The gauntlet is mercifully over. And the hangover of tough game after tough game seemed to take a serious toll on our defense this week. Georgia is very good - but we had an unusually rough day trying to tackle the Bulldogs' stable of talented RBs. Kirby Smart called off the Dawgs in the second half or both Chubb and Michel might have gone for 200 yards. Georgia ran for almost 8 yards per carry. It's hard to lose at that pace. The Dawgs out-rushed us 423-64.
I hate to raise this stat, but we have been out-rushed in the last three games by a margin of 1137 yards to 150. That is a recipe for losing three games.
On the bright side, our offensive brain trust called a good game. Georgia's defense is good - and Kyle Shurmur basically stood in all day and went 17-31 for 172 yards. Considering we were obviously passing most of the afternoon, the O-line protected him and he made some good throws. The receiving corps had several key drops - but also delivered some nice grabs. We mixed up our runs - and this made play action work. There were no sacks or turnovers. There were significantly fewer three and outs - TOP was actually close until the fourth quarter. We were 6-15 on third downs.
The problem was on defense - and the problem was significant. It was more than just missed tackles, leaving our feet and arm tackles. It was a scheme. Tommy Tuberville, the announcer, noted that our coaches chose a slow death over stuffing the box and he was right. When we did blitz, we telegraphed it - so Fromm checked down to single coverage and dropped 47-yard bombs on us. We simply need to surprise people more and telegraph less. We also continue to seem baffled by the hurry up - which we will see again next week. Again, the usual suspects had strong individual games - Oren Burks led the team in tackles. Zaire Jones had his best game. We recovered our first fumble turnover of the season on a sack by Bryce Lewis. Nifae Leolao missed a defensive TD by a nose. Several guys were obviously playing banged up, too. Individually, the effort is there - but as a unit, our psyche seems damaged.
It must be mentioned that special teams had a rough day too - punting in the first half cost us in particular. Wakefield did have a nice return. Lipscomb made a decent return of a punt (but he caught the punt at the three-yard line.) Georgia came pretty close to breaking a return.
The team was not sharp on Saturday. It is best to put this one behind us. It is time to build things up rather than tear things down. This gauntlet was an impossible task. It wears a team down. If you had told me pre-season that we could wake up on October 8th at .500 - I would have taken it, gladly. The recent massacres have been hard to watch - but 3-3 with the ranked teams out of the way is more than respectable. The wins over Kansas State and on the road at MTSU were not gimmes. We will not see defenses or offenses like Bama and Georgia again this year.
Getting run over is demoralizing - and I hope the coaches can convince the D to put it behind them. In fact, I hope the coaches can convince themselves to put it behind them - because we have coached on defense to avoid getting slaughtered lately (perhaps for good reason) more than to make good things happen.
Next week is a new week - and the second half of the season begins. The staff's challenge this week will be to build up this team's confidence. The talent is still there. We have played two of the top four teams in America in a three-week span. Next week's opponent has spent the last two weeks @Bama, @ Auburn. They gave up 110 points in those two games - and they have not played at home since September 9th. Both teams will probably be glad to see each other. It will be interesting to watch where Vegas sets the over/under.