Georgia Vs. Mississippi State: Are You Not Entertained, Bulldog Nation?

ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 01: Isaiah Crowell #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs rushes upfield against the Mississippi State Bulldogs defense at Sanford Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Saturday's win was too dominating to be called ugly. Can the Dawgs continue to win boring?

The scenery was more familiar and the opponents hailed from a different town, but otherwise last Saturday's results looked almost identical to the ones from the Saturday before that: big offensive plays in the first half, big halftime lead, and then a complete offensive nap once it becomes clear the other team doesn't have the horses to mount a comeback. The number of points Georgia scored in the second half was even the same (a big ol' field goal that could've been more if Blair Walsh's ongoing issues hadn't gotten in the way). For the second week in a row, Georgia played a game that got the fans exactly as excited as they should have been to put another W on the schedule but not one bit more.

As with the Ole Miss game, there was plenty to get excited about if you were willing to hunt through the box score for it. A year after that horrendours turning-point loss in Starkville, which was keyed by Chris Relf and Vick Ballard gashing us on the ground for one third-down conversion after another, Todd Grantham's defense held the Bizarro Bulldogs to just 56 yards on 34 rushes and a 4-of-15 conversion rate. A pass rush that had struggled to get anything going through the first month of the season notched five sacks, against perhaps the most mobile QB they'll have to face until the season finale at Georgia Tech. Between that and the continuing emergence of Isaiah Crowell -- who, with his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, is proving to be everything he was advertised and then some -- nearly everything that was supposed to be a big question mark coming into this season has turned out not to be.

What's ironic -- and what made Saturday as frustrating as it was, if you think about it -- is that the stuff that wasn't supposed to be a question mark has gotten off to a rocky start. Blair Walsh, what's going on, buddy? I mean, ordinarily I wouldn't get upset about missing a 48-yard field goal, but in Walsh's case a) we know he can make those all day long and b) it's starting to look like our coaches have every intention of relying on him heavily for scoring output, in the second halves of games, at least. And what in the world was Aaron Murray's deal Saturday afternoon? I mean, sure, State's pass defense is decent, and Murray certainly wasn't helped by another case of the dropsies on the part of his receivers, but even the 17-year-old kid from Louisiana Tech whom State played last week managed not to throw three picks.

As with the previous week, though, it was the coaching decisions that were the most aggravating. Yeah, Drew Butler's mishandled snap in the third quarter pretty much felt like punishment for kicking a field goal on 4th-and-inches after we'd been handed a gift-wrapped turnover in the MSU red zone; even Mark Richt sort of vaguely came close to admitting that the fans had a right to be ticked about that one. To my way of thinking, though, the drive before that was ended by a call that was even more mystifying. You've got third-and-1 from your own 33 and your running-back choices are:

 

  1. Your highly touted starting RB who's in the lead for SEC Freshman of the Year honors (and who had 90 yards in the first half alone)
  2. Your change-of-pace back, who's only 5'7" but has been making some nice runs as long as you don't try to send him up the middle
  3. Your former starting RB, a converted linebacker who runs like a Jenga tower and who has never broken a tackle, ever

 

Seriously, guys, you've got the opponent so pinned to the ropes that they've actually put in Dylan Favre as quarterback, you've got a chance to drive the dagger into their hearts with a score on this drive, and you go with Door #3? You don't even need me to describe what happened next, because you could picture it in your head as soon as I set up the situation -- Richard Samuel, rushing into the line with that upright, toddler-who-just-learned-to-run style of his, stuffed for no gain. Just like the previous week, it was almost as if Richt had made the (understandable) determination that Georgia had rung up an insurmountable lead, and put scoring points second on his priority list to making sure everyone got a participation medal as he ground down the clock.

I realize that I'm complaining about this on a day that Georgia is back up above .500 in both the SEC and the overall standings, and not only that, ugly losses by South Carolina and Florida on the same day mean we're right back in the thick of the division race. But I'm still harboring doubts that our lackadaisical attitude in the second half, whether it's coming primarily from the players or from the coaches, is going to get us very far this season. This "ehh, we're fine, we don't need any more points" attitude may not have cost us anything when the opposing QB was Randall Mackey or Chris Relf, but what happens when it's Tyler Bray leading the first truly competent offense we've faced in a month? (Or hell, even Jeff Driskel, who accomplished nothing against Alabama on Saturday night but, knowing our luck in Jacksonville, will have magically transformed into John Elway by the end of this month?)

Yeah, it was great to get payback for last year's loss, which was arguably the point at which the 2010 season turned from "frustrating" into "meltdown." It's certainly been nice to see Isaiah Crowell running so brilliantly, and just as nice, if not more so, for our defense to have morphed back into a unit that, in Senator Blutarsky's words, you're actually excited to see take the field again. One of the Senator's commenters further points out that Georgia's national rankings in offense and defense are right about where they were when the Dawgs were chopping heads in the early 2000s. And yeah, if memory serves, people bitched and complained just as much about overly conservative play-calling then, too. The Senator says he'll happily take seven more of these with no such complaints. I guess I will, too; it's just that when he talks about Richt "happily [shutting] things down to control the game," I'd probably feel a lot more comfortable if I was dead certain that we were, you know, actually controlling it. Mark Richt may already think that we are; me, I may just need a few more wins on the table before I actually believe it.

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