Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Recap - Independence Bowl

I'll say this...that was the most surreal game day I can ever remember. It just feels weird to be at work knowing that it's game day, ya know? I don't know how the gnats do it all the time.

But it wasn't just the fact that I was at work on game day...it was also: 5:00 PM. On a MONDAY. Dec 28th. On ESPN2, live from Shreveport. With no Defensive Coordinator, and a defense run by two grad assistants, a d-line coach with no contract, and our head coach who has no experience coaching defense. Against a 6-6 Big 12 team. So....yeah. Just surreal in every way.

Despite all that, once the game started it was just football, for the last time this year. No matter what, I think all of us Dawg fans were happy to say good riddance to the 2009 season.

Let's break this one down old-school, shall we?

OFFENSE:
(OR: A Tale of Two Halves)

- Oof, that first half was bad. Especially for poor Vince Vance. I have no idea what was going on with him, but he looked totally helpless out there. My brother put it this way: "He looks like he's never even heard of this game called football." He was just blocking air most of the time.

David Hale said that Boling and Richt both said afterwards that the problem in the first half was scheme, that A&M were doing some things we had not seen on film and hadn't prepared for, but I don't know...if #55 wasn't Vince's responsibility on those plays when Caleb almost died in the first half, who did he think he WAS supposed to be blocking? There was nobody else out there...

Anyway, whatever problems they were having in the first half, they seemed to fix them in the second half. Which brings me to my next point...

- Great job by Bobo and the offensive staff making adjustments at halftime. Looked to me like we started running to the outside more, as A&M had obviously watched the tape of us against Tech and decided to take that away at all costs, as well as doubling A.J. everywhere he went on the field. So we started using A.J. as more of a decoy and attacked the edges with the running game, until the last drive when we had worn them down to the point where we could just ram it down their throat at will.

- Speaking of A.J., he seemed a bit rusty, which can be expected since he hadn't played in six weeks. Especially on a couple of those deep balls, his timing seemed off and he was having trouble picking up the ball. But he still had six catches, and the first Aron White touchdown was wide open because the deep safety rolled to A.J.'s side and left the middle wide open. A.J. changes the game without even having the ball thrown to him.

- Kudos to Clint Boling...he shut DOWN Von Miller, the nation's sack leader. Boling is one of the most under appreciated players in the country, in my opinion. Over the last few years he has played every position except center, and has been extremely effective everywhere we have lined him up.

- That second half game plan was just MANLY. The running game really opened up the more we were on the field, and it was especially satisfying to see Chapas and Munzenmaier get some love on that last drive.

- Overall, it was a pretty decent offensive performance. We were helped out a lot by the defense and special teams, but we did take advantage of those opportunities with touchdowns, not field goals. I would give the offense a solid B.

DEFENSE:

- The defensive line was DOMINANT. All night. Geno Atkins, Cornelius Washington, and Justin Houston were in the backfield all night, and if Jerrod Johnson wasn't such a great athlete they probably all would have had multiple sacks. Even Brandon Wood showed what he can do when healthy. A&M wasn't able to get a running game going all night, and both of the interceptions were a direct result of pressure being applied on the QB by defensive linemen...most of the time without the benefit of a blitz.

- The linebackers, on the other hand...oof. Poor tackling all night, and the poor pass coverage we have all come to know and loathe. Rennie missing the first quarter didn't help, but even he got into the missed tackle act when h did get in the game.

I will give Rennie credit, though...he made one of the biggest defensive plays of the game when he CREAMED Johnson a yard short of the first down on a third down play in the third quarter. At that time, we were up 24-14, but A&M was driving...Rennie's stop led to them going for it on 4th down, which turned out to be the Sanders Commings interception.

- The secondary was just OK...Reshad Jones continued his tremendous play with another great night. He has really bounced back to have a great year after being so disappointing in 2008. If that was the last time he dons the Red and Black, then kudos to him for going out on a high note.

Speaking of which, Prince Miller also had a nice night...some nice hits on run support and short passes into the flat, and he played nice coverage all night. The one long pass they hit on him was not his fault...he had great coverage and it took a perfect pass and tremendous catch to make the play.

- On the flip side to that...Bryan Evans. I try not to call guys out too much as individuals, but that was just a terrible performance. Missed tackles, blown coverages, etc...I still have no clue why Bacarri Rambo has not seen the field more in the last half of this season, and I'm just glad that I no longer have to try and figure it out.

- The game could have been even more of a blowout if we could have held on to a couple of those sure interceptions. Reshad and Branden Smith both dropped what were probably pick-sixes.

