football Edit

Information Overload: Ole Miss Edition

Week 5
Opponent: Ole Miss Rebels
Kickoff: 1:00 PM
TV: None
Well, well, well…we might want to put the Sabanfest on hold for another few weeks. He's a great coach and he's probably getting more out of that team than reasonably should be expected, but the talent level just isn't there yet to really take advantage of some weaknesses in the UGA offense and defense. Of course, many of those holes appear to be closing, as this team will continue to get better and better. Another solid SEC road win for Richt and some validation on the season.
About the Bama game
Was it a perfect game? No, not at all, but it was a really, really good one from this group of young road pups. Considering the OL situation, I don't know how you could have asked for anything more than what we got. No sacks…Stafford had time all night…RBs had more holes than not…minimal OL penalties…just a great effort by a unit that's rapidly gelling into something that isn't a liability. It's hard to believe you can say that about a group with 2 true frosh, 1 RS frosh, and 2 seniors playing at new positions. Just a great job of coaching by our new OL coach…simply phenomenal.
Would it have been nice to see the defense make a stop on Bama's last two drives? Sure, but in some ways it made the win that much sweeter. It gave Tripp Chandler a chance at atonement. It gave Scott Howard a shot at immortality. It nearly gave me a heart attack.
There's really not much to say that you haven't already thought. Our defense played great (aside form the two 4th qtr drives) and really rose up in OT. The offense was efficient and showed some real unexpectedness to it that should pay off down the road when teams try to scout us. Great game all around to the coaches, players, etc. Hard to believe that we lost the turnover battle, missed two FGs and still pulled out a win.
OM Offense
• This is a weird team to figure out. They benched last year's starting QB Brent Schaeffer after he struggled mightily last season, even managing to have Coach Orgeron admit he made a mistake handing the job to Schaeffer in the first place. They generally have taken on the persona of their coach, pound the rock and every once in a while, blow up. They played really well last week in the loss to FL and displayed some serious big-play ability, so this is a dangerous 1-3 team.
• Taking over for Schaeffer at QB is senior Seth Adams. Adams is a big, 6-4, 225 lb kid that is a whole different animal than we saw last year in the mobile Schaeffer. Adams is completing just under 60% of his passes on the season and has been remarkably consistent in that regard, with his low being over 56% and his high being under 64%. He's thrown 7TDs to 3 INTs and has been sacked 9 times on the year. He's not a real threat to run, with his long being a 9 yard scamper against Vandy.
• At RB, BenJarvus Green-Ellis returns for his senior season after falling a yard shy of 1,000 yards in 2006. He's a bruising RB at 5-11, 225. He's not a tremendous breakaway threat like we saw last week in Terry Grant, but he's the kind of back that just gets better the more carries he gets. On the season, he's averaging 4.6 ypc and he's averaged over 100 ypg. Both of those stats are buoyed by his 33 carry, 226 yard performance in week 2 against Missouri. That was the only game he averaged over 3.4 ypc. He doesn't have a reception on the season and averaged under a catch per game last year. His 88 carries on the season far surpass any other RB on the team, but he's started to catch some heat from the coaching staff for running tentatively. Last season, he had his best game of the year against us in Oxford, when he went for 135 yards on 24 carries.
• The Ole Miss WR corps has 3 solid options, but Jr. Mike Wallace has stepped to the front in a big way so far with 16 catches (4 for TD) and 400 yards on the season including a 77-yd TD last week against FL. He has 3 catches of 50 or more yards on the season and 6 of 30 or more. Shay Hodge and Marshay Green (a pair of sophomores) aren't quite as explosive, but each has more catches than the speedy Wallace. They also both have Shay in their first name. Converted QB Robert Lane lines up at TE and has 9 grabs on the year.
• The Ole Miss OL is headed by LT Michael Oher, a big 6-5, 325 pounder who will likely be in the NFL for a long while. He's their best player on either side of the ball. Their starting unit is large, likely the biggest we'll face all season. The right side of their line features 2 guys that weigh 340 or more. RT Maurice Miller is a little bit of an oddity in that he's 343 but is only listed as being 6-3. OL coach Art Kehoe headed up Miami's OL for years and knows what he's doing.
• Bottom Line: Ole Miss is a weird team. They WANT to pound the ball with Green-Ellis and work in some play action stuff over the top to their WRs, but so far they haven't proved overly successful at it. They're barely managing 100 ypg rushing, but their 250+ ypg through the air is solid. Think of this offense as Bama-lite. They are probably a notch below Bama at most every offensive position save RB perhaps (although Grant could ultimately prove better than Green-Ellis, he's too young right now). Given our ability to largely contain Bama, I think we should have similar results this weekend, but they certainly have the pieces in place to hurt us if we don't come out playing well again.
• Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: They are going to run the ball, or at least give it the ol' college try. If Green-Ellis is as successful as he was last year in Oxford, we might be in for a much stouter challenge than anyone thinks. They were successful against FL without Green-Ellis playing a significant role, so if they get him going, watch out. We've been getting some increasingly good play out of the interior of our front 7 (which is better than UF's), so watch to see if that continues. Guys like Owens, Atkins, Weston, Ellerbe and Washington versus that beefy Ole Miss interior and Green-Ellis will be just old-fashioned football.
