In all of the kvelling that will likely take place in the Dawg Nation in the next two weeks, this picture ought to say a thousand words. Florida, despite their struggles against Alabama and LSU, was and is a good football team with a major psychological advantage when they play Georgia in Jacksonville. Georgia was going into the game with its quarterback and best defensive tackle, both of whom are captains, on the shelf. In those circumstances, it isn't that surprising that the Dawgs came up short. If Shockley gets healthy and Georgia takes care of business against Auburn, then they'll head to Atlanta, probably at 10-1. Who wouldn't have taken that result at the start of the season?
Now, after getting off to a positive start, it's time for the recriminations:
1. Not since watching an ESPN Classic Replay of Michigan in the 1/1/77 Rose Bowl have I seen a team trail in the final two minutes and still insist on play action on every passing down. In Michigan's case, it was because they didn't have any passing plays that were not play action. I'm pretty sure that that is not true for Mark Richt's offense, so what in the world was Georgia doing running play action in the final three minutes of the game. JTIII already had trouble reading the defense and making accurate throws; why make his life more difficult by keeping his eyes on a running back instead of the secondary for the first part of a passing play? Steve Spurrier always hated the shotgun because it takes the quarterback's eyes off the coverage when he's getting the snap. Play action is even more pronounced in this respect.
2. I thought that Georgia had a good chance to win the game primarily because their defense would take care of Florida's offense and to a certain extent, they did by holding the Gators to 14 points and 261 yards, although Florida might have been more effective on offense if they wouldn't have been playing with the lead for the entire game. (Also, Georgia was fortunate to have only allowed 14 points at halftime because of the unforced fumble by DeShawn Wynn that deprived the Gators of a chance to really salt the game away at the end of the second quarter.) My second reason was the fact that teams often rally around a back-up quarterback and play well for a game or two before reality sets in. This, however, was not the case for Georgia. From their first offensive snap of the game, which ended with Martrez Milner dropping, to their last, which ended with JTIII having to throw the ball up under pressure because his line full of juniors and seniors could not protect him, the rest of the offense didn't make up for Shockley's absence. The line and receivers needed to exceed their norms on Saturday and they failed to do so.
3. On the next-to-last drive, did anyone else get the sense that Mohammed Massaquoi came fairly close to becoming Lindsey Scott, Jr.? Absent the intervention of Jarvis Herring (I think it was Jarvis who made the tackle,) Massaquoi might have scored on that wide receiver screen. And wouldn't it have been amusing if the play that Georgia fans have grown to revile because of its overuse would have saved the team in the biggest game of the season.
4. Up until the last drive when it was obvious that Georgia would be throwing, Mark Richt called pass plays on five first and tens. JTIII's stats on those plays: 3/5 for 40 yards and one drop by Milner. On the rest of his passes, JTIII was 5/16 for 60 yards and one pick. Seems to me that the better strategy for the offense, given a shaky quarterback, would have been to have him throw in non-obvious passing downs.
5. It's interesting that Florida got their biggest win of the year when they completely abandoned the option. On the other hand, they didn't win because of their offense, so maybe we shouldn't read too much into the change in Urban Meyer's offensive strategy.