Advanced Stat/Scheme Preview - Georgia vs Ball State
Alright, we’re back with the first Advanced Stat/Scheme Preview of the season… Kinda.
This is Ball State, but I still wanted to put together some key information for you all to chew on ahead of Saturday’s game. Next week we’ll do a full film preview and breakdown UGA vs South Carolina.
For now, let’s take a look at the Cardinals…
Ball State lost to Kentucky last week by a score of 44-14, but in some ways that doesn’t tell the entire story of the game. The Cardinals were out-gained by 2.9 net yards per play against the Wildcats (4.1 YDS per play for Ball St versus 7.0 YPP for UK). On the plus side, they actually had one more first-down than Kentucky (18 to 17) and weren’t beaten that badly in the total yardage battle 357 for UK to 297 for Ball St).
The Cardinals gave up 7.8 yards per attempt to Devin Leary through the air, but they did hold UK to 116 rushing yards. The only problem is that the Wildcats didn’t run the ball very much. Starting RB Re’Mahn Davis had himself a nice day, racking up 112 YDS and 2 TD’s on just 14 carries (8.0 YDS per carry). Kentucky was explosive, which is not something we say too much historically about Kentucky Football. The Wildcats only ran 54 plays in the game.
On offense, Ball State did manage to put together some nice sustained drives. Their second drive of the game ate up 7:05 and went 13 plays over 73-yards for a TD. Their next drive had already eaten 4:33 of clock over 7 plays when a fumble on a 9-yard reception by Tanner Kozoil was returned almost 70 yards for a touchdown. Their next three drives- two 3-and-outs sandwiched around a possession with a lost fumble on the second play. Despite all of that, the game was only 20-7 at halftime. In the 2nd half the Cardinals only scored 7 points despite having a 9 play drive (punt), a 10 play drive (TD), an 11 play drive (DOWNS) and a 10 play drive (missed FG).
The Cardinals drove into scoring territory (inside the opponent’s 40-yard line) on 6 different occasions but only averaged 1.17 points per opportunity. For some perspective, Kentucky had 7 scoring opportunities (4.29 points per opportunity).
Ball State Offense vs UGA Defense
Ball State managed to sustain some drives against Kentucky, but there may have been an element of randomness to it. The Cardinals only had a 33% offensive success rate for the entire game. Their rushing success rate was just 21% but their passing success rate was a very respectable 48%. They actually had a higher success rate when behind the sticks (36%) than they did on standard downs. Put in simpler terms, Kentucky did a bad job of getting off the field after stuffing Ball St for short gains on early downs.
I don’t expect UGA to have any issues with Ball State’s running backs. They averaged just 2.7 yards per carry last weekend. Those numbers happened despite the fact that Ball State averaged a very respectable 2.97 YDS after contact per a carry as a team. The main man is Marquez Cooper. If you remember that name it’s because he came to Athens last year with Kent St and put up 90 yards on 21 carries against UGA. Last week he had 15 attempts for 33 yards despite forcing 6 missed tackles. He’s a good back who couldn’t get much blocking help.
The math here says Ball State’s ball carriers were basically being hit right at or just behind the line of scrimmage on their average rushing attempt. When you include the QB’s carries in the equation, Ball State had 32 rushes for 98 yards. That’s 3.1 yards per attempt in a game where Ball State rushers 17 MISSED TACKLES FORCED!!!
This OL is as bad a run blocking unit as UGA is going to see this year, running a mixture of Gap Scheme and Zone Scheme but not blocking either too well last week in Lexington. Whether or not Georgia properly sets the edge and guards against the QB run on Zone Read concepts will be a big factor in this game. Ball State played 3 different quarterbacks last week. All 3 had at least 2 rushing attempts, so UGA needs to be aware of the QB run threat. My personal opinion is that threat will be a good thing for the Bulldogs. It is on tape, so unlike last week it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a QB takes off with the ball. That might result in edges being set more effectively.
