Commentary: Bulldogs recap in my own words
Brad Stephens brings his own Southern flavored sports perspective and humor to Bartow Sports Zone. He is a Bartow County native and has his own law office in Cartersville, but he's mostly a Georgia Bulldogs' football fan.
There’s an old adage: “Lightning never strikes in the same place twice.”
Well, that may be true but it struck close enough to end the festivities in Athens before the final horn could sound. As my grandmother used to say, “them boys got in a cloud,” As the thunder rumbled on the horizon. Georgia and Louisiana-Monroe’s matchup lasted far longer than anticipated and the coaches made the right call to end it. You could even see the refs nodding and I read their minds – “hurry up, so we can get to the Cracker Barrel out by 316.”
Mercifully so for the Warhawks, who appeared to be on their way to giving up 60 points and possibly getting their quarterback, Garrett Smith, killed before their conference schedule begins. As good as Smith played, 51-14 was insurmountable and the Warhawks just punted the ball back to the Dawgs when the game was called. Give Smith all the credit, he can take a lick. The guy just kept getting up after Lorenzo Carter, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins pummeled him, play after play.
He looked like those old quarterbacks from the 1970’s NFL Films – tattered jersey, pants smothered in mud and blood, limping around trying to find the open man before getting waylaid by a man twice his size. He was so old school, I was fully prepared to see Smith smoking a cigarette on the sideline between possessions. His gutsy play will suit ULM well and I foresee a great season for them in the Sun Belt conference.
The Dawgs have some kinks to work out but overall, I feel like the day was a rousing success. Greyson Lambert managed the offense well in his debut, no turnovers and no silly mistakes. He did a great job handing the ball to Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall, who received the loudest ovation of anyone all day. After missing 18 of the last 26 games, seeing Marshall out there in old form was cheese grits for the soul. (yeah, yeah…I know it’s supposed to be “chicken soup” but this is Georgia.)
In fact, I have only heard three louder ovations in Athens in recent years:
Bacarri Rambo being carted off the field against Auburn in 2009 after saving the game with a huge hit on Mario Fannin at the goal line
Todd Gurley’s return from being suspended by the NCAA (National Corporation of Arbitrary Action) for earning money from his own name and accomplishments
When the Jumbotron does that silly “Hide the McDonald’s fries” thing with UGA’s face. I seriously cannot grasp why fans get into this. Grown men are beside themselves when they guess correctly and everyone screams in joyous adulation when the fries appear behind the UGA face they selected. It is BEYOND ME.
Georgia’s running game looked to be in mid-season form, it just took a few minutes to rev up the engine. The offensive play-calling was vanilla, as Richt is wont to do against opponents from smaller conferences. I know Bryan Schottenheimer is the offensive coordinator but the Dawgs of the Richt era always do this. No sweeps, very little play action, a couple of deep balls to keep the defense honest and that was about it. Richt is as likely to show his hand in these games as I am to eat Hunt’s ketchup and choose Pepsi over Coca-Cola. It ain’t happening, y’all.
Nick Chubb and Sony Michel performed well, one could tell they were ready to hit someone other than their teammates. Chubb was dragging defenders downfield and may have said ten words all game. One ULM defender got in Nick’s face to talk trash at one point and within seconds, he was patting Nick on the shoulder. Nick obviously said, “I’m from Cedartown,” which caused the wayward Warhawk to step away before he was consumed by Polk County’s finest. Still water runs deep – that is a saying that applies to Nick Chubb in every facet of life. When he scores a touchdown, he acts like he just turned in homework.
Michel runs between the tackles with the abandon of a seagull diving in for somebody’s unguarded sandwich at St. Simon’s Island. As one of my friends put it, “Sony Michel has two small children for arms.” The weight room clearly got its rent from Sony this summer. Marshall appeared to be much thicker as well, a testament to his work ethic and new strength coach, Mark Hocke. With the new physique and awesome dreadlocks, Marshall has a new edge to him that I like.
The receivers and tight ends did a great job of getting open. Terry Godwin grabbed the first catches of his career. Malcolm Mitchell displayed his ability with a leaping grab for a touchdown and breaking tackles in the open field on a couple of other plays. Jeb Blazevich got in the mix with a touchdown, starting this season right where he left off. Lambert has plenty of options and the uncertainty before the game subsided with each completion.
Jeremy Pruitt’s defense was stingy until the end of the first half and into the third quarter. The foot came off the gas (another trademark of the Richt era, sadly) and the Warhawks started moving the ball, causing murmurs in the stands and me wanting that bottle of Maalox I was saving for special teams. However, after the first lightning delay, the team came out motivated and ready to battle again. This cannot happen against the Head Ball Coach, despite South Carolina’s abysmal offensive performance against North Carolina on Thursday night.
Special teams deserves many pats on the back. Collin Barber and Marshall Morgan punted and kicked off like the football stole their girlfriend and Tweeted about it. True freshman D’Andre Walker blocked a punt into the end zone for a safety. The Warhawks had no kick returns of note and spent much of the day backed up near their own goal line. The “Heart Attack Kids,” as I came to call them, allowed me to leave that bottle of Maalox in the medicine cabinet this week.
In fact, the special teams players probably had more to fear from Coach Mike Ekeler, who was going wild on the sidelines all game. He was hip-bumping, fist-pumping and running up and down the field like he was a gunner on the kickoff team. Thank goodness headsets have gone wireless because any manager carrying Ekeler’s cord would be in the hospital today. That energy is contagious and personally, I think the Dawgs need someone like Ekeler to counterbalance Richt’s reserved nature.
The next opponent is Vanderbilt, who lost to Western Kentucky in a game where the Commodores were underdogs. Let that sink in for a minute. Vandy lost to a directional school that has a red blob for a mascot. They have returned to the doldrums of old, hoping only to ruin someone’s season rather than make a bowl game.
If there’s any consolation for Vandy, the man who caused their downfall lost to Temple yesterday. James Franklin left town for Happy Valley and the program has been in shambles ever since. Dawgs win big in Nashville and get ready for Steve Spurrier and his visor to come to town. No amount of lightning can stop Spurrier’s hatred of Georgia and the Dawgs better be ready for a war.