Well….we are 7-2. If I told you nothing but that after the weekend, all of Bulldog nation would be happy with hearing this news. Unfortunately, we had to play a game to get to 7-2 and it was not a good one for the Dawgs. We were very fortunate to come out of this game with a win much less by double digits as UMass gave us all we could handle up until about 5 mins left in the game. I heard and read many people and media members saying this was your typical let down game after a huge road win and also a big look ahead week with Bama coming to town shortly. I am here to say….this is all true. HOWEVER, I do not care. We are a program who is on the rise and playing sound football for the most part this season. Tight home games against UMass should not be happening at this point. RANT OVER. Let’s take a look at some of the Good, Bad, and Ugly:
· Logan Cooke looked very solid. Yeah that’s how I am starting this off this week. On a serious note, Cooke is having a very solid year and having a good week before Bama is very important. He might be the most important Dawg on the field come 11/11 and will play a critical role in field position if we hope to spring the upset.
· Fitz and Aeris continued to be a solid tandem running the ball, both eclipsing 100 yards on Saturday. It took 17 and 24 carries to achieve this stat which was the more concerning factor. In a game where not much went right, they continue to run the ball hard and efficiently.
· Deddrick Thomas showed playmaking potential in the return game filling in for the injured Donald Gray. It was his punt return TD late in the 4th that allowed Bulldog fans nationwide to breathe again. He is still working on being a better WR (he still drops some balls but so does everyone else) but he is very shifty once the ball is in his hands. I think he can have an impact on this team down the stretch and he is looking to be the heir to return duties once Donald Gray graduates.
· Our pass rush was very strong with Simmons, Sweat, Adams, and Green consistently in the back field. Unfortunately, the big plays killed us and so a solid game was forgotten by the few plays they did not get to the QB.
· Oh boy where to begin? Our WR depth is getting exposed seriously at this point. We were without Gray, Myles, Dear, and Mixon this week and our passing game was nonexistent without them. We need them healthy. Not just for games like Bama but more logically winnable games like Arkansas and Ole Miss. Hopefully Dan was being protective of Gray and Mixon thinking we could win this past weekend without them. Well he wasn’t wrong.
· What was the deal with our OL? I know they are banged up a bit but when you out weigh your opponent by an average of close to 40 pounds, with a game plan to run the ball down their throats, should that really matter that much? It comes down to effort which we lacked as a WHOLE TEAM on Saturday. It was just was apparent in the offensive line as when we know our passing game would struggle due to injury, is on the run game to step up. This game should be great film for Mullen and Hevesy to show the O-Line all week.
· We had some poor tackling by our LB and Secondary. I saw way too many arm tackles or attempts to “decleat” the runner when wrapping the guy up was all that was needed. Again, I think this comes down to lackadaisical effort and can be fixed with a good week of ear chewing and practice.
· Dan what were you thinking on that WR pass play? We come out of halftime, have back to back drives where we establish the run, score 2 TD’s to take the lead, we hit midfield on the 3rd drive marching down the field, and you choose to bust out a WR pass play with Reggie Todd????? Never mind the fact Todd should have thrown the ball away or run it cause the guy was not open, this is on Dan for putting Todd in that situation that did not call for it at all. We were taking control of the game and this shifted the momentum back to UMass and caused the uneasy second half. Dan does this on occasion (hey Florida, take note. It would be a real shame if he did this kind of thing against UGA or Tenn for yall. Just sayin).
· Nicky Fitz has to protect the ball better. The first pick was just a late throw that the DB made a great play on but if Fitz is quicker with his throw that does not happen. On the second pick I realize that Jesse Jackson had the ball taken away from him which is on Jackson completely, I am not arguing this. My argument is Fitz threw up a jump ball down field when he had the RB in the flat for an easy completion and first down. It was a risk that did not needed to be taken.
While there was a lot of ugly this week, my main takeaway from this game was Johnathan Abram. He picked up a targeting penalty (which was completely justified) and will now have to miss the first half of the Alabama game. Abram has been a revelation in Grantham’s scheme and is one of our best pure tacklers on the team. He is currently 5th on the team in tackles. He is a combination of Josh Morgan, Nickoe Whitley, and Charles Mitchell rolled into one athletic football players. He and McLaurin have taken on the role of last line of defense when a RB breaks through to the next level and usually clean up the mess.
This could prove critical as we face the running attack of Hurts, Scarborough, and Harris for Bama who pretty much live in the second level of defenses they face. J. T. Gray and McLaurin can hopefully hold them down till Abram returns in the second half but his presence will be missed immensely. In a game where we cannot give Bama even one break, they are already up one, in my opinion, by Abram not being on the field to start the game.
Bama week is finally here despite our best attempts to will and hope it would never come. Once again, Bama is a well-oiled machine who most people have as the top ranked team in the land. Any question marks and doubts people had about Bama at the beginning of the season are solved and they have 9 games of our film to figure out how to beat us; just like every year. Yeah….this should be fun. Bring on the Tide. Yay.