first scoring drive of the day.
Kris Durham, WR
Durham was Georgia's leading receiver on the day, and he did a fine job of filling in for the absent A.J. Green.
He made some tough catches, and took a couple of big hits, but he never hesitated to go up strong and come down with the big reception. He lost a battle for a ball late in the third—leading to an interception for Murray—but overall had a strong outing for Georgia.
He ended the game with five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
The Georgia Bulldogs' Secondary
What a difference a year, and a coach, makes for the Georgia Bulldogs' secondary. The much-maligned, often burned, secondary of 2009 racked up three interceptions. Brandon Boykin, Jakar Hamilton, and Sanders Commings all came down with picks for Georgia—Hamilton's turned into a pick-six.
The team had 10 interceptions total last season.
Shaun Chapas, FB
Chapas continues to be a stellar renaissance man for the Georgia Bulldogs offense. He blocked brilliantly on both passing and rushing downs and was an excellent short-yardage option for Murray when called upon.
He had one touchdown reception and 18 total yards (ground and air), but it was his intangible contributions that made him so outstanding on the day.
The Georgia Bulldogs Defensive Front
Todd Grantham's 3-4 still has some kinks to work out. After all, this was nowhere near the level of competition that Georgia will face in the coming weeks, but overall you have to be impressed with the level of play that he has his unit executing at this early on in the year.
Georgia's front seven held the Cajuns to only five first downs on the day. Chris Masson felt the pressure on nearly every down and struggled to find any adequate passing lanes to throw into.
Justin Houston had one sack, and Akeem Dent and Daryl Gamble made life miserable for both the receivers and the ball carriers.
All told, the defense was responsible for three sacks for -18 yards and nine tackles for -26 yards.
Blair Walsh and Drew Butler
This kicking duo is already in mid-season form. Walsh didn't get much work kicking field goals, but he did make two on the day—both from 48+ yards—with ease, while going a perfect 7-for-7 on PAT's.
As for Butler, he continues to boom it out. He had six punts for 280 yards (46.7 avg), with a long of 59 yards.
Clearly, Georgia will need the strong, accurate, legs of both of these young men next week when the Bulldogs travel to South Carolina to battle the Gamecocks.
The Georgia Bulldogs Offensive Line
The guys did a pretty nice job of keeping Aaron Murray upright on Saturday (zero sacks). The young quarterback had to improvise a time or two when the pocket seemed to break down, but overall the Georgia passing game was consistent all day.
The rushing lanes were there for the backs to get some good yardage on the ground (184) and the Cajun's defensive front had a tough time getting pressure on Murray or Hutson Mason—who threw a touchdown on his first pass (one of only eight collegiate quarterbacks ever to have done so).
Mark Richt. HC
He wasn't on the field of play, but there is proof that his expectations for his quarterback have yet to ease.
After Aaron Murray rushed for his first collegiate touchdown, instead of being happy about the six points, Richt had this to say: "If he thinks that's how he's going to make a living in our league (SEC), that's not a good thing."
His point being, Georgia was near the end of the quarter, and if Murray had not gotten the points, Georgia would have squandered an opportunity in the red zone to put some on the board—Murray's run ran the clock to zero.
It's obvious that Richt is going to make certain that Murray is aware that the SEC is a different animal altogether and, come next Saturday, things will be a lot tougher for him. Nice to know that Richt is keeping everything in perspective.
What say you, Georgia/SEC fans? What stood out for you on Saturday?
Next up: South Carolina.
(This article appears courtesy of The Lady Sportswriter)