Saturday, September 12, 2015

Keys to commanding the Commodores

I think Groo pretty much nailed it:
Georgia showed some progress on special teams in the opener – kickoffs were usually boomed into the endzone, coverage was effective, and punt returns were uneventful. Georgia got to one punt and affected another. The day was a win for special teams. If we get more of that in Nashville, Georgia should win comfortably. After the special teams disasters of the past two games in Nashville, it’ll be a positive development if special teams are just a non-factor.
Nothing can swing a tackle football game like a big play on special teams and turnovers. So protect the ball and execute each and every task effectively in kicking situations and we should have a nice afternoon on Uncle Verne’s lap.
Get sloppy and it has too much potential to be a long drive back home to Desperation Town.

PS. Follow me on Periscope, and/or Twitters. If I remember I’ll post some sights and sounds from the game at Vanderbilt Stadium, where we’ll be wearing red. Go Dawgs!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Misery - "targeting" "deep water"

If this post were just a couple pop-up pictures...

But since true misery is best conveyed through words...

Rare Road Reds vs Fake juice
The thrill of leaving the car flags at full mast while parked on streets in non-706 area codes. The smell of cooked meat in enemy territory. The sound of the Redcoats against a backdrop filled with less glorious colors. The vision of the cheerleaders waving that enormous Power G flag in the other team’s endzone.

The white jerseys on the backs of the Dawgs as they sprint out onto the field.

Not this week. With CBSSports, SEC Network, and even more referees with pockets full of Targeting gift cards coming into town, the Vanderbilt Commodores have alternate home uniforms hung in their lockers.

They’re cute aren't they? Even though they're whitish. Maybe a light gray. Probably both whitish and grayish.

Goddamit! Why in the holy hell am I typing about colors? Just the thought puts me back on a MARTA train with Nama and a cooler full of bourbon, ready to play an orange and blue team not named florida in Halloween costumes that Nike designed.

Yes, Clem is right. BIGTEAMlittleme. I need to let it go. But not before making a phone call to get some clarification.

/opens Nashville area phone book
/hums some tunes over Ryman’s digits
/doesn’t find a number for greater Nashville Port Authority
/or Navy base
/figures there’s someone smart at the end of a Vanderbilt line

Anchored down in deep words
“Hello, Vanderbilt University intramural sports, geological engineering, Greek literature, athletic chancelloric office, and Museum of Railroading. How may I assist you this morning?”
“Yes. We're driving up from Athens for the game this weekend. Do I need to ask permission to tailgate?”
“I...I don’t think I follow.”
“I heard this summer that y’all don’t have to ask permission. I’m just wondering if visitors have to ask permission??”
“Please, call me Bernie.”
“Uh, Bernie, tailgating is allowed in designated spots.”
“Great! Glad I called in advance. it imperative that we anchor down, or is a parking brake sufficient?”
“Is this the gentleman that called a couple years ago?”
“No, that was Tyler. The wife and I will be driving a car into Nashville, not a boat. Plus, we prefer not to be anchored when we hunker. If you catch my drift.”
“I’m afraid that I do not and I have someone on the other line, so…”
“Oh, that’s my wife. She has lots of opinions on this Deep Water idea. Can you go into greater, you know, depth?”
“Let me transfer you to our PR department…”


“Vanderbilt University graduate admissions, plant services, divinity school, public relations, and Museum of the Absurdly Rich and also Al Gore, where our word for the day is sesquipedalianism. With what directive may I divert your telephonic communication?”
“Oh! Word games! Lemme go first...What’s the first thing you think of when I say Deep Water?!?”
“Excuse me?”
“Yes! Me too. I’m all ‘Excuse me, but what the hell does that even mean Comrade’ and then you’re all like ‘But check out these uniforms!’...Oh wait, bigger words that make you look smarter...and then you’re all like ‘However please examine our improved accouterments!”
“No, please. Bernie.”
“Bernie? Are you related to Tyler?”
“If you mean are he and I analogous, yes. ‘Commit to the G Dawg!” But if you intend to question our familial relations, no. We are brothers from different mothers. Now, back to deep water. My wife would like to know it we’ll need ear plugs?”
“Uh, our band is not that loud sir, um Bernie.”
“Band? No, not the Kansas State thing. And wouldn’t the reference there be ‘Hot Water’? I’m referring to the thematic backdrop y’all’re rolling out for Uncle Verne and Company this weekend.”
“It’s just a uniform sir.”
“Just a uniform? Wow. How very unpretentious of you.”

