Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thursday Feeling

For some reason, I’m feeling a little loosey goosey about this thing.  Aaron Murray turned it around, but they were all nail-biters.  Holding them in 2011 after we scored, the fumble and running out the clock in 2012, running out the clock in 2013.  Even 2004 we had to hold on at the end.  2007 was more demonstrative, but it never felt like a 2 score game until very, very late.
Saban’s first year, that 7-6 team showed up and absolutely stoned Tennessee, a team that went 9-3 and beat our 2007 Dawgs.  Tennessee walloped us in Knoxville, we beat Bama in OT, but Bama routed UT.  Previous games just aren’t harbingers of things to come until you have a much more clear identity, like, I know Chad Kelly is going to turn it over and I know Bama’s D is going to knock you silly.  Those are identities.  We just don’t have one, good or bad, yet.
Something smells like a route to me, like we are just going to play lights out and expose them, get after Del Rio (hello, Mr. Ledbetter) and shut them down.  Eason grows up and we get an identity.  I have no basis for this whatsoever.  But, it would set a tone for Kirby’s tenure. 
Tennessee was better than Bama that year, but it set a tone in a bitter rivalry, and UT has never beaten them.  Can you believe that?  Since Saban got there, UGA has beaten them, LSU, Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn, aTm, and South Carolina have all beaten them.  But not UT.
BTW, funny how things change so fast.  Just a couple years ago we had lost to the Cocks 4 out of 5 seasons.  Now we’ve beat them 3 out of 4.  We are 2-2 vs. Vandy in the last four.  Chew on that.  We’ve lost 2 in a row to the Gators, but find a way to win Saturday and we’ve won 4 of 6.
Go Dawgs!
Beat Florida!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What Happens Saturday?

Well, it’s Florida week.  We have 3 losses, but Ole Miss has 4.  We are a crazy mess.  I’m convinced that UNC is the best team we’ve beat since at least Louisville in the Belk Bowl and probably Auburn from that season, but UNC is probably better than them.  They’re probably the best team we’ve beat since beating Clemson earlier that year, a team that went 10-3.  And Nichols is perhaps the worst game we’ve ever played.  And we lost to Vandy.
If there’s any room for encouragement, it’s that we almost alternate:
UNC – play great
Nicholls – play awful
Mizzou – play good, pull out a clutch win
Ole Miss – play awful
UT – play really good in gut-wrenching loss
South Carolina – play pretty good in win
Vandy – head scratcher sleep walking loss
So, we’re due for a good one.  We’re almost good/bad week to week.  What I do know is that Penn St. beat Ohio St. and only completed 8 passes.  That really happened.  Florida’s defense is nasty, but so is there offense, and not in the same way.  There are no keys, because we have no way to know how in the world it works out.  Just find a way to win the game.
The week of the Bama game in 2007, a friend asked me what I thought about the game.  Remember, we had come off an encouraging performance vs. Okie St. followed by another face-plant against South Carolina.  I said that I thought we’d win because we had to.  Our staff needed that game badly.  The same is true here.  That doesn’t mean we’ll win, but I’ll be shocked if we play poorly.  Maybe our team truly hasn’t bought in, but I have a hard time believing that’s true of the core.
I also believe that Jacob is going to keep getting better.  He’s one of the top 3-4 most talented QBs in the nation.  It’s clicking more and more.  He’s not scared. 
We’ve never played Florida with Nick and Sony.  Not once.  Sony was out in 2014 and Nick was out in 2015.  They will show up ready to play. 
Speaking of Ohio St.  I think I’m in w/ the 4-team playoff, but it truly has changed the sport.  In essence, that loss to Penn State almost meant nothing.  Fans in Clemson and Seattle weren’t huddled around their TVs to watch it because they know that they win and they’re in.  That’s a good thing, because the beauty contest is over and if you go undefeated in your power 5 league, you’re in.  But still, it’s taken some shine off those upsets like that.
And, boy, I cannot wait for Clemson to live in the post Deshaun era.  I actually think they go down in Tallahassee on Saturday night.
Go Dawgs!
Beat Florida!
Gator Hater!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Yearly Existential Dawg Thought

