If an offensive coordinator sets his quarterback up with some early easy throws, things will generally go in a positive direction.
That’s exactly what happened in last Saturday’s 52-20 win over South Carolina. With everyone in the stadium thinking Georgia would open up running the ball on its first offensive possession, the Bulldogs got three consecutive throws from quarterback Greyson Lambert, who went on to complete 24-of-25 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Lambert later said the second throw was a run-pass option, with the Jesup native opting for the latter based on the defense’s alignment.
But most of what offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called early was short and quick, designed to get Lambert some easy, can’t-miss throws. It helped that Lambert, on all 24 completions, put the ball where a receiving target could catch it.
At least 20 of Lambert’s throws could be considered short or intermediate. Five were deep, or maybe deeper than intermediate. Lambert didn’t bomb the ball down the field once. The passing game operated in a controlled manner, with the object being for Lambert to quickly find an open target.
Since so much has been focused on the good Lambert did against the Gamecocks, let’s run over the lone incompletion of the day.
Lambert admitted he got “greedy” on the play and wanted to chance it in the end zone to Jeb Blazevich. But as head coach Mark Richt pointed out on Sunday, if Lambert hits Mitchell underneath on a shallow crossing route, he probably has a touchdown. Richt is correct, as Mitchell’s speed and athleticism probably get him to the goal line with all of the coverage going deep.
It’s quite mind-boggling that on third down, the Gamecocks left Mitchell alone. But it was that kind of day for the Gamecocks. They lined up soft on the receivers and committed to stopping the run. And when Lambert burned them with the quick-hitters, South Carolina essentially begged for more.
Since we got the lone mistake -- which really wasn't one since Lambert threw the ball where no one could grab it if Blazevich couldn’t get it -- out of the way, let’s now focus on Lambert’s best pass of the day.
The situation was second-and-6 at the South Carolina 22-yard line early in the second quarter. Lambert went back to throw and had two options to his right -- tight end Jay Rome running a corner route and running back Sony Michel running to the right as well, but shallow and underneath. With Michel’s presence in the passing game, it appeared the Gamecocks defenders thought the ball was going his way. This created a window in between three South Carolina defenders where Rome was positioned. Lambert delivered a perfect ball to Rome, who was tackled at the 2.
This set up a touchdown run from Nick Chubb to give the Bulldogs a 10-3 lead.
Credit Schottenheimer’s play design and Michel’s playmaking ability for opening up a chunk play. And of course, credit Lambert and Rome for executing the throw and catch.
Another well-executed play from Lambert came late in the first half on a 15-yard completion to tight end Jackson Harris. Lambert ran a play-action bootleg that sucked the defense in, with the not-so-fleet-footed quarterback running to his right. Harris was covered, so Lambert showed he would take off running. This brought in a defender, which allowed Harris to break free. Lambert completed the pass to his freshman tight end, who picked up his second first down of the game.
In the second half, Lambert sucked the defense in again on play action, with eight defenders crashing down. Reggie Davis was wide open on a drag route over the middle and went for a 28-yard gain.
It's safe to say things won't be this easy for Lambert moving forward. But if he and the Georgia offense can execute similarly to this, it will be in good shape moving forward.
South Carolina was able to have some success against Georgia with Lorenzo Nunez and the option run. The Gamecocks used pulling linemen to get out front on a couple of plays, and after a couple of runs, the Bulldogs defense was forced to sit back and react a little longer to the plays.
In the second half, Georgia was able to adjust to the option by assigning its defensive backs to cover the edges. Freshman safety Johnathan Abram was tasked with the off-tackle run and junior defensive back Quincy Mauger, playing the star position, defended the wide run.
Linebacker Leonard Floyd lined up in a lot of spots, which disguised how he was attacking South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth. On his sack, Floyd lined up over the right tackle alongside Jake Ganus, with defensive back Reggie Wilkerson rotating down like a middle linebacker. After the snap, Floyd stunted and came free up the middle to trip Orth up. He didn’t get the clean hit like he wanted but was still able to get the sack.
Floyd lined up at outside linebacker and inside linebacker for the most part. At one point, he was lined up as an inside linebacker but ran to cover South Carolina’s slot receiver after the snap.
Point is, Floyd was everywhere.
Special teams coverage breakdowns
The lone part of the game that did not go well for Georgia was on the special teams kickoff coverage unit and it showed.
In the second quarter, South Carolina’s Shon Carson was able to bust three returns for a 28, 27 and 51 yards, respectively.
On the first, Carson was aided with blocks on D’Andre Walker and Chuks Amaechi. Another Georgia defender slipped and Carson was able to hit the gap until kicker Marshall Morgan made the tackle.
On the second, four Georgia players seemed to over-commit on the right sideline, which allowed Carson to cut back and avoid the tacklers. Natrez Patrick slipped and Chuks Amaechi was blocked again. Morgan, once again, had to make the tackle.
On the third, with Collin Barber kicking off, only four Georgia coverage men met the first wall of six South Carolina blockers. Patrick overran the play, allowing Carson to cut toward wide open space down the right side of the field. Davis tracked him down but ended up committing a facemask penalty at the end of the 51-yard return.
These issues were cleaned up in the second half as Carson didn’t break another return. But this showed the youth still present on the kickoff coverage team. This Saturday's game against Southern should serve as some good experience for the young guys to work through this past game's mistakes.
-On second viewing, Sony Michel’s importance to this team cannot be understated. On his first 11-yard touchdown reception, Michel took a quick flare with linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams defending. Michel juked Allen-Williams before trucking safety Jordan Diggs at the goal line. On his second receiving touchdown, Michel made linebacker Jonathan Walton miss with a juke before going into the end zone.
-On Nick Chubb’s first rushing touchdown, Isaiah Wynn blew Walton off the ball by about five yards. It was a dominating block, which wasn’t even needed as Chubb met contact and still fought his way through South Carolina defenders for the score.
-Give some credit to Orth and tight end Jerell Adams for countering one of the few Georgia blitzes of the evening. The Bulldogs relied a lot on four-man pressures throughout, but checked into a six-man blitz on a second-quarter play once Orth sent his running back in motion as a receiver. Mauger and cornerback Aaron Davis came on a blitz and Adams sat down in an open space as a hot receiver. Orth found him and South Carolina picked up the first down.
-Floyd should probably have credit for half of Dominick Sanders’ interception. If Orth had time to step into his throw and deliver, he has a good chance at hitting Pharoh Cooper for a first down. Cooper had Davis on his back and a throw out in front on the slant would have probably been enough. Instead, Floyd used an inside twist to get by his blocker and came running at Orth, who had to get rid of the ball quickly. This sent the ball high and behind and right into Sanders’ arms.