Okay, let us bow our heads. Dear Little Baby Jesus, please let the referees’ arms fall as limp as James Franklin during a Cialis commercial tomorrow. And also let the WolfPack exact some revenge for the way our great American Robbie Caldwell was treated. And we pray their quarterbacker’s insurance premium is not past due. 

Go Dawgs!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Looking for Sakerlina tickets?

Saw a brief drop in Gamecock tickets earlier this week, but looks like the ones our official broker had that were below $100 have been purchased. Have heard a lot of people looking for extras after the ones South Carolina returned were snatched up. And for those unwilling to pay the ultra premium that a UGA-Bama ticket will likely cost, the South Carolina game is one many have circled as the game to catch this season.

And I don't expect these tickets to drop again, mostly because both Georgia and South Carolina should take care of Vanderbilt and Kentucky respectively this weekend. The Wildcats may be improved this season, but how much improved is still a matter of debate. And an evening game at Willy-Brice is a tall task, as Dawg fans can attest.

So I scanned the offerings and there are some good seats at a good value for this SEC East tilt. Upper level starts at $121, and there are many lower level seats for just a few bucks more. One in section 122 for $143 and other singles that range up to $184. A pair of tickets in the lower level will cost you just under $200/each.

Normally I wouldn't find these prices newsworthy. But given that the home schedule has but a couple of games that are compelling and this may be the only affordable with a chance at Sanford under the lights, thought I'd pass the info along. The more Dawg fans at this game the better, right?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Schotty's signals are Belichick proof

Reading this long piece on the tradition of cheating within the New England Patriots organization reminded me that our new offensive coordinator has crossed paths with the head coach behind Spygate and Deflategate - Bill Belichick.

Of course, the Patriots are most known for stealing (or at least going to great lengths in attempting to steal) defensive signals. But it reminded me that one change on the sideline Saturday was seeing FOUR guys sending in signals to Lambert and Ramsey. I'm sure you saw them too because they were wearing neon yellow hats and armbands. Here's a picture from Radi Nabulsi's gallery:

I'm not sure which of them sent the actual signal in and which of them had the dummy signals, but this is right after they said to hand the ball to 27.

Anyway, I hate pro sports as much as the next guy. But read that piece on the Patriots. It's like a soap opera with all the spurned alliances and covert undermining of authority. But without the makeout scenes.

ULM rewatch - the defense

You know, I had another long recap post on the defense. I went into substitutions and the two touchdowns and was starting to delve into what it all could mean moving forward into SEC play.

But that's really unnecessary. I felt good hitting <PUBLISH> on the special teams post because just the energy into all the punting and the kicking and the coverage and the blocking is such a stark contrast from recent years. And I felt good with the offensive post because I think it's important to look at the new quarterback and the talent that surrounds him.

But the defense, well...let's just say it was Saturday, in Athens!


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Screw Florida and the mule they came in here on!"

Seen this gem making the rounds today as a way of remembering Coach Erk Russell. I'd be remiss if I didn't add it here.

Erk Russell Wins the Game Ball in 1980 from The UGA Vault on Vimeo.

God bless Erk! GATA! (h/t Heath)

ULM rewatch - the offense

Vanilla. Plain. Ho-hum.

That’s how many are describing the offensive (and defensive for that matter, which we’ll get to next) performance Saturday. For those who use those descriptions in a critical manner, I’m not really sure what they were expecting to see.

Afforded the opportunity to rewatch the play selection, line blocking, running backs’ decision, downfield blocking, and of course the quarterback play, I was looking mostly for fine details to mention and discuss. Every running play was virtually the same. And passing downs, what few there were, evolved as an exercise in caution.

But there was a lot that can be gleaned regardless. Let’s start with the line of scrimmage.

