November 19, 2011

Offense struggles

After exploding for over 500 yards of offense last week against Auburn, it stood to reason that Georgia would enjoy similar success against hapless Kentucky, right? Wrong.

The Bulldog offense was never able to find its rhythm, managing just a single fourth-quarter touchdown to beat the Wildcats 19-10 Saturday.

It wasn't pretty, for sure.

Georgia had to scratch and claw for all 317 of its total yards after a paltry first half which actually saw Kentucky out-gain the Bulldogs 152-114.

There were several reasons why.

Starting running back Isaiah Crowell lasted just two plays before suffering a still-to-be-diagnosed ankle injury, while top backup Carlton Thomas didn't even make it to Sanford Stadium after breaking an unspecified team rule.

Quarterback Aaron Murray wasn't his usual sharp self, either, and it showed during a first half which saw Georgia have to settle for four field goals by senior Blair Walsh.

Murray finished the contest 16 of 29 for 162 yards and one interception after a first half which saw him complete just 9 of 18 for 64 yards.

"We weren't as accurate this week as were last week on some of the throws, but you have to give them credit for doing a good job defensively," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "But once we settled down I felt we made enough good plays offensively to win the ball game."

Ironically, Georgia's lone touchdown came on a busted play when Marlon Brown ran the wrong route before managing to find an open spot in the back of the end zone to pull in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Murray.

"It pretty much took the whole day, I was just thanking God the defense was playing as well as they were. I really didn't want to do anything to lose the game by turning the ball over," Bobo said. "We ended up having four (turnovers), but fortunately the defense did a good job of protecting us after we turned it over."

It was just one of those games where that's the way it ended up playing out. When everything isn't clicking, you find a way to win and play together as a team."

Murray was one of many Bulldog offensive players singing the praises of the defense, which set up Georgia's lone touchdown when Jarvis Jones stripped Maxwell Smith at the Wildcat 10-yard line.

Three plays later, Murray hit Brown for the touchdown.

"They've (the defense) been doing that all year, putting us in great field position, getting three and out, playing lights out," Murray said. "They just did great and we made just enough plays to win. Give Kentucky credit, they came out with a great game plan. We missed a couple of opportunities, but fortunately we made enough to get the victory."

There were some bright spots.

Sophomore Brandon Harton came off the bench to run for a team-high 101 yards on 23 carries, while Ken Malcome saw his first extended action with nine carries for 37.

Bobo said losing Crowell put a sizeable crimp into the offense he hoped to run.

"I'd say it affected it a lot," Bobo said. "A big part of our game was him, but Harton did a nice job and the line did a nice job of getting him to the secondary.

Bobo didn't buy into the notion that the offense simply wasn't ready to play. In fact, he thought quite the opposite.

"I thought our guys had a good week of practice. I thought we prepared well, but you've got to give Kentucky credit," Bobo said. "We turned over the ball on a couple of drives that cost us but in the end we were able to grind it out enough to get the win and the defense did awesome."