Alright, that's behind us. We looked a little (OK, a lot) shaky against a surprising USC team that showed a lot of fight and played as tough as they've played us in recent years. It was our first real challenge for DJ as a starter and he came out with the most important stat, the W. Anyway, this week's write-up won't have quite as much about our opponent as usual, but hopefully it'll be worth your time.
A Quick Look at Last Week's Game
At Coach Richt's stop this summer in Macon he was asked the question of what single question he most wanted to see answered. His response was that he wanted to see how well this team responded to adversity. Without Greene and some of the other senior leaders, he wanted to know how this team would handle being down in an SEC game or facing a tough situation deep in your own territory. Well, Richt now has his answer. The defense showed that week 1 wasn't a fluke while the offense showed that the much-ballyhooed running game did in fact exist. While DJ obviously had his head scratching moments, his pass on 3rd and 22 from our own 8 was a thing of beauty. The play took a while to develop and DJ sat in the pocket, knowing he couldn't make it scrambling and that the only shot he had was to wait on McClendon to make his final cut. Greene couldn't have done it any better.
While our passing game looked unstoppable against BSU and virtually DOA against USC, I think the truth is somewhere in between. USC has a very good secondary. I don't know what they were doing against UCF, but last Saturday the USC DBs were not allowing our WRs any room to move. USC runs a funky D and appeared to know exactly what we were doing in the passing game, but as our running game continues to establish itself as a force, we should see defenses starting to creep up to stop the run. Despite getting slaughtered up front, USC refused to sell out against the run. UGA was thus able to eat up time and score the winning TD on a drive they never attempted a pass. The only person they seemed to care about all game was DJ, as he was rarely able to get loose and scramble for yardage.
Our defense played extremely well, giving up only 9 offensive points. Many of our problems came from lack of pressure up front, with Mitchell having enough time to eventually find an open guy. When we blitzed, it seemed too telegraphed, as the blitzer was readily visible from Mitchell's position and he was able to throw behind the blitzer. The obvious time this happened was late in the game on USC's TD drive where Blue blitzed and Mitchell hit Newton on a post right where Blue came from. Less noticeable was incomplete pass way downfield where Mitchell almost hooked up with Noah Whiteside. Generally speaking, our blitzes were ineffective against USC, although Brandon Miller showed incredible athleticism and strength in standing up some of the USC OL.
• The ULM offense essentially relies on one man, QB Steven Jyles (15). At 6-1, 191, he's not the biggest guy on the field, but he's been very effective for the Indians and led them to a 5-2 record in the team's last 7 games last year. He's a run pass threat that leads the team in carries (he has almost twice as many carries as any of their other backs). He's only been sacked once this year, but has struggled this season. Jyles is one of ULM's career leaders, but he was actually pulled last weekend after completing only 13 of his first 32 attempts.
• ULM was 75th in the country last year in total offense and 106th in scoring offense. So far this year, they've slipped a little to 90th on total offense but have managed to improve to 103rd in scoring. Baby steps I suppose.
• Drouzon Quillen (18) is an interesting option outside at WR. At 6-6, 215, he should remind some folks of that Arkansas WR last year that caused us so many problems. ULM actually has several capable receivers that will test our secondary a good bit.
• Bottom Line: The ULM offense isn't very good. I doubt very seriously that we'll do too much with our defense in the way of blitzing, etc. They don't turn the ball over as many times as you'd think they would given their struggles and are actually on the plus side of the turnover margin. They've struggled mightily converting on 3rd downs this year, and given the good play of our DBs this year in coverage, it will be imperative for them to get yards on 1st and 2nd downs. Former NFL QB Stan Humphries is a ULM alum and is the current Offensive Coordinator. Just thought you might want to know.
• Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: Even with his struggles and benching, Jyles is still a guy that's thrown for a lot of yards and is capable of providing some excitement and giving a defense fits. Given the number of times he touches the ball, he'll always give his team a chance if he has one of those magical games.
• There's not much to say about the ULM defense. They are 77th in total defense and 90th in scoring defense, this despite playing a 1-AA team and Wyoming.
• They can force some INTs, as they have already grabbed 6 this season.
• They start 4 seniors along the DL, but lack size.
• That's it, there's almost nothing else to say. They aren't very good and I don't usually say that.
• Bottom Line: No need for pretense and coachspeak here, our offense should roll. Vegas doesn't set the line at 38 because they think UGA might struggle. Look for Richt to reestablish our passing attack while continuing to develop the potentially dominant ground game we showed off last week.
• Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: Watch our receivers to see if they have any trouble getting open. After their experience last week, I'm sure our receivers got an earful from the staff. They'll be looking to take advantage of a subpar ULM defense to show they're better than last week's effort.
The ULM Game Overall
How bad is ULM? A 1-AA team spotted them a 23-0 halftime lead and still beat them 27-23. They're that bad. The last time we played them (1994), we won 70-6 and we weren't all that good that year. They lost 38-0 last week…to Wyoming. This is not a very good football team. We should waltz, but we've shown an incredible knack to occasionally play to our opponent's level.
