I was hoping for a big day out of the offensive line. What I got was a big half.
Yes, there was plenty going wrong in the first half. Sloppy play and those penalties! I cannot remember a Georgia team committing so many ridiculous penalties. D’wan Mathis appeared to have become rattled very early, and his indecisiveness spilled over to the rest of the offense.
Even with that said, the offensive line protected well, considering that Arkansas pushed eight and sometimes nine defenders near the line of scrimmage, daring Georgia to run. Arkansas’ strategy was similar to the defenses the team saw all last year, and it worked. That is, it did until Stetson Bennett was able to back Arkansas away from the line with a successful passing game. When the defenders had to cover the entire field, Georgia’s rushing game began to flourish because the odds even out for the o-line. Five cannot block nine, but good things start to happen when the d-front drops to five or six.
Offensive line coach Matt Luke continued to substitute and try different combinations of linemen throughout the game. He put Ericson at center, moved Hill to right guard, McClendon to right tackle, and the line seemed to gel. Rest assured that it is not unusual for position adjustments to occur during the first games, and will likely see situational changes throughout the season.
The first half offensive debacle is troubling but having Bennett stabilize the unit and start getting the ball to his playmakers is a positive sign. And don’t discount the fact that this offense transitioned from really bad to fairly good in one half.
Defensive line play was solid all night. When one watches the big guys on defense, one has to be careful about equating quarterback pressures and stuffing the run game with stellar defensive line play. Georgia’s defensive linemen are supposed to be a magnet for an opponent’s offensive line. Jordan Davis said in a recent interview, “Two on me, somebody is free.” Meaning that his job is to engage two blockers and not get moved away from his assigned gaps. The d-line was able to do its job all night – tie up the Arkansas offensive line and free the Dawgs linebackers to make plays.
The first order of business for Kirby and Company next week is to get the offense humming. Auburn is a far better team than Arkansas, and they will be smelling blood in the water.