The offensive line didn’t come out of the gate with bad intentions. But Sale’s group dominated ULM’s front overall. The only concern I saw was when we moved Kublanow over to guard. He may have had a costly penalty for a chop block (I believe), but the line was better with him at center for sure. Pass protection was good. The couple times Lambert was rushed was more due to downfield coverage. And the lanes Chubb, Michel, and Marshall had were reminiscent of last season against Auburn and Louisville.

I’d forgotten how nice it is to have an experienced returning offensive line to start the season.

The running backs were as advertised of course. There really wasn’t much of a surprise here. The only exception might be that we were treated to what it looks like to have three healthy backs that would probably be starters for most other teams. Marshall ran with confidence and the kind of power we may have forgotten he had. His first touchdown wasn’t due to blocking as much as his sheer determination to get in the endzone. And Michel showed plenty of power between the tackles too, moving the pile forward a few times for extra yards.

The only disappointment may have been not getting Turman in the game before it was called. Oh well.

It might be easy to gloss over the receivers as they did not get much in the way of stats. But the truth is they got plenty of work. Mitchell was putting on a clinic blocking, and both he and Blazevich made great catches for scores. Godwin showed us how his speed and athleticism can lead to separation from defenders. He’s going to be fun to watch develop once he’s out of the doghouse for that non-fumble.

Ok, the quarterbacks. Again, to me it was clear why he was named the starter as he just looked more poised. But the main thing is the offense was just better with him out there. You’re probably pointing to the one drive Ramsey had, and you’re right. Not much to go on and Bauta didn’t even get in the game.

But, I saw something Lambert did that Ramsey didn’t, and that was change the play at the line of scrimmage. We were running so many times between the tackles that it was repeatedly an easy call for ULM to blitz up the middle. Lambert looked like he audibled into a better run on Chubb’s second score; Ramsey should have done the same on the sack he took. There were just too many defenders for the center and Keith Marshall to contain.

As I said Sunday, I hesitate to put too much on this one (almost complete) game. But there was enough there to go on, with Lambert’s day in particular, to frame what we might see going forward. And that’s that Lambert has taken better overall control of the offense. Just as I was pleased to see Ramsey make a great touch pass to Michel on the screen, I was even more pleased to see Lambert throw the ball where defenders had minimal (if any at all) chance of putting a hand on it.

Just as it will for the season, the running game set the tone Saturday. Eventually we’ll have a game where the passing game will need to win one for us. Nothing I saw from this “vanilla” version of Schottenheimer’s first game leads me to feel uncomfortable about where this offense is heading.

Here's hoping we get to see all three quarterbacks in Nashville.

ULM rewatch - special teams

So after each game I enjoy rewatching the televised version. From our seats it’s easy to pick out safety and cornerback play. Watching the game on television it’s easier to see how the offensive and defensive lines performed. So both give a great overall picture of what was good, bad, and ugly. And after rewatching the opener against the Warhawks I decided there was enough that I missed in my initial thoughts to break this up into a post on the offense, one on the defense, and one on the special teams. Let’s start with the latter.

I’ll refrain from continuing to gush over Collin Barber. But you have to be excited about what you saw from his punting - four punts for a 43.75 average, no returns, with two punts that were beautifully angled coffin corners. And the kickoffs! Barber kicked off a total of six times and four were touchbacks. Morgan’s season average last year for touchbacks was 31%.

Ok, I’ll stop. I promised.

Because it wasn’t just Barber of course. Two blocked punts is all you need to see to realize the renewed enthusiasm for special teams. You can hear it in Richt’s statements as well to affirm that this phase of the game is being given its due attention.

Ryne Rankin was a force on kick/punt coverage. Lorenzo Carter and D’Andre Walker were rushing the punter with a focused intensity on beating the snap to the punter’s hands. Seeing it both live and on the rewatch confirmed how much we were dead set on attacking their wide splits in punt formation. When they squibbed the kickoff, our “up men” weren’t baffled. Keith Marshall sprinted ahead of Reggie Davis to make a key block on a kick return that lead to another 6-7 yards.

A lot of that points to an increase in team speed, especially when you consider in years past we wouldn’t have dreamed of using the likes of Leonard Floyd on punt teams. And team speed is better overall this year. You could see that in all phases of the game.