- Lots of talk, obviously, about who the new DC will be. Almost as important is who he will pick to fill out his staff. The secondary, especially, does not appear to be a particularly "coached up" group. It will be interesting to see how they respond to a new voice.

- Overall, the defense held a very high powered offense to only 14 points (I'm not counting the last touchdown...when you have linebackers on the field wearing numbers 64 and 65, it's safe to say you're emptying your bench). For a defense being coached by the D-line coach and two grad assistants, it was a very impressive performance.

Congrats to Coach Garner, Coach Mitch Doolittle, and Coach Todd Hartley. You guys definitely earned a little extra in your Christmas bonus.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

- Do I even need to say it? EVERY single aspect of special teams was dominant. Punt coverage, kick coverage, punt block/return, FG block, kick return...special teams really won that game for us.

- Congrats to Brandon Boykin for setting the SEC record with his third kickoff return for a TD this year. He is a gamechanger, and it's definitely exciting to look forward to what he is going to do to this league over the next couple of seasons.

RANDOM THOUGHTS:

- Boy, Ron Franklin was off, wasn't he? Washaun EARLY, Shaun Chapas playing tight end...he just sounded...old, I guess.

- Best part of the telecast? The Slam Energy Drink commercials. Has there ever been a sadder group of "celebrity" endorsers? Some kicker I never heard of, a female soccer player, Michael W. Smith...man, I'm kind of offended that I didn't get a call. After all, I write a blog that is read by literally TENS of people.

- Great stuff from Rodney Garner in Hale's blog today. He has handled himself with complete class during this whole scenario, and I truly hope he sticks around.

- A big thank you to all of the seniors who played their last game Monday night. They have bled, sweat, and basically worked their butts off for the last 4-5 years and given us hundreds of hours of entertainment. DGD's, every one of them, and I wish them all well in their future endeavors.

Goodbye and good riddance to the 2009 season...can't wait for 2010! When does spring practice start?

GO DAWGS!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This just doesn't get old...

I can not get enough of this.


GO DAWGS!

Monday, December 14, 2009

We interrupt this hiatus to announce another hiatus...

OK, as you can tell, I have gotten off of whatever posting “schedule” that I was ever on…sorry (again) for the intermittent posts. I could give you a long list of excuses, but instead I will just say that I probably won’t be back on a schedule until after the first of the year.

Here’s what I expect will happen, as far as future posts: I will almost definitely have a reaction to whomever the Dawgs get as our next defensive coordinator. I will certainly post some sort of recap to the Independence Bowl, and hopefully a season recap as well. If any big recruiting news breaks, I will likely react to that here as well.

After that, I plan on doing the same type of posting for American Idol and Lost as I did last year…consider yourself warned!

So, here are all of the posts I have been saving up for the past few weeks to tide you over until I get off my lazy butt and start posting regularly again…I’ll warn you ahead of time to pack a lunch. Even by my standards, this is gonna be a long one.

THE TECH GAME

- Maybe the most satisfying win of Coach Richt’s tenure, at least for me. Others may have been more important (the SECCG wins, Auburn ’02, etc), but there is nothing more fun than beating the gnats when they are just SURE that it can’t happen. Add in the fact that so many of them were such turds after the passing of UGA VII, and what happened last year, and the fact that this is supposed to be THE year for them while it’s certainly a down year for us…”sweet” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I also work with a bunch of Techies, and it’s amazing how much better I feel about having to interact with them on a daily basis now vs. how I felt for the past year. Many jokes have been made about how that win “set the universe right” or whatever…there is at least a kernel of truth in that for Dawg fans. I spent the last year simmering with rage every time I passed one of them in the hall…now we can all be friends again. Sort of. Until next year.

- And while it may not have been the MOST important game of Richt’s career, I don’t think you can overemphasize the fact that this win was definitely important. As bad as this season has gone (and a 7-5 season with a blowout loss to a mediocre UT team and a home loss to Kentucky is putrid), can you imagine what the fallout would be from 6-6 with 2 straight losses to the gnats? This game, plus the postgame decisions that showed that he was serious about fixing what went wrong this year, went a long way in restoring confidence in Coach Richt that some had lost.

- Many have asked where that team was all year, especially the running game. I think the resurgence of the running game started about 8 games into the season, and it can be attributed to two factors:

  • Stabilization of the offensive line. Once Sturdivant went down in the opener, the o-line was in a state of flux until around the Tennessee Tech game. Once the current lineup was settled, things really began opening up.
  • Caleb and Washaun got healthy. I think this was the biggest factor. Washaun is a true freshman who missed a lot of camp due to injury, so there was a definite learning curve. Caleb battled hamstring problems and then a broken jaw early in the season. Once these two got healthy enough to share the bulk of the carries (and send Samuel, God bless him, off to learn the linebacker position), the running game became a real threat.

