The run game was working, why not dial up more ground plays in the second half?

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The run game was working, why not dial up more ground plays in the second half?

Oct 17, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Georgia running back James Cook (4) catches a pass which he ran in for a touchdown as Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) leaps but can’t deflect the ball during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

Following Georgia’s 41–24 loss to Alabama, the program will take an unexpected and early off week in preparation for their matchup against Kentucky on Oct. 31.

It was apparent that the Bulldogs could compete with the Crimson Tide in the first half, but couldn’t finish the game strong as they were outscored 21-0 in the second half. Part of the loss is blamed on the defense, but it’s Georgia’s offense who couldn’t really get things going in the final thirty minutes of the contest.

The bye week or “work-week” as Kirby Smart likes to call them, will give the team a chance to rewatch the tape, and assess what needs to change moving forward.

The Bulldogs were just as talented as the Crimson Tide, but they were clearly outplayed and out-coached in the second half.

“They outcoached us, they did a good job,” Smart said in his post-game press conference. “We have to do a better job of helping our players, put them in a chance to be successful.”

Heading into to Saturday’s matchup, Georgia was looking to run the ball against a weak Alabama defensive front. The Bulldogs have five viable options at running back and have the advantage behind a big offensive line.

Against Ole Miss, Alabama could barely stop Lane Kiffin’s running attack. In their victory, the Crimson Tide gave up 268 total rushing yards to the Rebels, who stayed dedicated to the run. The Rebels carried the ball 57 times averaging 4.7 yards per carry as they put up 48 points on Alabama’s defense.

The Bulldogs rushed the ball just 30 times against Alabama racking up 145 yards, which they averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Georgia threw the ball 40 times on Saturday night as Stetson Bennett completed 18 of his passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

It seemed that Georgia’s run game was effective in the first half as they totaled 91 yards on 17 attempts (5.4 yards per carry). Bennett threw for 177 yards in the first half, but take away his 82-yard touchdown pass to James Cook and that number is 95. Georgia’s offense was very balanced in the first half and its mix of play calls kept Alabama on its heels.

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) during the Bulldogs' game with Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Photo by Skylar Lien)
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) during the Bulldogs’ game with Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Photo by Skylar Lien)

Nobody expected Georgia to match Ole Miss’ up-tempo offense, and that’s not who the Bulldogs are.

Although, it’s just the way the second half unfolded is to where one might find fault with the game plan. Georgia called 25 pass plays in the first half compared to 17 run plays. In the second half, the Bulldogs’ offense threw the ball 15 times and ran the ball 13 times. So, you can say the offense was pretty well balanced, but Bennett’s two interceptions in the second half hurt the Bulldogs tremendously.

Georgia averaged 4.2 yards per carry on the ground in the second half on 13 attempts for 54 yards. Bennett completed just 6 of 15 passes in the second half for 92 yards and those two picks. It all came down to execution as Bennett couldn’t get the job done in the final thirty minutes of play. Which is something that the fourth-year junior has been able to do all throughout the season, except for against the No. 2 Crimson Tide.

Bennett was clearly frustrated with his production after the fact. Although Monken should have helped him and not drawn up so many pass plays; which is something he’s known to do, although it didn’t work well in this situation. Georgia held on to a 24-20 lead at halftime as the offense did a great job of executing and keeping a well-balanced attack.

However, Alabama’s high-powered offense wasn’t going to be stopped all night. That’s where Georgia should have turned to their run game more to keep Alabama’s offense off the field. The Bulldogs could have easily kept drives alive in the second half as it would have churned the clock away. The run game was working, so there was no need to go to the air more in the second half.

Bennett’s two interceptions in the second half helped Alabama control the total time of possession (33:59-26:01). He also had several incomplete passes in the second half, with a few of them causing Georgia to have short drives. In return, Alabama’s offense wasn’t as limited as they were in the first half compared to the final two quarters.

Monken’s game plan of throwing the ball 40 times and running it 30 times isn’t unusual, but one would think that it was for this game. Georgia’s offense has proven time and time again that they’ve been able to run the ball effectively this season, but they didn’t get enough opportunities in the final half against Alabama.

Georgia had a ton of open receivers all night long, but Bennett struggled to get the ball to them sometimes. That’s when going to more of a run-attack would have benefitted the Bulldogs well. Georgia’s offensive line is improving as they showed a ton of push against Alabama’s defensive line for most of the night.

If less was asked of Bennett, then maybe the final numbers wouldn’t have resulted in three total interceptions. Bennett is a great game-manager and talented quarterback but throwing asking him to throw the ball 40 times against the No. 2 team in the country is a lot for someone who hasn’t had that much experience as a starter. A more run-heavy offense would have sufficed on Saturday night.

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.