Opinion: Georgia Pulled D'Wan Mathis A Bit Early
Georgia entered Saturday "excited to watch their starting quarterback perform well," or at least those were Kirby Smart's words on College Gameday Saturday morning. The only thing is, they watched just six drives of D'Wan Mathis before they jumped ship to Stetson Bennett. And before I get too far, the decision to make the move ultimately won them the game in considerable fashion in the second half. That's not the point.
The point of this article is to show you that when Kirby Smart says, "It wasn't all on D'Wan" in the post-game press conference, he's not lying. The point of this article is to show to you that yesterday's performance by D'Wan Mathis was undoubtedly a rough one, but it's not worth writing him off. We didn't get enough of sample size, not to mention he wasn't being put into winnable situations.
It doesn't take long to review the six series that Mathis was in on to start the ball game.
- 1&10: Stuffed on inside zone RPO, Zamir White gains two yards.
- 2&8: Designed QB Draw, Mathis bolts for 16-yards, called back for a hold.
- 2&18: 12-yard completion to John Fitzpatrick.
- 3&6: Heavy play-action rollout, Mathis hits Pickens for 9 yards and a first down.
- 1&10: Incompletion
- 2&10: D'Wan Mathis runs for 6 yards.
- 3&4: False Start*
- 3&9: Mathis scrambles for 5 yards, is lit up on the sideline by Bumper Pool*
Remember to Bumper Pool hit, we will get back to it.
- 1&10: Stuffed on first down, no gain.
- 2&10: Incomplete
- 3&10: Mathis scrambles for 9 yards, gets out of bounds too early, Georgia Punts
- 1&10: Stuffed on run, a gain of three yards.
- 2&7: Holding on the designed screen to James Cook for no gain.
- 3&12: Incomplete
- 1&10: Stuffed on inside zone run, gain of three yards.
- 2&7: No gain on a check down to Zamir White.
- 3&7: Interception on an errant throw to Jermaine Burton.
- 1&10: Completion to Pickens, 11 yards and a first down.
- 1&10: Stuffed on an inside zone with Kenny McIntosh. A gain of three.
- 2&7: Incomplete to Pickens.
- 3&7: False Start*
- 3&12: Incomplete
- 1&10: Incomplete, intended for Kearis Jackson
- 2&10: James Cook rushes for seven yards.
- 3&3: James Cook rushes for 2 yards.
- 4&1: D'Wan Mathis rushes for 5-yards on a QB Sneak.
- 1&10: James Cook for 6 yards.
- 2&4: Incomplete.
- 3&4: Sack
Let's start with the errors that D'Wan Mathis made before we start making excuses for him.
You've got to know where the sticks are as a scrambler
On the opening drive, Mathis takes off on a scramble to his right on 3&9, and with no shot of the first down, he lazily attempts to get out of bounds. What he didn't know is that Bumper Pool covers the full 53 1/2 yards wide, and lit him up on the sideline. You gotta know where the hit sticks are too, not just the first down sticks.
Then on the second drive, he bails out of bounds too quickly on a scramble on 3rd & 10. Had he just stuck the ball out, things are different. The field awareness as a scrambler was subpar on Saturday. The best in the world at this is Russell Wilson. He never seems to take a big hit, and he always knows where the first down marker is.
Can't have bad misses in the redzone
Not only did D'Wan Mathis miss Jermaine Burton by a good four to five feet on the interception throw, but John Fitzpatrick was also running wide open down the middle of the field for what would have been an easy touchdown.
Very well could have been a miscommunication between the two freshman, either way a critical error.
Can not take sacks/Fumble the snap on 3rd & 4
The final play for Mathis was just something that cannot happen if you're going to be a starter on an elite college football team. He not only fumbles the shotgun snap, but he then picks it up and tries to run with it before being sacked.
I know Mathis is a great athlete, but if he just falls on the ball at the 35 where he picks it up and tries to run with it, it's a 52-yard field goal attempt possibly. Instead, he's sacked at the 41-yard line and Georgia is forced to punt.
Not all his fault
Of the (8) third-down situations Mathis was placed in, he faced 3&8 or less just three times. And he converted one of them. Want to know why the 19-year old was holding the ball too long? Well, because he was forced into positions where he's got to Convert a 3rd & 12, three of which were caused by a penalty (two false starts, and a hold) on 3rd & 7.
Now, let's address that early-down run game. Georgia ran the ball with their running backs 7 times in those six possessions. They resulted in a whopping 20 yards, an average of 2.85 yards per attempt. In fact, it was Mathis who was the leading rusher (25 yards on 4 carries) by the time he left the ball game following the first possession of the second half.
When you've got a young quarterback facing an average of 3rd & 8, with virtually no running game apart from himself in his first start in the SEC. You shouldn't expect him to succeed.
As we've laid out, there were several things that Mathis can clean up. He's got to have better situational awareness, and he's got to get the ball out on time. But that wasn't enough of a sample size for me, and I think Georgia might have snatched him a little bit too quickly.
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