- Overall, it was a best case scenario for me…we beat Tech, but it is not enough to keep from having to make changes. Which brings me to my next point…


THE COACHING CHANGES

- I let you know how I feel about the ongoing search here.

- As far as the actual move goes, I think it absolutely had to happen. There was no way to justify the steady decline in defensive output over the last four years, beginning with the Sugar Bowl debacle against West Virginia. I was still worried that Coach Richt would still find enough excuses to keep his friend around for another year, so I was very happy to see him make the tough move.

And once that decision was made, he decided to give whomever the new DC is the ability to hire his own staff by sending Jancek and Fabris away as well. This was less of a no-brainer for me, especially Fabris and his history of developing NFL-quality defensive ends, but it was probably the right move. Part of what doomed the Tony Franklin experiment at Auburn was the fact that Tubbs didn’t let Franklin bring in his own guys, and the old staff just never bought into his philosophy. If we’re going to go after a big-time DC, then I think a total house cleaning was necessary.

All that being said, I want to publicly thank all three of these guys for their hard work and efforts during their time in Athens. I didn’t always agree with the decisions that they made, but I never doubted that they were trying their best to bring a championship to the Dawgs.

- A couple of interesting notes that have come out in the last couple of days:
  • Nickell Roby, the cornerback out of Frostproof, FL that I think is a MUST get for this class, expressed some concerns right after the decision was made to let Martinez go. Martinez was the coach who recruited him, was going to be his position coach, etc. Robey took his official visit to Athens over the weekend and had some interesting things to say ($), including that Coach Richt told him he was going to hire “somebody that I like”. That sounds to me like maybe Coach Richt might already have an idea who that person will be, especially since…
  • Several reports out of the GALA banquet this past weekend are saying that Coach Richt “has his man”.
I have no idea what any of that means, especially in light of the fact that Kirby Smart was supposedly “in the building” over the weekend. I stand by the fact that I would be shocked (happy, but shocked) if Smart leaves Alabama, but the timing is interesting.

Oh, and also…somebody needs to take Twitter away from David Pollack. If you are following him, you know what I am talking about.

- One more quick note on the Dawgs…the Outback really screwed us by taking Auburn. If not for that, we would most likely be in either Atlanta or Nashville, instead of 5PM on a Monday on ESPN2 in Shreveport.


NON-DAWG SPORTS STUFF

- Did the Falcons build their training facility on some sort of Indian burial ground or something? We are rapidly approaching having to hear for ANOTHER year about how the Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons.

How has this promising season gone wrong? Let us count the ways:
  • Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Harry Douglas, Harvey Dahl, Sam Baker, Jerious Norwood, Todd McClure. All offensive starters, and all have missed significant time due to injury.
  • John Abraham has been MIA all season.
  • Jason Elam has Steve Sax Disease (or Mark Wohlers Disease for you whippersnappers who don’t remember Steve Sax).
  • The defensive secondary is atrocious, just like we all knew it probably would be.
Add all of that up, and what do you get? Probably 8-8, and that’s fairly amazing when you take another look at that list.

- I have no idea what the Braves are doing in their bullpen. We have replaced Soriano and Gonzales with Wagner and Saito…basically the same amount of money, but about 20 years older combined.

Wagner, in particular, concerns me…he’s 38 years old, coming off of Tommy John surgery. It always concerns me when these tiny little power pitchers start having arm trouble. They just have to produce so much torque to get the velocity that they are used to. Would not be at all surprised to see his arm fall off about halfway through the season. Maybe Lowe becomes the closer if we can’t find a taker in the trade market?

Still think the Braves are one big bat away from being contenders, but blowing up their bullpen really doesn’t help.

- I know most of you probably don’t care, but the Hawks are really good, and tons of fun to watch.

It looks like the light has finally come on for Josh Smith…he no longer fancies himself a three point shooter, and is instead going to the basket, attacking the offensive glass, and will probably make the All-NBA defensive team this year with his shot-blocking and skill at getting his hand into passing lanes.

If Jamal Crawford continues what he’s done so far, he will walk away with the Sixth Man award. Seems like he puts up 20 points off the bench every night. And we got him for Speedy Claxton and Acie Law?!?! BWAHAHAHAHA!!

