The Sam Pittman era is underway. Just 17,000 socially-distanced fans watched 4th-ranked Georgia knock off the Razorbacks 37-10 in a game that was silly there for a while. Arkansas led 7-5 at halftime and 10-5 midway through the third quarter before things finally went sideways for the under-Hogs.
Let’s do our first deep dive recap of the season!
Grading the Hogs
- Offense: C+. This is a passing grade, as I think there were a lot of positives. Georgia may have the best overall defense in the country and definitely has the best front seven, so this was always going to be in an uphill battle. Feleipe Franks showed strong pocket presence, an ability to throw on the run, and an ability to move through his progressions that’s better than that of the eight quarterbacks we’ve seen take snaps over the last two seasons. He did have a few missed throws, including a bad pick, but overall I liked what I saw from Franks. The offense line held up okay in pass protection but weren’t able to generate any kind of running room. With the inside run game taken away, the Hogs tried to get creative on the outside, but Georgia’s speed was just too much. Treylon Burks and Mike Woods were excellent in the passing game, and if the Hogs can get Rakeem Boyd and the run game goint, they’ll be able to put up some points. Tight end was mostly a disaster, as Hudson Henry’s first career start is one he’d like to forget, with a false start penalty, a couple misalignments, a drop, and a miscommunication with Franks that led to a pick.
- Defense: B+. Georgia’s offense did basically all of its damage after wearing the Hog starters out, but those starters put up a whale of a fight. Jalen Catalon is the defensive MVP and was everywhere on the back end in his first career start. Dorian Gerald was great, and the defensive tackles (namely Jonathan Marshall, Xavier Kelly, and Isaiah Nichols) held up well against a very good Georgia offensive line. Linebackers Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan still struggle in coverage but were very good against the run. Missed tackles on the back end were minimal compared to last year. Montaric Brown had a nice interception (he had only one all of last year) and Jerry Jacobs, despite getting beat on Georgia’s go-ahead touchdown, was mostly solid in his first game in a Razorback uniform.
- Special Teams: D-. Okay, no more positives. We’ve seen a littany of special teams disasters across the country over the first few weeks of the season, with the leading theory being that altered practice schedules have hurt special teams work for teams across the nation. The Hogs got schooled on special teams. Punter George Caratan has a big leg, but he repeatedly outkicked his coverage as Arkansas’ gunners couldn’t get free of Georgia’s blockers, leading to several big returns. And while Georgia dropped four punts inside the Arkansas 10, Caratan’s lone shot at a pooch landed five yards deep in the end zone for a touchback. The Bulldogs also blocked a punt. Three of Vito Calvaruso’s four kickoffs were touchbacks, but the other one was a low line drive that Georgia returned to the 43. A false start cost A.J. Reed an attempt at a 54-yard field goal, although the kick after the whistle sailed wide left (it had plenty of distance). Overall, very bad.
- Overall: C+. Given no spring practice for an all-new staff facing a playoff contender, this was not a bad start to the Pittman era. The players played hard and many of the biggest problems from last year (awful quarterback play, poor tackling on the back end) were not nearly as bad in the opener.
(NOTE: Confused by any of these stats? Check out the advanced stats glossary.)
Arkansas’ offense was actually better than Georgia’s by one point. How about that! Bad news: the Hogs lost 10 points due to field position, 9 points due to special teams, and 9 points due to two defensive scores (a safety and a pick-six). That’s how a 1-point advantage on offense turns into a 27-point loss.
And Georgia finished with minus-15 points despite the fact that the Bulldogs were slightly positive after Stetson Bennett IV replaced the struggling D’Wan Mathis late in the first half. How does Georgia finish worse than Arkansas despite outgaining the Hogs by more than 150 yards? That’s because in the EV+ system, where you make a mistake has a big impact on how much it hurts you. Franks throwing a pick from his own 30 was bad, but Mathis throwing a pick in the red zone on the next possession was much worse in terms of EV. Georgia’s was gifted almost 20 points of field position advantage in the first half and turned it into 3 points.
Midway through the third quarter, the Hogs had a 21-point lead in Offense EVA but only led by 5 on the scoreboard. Georgia had recovered the other 16 points through field position (8 points), special teams (6 points), and a safety (2 points). The game’s outcome was only decided once Georgia’s offense finally came to life.
Offensive stats are ugly for both sides. The Hogs hit a few big passing plays and that was about it on offense. Georgia had more consistency but had basically zero big runs, more penalties, and only a couple of big passes.
The Hogs head to Starkville to take on Mississippi State, who threw for more than 600 yards and beat LSU last week. It’s Air Raid time.