It’s not exactly where we expected to be.  But it’s where we are…and it’s probably where we have to be, for now.
Probably every Dawg wondered at some point on Saturday afternoon on the walk back to the car or the ride back home or after clicking off the TV…did we make a mistake?  Should we not have fired Richt?  Surely he’d have beaten Vandy.  BTW, the last time he played them w/ a true freshman QB at home – he didn’t.  He also lost up at Vandy with a 4 year starter at QB and the most prolific passer in SEC history.  But I digress.  Every dawg fan had to ask it.
Should we have hired Herman or Fuente?  Should we have gone hard after a proven winner like Dantonio or Shaw?  Then I watch Houston (coming off a loss to Navy) come within an inch of losing to Tulsa. Syracuse (who is probably worse than Vandy) beat Fuente and VT, Sparty is an abject disaster, and Stanford is off the rails (with one of the best players in America on their team).  We’d be awful right now with Herman and Eason would be starting in Gainesville. 
I’m thinking of Nebraska, who looked like they had made a mistake with Riley.  I’m thinking of Washington, who looked like they’d had a bust with Petersen.  I’m thinking of A&M, who couldn’t get to 6-0 before this year w/ some of the best players in the league and a Heisman winner.  I’m thinking it takes time.  Painful, dreadful time.
I am as frustrated as heck at Cheney.  I do not like the 3rd or 4th down call.  I do not like the tendency toward getting cute.  I do not like his stubbornness to the gameplan even when it seems it’s not working.  I also do not want 4 OCs in 4 years.  Like, seriously.  I do not want that.  I know Saban changed Applewhite after the first year in 2007, but I’m not sure a McElwain is out there.  Who do we get?  Who even runs pro style besides us, Bama, Stanford, Arkansas and FSU, USC, Florida (sort of) and Colorado St.?  I just don’t think you make a change unless by some miracle you can convince Mike Bobo that head coaching is not for him. It’s not a recipe for success.  I think I feel the same way about Beamer.  We’ve got to let the coaches coach.  I’m fairly positive he didn’t tell Reggie Davis to step out at the 3.  Now, the fact that 2 different staffs continue to put #81 in those positions is remarkable.  I mean, is he THAT fast?  Beamer was Spurrier’s recruiting coordinator from 2009-2011.  Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffrey, DJ Swearinger, AJ Cann, Connor Shaw, Ace Sanders, Kelsey Quarles, Lattimore, Clowney.  Those are some of the guys they signed in those 3 years.  He’s part of the recruiting package that Kirby assembled.  He was Spurrier’s Special Teams Coordinator.  He knows what he’s doing, and he needs more than 7 games.
2 Quick thoughts:
·       We’re playing too many freshmen, but it’s out of necessity.  Bama has 6 SR starters on defense.  SIX!  They start 2 freshmen:  Hurts and an OT, Jonah Williams who was the #17 player in America, #2 OT and an early enrollee.  Over the years, if you watch those guys, they don’t play a lot of freshmen.  We’re having to, and we have had to in the past.  But this has to stop.  We are filling in the gaps for the horrific 2013 recruiting class.
·       Kirby, in many ways is sticking to his guns, and he probably has to.  If I got sent to a church that was not growing and had only a traditional service (and maybe they did that well), I’m faced with a conundrum.  Though we could tweak some things, do some better marketing and paint a few walls, fundamentally, I don’t believe you can grow a church and reach new people with traditional worship long term.  And delaying starting a contemporary service is kind of delaying the inevitable.  It’s going to be painful and some people are going to leave or get mad.  Some preachers even say you’ve got grow down before you grow up.  Or do I bite the bullet and try to get a choir director and pianist to play contemporary even though they’re not best at it because I’m trying to start the process or moving the church in the direction that I believe will give us the most long-term success?  I know what I’d do.  I’d do what I believed in, and what I thought was the best for us over the long haul. 
What I hope is that Kirby and the team can deliver some fun.  UGA football has become the most un-fun thing ever.  2014 was fun.  We lost an a stinker to Tech and didn’t show up at Florida.  We were constipated in Columbia and those were awful.  But we won fun.  We rolled Clemson and Todd is still running.  We showed up in Mizzou and Arky and just stoned them in every way.  We had a magical night vs. Auburn.  We scored 100 points vs. Kentucky.  I know.  We had Mike Bobo.  We had the same record, 9-3, but we were a fun team to watch.  For the last year and a half, we are anything but fun.  Dawg Nation desperately needs some fun to close out this season.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Columbia, SC

