Where have you gone, Justin Scott-Wesley, Keith Marshall and all of those fallen Georgia offensive playmakers?
Tight end Arthur Lynch turned his lonely eyes to you earlier this week.
“We were just so in synch those first couple of games and we just lost so many guys, it’s hard to keep in synch because that’s just the nature of it,” Lynch said. “People talk about Oregon’s offense and it is a good offense, but I think had we stayed healthy, it would be interesting to see our statistics offensively compared to theirs.”
Back in those halcyon days, before Todd Gurley was lost for three games after rolling an ankle against LSU and tailback Marshall and receivers Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett went down with knee injuries against Tennessee on Oct. 5, Georgia was rolling up 554 yards per game, which ranked sixth in the nation.
Oregon was No. 3, just 45 yards per game more.
“If you would take away six of their starters, I don’t know if people would say they’re the greatest thing since football was made, since Lombardi or whatever,” Lynch said.
Georgia’s ability to make the big play has been sapped as its biggest playmakers have been sidelined by injury.
The Bulldogs produced just nine plays of 20 or more yards in the last three games — including none in an upset loss on Saturday at Vanderbilt — after getting 32 of 20 or more yards in its first four games, according to cfbstats.com.
The good news for Georgia is that Gurley, the Bulldogs’ star tailback, is back at practice and expected to play against Florida.
“I’ve probably played with two other players that are like him in this sense, Jarvis Jones and A.J. Green, to where he literally impacts everyone else on the field to where the defense has to gameplan to him specifically,” Lynch said. “If you look back to (2010) when we didn’t have A.J. (Green) those first four games and then for him to come back the way he did … defenses have to literally alter their gameplans for him.”
Georgia has had its three lowest offensive outputs of the season the last three games with a season-low 221 yards against Vanderbilt.
A week earlier, Missouri played a lot of zone coverage, inviting Georgia to take their check-downs and underneath routes.
“They force you to be patient,” coach Mark Richt said. “They figure most people will self-destruct along the way.”
Vanderbilt also played mostly zone defense and did a good job of breaking on the ball, he said.
“It’s that point of the year where everybody’s banged up and people are losing good players,” Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. “There’s no doubt that factors in on how you decide how you’re going to try to stop or attack people.”
Said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: “They’re a team that’s going to play coverage and blitz you and play a three-deep zone and keep everything in front of you. You’ve got to do a good job of executing, and for the most part … we did not. … We’ve got to improve as a group with our assignments and we’ve got to make plays and find ways to get the ball to the guys that can make plays.”
Even a couple of weeks after a Georgia receiving corps already missing deep threat Malcolm Mitchell was further decimated by injuries, quarterback Aaron Murray and what’s left of the receiving group are still getting acclimated.
“It’s going to continue to take some time and we’re going to continue to work on it,” Murray said.
He spent about 15 to 20 minutes in Georgia’s Tuesday practice this week just working with the young receivers like Michael Erdman and Kenneth Towns, he said.
“It all comes down to trust,” Murray said. “Trusting our guys to make plays down the field and just let it rip. We have to as an offense be better at that. Continue to work in practice and build that. Once we just let it rip and trust those guys, I think things will open up a little bit more for us.”
Georgia may not have receiver Chris Conley for the Nov. 2 game at Florida because of an ankle injury but Gurley and Bennett, returning from minor knee surgery, could help the offense spring back to life.
“Hopefully,” Murray said. “That would be great. We’ll find out. I’ve said all along I think Todd is by far the best player in the country when he’s healthy and he’s out there and what he’s able to do, not only in the run game, but the pass game, too, affect those safeties, affect the linebacker, catch the ball out of the backfield. He really changes the game for us offensively.”
In way that freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas can’t quite.
“Not saying those two young backs haven’t done a really good job for us because they have, but Todd is like Keith, J.J. and Brendan but built into one,” Lynch said. “That’s just not normal. He brings so much emotion and so much energy to the offense just from an emotional standpoint, his skill set has definitely been missed.”