Speaking of things most of you don’t care about…

NON-DAWG, NON-SPORTS STUFF

When I do get back on a regular posting schedule, I will be in all-TV, all the time mode. In fact, many of you who may have found this blog via various Dawgs football sites will probably have a whole different opinion of me once the winter TV season starts.

In that spirit…

Top 5 favorite returning shows I have been watching:

1) Mad Men. I’m counting this one even though the season is over now. Terrific storytelling, amazing writing, perfect acting performances…if you have not been watching this show, do yourself a favor and find copies of the first two seasons and enjoy television as an art form. This season was probably not as fantastic as season 2, but still better than 99% of what else is on.

2) The Office. Still makes me laugh harder than any other show, but can also pull off an episode like “Niagara Falls” that has as many heart-tugging moments as laugh-out-loud funny ones. The best ensemble comedy since Cheers.

3) Fringe. The “weird case of the week” stuff gets sort of pointless and monotonous sometimes (although no show has more cool gross stuff on a weekly basis), but when this show does shows like last week where they focus on the “big picture” story, it’s really superb stuff. Not to mention the fact that those episodes usually focus on the Emmy-worthy performances being turned in by John Noble as the heartbreaking and eccentric Dr. Bishop. Plus, it’s always good to have Pacey around, isn’t it?

4) Big Bang Theory. I just picked this one up about halfway through last season, but I have gone back and watched the entire series. Just when I thought the three camera sitcom with a laugh track was dead, this show comes along and consistently cracks me up. The only drawback is that the laugh track is overused, and it’s a little distracting. But the writing and acting more than make up for it, and Sheldon Cooper is in my top 5 favorite TV characters right now (the others, in case you were wondering: John Locke, Benjamin Linus, Betty Draper, and…Ryan Seacrest).

5) Dollhouse. I know we should consider ourselves lucky that we even got a second season of this Joss Whedon production, considering the abysmal ratings. But the geniuses at Fox really outdid themselves by pairing it with “Til Death” on a Friday night. Regardless, this season (especially the last few episodes) have been television at its best: funny (Topher Brink is hilarious), thought provoking, action filled. And the cast, especially Olivia Williams (Adelle), Enver Gjokaj (Victor), and Fran Kranz (the aforementioned Mr. Brink) have been amazing, along with superb guests Summer Glau and the always fantastic Alan Tudyk.

Honorable mention: The Mentalist, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Amazing Race, How I Met Your Mother


Top 4 favorite NEW shows I am watching:

1) Glee. Now THESE are my people. I watch this show feeling like I am watching home movies. As I’ve said before, I grew up a performing arts geek, and so much of this show is dead-on.

This show doesn’t feature great writing, subtle plot development, or any of the stuff I normally look for in a television show. It’s just FUN. Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester is…well, I can’t think of an adjective that would accurately describe my love for Sue Sylvester. It’s also fun to watch this cast of virtual unknowns (most of them had little to no prior television experience) get a chance to show off every week. And, man, do they show off…the musical performances are outstanding and are prominently featured on my MP3 player.

2) Modern Family. Best new comedy of the season. By FAR. I’m still cracking up about Fizzbo the Clown three weeks later. (People are GOING to stare. They’re not used to seeing only one clown in a car).

3) V. I was looking forward to this show more than any other one besides the very frustrating FlashForward. So far, so good, other than the incredibly annoying and clich├ęd “Teenage Moron” storyline. Alan Tudyk shows up on this one, too, and is his usual awesome self, as well as Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet from Lost) and the perfectly cast Morena Baccarin as the stylish, sexy, slightly murderous and evil leader of The Visitors. Tons of good stuff here, with nods to philosophy, religion, psychology, fascism, etc, etc. I think this one is going to get really good once it comes back from the long winter break, at which point it will be paired with LOST on the ABC schedule.
4) White Collar. Continues a great run of new shows on USA (Burn Notice, Psych, etc). I love how the shows on USA have a kind of “network TV in the ‘80s” feel to them. This is just another fun little show that they are getting really good at producing…likable characters, witty writing, nothing too challenging. The perfect show to tape on Friday night and then watch over breakfast on Saturday.

(Dis)honorable mention: FlashForward. This one has been a big disappointment, but still I keep watching. I feel like maybe the concept is too big to handle on a TV show. I keep thinking of all the ramifications of a blackout wherein the entire world gets a glimpse of the future, and all the cool things they could do with that, and instead...I am just waiting for something to actually HAPPEN. Not to mention that the lead is played by Joseph Fiennes in one of the most excruciatingly boring performances I have ever seen.