For those die-hard fans that are reading this, this game should be enjoyable for several reasons. While we won't see a whole lot out of our D, Jyles will be a good prep for some of the athletic QBs we'll face at some point this season. The really fun part though will be watching the offense. Ware and Lumpkin should get the opportunity to rack up some yardage, and Richt could use this as a game to reestablish DJ's confidence. Perhaps more important than DJ, our WRs need the chance to gain some confidence too. With all that being said, scares do happen and while there are zero indications that UGA should struggle with ULM, there weren't many indications that TCU had a prayer against Oklahoma.
Lastly, please remember that many of these kids and their families have been through tragedy and devastation recently that we can only imagine. Hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana and people of the gulf area are still picking up the pieces. Remember that any ULM fans you see this weekend have almost certainly been personally touched by this tragedy and treat them accordingly.
• Thomas Brown will likely sit out this week to rest up his shoulder for the remainder of the SEC schedule. Hopefully that will be a blessing in disguise, getting Kregg Lumpkin back on track.
• WLB Jarvis Jackson is out for at least a couple of weeks with a banged up thumb. Luckily, last year's starter at that spot, Danny Verdun-Wheeler, can slide over to fill the void.
• This would be an ideal game for Mohamed Massaquoi to breakout, but he banged up his hip on his one catch (a real beauty) last week. It's obvious he's going to be a great WR for us, but this week he showed that he'll do the little things too. It was his block on the USC CB that allowed DJ to score that 1st half rushing TD. He abused the guy.
• The little dump pass to Leonard Pope over the middle for about an 8 yard gain could possibly be repeated for an entire drive.
• Charles Johnson and Paul Oliver each stepped up their play when we needed it most. Oliver was extremely physical at the line and grabbed his 2nd career INT against USC. Johnson was a beast and pulled down a HUGE sack late that was a little reminiscent of some of Pollack's late game heroics in recent years.
• This would be a good week to get A.J. Bryant some touches that let him get back into the flow of the offense. He's got so much physical ability and should be close to 100% now.
• Brandon Coutu is quietly putting together a very solid season.
• Tony Taylor has been as good as advertised. Disappointing seeing him have that mental lapse tossing the ball last week. I thought it was pretty classless of that USC OL to take a cheap shot at him when his helmet was obviously off.
• The differences between Van Gorder's defenses and Martinez' are subtle. Both appear to be very effective. Given the small sample size by which to judge Martinez, it's tough to say for sure, but early on, it appears safe to say one thing. We've totaled 6 INTs in two games this year. All last year we had 5. Van Gorder has his lips jar that focused on big hits and Blue, Thurman and Davis obliged. This year, the guys seem to have their heads up looking for a chance to make a pick rather than a killshot. Martinex vowed to make turnovers a focal point and so far it's worked.
• I feel like I need to say something about College GameDay, or more specifically, the in-studio CGD crew. We're gonna miss Trev Alberts, and not just because he typically took the pro-UGA tack to Mark May's spewings. We're gonna miss Trev Alberts because his replacements are Lou Holtz and Desmond Howard. I know you've all heard Holtz's lisping rambles before, but Howard (who was obviously chosen for name recognition only) makes 'Rocket" Ismail's foray into TV seem Emmy-worthy.
• OK, honestly, who had Vandy pegged for 2-0 right now? If they get by Ole Miss this weekend (they're favored…against an SEC team…planets must be aligned oddly), they've got an excellent shot at being 5-0 entering a two-game homestand against LSU and UGA. A 5-0 Vandy team playing at home against a top-10 LSU team might actually get some Vandy fans out to the game.
• How many phantom penalties were there last week? In rewatching the game, the ONLY time during the whole telecast that Bob Davie was speechless was when he was trying to explain the holding call on Nick Jones that brought back the nice screen play to Thomas Brown.
• Few things get me worked up more during a game than non-calls from refs on obvious penalties. A blatant block-in-the-back or the ever-present holding of one of our DEs sets me off every time. With that being said, I was set off several times last weekend.
• How unfortunate was it for USC's backup QB to come in for one play the entire game, only to have it be 3rd and forever and be forced to scramble directly into Greg Blue's crosshairs? To top it all off, the poor fellow just left his feet before Blue made impact, queuing the announcers to go over the new spearing rule.
• One more comment about the refs before this is over: I can't stand watching a close game, seeing a team score a huge TD and watching the ref come immediately running up to the player who scored talking in his ear reminding him not to get too carried away. The intent of the celebration rule was to eliminate celebrations that drew an inordinate amount of attention to the individual and/or delayed the game. I think there should be a delay of game penalty for excessive celebration that the refs consider to be actually delaying the game…5 yard penalty, no game deciding thing. The idea of a couple of guys celebrating together drawing a flag from a trigger-happy official determining the outcome of a game is sickening.
• If you were watching the game on TV (or watched the replay), how bad did you feel for the poor little USC LB that Max Jean-Gilles was pointing at as he was pulling on the screen pass to Danny Ware in the 3rd quarter? Big Max just lumbered out there, picked out a guy, then showed pretty good agility in clobbering the guy out of the play. Not too many OGs are fun to watch, but he's one.
• Say what you will about D.J. Shockley's play last week, but he obviously knows what he'd doing. Brown's TD run in the 4th quarter was an audible that DJ read. Brown was barely touched.
• When I asked my wife for a description of DJ's play this week, she said "no comment." She has a gift.
As always, have a safe weekend,