OM Defense
• The Ole Miss defense is called by John Thompson, he of the famed "minnow bucket" defense that often sees folks moving around like crazy pre-snap, only to ultimately be at their assignment at the snap. Weird. He's been the DC at Arkansas and South Carolina among other places. They've struggled some this year, as they are a young unit, giving up 30 or more in each of their last 3 games (UF, Vandy and Missouri), but the effort against UF was actually solid, as they had been rolling.
• The Ole Miss DL sports an emerging SEC star in So. DE Greg Hardy. At 6-5, 255, Hardy is a lanky pass rusher who's already snagged 35 tackles (3rd on the team) with 7 TFLs including 3 sacks. He'll be a tough matchup for our OTs. The interior of their DL doesn't have a ton of productive depth, but they've got some size and will try and tie up our young OL. They have some good experience inside.
• At LB, the 3 listed starters in their depth chart for this game are all first year JUCO transfers, due in large part to the departure of their top two LBs, especially 1st round draft pick Patrick Willis. SLB Ashlee Palmer leads the team in tackles with 41 and pass breakups with 3. The real oddity of this group is backup MLB Chris Strong. A true frosh, Strong weighs in at 6-2, 280. I watched his robust self drill Tim Tebow on a bootleg last week, so he can obviously move.
• The best player in the OM secondary is SS Jamarca Sanford. At 5-10, 200, he's kinda squatty compared to many of today's top safeties. He's 2nd on the team in tackles, has forced a fumble and blocked a kick. Kind of a do-everything guy. He's started every game but 1 (in his Fr. season) in the last 3 seasons. Jr. LCB Dustin Mouzon is having a nice season. He's already got a 99-yd INT return for a TD this year in addition to 4 TFLs and a sack from his CB spot…not too shabby. At 5-11, 175, he's a smallish CB. The opposite CB is another story. At 6-2, 210, So. Cassius Vaughn is bigger than either of the two starting safeties. FS Kendrick Lewis is decent but inexperienced.
• Bottom Line: The Ole Miss back 7 doesn't have much experience. Heck, the front 4 doesn't either. This is a unit that's trying to improve and they're making strides, with the UF effort being their best outing yet, which isn't great considering they still gave up 30. They're still struggling (according to Orgeron) with wrapping up and making tackles. Look at these numbers in terms of statistics: 91st nationally in rush defense, 86th nationally in pass eff. defense, 105th in pass defense and a shocking 107th in total defense. They don't do a great job of pressuring the QB, with only 5 sacks on the season. This is a defense that we should be able to move the ball against. Look for us to put a strain on their LBs with our RBs in the flats. Bama struggled with that aspect of our game all night. Ole Miss has struggled against screens all season (Orgeron said those exact words this week) and that's something that's been a staple of the Bobo regime to date. Given their struggles tackling this year, the hard running of Moreno and Brown could pay off.
• Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: The UGA running game is in capable hands with Moreno and Brown both playing well. I think the thing to watch for in this game is the continued development of Stafford and his connection with the WRs. He, Bailey and Massaquoi certainly seemed to be on the same page (for the most part) last week and if they continue to improve, that means good news for the running game. If Stafford avoids the turnovers he's shown he's prone to over his career, we should be able to move the ball some and hopefully get some points on the board early. That certainly set the tone last week.
The OM Game Overall
Alright, let's not sugarcoat this. This is in all likelihood the worst team in the SEC. As an aside, it's weird that two of the top arguable candidates for that spot at this point are AU and UT (since MSU beat AU). They were beaten handily by Vandy already this season. They're struggling on defense and they've yet to really get the offense going the way they want to. If we're going to be competing for the SEC East title, this is a team that we should handle. I'm not saying we will necessarily, as we have a history of playing down (and up for that matter) to our opponents, I'm just saying we should.
Ole Miss has struggled to capitalize this season. In 16 trips to the redzone, they've managed 5 TDs and 5 FGs to go with a flurry of mistakes…missed FGs, TOs, etc. They're last in the SEC in rushing offense. They're 11th in scoring. They're last in sacks allowed. They've passed the ball decently, but haven't faced a secondary approaching what they'll see Saturday. On defense, it's more of the same, lots of double digit conference rankings in statistical categories. Just more evidence that if we play smart, sound football like we saw last week in Tuscaloosa, we should come out with a solid win.
Normally I'd say this is a perfect opportunity for a trap game as we're coming off an emotional win on the road (again) and will be heading off to another big road game in Knoxville next week, with little ol' Ole Miss sandwiched in there, begging to be overlooked. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, they appear to have broken out the grade-A effort a week early. Given how well they played against UF, it shouldn't be difficult for the UGA coaches to get this team motivated and focused this week. If Ole Miss can play with UF for 4 quarters, they certainly aren't a team we can go to sleep on. The scary thing about that game is it's not like UF turned the ball over a bunch to keep Ole Miss in it, they just fought and scrapped and eventually started busting big plays. The longer they hang around, the more they'll start to believe.
