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Tough win shows Georgia’s battered Bulldogs need to improve in key areas

Tough win shows Georgia’s battered Bulldogs need to improve in key areas

Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs maintained their SEC dominance Saturday at Missouri, but a tough road game that the Dawgs couldn’t put away until late in the fourth quarter also revealed some concerns that need fixing if UGA is to live up to expectations. Georgia came into the game knowing that defending against quarterback Drew Lock and his high-powered passing game would be a challenge. Lock completed a lot of passes Saturday, but none of them was for a touchdown, so mark that down as mission accomplished for the Dawgs’ D. Tyson Campbell returns a Missouri fumble for a touchdown during the first half Saturday in Columbia, Mo. (Curtis Compton/AJC) That’s particularly impressive considering that starting cornerback Tyson Campbell, who scooped up a fumble in the first quarter and returned it 64 yards for a score, had to leave the game with a hurt shoulder and dehydration, and was replaced by backup Eric Stokes, who wound up with 3 pass breakups and 4 tackles. (Stokes also was one of the game’s heroes, blocking a second-quarter punt and returning it 8 yards for a touchdown.) However, Mizzou’s resurgent rushing attack proved surprisingly tough to stop (the Tigers scored all four of their touchdowns on runs), with the middle of the Georgia defense looking soft against the ground game, and the continual shuffling of players on the D-line seeming to indicate the coaching staff hasn’t yet solved that puzzle. Mizzou ended up averaging 4.6 yards per run, exactly the same as the acclaimed Georgia rushing attack. The defensive front still doesn’t appear to have gelled; it’s notable that the Dawgs’ leading tacklers on this day were all defensive backs: J.R. Reed (8), Deandre Baker (7) and Richard LeCounte (7). On the other side of the ball, a better-than-expected Tigers defense and an unfocused performance by Jake Fromm and his troops combined to keep the Georgia offense off the scoreboard in the first half. Georgia’s 20-7 halftime lead came courtesy of the defense and special teams. The Dawgs’ explosive offense responded positively to Smart’s “wake up” call at halftime and got back on track. But, even then, Mizzou’s ability to keep chipping away at Georgia’s defense allowed them to hang around as a threat until well into the fourth quarter. As usual with these Dawgs, big plays were the key to the win. Besides the fumble return and the blocked punt that both turned into TDs, Fromm bounced back from going 3-for-9 with an interception in the first half by turning in a second-half performance that included TD passes of 33, 61 and 54 yards. The 61-yarder to J.J. Holloman was a perfect back-shoulder throw by Fromm. On the day, he was 13-of-23 passing for 260 yards, with 3 touchdowns and an interception (which wasn’t his fault; a defender grabbed the ball out of receiver Mecole Hardman’s hands). Eric Stokes celebrates after returning a blocked a punt for a touchdown. (Curtis Compton/AJC) Still, in the end, it was those nonoffensive scores that made the difference for UGA in the 43-29 win. No wonder that Smart sounded as much relieved as he did elated when he spoke with the Bulldogs radio network’s Chuck Dowdle after the game. “We struggled to stop the run and struggled to run the ball,” the Georgia head coach noted. He cited a lack of composure and discipline, adding: “I’m disappointed. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up.” Speaking of things that need cleaning up, besides the troubles stopping the run and too many penalties (7 for 66 yards), Georgia’s offense was poor at third-down conversions, making only 3 of 12. Particularly in need of improvement is the short-yardage game, with the Dawgs having trouble sometimes converting third-and-short and fourth-and-1. Jim Chaney’s play-calling on some drives was ultra conservative, with too many runs up the middle that didn’t get much. Georgia seemed to have more success on the outside, where they could capitalize on their superior team speed. Other times, it wasn’t so much the play-calling as it was Fromm seeming to opt into the wrong play. On one drive in the second quarter, it was third-and-6 and Fromm gave it to Swift, who got very little. With the Tigers in man coverage and the safeties cheating up, a pass likely would have been more successful. Another time, later in the quarter, it was third-and-10, and a run by Swift got about 4 yards. One thing we did find out Saturday was that Georgia does indeed have a red-zone package for Justin Fields. The freshman dual-threat backup QB came in for just one play in the red zone in the second quarter, a short gain on a keeper. The verdict is still out on the effectiveness of that strategy. Otherwise, Fields didn’t play against Mizzou. Besides Fromm in the second half, who looked good for the Dawgs? Riley Ridley, who made 5 catches for 87 yards and one touchdown. One of those catches was a crucial 27-yarder in the fourth quarter that allowed the Dawgs to kill a bunch of clock. Also on offense, the running game may not have been as imposing as most folks expected, but Elijah Holyfield racked up 90 yards on 14 carries while starter D’Andre Swift had 71 yards on 16 runs. It looks like these two really are sort of 1A and 1B (like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were last year), and, based on the past couple of games, I’d say Holyfield deserves to be considered 1A. As for Swift, who was barely used against Middle Tennessee the previous week amid reports he was having some groin trouble, the Philly flash showed no obvious limitations, but didn’t seem to have quite the burst he had last year, either. D’Andre Swift runs against a better-than-expected Missouri defense. (Curtis Compton/AJC) The offensive line had a rough day, with Andrew Thomas, who had just returned to the starting lineup after missing the MTSU game, apparently reinjuring himself, and right guard  Ben Cleveland also leaving the game with what appeared to be a left leg injury. Still, Georgia ended the day with 445 yards of total offense to Missouri’s 393. On defense, cornerback Deandre Baker smothered highly touted Mizzou receiver Emanuel Hall, who didn’t catch a ball all day (but who just had returned from his own groin injury, and didn’t appear to be at full speed). Also impressive was outside linebacker D’Andre Walker, who was a constant presence in the Tigers’ backfield, forcing fumbles on two sacks of Lock. Georgia scored 10 points off three Missouri turnovers, all in the first half, while the Tigers got no points off their one interception. Special teams play was a mixed bag. The blocked punt was big, Hardman had some nice return yards, and Rodrigo Blankenship made three field goals, but he missed another and had one attempt blocked when someone on the line missed an assignment. A stiff wind also put an end to Blankenship’s nation-leading string of touchbacks on kickoffs. The officiating was inconsistent. Georgia benefited from one video review (after Holloman became the latest Bulldog to drop the ball as he was crossing the goal line!) and lost out on another when a fumble recovery was ruled an incomplete pass. The officials hit Georgia with a couple of ticky-tacky calls on plays that didn’t really merit a flag, but completely missed a cheap-shot roughing of Fromm. Overall, any SEC road win is to be savored, and Georgia showed a resilience and ability to answer scores against Mizzou that was encouraging. Still, there’s no getting around the fact that there were signs aplenty in Saturday’s game that this banged-up Bulldogs team has a way to go before fans can start thinking about a return to the College Football Playoff. The post Tough win shows Georgia’s battered Bulldogs need to improve in key areas appeared first on DawgNation.