For inside the tackle runs, Ball State will look to go between the Center and RG. In that gap they had 4 carries for 19 yards against UK (4.8 YPC). They didn’t have much success elsewhere trying to go into the line. The Cardinals did go around the OL’s right edge 7 times and the QB’s scrambled off passing plays on 6 different occasions. All of that amounts to more importance on setting the edge and UGA’s DL staying in their gaps so the QB’s can’t step up.
Ball State’s triple threat at QB is a bit strange. One of them is former Arkansas St QB Layne Hatcher. He came to Athens for the “Wear Pink for Wendy” game against the Red Wolves in 2019. Last week against UK he wasn’t very effective. He dropped back 11 times but only threw the ball on 8 of those downs, completing 6 passes for 33 yards. That was only 4.1 YPA.
Kiael Kelly is a fascinating player. He forced 8 missed tackles against UK on just 5 carries, which is absurd because he only got 21 yards rushing for all that effort and he had a long run of 13 yards. Here is the kicker… 7 of those rushing yards came scrambling. That’s right, Kelly will line up at both RB and QB for Ball St. He’s an old-school football player who is just good with the ball in his hands. He had 4 dropbacks last week and went 1/2 for 22 yards passing. I’m sure there will be some packages for him, and UGA will need to contain the rushing threat but avoid being sucked up and leaving a WR open downfield.
The main QB for the Cardinals is Kadin Semonza. He was pretty effective versus Kentucky, going 15/20 for 166 YDS passing. That’s a respectable 8.3 yards per attempt. Ball State doesn’t run many screens (just 1 vs UK) so we should see more attempts downfield this week then we did from UT-Martin. Seomonza was effective at all levels of the field last week, going 2/3 for 51 YDS on 20+ yard throws and 4/5 for 61 yards on 10-19 yard throws. He stayed accurate underneath as well, hitting 8/10 attempts in the 0-9 yard range for 46 yards and a TD.
Ball State did a decent job of protecting him as well. Semonza was only pressured on 7 of his 24 dropbacks (just under 30%). His legs help him stay away from pressure as well. Ball State does have a couple solid targets for him to throw to. One is TE Tanner Koizol. He was thrown to 10 times last week and pulled down 8 of those balls for 62 yards. Ball State works him on short routes and he is good This will be a fun test in coverage for UGA’s safeties and linebackers and they should respect his ability. The kid can play, and he might be a future P5 player if he hits the portal in the offseason. He’s pretty much a pure receiving TE, running routes on 29 of 34 pass snaps last week.
The best of the wideouts is X-WR Ty Robinson. He had 7 targets with 5 catches for 90 yards and a TD against UK. He pulled down both of his contested catch opportunities as well. He will be a better test for Kamari Lassiter and the rest of the DB’s than what they saw last week. In the slot is Qian Magwood, he had a nice chunk play for 22 yards up the seam against the Wildcats with a few other short catches mixed in.
UGA Offense vs Ball St Defense
Georgia will see some more loaded boxes like last week, but they shouldn’t face quite as many men at the line of scrimmage. Ball State tried to take the run away from Kentucky and they did a good job of stymieing it at times, but UK’s Ray Davis found cutback lanes after getting to the second level. The middle trio of UK’s offensive line did some work last week. The Wildcats only tried to run outside tackle 5 times and had minimal success.
In the A-Gaps the Cats had 5 carries for 62 yards, busting separate runs of 26 and 30 yards. They also busted a 20-yard run between LG and LT. They didn’t have a run of longer than 6 yards in any other gap.
What does that mean? Well, Xavier Truss needs to play better than he did last week. He really struggled at LG and if that happens again then UGA’s run game might follow suit. Van Pran and Ratledge were solid, but UGA’s OL blocked the run much better after Micah Morris came into the game at LG and played with the rest of the first team line.