Positional Notes
• It seemed like every catch Sean Bailey made was incredibly important. Just very clutch. The same goes for Massaquoi. I thought those two set the tone on that opening drive when they both made great grabs to extend the drive. Excellent performance from our WRs.
• On the other hand, Tripp Chandler struggled through a rough game. It was great to see him pull in that last catch on 4th down though to pull us into field goal range. Hopefully he'll rebound and put that behind him, as we really need him to play well.
• Reshad Jones looked really solid…again. That kid is going to be a player. He reminds me a lot of Deon Grant, the GA native that went to UT.
• I don't think you can say enough about the performance of Clint Boling. This is a true freshman that came in ready to contribute despite the fact almost no one gave him a chance to do so. He injures his ankle so bad last week that he was hobbling around in a boot and he still guts it out and plays about as well as some upperclassmen we've had come through in recent years. Just amazing.
• How nasty was that little slip move Moreno put on Mitchell last week when he skipped sideways at full speed and the poor fella didn't even touch him? Moreno's got amazing natural ability, but he's still got room for improvement. The last play he was in the game was the 3rd down prior to us kicking our last FG. On that play, his role was to pick up the blitz. He dove at the blitzer's feet, completely missing him. Stafford got drilled right as he threw it (completion to Henderson). As Moreno starts to be able to execute the little things like that, he'll start to get even more touches. As much as I LOVE his enthusiasm, I hope he doesn't do anything to cost us a 15-yd penalty with his demonstrative nature. He was toeing the line a little on Saturday.
Random Thoughts
• Mike Patrick is just weird. First there was the whole Britney Spears comment. That was just surreal and I honestly don't know what to say about it other than I loved the fact Blackledge was perfectly content to leave him hanging. In addition to that, I honestly don't think he has any idea what constitutes pass interference. On the play where the official flagged Bama when Castille was basically taking Goodman's jersey off, Patrick said he just didn't see anything, no reason to throw that flag. Then, on a call where Prince Miller mugged DJ Hall on a ball our coaches were (wrongly) arguing was uncatchable, he decides to announce he thinks the uncatchable ball aspect of that rule is stupid. What? It's like he doesn't understand football. With that performance, he's now shot straight to the top of the list for the role of play-by-play guy I'm most likely to be weirded out by. He would of course be paired with the dynamic color tandem of Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan in a 3-man booth of annoyance.
• What's the deal with this football season? It's like some weird bizarro-SEC. UK is tied for the East lead and ranked in the top 15 nationally. SC is good. Vandy might make a bowl game (although not likely). UT has gotten shellacked twice. AU is struggling to stay .500. Heck, Miss St. is even gaining votes in one of the polls. I'm pretty sure that was one of the signs of the apocalypse.
• I'm sure you've all seen or heard about OkSt's head coach blowing up in his press conference and going after a newspaper writer. I was surprised to see him do it, but I applaud him standing up for his player if he feels they were publicly wronged. While I was surprised at Coach Gundy's outburst, I was even more surprised to hear the response of some of the media voicing their disapproval and saying that he should have handled that out of the public eye. I'm sorry, wasn't he doing what he did precisely because his player had been dressed down in the article in that very same public eye (which was largely based on rumor and hearsay)? Yes, he probably should have read a prepared statement to keep his emotions in check, but I have to applaud a coach standing up for his players.
• Be glad that apparently no one told Louisville's defense directions to any of their games so far. If they could stop anyone, Louisville would likely be 4-0 right now and still ranked in the top 10. That would mean WVA, Louisville and Rutgers would all be in the top 10 or so, with South Florida and Cincinnati both right on the cusp of the top 25. That would make the Big East arguably the top conference in the country. Again, that would be if Louisville wasn't unconscionably bad on defense. As it is, you'd amazingly have to rank the Big East ahead of the ACC, which has really fallen on hard times with the demise of FSU and Miami. I think that means VT hasn't played in a really good conference…ever.
• Munson turns 85 on Friday. I suppose it's OK for him to miss road games given that fact. I thought Scott Howard handled that final call about as well as he could have, but you just can't help but wonder what little gem Munson would've thrown out there, something about folks rending Houndstooth...actually I shouldn't even fathom a guess as to what Munson would say. He had no idea what a hobnail boot was before that popped out.
• Speaking of that final play, it was like a mix of two recent GT passes both in execution and in end result. One, the Bobo to Corey Allen TD in ATL back in '97. The other was the Shockley to McClendon pass two years ago. All 3 were just beautiful. Of course, the one from '05 was still a couple of minutes from the end of the game, as Reggie Ball still had to really destroy GT fans with his INT at the goal line. Thank you Tim Jennings.
• Don't be surprised if AU gives FL's offense some fits. AU's O has been horrid, but they still have some talent on D, especially at DE, so look for them to tee off on Tebow.
Have a safe weekend,