You know, as bad as that South Carolina team is, I got to thinking about our trips there for about the last 20 years.  We should never sneeze at a 14 point win there, or a win of any kind.
2014 – loss.  With Todd Gurley to a team that went 7-6
2012 – loss. With Todd Gurley to a darn good team, but we got blown out, and it was one of Richt’s best 3-4 teams.
2010 – loss.  No offense to the worst East champion ever and a team that eventually ended up 9-5.
2008 – won 14-7 with Moreno, Stafford and Green to a team that went 7-6.  We were preseason #1.
2006 – won 18-0 to an 8-5 team, the most bizarre outcome of the last 20 years.
2004 – trailed 16-0 and won 20-16 to a Holtz team that went 6-5.  It was Pollack and Greene’s senior season.
2002 – Richt’s best team needed a miracle, did not score an offensive TD and hung on getting a fumble inside our five yd line.
2000 – paging Quincy Carter. An 8-4 South Carolina team owned us.
1998 – We won 17-3 against a team that went 1-10.  Yes, you’re reading that right.  It was a team coached by Brad Scott.
1996 – We lost to a team that went 6-5
We were 5-5 in our last 10 trips there before Saturday.  We don’t play well there for whatever reason.  We won.  Jacob was off, but think about some offensive clunkers we’ve put up in that stadium over the last 20 years.  We couldn’t score with Murray, King, Gurley and Marshall in 2012!
Survive and advance.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dooms Day Playoffs

Just thinking today…you want your doomsday playoff scenario.  

·       OU wins the big 12 with at least 2, maybe 3 losses.  Remember, they can go 8-1 in the league and have 3 losses.
·       A 2-loss team wins the Pac 12.  Entirely possible, perhaps likely.
·       OSU or Mich win Big 10
·       UNC drops a game, but wins their division.
·       UT loses to bama, twice, going 11-2
·       UGA wins out
·       Ole Miss wins out
·       FSU wins out
·       Louisville wins out, beating Houston
·       UNC beats 11-1 Clemson in ACCCG

Your locks:
-Bama and Big 10 champ are in
-Houston is out

Then you’d have:
-2-3 loss Big 12 champ
-2 loss Pac-12 champ
-11-2 UNC – ACC champ (who lost to UGA)
-10-2 UGA (who lost to Ole Miss and UT)
-10-2 Ole Miss (Who lost to Bama a FSU)
-10-2 FSU (Who lost to Louisville and UNC)
-11-1 Louisville (Who lost to Clemson)
-11-2 Clemson (Who lost to FSU and UNC on the last day of the season)
-11-2 UT (who lost to Bama, and on the last day of the season)

THAT would be utterly nuts.  No way we get in there, but it sure would make it interesting.  This is what I do when I’m coping with a loss.

Never Is A Long Time

Just embrace that you’ll never get over it.  In 1985, I went to the Labor Day game vs. Bama.  We retired #34 that night.  We blocked a punt to take a late lead.  With no timeouts and 0:50, Mike Shula led them down the field to beat us.  I’m still not over it.  

There is nothing to go over.  I’m not concerned about the direction of the program under Kirby.  We’ve obviously got some tremendous young talent.  We’ll get more.  We played with an edge and urgency the entire game save for 10 seconds.  (which is part of the problem).  I’m not worried about what Kirby is building.

What does me in is the cruelness of fate.  It’s that we were all about to witness the greatest win in Sanford Stadium history.  I don’t say that as hyperbole.  I really think it was going to be.  It’s been a long time since we’ve beat a team of that caliber in that fashion.  Frankly, I don’t really understand football fate, after watching it for 39 years.