Maybe some of that was the opponent, sure. But there’s more attention to detail in special teams. The sideline is paying greater attention to what’s going on during fourth down plays now and not just going through the motions. Coach Ekeler body bumped Rankin so hard after a special teams tackle that Rankin tumbled to the ground.

About the only thing we didn’t see was Isaiah McKenzie on punt return. Some have made a big deal of that, mostly because he did run some routes on offense. I would suspect this was just precautionary and we’ll see more of him juking and jiving his way through a punt return sooner rather than later.

Overall I'd have to give special teams an A for Saturday. It was an easy grade to give. And almost as much of a delight as watching it play out before my eyes.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday's Thoughts on lightning striking twice...somewhere.

I remember walking toward Sanford Stadium before the ASU game a few years back, right when that super cell storm came down Baxter Hill, and hearing over the loud speaker that you shouldn't come into the stadium and should seek shelter and please exit in an orderly fashion. That was cool, because the students largely ignored the announcements and the storms largely moved out.

Yesterday was just plain annoying. You wait and wait and wait for the season to get here. You cram an awesome tailgate into the few hours you've been allowed. You get to the stadium in time to hear the trumpet. And your reward is to wait out Mother Nature's obnoxiousness.

Maybe that sounds like sour grapes, especially to those of you that stayed at home. And yes, I realize that the safety for all involved was driving those important decisions.

Good. Seriously, awesome. But damn. What a craptastic way to usher in the season.


- Of all the storylines you may read today, all of the ones that draw all of the angles towards a good feel good favorite part of Saturday was watching Collin Barber. Because he was electric. He punted with authority. And he kicked off WITH AUTHORITY!!! But he was also showing a lot of emotion. Like many other players (who were seeing the field a LOT more than Barber was) he was fully into the game. Dancing. Jumping up and down. Just flat out pumped up!
- Barber is back. I've been critical, but I should point out that he was my favorite player yesterday. Punting and kicking may not have affected the eventual outcome of the game, but seeing him fired up and executing to such a high degree was quite the relief. Like so many of his teammates, Barber got after that ass!
- Man oh man did the Warhawks have trouble with the snap of the ball. I mean it was like the football was covered in butter and the quarterback and punters were all wearing rubber gloves.
- The defense did its job, but the second intermission really helped didn't it?
- Other than that, a very vanilla defense gave up a lot of yards (as well as some points) to a bad offense. I expect a lot less vanilla next week in Nashville.
- Wow. Leonard Floyd y'all. Damn, just damn. What a beautiful freak of nature!
- Overall, defensively, I like the way we lined up with authority. Maybe watching Louisville's defense against Auburn when I got home reminded me of those years where we'd have linebackers and defensive backs (and fans...) raise their confused hands towards the sideline. But, even though we gave up some yards, the defense appeared ready and prepared.
- Plus, Pruitt was very committed to a base defense and generating a rush naturally.
- Similar analysis for the offense actually. Very plain. Every run was between the tackles with very little challenge of the edge blocking and such. Even when UL Monroe continually blitzed up the middle.
- That's all we needed. Even though we ran Chubb much more than I anticipated, Schottenheimer kept everything close to the vest.
- I thought Lambert looked good. I hesitate to use any other word to describe him, because it was UL Monroe.
- But it was abundantly clear why he was named the starter last week. He was decisive in his progressions and made very good throws. Plus, he audibled into some plays that I can't recall Ramsey doing before (albeit in a very limited scope of work). Most notably, Chubb's second touchdown run.
- My offensive MVP though would have to be Malcolm Mitchell. How could I forget how much of a difference maker he is when he's healthy? Plus, MM put on a clinic for downfield blocking. He made two, TWO, key blocks on Ramsey's screen pass to Michel that went the distance.

Overall, it was about what we expected: a dominant performance with just enough flaws for us to analyze and pore over this next week. I'm pleased enough with Lambert and very happy with what I saw from Keith Marshall, our special teams, the offensive line, the linebackers, and the receivers.

Let's exorcize some demons next week in Nashville. Go Dawgs!