Willie Martinez (Image: Jim Hipple)
I noticed on the message boards and in the comments section of this blog some heavy blame for the loss coming Willie Martinez's way. I'm the last guy to tell you our defense doesn't have areas that need improvement, but I took a closer look at some of the stats.
In some ways, the stats emphasize what the scoreboard says...if you only allow 16 points, you should win. The stats also point to more problems with our offense than defense by a long shot. But let's look at the numbers first.
(Preface: "Meaningful Drive" is my own term. It simply means all the drives of the game except the single play knee downs to end of both halves South Carolina. All other stats are driven off the concept of "meaningful" drives. Thus the "*"):
| UGA|| SC|
|Total Offense*||341|| 320|
|Yards / Play*||4.2||4.8|
|Yards / Drive*||28.4||29.1|
|Plays / Drive*||6.75||6.0|
|3rd Down Conversions||3-18||1-11|
|"Three and Out"||2||3|
Stats can obviously be misleading, but some things jump off the page. First is the third down conversion stat. I had no idea that we held them to 1 of 11 on third down. Also, I was shocked to see that their average number of plays per drive and average number of yards per play was virtually identical to ours overall.
However, when you remove the statistical outliers of their biggest offensive play (McKinley's 31 yard reception) and our biggest offensive play (Moreno's 49 yard run) here's what you get for yards per play:
- UGA - 3.65 yards / play (without the outlier)
SC - 4.4 yards / play (without the outlier)
The defense isn't all sunshine obviously:
- Time of possession on meaningful drives was roughly a 1 minute advantage for UGA. So our defense shouldn't have been as dog tired as they looked at the end to my obviously untrained eye.
- Three of the five longest Gamecock runs of the night came on the first three plays of the their final possession when UGA was mystifyingly in a nickel package. After those first three runs (totaling 38 yards and basically putting us in a horrible field position and cutting our comeback drive's chances way, way down), Martinez pulled the extra DB out, brought Brandon Miller back into the game and rolled a Safety towards the line of scrimmage. From there we stoned them. My question: What the heck did Coach Martinez think they were going to do with 4 minutes left and a 4 point lead?
In my opinion, we lost because we couldn't move the ball, and we didn't make plays when it mattered most. The big coaching blunders were (in no particular order):
- The 4th down rooskie call. There's a reason Richt has never called that play on 4th down. Bad call by Bobo. But it's not why we lost. Just a glaring thing that didn't go our way.
- Going to the nickel at the end in a clear running situation for SC.
- Really bizarre substitution patterns in the 4th quarter at WR. As Buck Belue said last night on the CSS Dawg Report show, (paraphrase) "Why is 5'8" Mikey Henderson running a fade route in the end zone against a 6'0" cornerback. That's Massaquaoi's play to make." We need our play making wide outs in the game in the right formations with the game on the line."
- Coming out flat. In my opinion, they looked very flat in the first half. Richt also felt that this was the case based on his post-game comments
In spite of all the negative, we were still just 1 or 2 plays from winning the game. In my opinion, it's not a talent problem this season. It's a maturity / execution problem. We are exactly what Richt said we were preseason. A young, talented team that should be really good later in the season. The entire question is will they get experienced enough, fast enough to avoid falling into a hole early that's too big to climb out of later.
I thought this was a 9-3 season before. Still do.
-- Play by Play - ESPN
-- Drive Chart - Yahoo Sports
-- Box Score - ESPN