October 4, 2011

Second-half slowdown?

Much has been made since Georgia's victories over Ole Miss and Mississippi State about the Bulldogs' inability to put the two schools away after building large first-half leads.

So, what's the problem?

Some have cited a simple lack of execution, others offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, while still others have laid the blame directly at the feet of head coach Mark Richt, who Tuesday denied the suggestion that he instructs his team not to "step on an opponent's throat."

"We want to put teams away," Richt said. "We just have not been able to do that."

Senior tight end Aron White blames it on a simple lack of execution.

White points to a series of recent missed field goals, fumbles, Pick-6 interceptions and special team mistakes which have contributed to some of Georgia's recent victories being "closer" than they might ordinarily have been.

Still, there's no denying that Georgia's offense hasn't been as productive the second half of the last two games, scoring just three points in each of its games against Ole Miss and MSU.

In fact, against Mississippi State, Georgia only managed 78 yards the entire second half despite controlling the football for over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter alone.

"I don't think it's something we're going to put all our focus on, but it's definitely something we'd like to see change," White said. "Whatever it is, teams making halftime adjustments or us throwing a couple of picks in the second half, missing a field goal here or there - they might seem like little things at the time, but little things at the time wind up making us stall out in the half, is what people perceive it as."

Both of quarterback Aaron Murray's Pick-6 interceptions have occurred during the fourth quarter, while four of Blair Walsh's six missed field goals have taken place in the second half.

Take away any of those numbers, White claims, and nobody's worrying about the final margin of victory.

"How many kicks have we missed in the second half, how many interceptions have we thrown, all contribute to this notion that we're stalling out," White said. "I think the offense is continuing to move the ball. I think we've still remained very physical and dominant to an extent. Our running game is still clicking on a lot of cylinders, but for whatever things keep happening that keeps us from putting points on the board."

Murray, whose interceptions has led to his share of criticism for Georgia's second-half issues, agrees.

Although he's currently the league's third-rated quarterback, Murray's interceptions have been an area of concern for the Bulldogs, who despite the recent second-half issues are averaging 413.8 yards per game.

"My knowledge of the offense, being able to check plays, declare protection, making sure we're in the right situation is a lot better than it was last year," he said. "There have just been a couple of times I haven't been as accurate as I need to be, and that's what causes interceptions. I feel fine throwing the ball, there's just been a couple of times where they made a great play on it."

Tight end Orson Charles wants to see the offense do a better job in the Red Zone.

The Bulldogs have been inside the opponent's 20-yard line 19 times. Of those times, 12 have resulted in touchdowns; twice Georgia missed field goals and twice turned the ball over on downs.

"We definitely talk about executing in the Red Zone, that's something we've got to do and not settle for field goals," he said. "The defense is playing amazing, so we now we've got to answer."

Richt said eliminating the turnovers would go a long way to curing Georgia's recent second-half offensive malaise.

Playing smart football also figures into the equation.

"I certainly don't want to play a conservative brand of football in the third quarter, but if it's in the fourth quarter and you are up by three scores, I think it's wise to burn as much clock as you can," Richt said. "You do that by running the ball and making sure you don't snap ball too early in the 40-second clock. Sometimes it's boring, but the goal is to win."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]