I was in Death Valley when we held a late 4 point lead over Clemson backed up in our own territory.  Keep in mind, this is against Rodney Williams (QB) and Clemson.  He could neither pass nor run.  He was good at handing off.  Ford ran a classic 80’s power team and expected to win with running and defense.  We ran a QB sweep with James Jackson, who got tackled for a safety in the endzone, cutting the lead to two.  We kicked off and they got in position for David Treadwell to kick a FG to beat us by 1.  It was the second straight year Treadwell had kicked a FG to beat us.  The most impossible and improbable thing happen for us to lose in almost the only way we could.  There was no way Bama was driving the length of the field.  There was no way Clemson could score another TD to overcome that 4 point deficit.  

What I want to tell you is that if you think this is a Smart, Richt, Donnan or Goff problem, it stretches far beyond that.  Those were Dooley games.  I can see us running that QB sweep in my mind and as an 10 yr old thinking “No!!!!!”

What makes me sad are two things:
·       There are no guarantees Jacob Eason or any of us will experience anything like that ever again, especially in Sanford Stadium.  We’ve all been to a whole bunch of games there, and the list is very, very short of come from behind victories where we had to score a TD to win the game at home and did and won the game.  Of the ones I’ve seen:
o   Stafford to Massaquoi.  
o   Murray to JSW vs. LSU.  I literally can’t think of another.
o   Mason to Mitchell in ’14 vs. Tech would have been.
o   I was there for Butler’s kick in ’84.  It was bonkers.  The game was tied and we won on a FG, obviously.
o   To win on a bomb like that.  It was just different than Stafford or Hutson.  And it felt different than Murray to JSW.
·       The schedule has me down for those very same reasons.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to beat Florida, Auburn and Tech, badly.  But there’s a decent chance we’re going to go the rest of the season without playing a ranked team.  Heck, there’s a decent chance we go to South Bend next year and ND is unranked the way they’re going.  The chance to bounce back vs. a perceived ‘good’ team doesn’t exist.  We could go 10-2 with the only ranked team we beat being UNC, who might possibly go 11-1 (again).  The Heels have VaTech and Miami the next 2 weeks. Win those two and they’re cruising.  BTW, why wouldn’t LSU hire Fedora?  
o   All that to say…the next meaningful game for the division in Sanford Stadium is in 2018 vs. UT.  The older I get, the more I tire of the Jacksonville deal and I hate the Auburn/Tech deal.  I like Jax, but I’m for a 3-4 year rotator.  Athens – jax – Gainesville – jax – Athens…Every class gets jax twice.  Every class gets a home game and a road game.  My brother has seen home games in the last year and a half vs. ND, FSU and L’ville.  All wins.  We get a top ten team in Athens once in a blue moon, and we’re in a better conference with more ranked teams.  That’s insane.  I could have my mind changed about Jax with a 9-game conference schedule.  We’ve got to get A&M, Bama, and LSU to Athens more.  A&M plays in Athens in 2019.  LSU plays in 2025.  I believe Alabama plays in Athens again in 2016.  That is certifiably insane.  We play Notre Dame and UCLA in Athens before we play either LSU or Bama in Athens again.  I fell in love with UGA football because I’m addicted to that environment from Saturday.  Mizzou at noon doesn’t really do that.
o   The other part of the schedule is that as talented as we’ll be in 2017 and ’18, we play @ Notre Dame in ’17 and @ LSU in ’18.  In ’17, we play @ ND, @ UT, @ Auburn, @ Tech and Fla. In Jax.  You tell me if that looks like a championship.  It’s a murderers row.  People are going to watch us in huge National TV games and say, “Do those guys ever play at home?”

BUT…what Kirby has to fix, more than anything, is this issue of fate.  Richt openly admitted that he wanted to be at the top and one year things would eventually fall in place.  No injuries, the ball would bounce your way, etc.  That’s waiting on fate.  I don’t think Bama or Ohio St. wait on fate.  Michigan lost an even more inexplicable heartbreaker to MSU last year…but they don’t seem to be waiting on fate.  Georgia needs to take fate out of the equation.  That might be our problem for the better part of 30 years.  We don’t want to be better than you, we just want the ball to bounce our way our fair share.  I think that mindset is in our players.  It’s why we relaxed with 10 seconds left.  I know the coaches didn’t.  I’m a Georgia fan, expecting the worst, so I sure didn’t.  That’s my takeaway.  Stop waiting on fate.  We’ve been waiting since Lindsay ran down Duval St.   Be better.