Dogs vs. Cats - With new life, after LSU win over USC, can 2012 team reboot, reload and restart?
by Travis Ragsdale
photo by Rob Saye
After another disappointing loss at the hands of Steve Spurrier, the Dawgs are in need of a morale victory. Luckily, they’re playing perhaps the cellar dweller of the SEC this year in Kentucky. The Cats were just thrashed and gashed by an Arkansas team this past week that has been struggling to find any sort of peace after a tremulous off-season. Now, Kentucky seeks its first SEC win of 2012 against the Dawgs. On paper, it seems like an easy task for Georgia but it’s far from that.
Reboot! Hope Remains
Nobody in the Bulldog nation was happy with the outcome of the game in Columbia. Expectations were high but they came to a screeching halt. But the season is not close to being over. With LSU taking care of the Gamecocks, the Dawgs still have a chance to make it back to Atlanta but that means they have to take care of business the rest of the way through the season. Kentucky has struggled all year but don’t forget the 2009 season. The Dawgs were expected to trounce the Wildcats but ended up coughing up hairball with a 27-34. Georgia didn’t win another game that year. If the Dawgs have hope of getting back to Atlanta, it has to start this week. Players and fans alike had a lot of hope that this would finally be the undefeated Georgia had so longed for under Coach Richt. It turned out not to be, and now there are new objectives; the first one is getting through Lexington unscathed.
Reload! Offense needs to get back on track
After scoring at least 40 points a game through week number five, Georgia’s offense
fell flat on it’s face against Carolina. No doubt, the Gamecock’s defense is stout
but the Dawgs laid an egg as well. This week should be different with Kentucky’s D
ranking at or near the bottom in almost all statistical categories for the SEC. Already
they are giving up an average of over 30 points a game and nearly 400 yards of total
offense. Ironically though, the Wildcats are quite good at creating takeaways. This
leads most to believe that coaches have decided that the defense is not god enough to
sit back and play with SEC offenses. The solution is to coach their players to be extremely
aggressive and try to force turnovers even if they aren’t there. This means
linebackers stripping the ball from the running back instead of tackling; it means defensive
backs attempting to jump routes and getting burned by receivers with a good
double move. This could spell either disaster or triumph for Aaron Murray and the offense.
Georgia has watched plenty of film of this during the past two weeks and will
be prepared for it. Expect the Dawgs to come out and pound the ball between the
tackles early and then go over top with play-action against this over-aggressive Cat defense.
Restart! Time to buckle down on defense
South Carolina exploded in the first half against Georgia’s defense. Much of this
was due to the fact they were clearly unprepared for the type of running ability of
Connor Shaw. If it was 3rd and 6, it was easy to call what was going to happen. South
Carolina in the shotgun, Shaw takes the snap, no receivers open, Shaw takes off and
runs for a gain of 8. First down, Carolina. Georgia was just unable to stop it or make
any adjustments. Depending on who will start at QB for Kentucky, this could once
again be a problem. It’s been a carousal at the quarterback position with freshman
Jalen Whitlow taking the reigns this past weekend. This is the guy the Dawgs need to
worry about. He is the definition of a dual-threat quarterback and can‘t be taken
lightly just because of the fact he’s a freshman. Georgia could also see Morgan Newton.
Newton is an interesting story. In 2009, he was named to the SEC All-Freshmen
team, but since his stock has dropped like a rock and he’s now number three on the
depth chart after suffering a shoulder injury last fall. Maxwell Smith is another candidate
to get snaps. He started all five games leading up to this past weekend before
Whitlow took over because of Smith’s issues with the turnover bug. It really doesn’t
matter who it is, the Dawgs have to be prepared and know that Kentucky’s offense
runs through the QB. You won’t see any crazy gimmicks or any sneaky plays, it’s a simple
offense but if their quarterback isn’t accurate, they don’t have a very strong running
game to fall back on and could end up being a long, long night.
Lexington isn’t exactly the most intimidating place to play and after dealing with
Columbia, the Dawgs are going to feel like they are playing football in a library Saturday.
Still, it is an away game and not the cozy confines of Sanford so Georgia needs
to prepare hard nonetheless. Georgia can’t let this be a let down game either. Pundits
talk about let down games after big wins but rarely is it ever mentioned that let downs
can come after big losses as well. It depends on what the make-up of this Georgia
team is. Do they have fight? Then they’ll come out Saturday and maybe play the best
they have all year. Did that loss in Columbia completely demoralize the squad? If
that’s the case, then this game is going to be way too close for comfort. This could also
be one of those “playing for a job” type games for Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips.
He took over in 2010 and has led Kentucky to a couple of bowl games since but it
seems the team has digressed quite a bit this year. He probably needs a signature win
against a ranked team to inspire his players and keep folks in the athletic association
happy. Make no mistake; Georgia has a big target on their back this weekend.