Legge's Thoughts: A Wake Up Call

ATHENS - Dean Legge recaps No. 9 UGA’s 26-24 win over Nicholls State.

(Note: The audio from Legge’s Thoughts was not useable, so this edition will be in written form)

There’s a few different ways to look at the win over FCS foe Nicholls State. 

1. UGA's offense didn’t play well after the first drive. 

2. This is a growing-pains process for a program with a new head coach and a freshman starting at QB. 

3. Depth and stupid mistakes are killing UGA on special teams. 

4. Nick Chubb won UGA the game in the 4th quarter with a block, and then a run.

5. Jacob Eason is going to make costly mistakes, and he had one such moment on Saturday. 

There might be a quarterback competition heading into this weekend’s contest at Missouri, but Georgia functions better with Eason under center when compared to Greyson Lambert. When you look at that position, the person in control of that spot needs to do things that will create an atmosphere where positive things can happen. That happens with physical talent and with leadership and know how in terms of getting the offense lined up and moving. 

Lambert does a good job of getting UGA in and out of the huddle. Eason struggles more with that. One can learn how to do that, but that is something that’s evident to me in watching the game in terms of criticisms of Eason. But Lambert will never have what Eason has as soon as the ball is snapped. So this is about Eason developing himself overall - including making the correct pre-snap decisions as well as in-play decisions with the ball. 

When you look at Lambert’s three throws in the game - two of them were not ideal outcomes. But one of those plays, a third down conversion, helped UGA win the game. It should be pointed out that Lambert picked up a poor snap and got a great block from Chubb, but delivered a catchable ball to Michael Chigbu to nearly ice the game. His previous two throws were disasters - one a seven-yard loss, and the next an incomplete pass that could have resulted in an interception off a deflection, but certainly got Charlie Woerner absolutely drilled.

One does have to wonder why Jim Chaney called a pass play (or perhaps that Lambert audible into it) on 3rd and two after Chubb just ripped off a 15-yard run, but that’s a question for another time.

Should UGA have even been in that predicament in the first place? Of course not. Dropped balls in the shadow of the end zone from Chigbu, three turnovers and two questionable decisions from Isaiah McKenzie (that either need to be corrected, or he can’t be trusted to be on the field at the end of games) made this game far more ugly than it needed to be.

What on Earth McKenzie was thinking trying to field a ball that was clearly headed out of bounds at the 7-yard line at the end of the game? That's hard to understand. That play happened just after he fumbled a punt that handed Nicholls a TD. 

Again, impossible to understand what he’s doing there. 

On top of those monumental mistakes, Eason’s poor decision on his interception took what would have certainly been three points for the Bulldogs and not less than a 29-14 lead, and perhaps as much as a 33-14 lead, and made it 26-17. UGA should be happy its defense stopped Nicholls, or the score certainly could have been 26-21. 

This program isn’t nearly good enough to continue to hand or gift points away to anyone. UGA seems to value each yard and every play - except this cataclysmic events we saw on Saturday. Turnovers and special teams screw ups have, so far, resulted in 24 of 48 points the Bulldogs have allowed. 

Again, this team isn’t going to lose often when the other team has to earn it. But when half of the time the other team scores it is because of a direct result of UGA screwing up, then you know this about UGA - not the other guys. For instance, Nicholls scored after UGA screw ups on drives of 30, 9 and -1 yards. They scored 17 points having to move the ball exactly 38 yards. Football isn't very difficult when you are gifted 17 points.

The good news is that Kirby Smart and company get a chance to correct that. But it’s disheartening to know those stats, and to look up and see the offensive line struggle the way it did yesterday. I was very concerned about two offensive things a lot of folks were not coming into this season - receivers dropping balls and Tyler Catalina at left tackle. Both were major problems yesterday. Receivers are going to get better (I think?), but Catalina is just going to have to hold on like hell, this isn’t going to get a ton easier for him now that the Dawgs are entering conference play against legit pass rushers.

This game should have been a blowout… and it was teetering on top of that for a few moments in the game. But the Bulldogs are going to have to develop a robust passing game in order to make folks pay for stacking the box with as many defenders a possible. Nick Chubb might be super human, but even he can’t defeat everyone each play of the game… can he? Eason needs to deliver the ball where it needs to go; WRs need to catch it; and the offensive line needs to start acting like they play in the SEC and are ready to split someone's head open instead of greeting them for ice cream and punch in the fellowship hall after Sunday service.

I’m not a bridge jumper, so if you are looking for that you are in the wrong place. But there are significant issues that popped up yesterday, and now appear to be patters after two games. Those problems, specifically special teams goofs, can be minimized by UGA choosing not to load the gun it is shooting itself in the foot with. Fewer mistakes on special teams will result in much larger and more decisive wins. 

And one should occur this weekend in Columbia, Missouri.

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