Dogs will look to make Mizzou QB “uncomfortable”

Dogs will look to make Mizzou QB “uncomfortable”

The Georgia Bulldogs head to Missouri  intent on making quarterback Drew Lock uncomfortable, whether that means recording a sack or not. Bulldogs linebacker Monty Rice made that clear in his media session this week at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall when asked about the Bulldogs generating just one sack through three games. ADVERTISING “It’s not about getting sacks — sacks don’t win games,” Rice said. “It’s about getting pressure on the quarterback, making sure he’s not comfortable, getting him moving his feet.” The No. 2-ranked Georgia football program (3-0) will be facing arguably the best quarterback in the nation in Lock, who has led the Tigers to a 3-0 start and wins in nine of their past 10 games. “I’ve enjoyed my time so far these first three weeks,” Lock said on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show on Wednesday. “Getting UGA in here, being a big-time SEC game, it’s something Columbia needs.” The Bulldogs’ defense certainly won’t have stars in its eyes, having seen top quarterbacks the past two seasons. “Last year Baker Mayfield was an NFL quarterback,” Rice said, “so [Lock] is a person just like we are, he makes mistakes just like I do, so it’s not that big of a deal.” The Bulldogs are a two-touchdown favorite in what many believe could turn into a shootout. Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is completing 80 percent of his passes this season with six touchdowns and one interception. The Bulldogs have been so dominant that Fromm has not played in a fourth quarter in the 2018 season. Lock and the Tigers could change that with their potent offense. While Georgia has allowed just two passes of 20 yards or more this season, Missouri has seven receivers who have caught passes of 20 yards or more in the first three games. Rice, who has played both of the inside linebacker positions in the Bulldogs’ 3-4, said taking away the Tigers’ run game is ultimately the key to getting to Lock. “It’s big because we’ve got some good stuff on third down that we can go to, that people won’t be able to block,” Rice said. “But if it’s third-and-2, we can’t run that.” Smart alluded to the same thing, pointing out that Missouri’s commitment to the run under first-year offensive coordinator Derek Dooley has led to favorable matchups for the receivers. “To have the commitment and play in the SEC, you’ve got to be able to run the ball,” Smart said, “and the last three games, their [Missouri’s] commitment to that has allowed them to get one on one matchups outside.” Smart pointed out that Middle Tennessee geared its scheme to get rid of the ball quickly, erasing opportunities for quarterback sacks. South Carolina and Austin Peay were similar, Jonathan Ledbetter said. “The teams that we’ve been playing, we haven’t been able to get a lot of pass rush, that is true, but we’ve been playing teams that have been doing a lot of quick game, the ball is out of the quarterbacks hands in under two seconds, so it’s hard to get to the quarterback,” Ledbetter said. “You have to find other ways to affect them, like batted balls and trying to break up passes with D-Linemen, just to help out the secondary in coverage.” Ledbetter said the Georgia defensive line will be intent on getting to Lock, but like Rice, he said the ultimate objective is to make Lock uncomfortable. “That’s really you can do, you try to get back there as fast as you can, have good pocket push, and the really the way to affect him is to make him step up and get uncomfortable in the pocket,” Ledbetter said, “that just comes with pass rush and everyone working together.”

