The Busted Season

U R DOG.Georgia’s current premier football player Nick Chubb remained winless in his career versus the University of Florida Saturday at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. After missing last year’s contest due to major injury, which came a year after his 100-yard first quarter. Each of the three games was a dominant win by the Gators over our beloved Dawgs.

It’s actually a fairly strong indictment against Mark Richt that this bad loss was in by far the closest of those three football games.

The school that won it all in 1942 had just 21 rushing yards this year as our offensive line was severely outplayed, and the Florida offense did just enough.

Eason had to throw it 33 times and didn’t always get one off. We had our worst overall offensive game in twenty years. Yet, the kid I call “Franchise” has superior raw talent and his play under severe duress, coupled with a fairly stingy Georgia defense kept us plenty competitive in the first half and within two touchdowns late, with us making enough stops that the Dawgs had several chances for the light to come on and something to happen. It never did.

You have to throw to the sticks more Dawgs! Routes and play calls must be adjusted, as throws which net completions on 3rd and 4th down need to be for first downs. We were playing the best defensive backs in the country, so that was a hidden factor in our overly conservative pass routes. But catching the ball a yard or two short of the sticks is futile and a sign of bad coaching toward player recognition, when you consider what all has to go right in making a successful completion. Especially considering their strong pass rush and our lack of running game. We would’ve had to hit those for big first downs to win the game. Instead, we kept making completions and getting tackled or pushed out short.

While their defensive line and blitz penetration was the main story.

The future of Georgia football is the Eason-Ridley-Nautua (all freshmen) passing game. We need stronger, bigger, more athletic linemen to block for Jacob Eason and more good-sized, ball attacking wide outs. The badly under thrown Eason pass where Ridley hurt his ankle having to come back for the ball could have been their second touchdown connection. As usual, it came down to execution.

Head coach Kirby Smart is .500 for his 8-game career, with bad losses coming: 1. at Ole Miss (blown out by a currently sub .500 team), 2. back home to Tennessee (in a famous Hail Mary from a team that has since lost three straight), 3. to a Vandy team (on Homecoming when the play calling came into question) and 4. to our biggest rival (where we were ineffective on offense). Those have to be the four worst types of losses possible.

Looking ahead on the schedule: Kentucky is solidly in second place in the SEC East behind a strong running game and will be geeked up for a night game in Bluegrass Country. Louisiana-Lafayette all but ensures we will get to at least five wins in 2016, which is not bowl eligible. Then, we get a peaking Auburn team with the most accurate passer in the SEC and perhaps the league’s best ground attack. Throw in senior defensive linemen Montravious “Monster” Adams and Carl Lawson and UGA has a distinct disadvantage in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry this year. Georgia Tech has a better record than Georgia.

Back to the House of Horrors in Jacksonville! We had seen similar scores and scenarios roll through this game too many times in the past. Georgia barely outplaying Florida for a quarter, but trailing after not executing near the goal line. Florida and Georgia playing even in a second quarter slugfest, the Gators maintaining a small lead. And then as the day grew long and the oceanic sky set passionately over the river, the game turned. Georgia couldn’t score at all while Gators got a touchdown, a field goal.

It hurts right now as a fan base and has for so many years, to think at all of this great series, which they have won 21-of-27 tries since Ray Goff beat a pre-Spurrier Florida in 1989. That was the fall following my high school graduation, by the way. By the time I got to school in Athens after a gap year the series was lost. The University of Georgia still owns a significant 7-game lead in it…but no matter. We have suffered so much from this.

After three straight wins, Georgia has now lost three straight to Florida, at the site of the Gator Bowl.

_”Richt Era” book by Han Vance comes out Friday 11/11 Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA (reading/signing 6:30-7:30p)