September 30, 2012

The Report Card


Aaron Murray started quickly with a solid opening drive that took time off the clock and gave the Bulldogs an early lead. Then a tipped pass allowed Tennessee to score defensively and tie the game. That was the first piece of adversity that Murray faced, but he helped the Bulldogs to a 27-10 lead before the second wave hit. Murray was sacked and fumbled which lead to a Tennessee score. Then another fumble by Keith Marshall, put the Vols in position to score again, and Tennessee took the lead. In the past, Murray has let those mistakes decide the outcome of the game. On Saturday, that wasn't the case as Murray played mistake free the rest of the way. He lead Georgia to on a field goal drive to tie the game 30-30 to end the half, and tossed two touchdown passes to Michael Bennett. The Bulldogs wouldn't trail again. Murray had only six incompletions and two of those were drops by Rantavious Wooten that would have put the third year starter over the 300-yard mark passing. The mistakes can't be ignored, but the plays Murray made to help Georgia win can't be ignored either. Grade: B+

Running backs

Many are impressed with the amount of yardage Marshall and Todd Gurley are piling up as one of the SEC's best duos, but few have noticed how reliable both have become when it comes to pass protection. Both Marshall and Gurley had their second straight solid performance as blockers, and both went over a hundred yards in the same game for the second time this year. Marshall is showing that he is the big play threat many thought he would be coming out of high school after ripping off touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards. Gurley turned in another big 100-yard game, and reached the end zone three times. Both had good games as receivers out of the backfield and both, mainly Gurley, benefitted from another great game from fullback Merritt Hall. The only black eye for this young but talented unit was Marshall's second quarter fumble that lead to the go ahead score for Tennessee. Luckily for Marshall, his miscue did not decide the game, and the running backs played a huge role in Georgia's win. Grade: A-

Wide receivers

It won't show up in the box score, but one of the most impressive plays for UGA on Saturday was a first quarter catch and run by Tavarres King in which he literally drug Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson four yards for what was initially ruled a touchdown. The call was reversed, but Gurley punched it in on the next play. King's play would turn out to be just one example of how the Georgia receivers would continue to fight on Saturday. Bennett, after being a non factor in the first half, caught two touchdown passes in the third quarter, and Marlon Brown hauled in a big two point conversion to put the Bulldogs up by 14 points at the end of the third quarter. The tight ends, Jay Rome and Arthur Lynch, combined for four catches for 96 yards, and Lynch had a crucial catch on the drive before halftime that allowed the Bulldogs to tie it. Overall, the unit played well, and Wooten's two drops did not come back to hurt Georgia. Grade: A-

Offensive line

This group turned in yet another great performance on Saturday. The Georgia running game got off to an excellent start and was dominant until Tennessee started selling out to stop it later in the game. Georgia averaged 7.2 yards per carry as a team, and scored five times on the ground. Murray was sacked only once and wasn't pressured much all night. Kenarious Gates continues to play well at left tackle and Dallas Lee had his second excellent game at left guard. Center David Andrews did a very good job on the interior, and looked as if he used leverage well to keep mammoth UT nose tackle Daniel McCullers from getting consistent penetration. Chris Burnette continued to be effective at the right guard position, and freshman right tackle John Theus is slowly cutting down on the mistakes that plagued him through the team's first two games this season. 2012 JUCO signee Mark Beard had his best game of the season as well. Coaches, fans, and pollsters probably weren't impressed with the overall result on Saturday, but the offensive line had another great game. Grade: A

Defensive line

In 2011, it seemed as if the Georgia defensive line was turning in stellar performance after stellar performance. That hasn't been the case thus far in 2012, and Saturday was a struggle from the get go. Give the Tennessee offensive line a lot of credit as they wont the battle over the Georgia defensive line in both the run game and passing game all night. The Georgia front couldn't get pressure and couldn't penetrate enough to disrupt the UT rushing attack consistently. Abry Jones appeared to be playing higher and a bit more hesitant that normal and it may have had something to do with an ankle injury suffered last week against Vanderbilt. John Jenkins was beaten at the point of attack way more than normal, and the Vols took advantage with 197 yards on the ground. Kwame Geathers also struggled at the nose tackle position and was consistently stopped from getting penetration and causing problems for the Tennessee offense. As stated earlier, the UT offensive line deserves credit, but the UGA defensive line didn't play their best game on Saturday. Grade: C

Outside linebackers

The Bulldogs have come to expect big things from Jarvis Jones at the outside linebacker position, and while he didn't have a big game rushing the passer, his play didn't disappoint. Jones had 8 total tackles and a half tackle for a loss, and drew a great deal of attention from the UT offense all game long. Chase Vasser added another tackle for a loss, and Jordan Jenkins added one of his own and forced a huge fumble that stopped a Tennessee drive in the fourth quarter. The fact that this group failed to provide the pass rush they have in the past is concerning and can't be over looked, but they still found ways to make plays. Grade: B

Inside linebackers

It is hard to find a linebacker that had a bigger game than Alec Ogletree on Saturday. Ogletree returned from a four game suspension to record 14 total tackles and broke up three passes on the day. Ogletree just missed a couple of interceptions, and tipped the pass that Damian Swann intercepted in the second quarter. While the numbers look great for Ogletree, the Georgia inside linebacker struggled all night to bottle up UT running back Rajion Neal, and that was a big reason why the Vols were able to put up big yards and point. Amarlo Herrera, Mike Gilliard, Christian Robinson, and Ogletree have to tackle better if this defense is going to be good enough to make Georgia a championship team. They have yet to return to 2011 form at this point in the season, and UGA needs for that to happen quickly. Grade: C+

Defensive backs

On one hand, the defensive backs were in a tough situation, faced a big-time challenge, and were beaten at times. On the other hand, they made three of the biggest plays in the game and helped Georgia to a win. Damian Swann continued his excellent work with his first career interception, six total tackles, and one for a loss. Safety Bacarri Rambo had 9 tackles in his return, but was a half second slow in pass defense a couple of times. Cornerback Sanders Commings shook off a tough first three quarters to have two game changing interceptions in the fourth quarter. Brandon Smith had one of his poorest games of the season both in coverage and as a tackler in space. It was an up and down performance for the Georgia defensive back field, but they do deserve credit for their efforts to help UGA preserve the win late. This unit, like the inside linebackers, has to tackle better and take advantages of opportunities to make plays on the ball. The big plays, especially on third down, hurt UGA, but it is important to note that the secondary did hold Bray to just 53 percent passing and picked him off three times total. Grade: C+

Special teams

It is hard to ignore the fact that special teams played a huge role in Georgia's late second quarter melt down. Malcome Mitchell misplayed a punt that gave UGA poor field position. Gurley misplayed a kickoff that gave Georgia poor field position again. Freshman kicker Marshall Morgan missed two extra points. Just by looking at those factors, it would be hard to imagine the special teams doing anything well, but there are positives. The Georgia kick coverage team did a great job of bottling up UT kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, and the punt coverage was solid all game. The Bulldogs also did a great job thwarting an all out punt block attempt late in the game. Mark Deas blocked a punt in the third quarter, and Morgan hit a 50-yard field goal to tie the game before the half. This is the first game in which Georgia has had big special teams problems in multiple areas, but they also made plays to help the team win. This group needs to regain the consistency that they possessed earlier in the season. Grade: C

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