Greene Co murder suspect claims self-defense

Greene Co murder suspect claims self-defense

A man accused of shooting his friend in a Lake Oconee mansion said he was protecting himself at the time. In an exclusive interview at the jail with Channel 2's Mark Winne, Chad Haufler, 45, said he remembers the two had been drinking and had gotten into a fight but doesn't remember pulling the trigger. He called the shooting self-defense. 'I'm not denying that I did not do it,' Haufler told Winne.  Channel 2 Action News first told you about this story when the shooting happened on Aug. 29. NewsChopper 2 was above the scene of the mansion that day as officers scoured the yard of the large home for evidence. Crime scene tape roped off a large part of the home. Police said Haufler called 911 around 6:30 a.m. to report the shooting at his home on Jones Bluff Court in Reynolds at Lake Oconee. In the 911 call, Haufler said he had shot an intruder in his home. When deputies arrived, Marc Dimos, 51, was found dead in the basement. Greene County Sheriff Donnie Harrison Jr. said investigators didn't believe the invasion story and hours later, they charged Haufler with murder. In his interview with Winne, Haufler said Dimos was a friend of his that he met last year in Colorado during a hunting trip. 'We became close. We just clicked together. We became hunting buddies,' Haufler said. Haufler, a retired firefighter from Florida, said he has benefited from good family investments and was recently able to buy the large home on Lake Oconee. Haufler indicated he'd invited Dimos to his family's $1.9 million-plus vacation home. He said they spent time riding in the boat, eating at the Ritz-Carlton and hanging out in the pool, shooting the breeze, until things took a turn. Haufler suggests there is much he does not remember from the night of Aug. 26. Haufler: 'We were drinking.' Winne: 'Were you drunk?' Haufler: 'Yes.' Winne: 'Was Marc Dimos drunk also?' Haufler: 'I would assume so, yes. He was doing shots of tequila. I remember waking up on the floor and Marc has me in a chokehold and I can't breathe. And I remember struggling on the floor with him, fighting and wrestling. I had bruises all over my body and stuff.' Winne: 'You don’t know what caused this?' Haufler: 'I don’t know, I don’t know what caused this. I'd never had any foul words with Marc at all, ever. Winne: 'Where did the gun come from?' Haufler: 'I don’t know where it was.' Winne: 'Would you have been wearing the gun on you in your vacation home?' Haufler: 'No, but I would have a gun in my house.' Winne: 'Would you have had it in the basement?' Haufler: 'Could’ve been.'  When asked if this was a convenient loss of memory, Haufler said, 'Oh, I really wish I could remember. It hurts me every night. I wish I could recall the whole incident.' 

White House denounces ‘smear campaign’ against Kavanaugh

As the Senate Judiciary Committee set a showdown hearing for Thursday with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and a woman who alleges that the judge sexually assaulted her in high school, the White House on Sunday again defended the President’s pick after new allegations surfaced, as Republicans said this was nothing but a coordinated political effort by Democrats to sink the Kavanaugh nomination.

“This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man,” said White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec.

The White House also released a statement from Kavanaugh, [More]