- On a semi-related topic, have any of you been watching Sons of Anarchy? If so, would you recommend going back and watching the first couple of seasons?


- One more note…if you are looking for a good book, and your tastes lean towards the slightly geeky (as mine obviously do), I strongly recommend the “Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin. There have been four written so far, and I am about halfway through the fourth one. I would describe it as either Narnia for grownups or a slightly more modern Lord of the Rings.

There is also production being done on a possible HBO series based on the books that I think has the potential to be phenomenal, so by reading the books you can actually be ahead of the curve!


OK, and with that…I am probably gone until the Dawgs DC is hired, unless something comes up that I REALLY want to write about.

Merry Christmas to all of you, and thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The DC search and message board fans

I'm planning a ridiculously long post later as my return to the blogosphere, but I wanted to chime in on the latest "news" regarding our search for a defensive coordinator and the message board reaction to it.

According to UGASports ($), Vic Koenning has....well...maybe, possibly, talked to UGA about the vacant DC position. That's it. But that was enough to send the DawgVent into full-on meltdown mode, because....well...he's not Kirby Smart or Brian VanGorder, I guess?

The guys over at Catfish and Cornbread call it getting "greedy", and that's definitely part of it. It seems a lot of fans think that if we get anybody other than Smart or BVG, then Damon Evans and Coach Richt have somehow failed the program and the fan base. Of course, I would be happy to get either one of those guys (especially BVG...I would like to see Kirby do it somewhere other than Saban's staff before I anoint him as some sort of defensive genius), and I'm sure Damon and CMR would love to get someone of their caliber as well. But just WANTING them to come here doesn't mean that it's going to happen.

Brian VanGorder has never made any secret of the fact that he wants to be in the NFL...he left us to take a LB coach spot with the Jacksonville Jaguars, for crying out loud. I remember many Dawg fans (including myself) who looked at that as a step DOWN at the time, but he was willing to take it because he wanted to be in the NFL, and also to help him in his pursuit of a head coaching position. Why would he leave the NFL, where he is building a reputation by getting more out of less than just about anybody else in the league, to come back to a position he left five years ago? This is an obviously ambitious guy...why would he choose to go backwards in his career path?

Kirby Smart is a young, up and coming assistant coach. He is currently in a situation where he is the defensive coordinator at a national power who is about to play for the National Championship. He heads up what is widely considered to be the best defense in the country. He is learning from one of the most respected defensive minds in all of football, who is also the guy who has hired him and promoted him to every major job he's ever had. Why would he leave that situation to come to a place where he will be in a rebuilding mode? Yes, he would be coming "home"...but if I were him, I'd probably feel more loyalty to Saban at this point than to UGA, simply due to the way Saban has taken care of him and shown loyalty to him during his career. Yes, he could maybe enhance his reputation by coaching somewhere other than Saban's staff, but he just won the Frank Broyles Award...apparently his reputation is in pretty good shape. By staying at Alabama, he is set up for success and probably a head coaching job in the forseeable future, if that's the direction he wants to go. At UGA, he would still be in a very good job, but one that is not near the sure thing that he has by staying put.

My point (and I do have one) is that if these guys don't leave their current job to come to Athens, it doesn't constitute some "failure" on the part of Evans and Richt. What are they supposed to do, club them over the head and drag them back to Athens with them? Chloroform them and throw them in the trunk?

The Dawg fan base has been screaming for us to go in a different direction on the defense for at least the last year plus, some even longer than that. So now that we are, a lot of those same fans are pissing and moaning because we can't talk ambitious guys who are in very good positions to step into a situation that , by these own fans' admission, is going to take a good bit of work to fix.

Can't we at least give whomever the new DC is a chance to see what he can do before we turn on him and rip him to shreds?

And another thing...if people think that recruits and even potential coaches don't read message boards, they're fooling themselves. What kind of message is currently being sent when people are going nuclear on a coach that hasn't even been HIRED yet, much less shown up in Athens?

If it IS Vic Koenning, I'm going to support him with everything that I have. If it's Ty Nix, same thing. If it's Coach X, SAME THING. As soon as they take the job, they become Dawgs, and they will immediately start working on making this team better, and their job will be a lot easier if we aren't scaring potential recruits and assistants away by being jackholes.

By the way, Georgia Sports Blog points out that Koenning has a pretty good track record in the time before he got to Kansas State. And I don't think he has the talent at Kansas State that he would have at UGA, and he hasn't even been in that job long enough to make an educated judgment.

But since when do message board "fans" make educated judgments anyway?