September 4, 2011

Plenty of work to do

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ATLANTA - For Georgia fans, one thing was painfully evident watching Saturday night's season-opener in the Georgia Dome against fifth-ranked Boise State - the Bulldogs have plenty of work yet to do.

It was neither a pretty nor a particularly encouraging sight.

The Bulldogs were outplayed in every facet - offense, defense and special teams - as the Broncos built a three-touchdown lead in the third quarter before rolling to a 35-21 win.

"We didn't execute and there were too many mental mistakes," quarterback Aaron Murray lamented afterwards. "We've just got to back, assess the film and make the corrections."

There will certainly be a number to correct.

Georgia certainly didn't have an answer for heralded Boise quarterback Kellen Moore.

The Heisman Trophy candidate lived up to his lofty reputation, completing 28 of 34 passes for 261 yards with three touchdowns.

He was not sacked a single time.

"He's a very good player so he knows where to go with the ball and when to go there," head coach Mark Richt said. "He rarely got knocked down. We forced a couple, forced him to throw a little sooner probably than what he wanted, but no sacks. We didn't get enough pressure on him, but when you run and play-action pass very well, it's hard to get that rush."

Offensively, the Bulldogs had their issues against the senior-laden Bronco front seven which proved every bit as good as advertised.

Georgia was able to accumulate 373 yards of offense, including 236 passing by Aaron Murray (16 of 29), but most of those numbers were posted after the outcome was basically no longer in doubt.

One of the game's few bright spots from a Bulldog perspective came on a surprise 80-yard run by Brandon Boykin. Freshman Isaiah Crowell made his debut with a 15-carry, 60-yard effort, but thanks to six sacks by Boise for losses of 30 yards, Georgia finished with a mediocre total of 137 rushing yards.

"We tried to up-tempo, tried to run some no-huddle," Richt said. "We wanted to try and spread it out to get some of our guys in space, but it didn't happen. We didn't have an awful lot of success, although historically, Boise State's defenses have been one of the best in America."

For two teams who before the game talked about the importance of getting off to a quick start, neither did.

The first four possessions (two by each squad) did not result in a single first down until a little until the Bulldogs used a little offensive ingenuity for the night's first big play and subsequent score.

Facing a 2nd-and-9 from the 20, the Bulldogs inserted Boykin who took a pick from Murray, picked up a key block from Bruce Figgins, found a crease and raced 80 yards for a 7-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Georgia's defense initially made the night a difficult one for Moore, who was held to just one first down over the first three series before eventually finding his rhythm.

Following pickups of 17 and 11 yards, a 20-yard pass from Moore to Tyler Shoemaker set the Broncos up with a first down at the Bulldog 10. A penalty pushed back Boise to the 17, but no matter as Moore hit Matt Miller with a quick slant which the true freshman took in for a 17-yard pass and catch.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs' offense never could get in sync.

Poor field position didn't help.

Georgia's best starting spot the entire first half was its own 22, with five other possessions inside the 20.

"The field position was a little rough early, but we kind of fought out of it," Richt said. "I didn't think it was much of a factor early on."

To the Bulldogs' credit, Boise State initially wasn't able to take advantage, including one drive that cornerback Branden Smith snuffed out with an interception inside the Red Zone.

However, Murray gave the ball right back three plays later when he was intercepted by Bronco cornerback Jarrell Gavins on a ball intended for freshman Malcolm Mitchell .

This time, the Broncos didn't fail, driving 51 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 12-yard pass from Moore to Kyle Efaw with 48 seconds to go in the half for a 14-7 lead.

The third quarter didn't start any better from a Bulldog perspective.

After taking the second-half kickoff, Boise State marched right back down the field - converting three third downs along the way - before scoring on a 7-yard run by Doug Martin, who finished with 24 carries for 71 yards.

It was about to get worse.

On the next possession, Murray appeared to get the offense back on track with back-to-back throws to Orson Charles that picked 40 yards to the Boise 45.

Georgia would get as close as the 30, but once again a penalty and a third-down sack of Murray forced the Bulldogs to reach for a 54-yard field goal attempt by Blair Walsh that failed to find its mark.

The Broncos weren't done.

On the very next possession, a 55-yard punt return by Chris Potter set up a short 28-yard drive that Moore punctuated with a 3-yard pass to Shoemaker.

A 36-yard scoring pass to Charles and a 51-yard catch-and-run by Mitchell capped the scoring for Georgia, which sandwiched around Boise's final touchdown - a 1-yard run by D.J. Harper.

Richt tried to put a positive spin after the game.

"I was encouraged by the reaction of our seniors, especially, in the lockerroom afterwards, just encouraging everybody to get to work," Richt said. "SEC play hasn't even started and it's a long season. It's a long season and we've got to get our minds right. In a game like this there's no question that we know more about our football team than we would if we had played somebody we would have beat by 40. Hopefully, that will translate into us having a better idea how to perform in games like this and help us see where our weaknesses are."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.