UGA will see a lot of zone coverage in the Ball State secondary. That was often the case last week. All 3 of the receptions that Brock Bowers had was against zone. Beck and his WR’s will have to read the same things in terns of sitting down in holes between defenders. The strategy for Ball State will be to try and keep things underneath. Leary was 0/4 on 20+ yard throws last week, but he was 5/7 for 119 YDS and a TD on 10-19 yard throws.
Rara Thomas showed he has the speed to split defenders in zone late in last week’s game. I’ll be interested to see if UGA tries him or another speedy wideout deep early in the game. That could force Ball State into some different defensive looks, but the biggest thing for Georgia will be to establish some sort of threat in the run game.
Look for UGA to pick on Ball State’s MLB #40 Cole Pearce in the passing game. He gave up 4 receptions on 5 targets last week for 57 yards despite the average depth of those throws only being 5 yards. There could be a chance for a RB to make a nice play on him in the passing game. If Bobo can get Bowers matched up on him it could be 6. I doubt Ball State let’s that happen. They’ll probably throw extra attention Brock’s way, so look for Delp or an inside receiver to maybe make a play.
Another defender UGA could pick on is Right CB Tyler Potts. He did have an INT last week but he also gave up 4 catches on 8 targets with a TD allowed. Kentucky got the ball out in space to the edge and let their wideout make him miss. That could be something UGA can do if they get a defensive look in short yardage where Ball State crowds in tight to play the run. UGA might be able to pull this out when they’re in tighter sets or heavier 2 TE looks.
Final Analysis + Prediction
Ball State is a good football team. If not for some unlucky bounces last week they might have been in a football game with Kentucky. If UGA comes out sleepy for the noon start and doesn’t play with intensity then they could find themselves in a frustrating slog. The Cardinals were effective at shortening their game last week.
This is a good test for UGA before opening conference play next week and I expect them to treat it that way. We should see the starting defense play together more. As long as UGA sets the edge they’ll have their way against the run. Ball State had some success through the air last week but Georgia’s secondary is a much different animal. Don’t be surprised to see an INT or two from the Dawgs on Saturday.
Ball State might be able to move the ball between the 20’s at times, but they will struggle to score due to UGA’s team speed and twitchy defenders who excel in tight spaces. Look for another big game from Tykee Smith.
There should be some opportunities to jump short routes, especially if Ball State tries to target their TE 10 times like they did against UK. They threw to him 5 times in the middle of the field on 0-9 yard throws. Ball State will work short throws a lot to all their targets, especially in the middle of the field. UGA should defend and tackle those well.
On offense, it’s all about UGA executing what they do. Having Rosemy-Jacksaint back in the lineup will add some oomph to the perimeter/downfield blocking and the Bulldogs should have a lot of opportunities over the middle on intermediate throws.
It’s hard to predict how the run game will go. If Georgia looks like Georgia on the offensive line then they should hit some downhill runs up the middle. Look for UGA to start the game testing that but also trying to get the Ball State LB’s running sideline to sideline. Bobo is likely to use motion to take defenders from between the hashes to the boundary.
Ball State tackled decently in the back seven against Kentucky. Playing zone helps that because it keeps players from getting stuck on islands, but Georgia should be able to work in chunks down the field. Beck will need to be decisive and avoid staring down his targets early.
With the Cardinals in zone a lot, there could be some chances for UGA to hit the seams early with Bowers, Delp and the slot receivers. #3 Jordan Riley started at SS for Ball State last week and gave up a 44-yard play in coverage. I don’t know if UGA will try to work off play-action much or go downfield a lot, but I think Lovett and/or Bowers could feast on Riley based off what I saw on tape. He’s not great tackling in the open field and isn’t super comfortable in coverage downfield.
I think this is a “get right” type of game for the Dawgs heading into conference play. There will be better execution on both side of the ball and the things they need to do well to make this a cakewalk are also the things they didn’t do very well last week.
Historically, Kirby Smart teams (especially his defenses) don’t make the same mental/execution mistakes in back-to-back games… Look for Georgia to roll early and get some substitutes in for the last 15-20 minutes of the game.
Georgia 51 - Ball State 10