Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Four Plays That Changed 2008 and What They Mean for 2009

First: Jeff Owens' injury.
 
When number 95 went down on the eighth defensive play of the season against Georgia Southern, there was much speculation what it meant. While his athletic talent was surely missed, in hindsight, the most important thing that was lost was the game leadership Jeff offered.  Rennie Curran stepped in the breach, but as a sophomore, he struggled at times to fill that void.  As a result, the defense seemed.......leaderless at times.  Not a knock on Rennie, no way.  Certainly a testament to the leadership Jeff offers. 

While that was certainly terrible for the team and Owens personally, for 2009 this means a great starter is back, looking to prove something.  That leadership will be back.  The talent will be back.  As Coach Richt said to Jeff after the injury "Jeff...the best part of this, if you can't play the rest of the year, we get to hang around each other for another year."  Indeed they do.  The heart of Georgia's defense is back.

Second: The missed tackles, specifically on the first play of the second half against Georgia Tech.
IF you aren't a sadist or just want to see what I mean, go to 1:25.

This one has been hashed and rehashed.  PWD uses the term "DNA level changes" in the defense, and I agree.  However, much of that has to do with tackling to the ground in practice last year and a renewed focus on fundamentals team wide.  The loss to Tech has reinvigorated the rivalry with the Jackets.  However, it also has led to a refocusing on the part of the defensive coaching approach.  The result was a strong performance in the Capitol One Bowl against a strong offensive team.  I hate to see Tech win, but that game, and the one play that (to me, at least) is indicative of that game, will yield dividends this year.

Three:  Penalties to keep the drive alive against Alabama on first series of the night.
Check out the play occurring right around the :08 mark.
In one play, not only did Georgia lose a fumble recovery on a roughing the passer penalty, they gave 'Bama first and Goal.  Two plays later, instead of figuring out how to stop Knowshon, the Tide was in the end zone. In my mind, it was the beginning of the end of the hope of staying getting back to number one.  PWD has discussed both penalties and the timing of those penalties.  I will say that the Alabama game is the one that I think of when I think of the coaches and players renewing their committment to keeping bone headed penalties at bay.  2009 will be the season of focus, thanks, in part to that one series.

Fourth: Joe Haden's interception of Matt Stafford early in the third quarter of the Georgia-Florida game.
This one play put a steak stake (thanks Annon) in the heart of any hope Georgia had left to play for the national championship.  Oh, sure the Dawgs were down 14-3 at the half.  Sure, the Gators scored many, many more points after that point and the Dawgs could only muster one TD in the second half (by Joe Cox, I'm getting there).  Sure, at the end of the day, Haden's return to the one yard line only served to open the floodgates, putting aside it ended a good drive that had Georgia threatening to turn the momentum back in favor of the Red and Black.  It did something else too.  It catapulted Florida onto the scene as THE team to beat in 2008, carrying over into 2009.  The loss to Ole Miss was forgiven as if it never happened.

Two good things came from that game for 2009.  Joe Cox showed what he could do against Florida's best.  Keep in mind, both the first and second teams on D are back for Florida.  Joe simply showed up, led the team 80 yards in 4 minutes and threw a touchdown pass.  By the way, Richard Samuel had nearly 40 yards rushing on that drive. The not mobile Joe Cox ran for 13 and threw for 28 and a TD. Don't think St. Urban didn't notice that, by the way.

Also, it established Florida as this juggernaut that cannot be stopped.  I am not sure Georgia would be in the same position had the Dawgs won (or even competed), but there wouldn't be this near universal disregard for Georgia's chances in the SEC East if they had.  You can say what you want, but I like being disregarded.  It is a role we seem to play well.

Go Dawgs!

5 comments:

  1. Excellent Post. EXCELLENT. Is it time yet???

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  2. I assume you meant a "stake" through the heart, rather than a "steak"?

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  3. Yeah, thanks. I was hungry when I wrote this.

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  4. I believe Stafford's brain fart in the Gtu game was much more significant in that game, and more poignant as a representation of his career, than were the missed tackles.

    We moved the ball pretty easily in the 1st quarter and were stopping Gtu until Stafford threw the ball to Morgan Burnett, without a UGA player within 20 yards.

    What was a 28-12 lead at the half could have easily been 28-0 without that pass, as Gtu had no prayer of stopping us, and only put one decent 1st half drive together with their high school offense.

    But that was Stafford in a nutshell. Throw for 400 yards, but lose the game.

    Clearly the unsportsmanlike on the 1st Bama drive was disastrous, and I think Blair Walsh's 1st missed FG was the most significant play at the Cocktail Party. You could just feel the ghosts of Randy McMichael, Terrence Edwards and George Foster when that kicked sailed wide.

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  5. Say what you want about Stafford's level of leadership or his ability to make at least one or two bonehead plays a game but the Georgia vs Georgia Tech game was lost by the defense, plain and simple. You give up 400 yards of rushing to anybody, 95% of the time you are probably going to lose. You score 42 points in a game you should win the game. If you are winning 26-12 at the half, YOU SHOULD WIN THE GAME. The interception TD return may have represented the go ahead TD in a way(without it, Georgia wins) but it NEVER should have come to that. The GT game was an embarrassing performance by the Georgia defense and it definitely was the last nail in the coffin for the 2008 season. I am still waiting for the Georgia defense to prove themselves.

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