Instant Analysis -
Georgia 44 ... Texas A&M 20
And you're surprised, why?
No, Georgia didn't prove anything by rocking in a 44-20 win. The defense was still mediocre, even though it stiffened when it absolutely had to, while the offense was no big whoop. Yeah, for Georgia, running for 208 yards is a big deal, but everyone was able to plow over the bad Aggie defense.
Texas A&M had the worst defense in the Big 12, yet Georgia was only able come up with 366 yards, 65 fewer than the Aggies normally allow, with Joe Cox barely completing half of his passes against the nation's 107th ranked pass defense.
Georgia have one of the best special teams units in America, and they
made a difference, while A&M's special teams have been a nightmare at
times. Shock of shocks, Georgia blew the game open because it was better
in the third phase.
Meanwhile, just like it happened all season long, the Texas A&M offense was like a big budget movie with a plot that went nowhere. There were plenty of bells and whistles, several fun moments, lots and lots of yards, and no points. The Aggies rolled up 471 yards, bombed away on the Georgia secondary, but only came up with 14 points before getting their doors blown off. Yeah, Georgia was up big in the second half and A&M had to start chucking, but still, this is an offense that's supposed to be even more explosive and more productive. That might come with time and a wee bit more experience.
Give Georgia credit for showing heart and toughness in a lost season, but this probably wasn't much of a stepping-stone. There will be a new quarterback, several new, key players, and hopefully for Dawg fans, a more consistent running game.
For the Aggies, it might not take much fine-tuning to become special. The offense is there, the yards are certainly in place, and now the young players need to mature and the defense has to be a wee bit stronger before the team can become a real, live player in the Big 12 South race.
Something about lemons and lemonade come to mind when discussing the final two games of Georgia's disappointing 2009 season.
After losing to Kentucky and slipping to 6-5 on Nov. 21, the Bulldogs could have folded up the tents and mentally started preparing for 2010. They didn't because Mark Richt wouldn't allow it. With two games left, the coach was going to learn as much as possible about this team that had underachieved throughout the year. Why not milk something out of the last eight quarters? What Richt realized is that he still has a pretty good squad, especially when it's powering the ball between the tackles on offense.
When Georgia rallied to beat Auburn on Nov. 14, it ran for 169 yards and three scores. Two weeks later, it ambushed Georgia Tech for 339 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-24 upset. And on Monday evening in Shreveport, the Dawgs shoved around Texas A&M for 209 yards and three short plunges. It's a formula that works in Athens, especially with the uncertainty in the passing game. The really good news between the hedges? The team's top four rushers, including budding stars Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, are underclassmen. FB Shaun Chapas, who ran against the Aggies as if he deserves more touches, has another year of eligibility remaining. Oh, and barring any early departures to the NFL, the offensive line loses just one player from the two-deep.
If nothing else, the Independence Bowl was further proof that Georgia isn't as far away from the SEC East penthouse as it appeared earlier in the season. Now all Richt has to do in the offseason is decide on his next defensive coordinator and develop a steady quarterback out of neophytes Logan Gray and Aaron Murray.
1) This was one of those games that can be summed up in two little words: special teams. Therefore, it's worth looking at the two-play sequence that prevented Texas A&M from mounting a comeback in the third quarter, with the Aggies trailing Georgia by a 24-14 score.
First of all, not many defenders have an easy time corralling Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson in the open field, but Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran executed a textbook tackle on the large yet agile signal caller to prevent the Aggies from getting a first down deep in Georgia territory. Curran's big-league stop forced A&M to convert a 4th and 1 with 4:55 left in the third quarter, on a drive that had to produce points for the kids from College Station.
It was at this point that Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman lost hold of his senses.
Committing a cardinal sin of play calling, Sherman inexplicably dialed up a standard-issue deep-dropback pass on 4th and 1, and when Georgia's secondary bottled up A&M's receivers, Johnson had nowhere to run. The quarterback with considerable speed and shiftiness was forced to lob a desperation pass that was easily intercepted. The Aggies never threatened after that ill-fated series of events. Ballgame.
2) Let's keep things very simple here: When the first half of this game ended the way it did – with the replay booth not reviewing (and then overturning) the officials' decision to deny A&M the chance to kick a field goal – the communities of Nebraska, TCU and Cincinnati football fans had a right to be very, very, very, VERY angry… and Texas fans had every reason to enjoy the biggest cosmic, karmic belly laugh of all time.
If you think that Longhorn Nation had run out of Aggie jokes by now, Monday's pre-halftime controversy in Shreveport, La., will generate a whole new subset of wisecracks and one-liners in Austin and all other Burnt Orange precincts. Aggie fans – rightfully steamed about the way their team was jobbed by the replay booth – will have to make their own set of Longhorn jokes from a position of political impotence and pronounced situational misfortune.
While the Georgia special teams will get all the praise, the Bulldogs won this game for one reason and one reason alone – offensive line. After a very shaky first 30 minutes, the Bulldogs simply wore the Texas A&M defensive front down in the second half, producing Texas-sized holes for Caleb King and Washaun Ealey.
It's not like Georgia completely dominated Texas A&M. They really didn't. Georgia hung tight, made some clutch plays on special teams to get a lead, and then simply leaned on Texas A&M until they submitted. And boy did they. The physicality shown by the Bulldogs is exactly what makes SEC football what it is, and the Aggies found out the hard way.
The Georgia defense deserves a lot of credit too. Sure, they gave up a lot of yards to the vaunted Aggie offense. But this was a defense led by defensive line coach/recruiting guru Rodney Garner and two graduate assistant's. They bent – a lot – but they didn't break. That's a vast improvement from what the Georgia defense looked like under former defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.
Georgia already is losing four starters on defense to graduation. If Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones depart early for the NFL, this Georgia defense could look drastically different than it did this year. But this group finally played tough when they needed to, which should give the guys that do stick around some confidence headed into the offseason.