A few more thoughts and observations from Georgia’s 63-31 win over Kentucky in Lexington …
I don’t usually do report card-style grades after individual games, but since Mike Bobo’s offense turned in a nearly perfect performance against the Wildcats Saturday, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give someone an A-plus.
And that’s just what the Bulldogs’ offense deserves after basically scoring a touchdown every time they got their hands on the ball and the clock didn’t run out on them.
Part of it was that Hutson Mason had his best day as Georgia’s quarterback, with his pinpoint passing game nicely complementing an already formidable rushing attack with Nick Chubb that got even better with the return of Sony Michel. It also was great seeing Jonathon Rumph finally out there catching balls, too, including a nifty one-hander. Having a big target like that could really come in handy for Mason the rest of the way.
And now Todd Gurley comes back for Auburn. It would be enough to make a Dawg fan giddy were it not for the sobering realization that, even if Jeremy Pruitt’s defense plays its best game of the season against the Tigers, the best-case scenario is simply slowing down Nick Marshall and company; stopping an offense like Auburn’s that thrives on big plays is a bit much to ask for Georgia’s evolving D.
So, the most likely way the Dogs win against Auburn is by outscoring them, which means Bobo is going to need another nearly perfect day from his charges, and Georgia fans have to hope that Gurley manages to shake off any rust this week in practice.
There’s no doubt the tailback trifecta of Chubb, Michel and Gurley gives Georgia a much better chance at knocking Auburn off, but the offensive line, the receivers and Mason are also going to have to be in peak form to win the kind of scoring shootout that seems likely.
And while on the subject of Georgia’s three-headed running attack, I’m in agreement with the sentiment I’ve heard expressed by quite a few UGA fans since word came that Gurley would be returning: No. 3 is probably the nation’s best running back and certainly should get plenty of carries against Auburn, but Chubb should be the starter. He’s earned that distinction the hard way with his eye-popping numbers over the past four games.
Back to the defense. At halftime, I wasn’t too pleased with them, considering the difficulty they were still having handling the run and the fact that they’d let the Wildcats creep to within 11 points. Apparently Mark Richt wasn’t happy, either, as players said the head coach got in their faces and challenged them to do better, particularly against Kentucky’s running attack.
And, in fact, they did much better in the second half, allowing only 67 yards on the ground and a garbage-time touchdown scored against Bulldog second- and third-teamers. So, overall, I’d grade Pruitt’s defense a B- against Kentucky. They’ll need to do better than that if they’re going to keep Auburn from piling up points Between the Hedges.
As for special teams, that definitely was a mixed bag against Kentucky, and I’d grade them a C-minus. The return game was superb, thanks to Isaiah McKenzie running the opening kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown and doing likewise with a 59-yard punt return. Punting gets an “incomplete” because, thankfully, the Dogs never had to do it against Kentucky. But the comedy of errors that saw the up-back, Quayvon Hicks, mess up on three consecutive kickoffs when the Wildcats started pooching it to avoid McKenzie was painful to watch.
One such screw-up can be understood. But the subsequent ones indicate that either no one on the sideline took him aside after the first time to school him on how to handle such kicks, or he’s uncoachable. If it’s the latter, he should have been replaced on kickoffs. If it’s the former, it points out once again (as with no one noticing the “ringer” in at holder on Florida’s fake field goal) that there’s still no one at the wheel on special teams. Richt named two of his staff to oversee that crucial aspect of the game in the offseason, but they both have other duties to attend to. Georgia badly needs a full-time special teams coach, despite Richt’s stubborn opposition to the idea.
Finally, I’d grade Georgia’s coaching an overall B for this game: An A-plus for Bobo, a B-minus for Pruitt, a B-minus for special teams and an A-minus for Richt.
Looking ahead, I hope if Richt opts for any sort of motivational ploy this week, it’s calling for fans to wear red Saturday, not a “blackout.” The TV shots of Sanford Stadium during previous “redouts” look so great — much better than a blacked out stadium. Plus, I was happy to hear Richt said Sunday there’s “no chance” of black jerseys for this game. I love the look of the black jerseys and would like to see them used again at some point in the future, and I certainly don’t blame them for Georgia’s 2008 loss to Alabama, but I don’t think this is a good time to re-introduce them. The Dogs don’t need any such distractions against the Tigers.
Feel free to share your own thoughts in the new “chatter” section.
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Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.