Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Four Great Games

Georgia / Kentucky: Last Saturday I hated that the Georgia and Tech games were being played at the same time. Turned out I didn't need to be. Kentucky kicked off at noon. Georgia was up seven by 12:01, thanks to an opening kickoff return for a touchdown. By the time Tech kicked off at 12:35 UGA had a commanding lead. Kentucky just does not have a good downfield passing game. The QB is weak in this area, and his receivers didn't help – dropping and tipping numerous passes. This led to several Bulldog interceptions. One Wildcat receiver looked good: gloves, towel, arm sleeve – but when he tried to make a one-handed catch, all he was able to do was to tip the ball into a Georgia defender's hands. By the second half Kentucky seemed to quit.

UGA backup QB Brice Ramsey (above) looked confident, dropping back and letting fly. And he runs much better than Mason. With or without without Gurley, I'm thinking Georgia's offense will be even more productive in 2015. Last week one of the best running backs in the country committed to Georgia – a 5 star. They're in the running for one of the nation's top quarterbacks as well. The defense will also be improved and more experienced. Meanwhile, several other SEC contenders could be breaking in new QB's: Florida, South Carolina, Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, and LSU. While 2014 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, perhaps 2015 could be THE year.
Georgia Tech / NC State: The Jackets had an easy time – perhaps winning bigger and easier than Clemson did at home against the Wolfpack.

In the second quarter the Wolfpack kept the GT offense off the field for 11 minutes – and was outscored 14-0. After bobbing and weaving for a third down touchdown run, the athletic NC State QB's pass was tipped (that word again) and intercepted at the goal line by Tech linebacker Q Neely. As Neely ambled downfield, three or four Tech defenders raced ahead of him to act as good-looking escorts. No one bothered to look back to see the fleet State running back racing upfield to not only tackle Neely but also steal the ball from him. But the State QB threw another unwise pass – good for a GT pick six. Two turnovers, and the State QB still failed to protect the ball. After the kickoff he tried to make another spectacular play –and the resulting fumble was picked up by Neely and run in for yet another score. QB's like State's may make the occasional big play, but seem to offset each good play with two or three bad plays. Tech led 35-16 at the half.

Synjin Days had another career day against an inferior opponent, misleading many Tech experts into thinking Days should continue to get playing time over first-stringer Zack Laskey. They quickly forgot the first quarter fumble by Days (through three quarters that was the only Tech possession not ending in a score). The experts forget the ineffectiveness Days has displayed season after season, particularly against stronger opponents. Mark my words: Clemson will shut down Days, though the more proven Laskey will have success (if he's given the chance). Suggestion: if Days thinks he's NFL material, he should be playing on as many special teams as possible to show the NFL how hungry he is. Does Days play special teams? No. Probably a good thing – he'd probably slip and fumble and miss blocks and cause penalties like he does on offense. The younger brother of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is Kansas State's starting fullback. A marginal pro prospect – so he plays special teams. Wanna bet who makes it in the pros?

Speaking of motivated players, backup fullback Matt Connors finally made an appearance with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, and promptly reeled off eight yards, then scored from four yards out. It wasn't Days - NC State just couldn't stop the fullback.

With ten minutes remaining in the third quarter State dropped two straight passes. A grad student lineman was called for holding. Tech kept pounding on the State QB. Like Kentucky, you could see the quit in the Wolfpack. Perhaps at that point its time to put in the backups. That strategy almost worked in the Pitt game.

Backup QB Tim Byerly (below) scored a touchdown and did well in a mop-up role.

The NC State band played Taylor Swift's most recent release. It had to be State, because the GT band is still playing the same tired old songs they were playing when I was in school. Really. They'll probably keep playing them forever. And ever.

The Jackets failed to play a perfect game. Twice they were offsides on kickoffs – once by a senior. The Tech defense failed to contain the State QB, instead diving and lunging and over-running and arm-tackling – the exact opposite of how to defend someone like that. Bad coaching? This does not bode well for this week's game against an even better and more athletic QB – Clemson's Deshaun Watson. Slowing Clemson's offense will be the key to winning on Saturday.
Texas A&M / Auburn: an Auburn win just wasn't meant to be. Down the whole game, the Tigers worked their way back and twice were in position to score the go-ahead touchdown – only to foolishly fumble the ball away. And when Auburn stopped A&M back on the goal line the replay seemed to show the running back tackled with the ball ON the goal line. Auburn should've had two points AND the ball.

Too bad fumbles are awarded to whoever is able the claw the ball away at the bottom of the pile. Players from both teams continue to pile on even after the whistle, and referees are slow to pull players away. Meanwhile the grabbing and biting and squeezing at the bottom of the pile continues. Such brutality. The rules need to be changed. One player falls on the ball. When a player on the other team dives in on him (isn't this targeting?), the moment the recover-er is touched the play should be over. Players shouldn't be allowing to pile on after the ball is obviously down. They should be forced to vacate the area.

Too bad for UGA that Auburn wasn't sharp and lost to A&M. Even if Auburn had come back and won, they might've had a letdown against Georgia. Now the Tigers will roll into Athens mad and hungry for a win – just like the Dawgs played against Kentucky after their embarrassment in Jacksonville. UGA is better than last year and Auburn worse. Took a miracle for Auburn to win last year. QB Hutson Mason's confidence grew after his big game at Kentucky – as did his QB rating (he has moved from 55th in the nation all the way up to 16th). This year Georgia should win – but Auburn will be at their best.

Bama / LSU: No one wanted to win this game. Veteran back TJ Yeldon fumbled when his ankle is injured, but then a dumb penalty on an LSU lineman makes the game-winning field goal longer AND stops the clock. Then LSU's kickoff goes out of bounds, giving Bama better field position. Bama QB Blake Sims misses an open receiver deep. The great Armani Cooper drops a pass. Yet Sims finally comes of age – completing two long passes to set up the game-tying field goal. In overtime LSU's athletic QB tried to do too much (see NC State, above) and was unable to make a first down.

This invaluable experience for Sims may very well throw a fork into Mississippi State's dream season Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. Should the Tide roll, this could impact play later on Saturday evening - between the hedges.

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