Seven thoughts from Charlotte as Georgia holds a 20-7 lead over Louisville.
1. Hutson Mason had another strong first half, so now the question is whether he'll be back out for the second half, or whether his career is over. Mason left for the locker room late in the first half, and the immediate word from UGA was just that he was "out for now" with an undisclosed injury. Georgia needs him back, as we saw with Brice Ramsey's first throw after replacing him. Ramsey has the better arm, but he's still raw, and Mason long ago proved himself a capable game manager, in the best sense. Leading 20-7, that's what Georgia needs.
2. Motivation and energy doesn't seem to have been a problem for Georgia, has it? The Bulldogs started the game with a defensive stop, then an offensive touchdown. You could kind of sense it in warmups: Georgia was first to come out, and stayed out there awhile. Whether it's the Todd Grantham factor, or the Georgia Tech loss, or just pride, the players and coaching staff deserve some credit for coming out strong.
3. So let's talk Grantham, shall we? I've never been one to pile on him, and thought that too many Georgia fans devalued him too much. That said, we saw a lot of things in the first half that were a poor hallmark of his tenure at Georgia. Nick Chubb's 31-yard touchdown run was one glaring example; Georgia snapped the ball quickly, catching Louisville's defense off guard as it was still trying to organize itself. And of course there were third downs: Georgia is 6-for-10, including some very key conversions.
4. What to make of John Lilly's play-calling? It looked a lot like Mike Bobo's, which makes sense. But Lilly was also daring, starting the game with Chubb and Michel both in the backfield. Lilly also adjusted well. Early on Louisville's defense was selling out for the run, especially on first down. It might have behooved Lilly to throw more on first down on the second drive. Lilly figured it out quickly, and there were a lot more passes on first down. Georgia had 235 yards in the first half against a highly-ranked Louisville defense. Pretty good.
5. Georgia's defense has been pretty good. Louisville has helped the Bulldogs, with some sloppy passes. But the Bulldogs are getting good pressure on passing downs, with Jeremy Pruitt mixing up the blitzes as usual. And after the Cardinals were able to rush outside for good yardage early on, the Bulldogs have adjusted and clamped up.
6. On back-to-back plays, each team tried something risky that backfired. First Louisville called a fake punt from its own 31, and while it nearly worked, the ball fell incomplete and Georgia got good field position. The Bulldogs responded by having Ramsey, on his first pass, throwing for the end zone. It was picked off, and the scoring chance was gone.
7. Georgia has the lead, but it left a lot of points on the table. It settled for two field goals, one inside the 10 and another after nearly reaching the 20. There was the Brice Ramsey interception after taking over at Louisville's 31. And there was also the Sony Michel kickoff return touchdown that was brought back by the block in the back penalty. That penalty, on Kenneth Towns, looked like the right call, but it also didn't look necessary for Towns to did it, as his man was a few steps away from Michel.
We'll see if those end up costing the Bulldogs.