Hot Rod and D Mask Weaknesses
Mid-November: YES! YES! YES! I was there as we beat a highly-ranked rival in a big game. We won an SEC home game. We were relevant national news.
Were not are. Sorry to have to be the reality check that bursts our bubbles, but I’m all in on GEORGIA and finding veritas. Truth hurts.
We scored no touchdowns and six total offensive points on 2-of-3 field goals Saturday in another hard-hitting iteration of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. We are still just 6-4, y’all – a bad record for GEORGIA – and sadly we have the 11th ranked offense of all 14 schools in a down SEC. Look at recent offensive skill of this program: Stafford, Green, Moreno, Murray, Gurley, Eason, Chubb, Michel. 11th is unacceptable.
One play went the other way, one bust, and the story would be Georgia failed to produce again, after getting just two scores and 10 points in J-Ville. FACT: You can’t score twice a game against valid competition and win, especially when 3-of-4 scores are kicks. We went 4-4 in the SEC in a year the SEC East is a national joke: that’s just .500.
Mel Tucker, Tracy Rocker, Kirby Smart and the rest of the D staff have the Dawgs defense playing really well, just as it did last year under now-BAMA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. You have to score to win these days, though. Gene Stallings era Alabama beat teams 16-10 every week you aren’t on probation football is a relic of Southern past.
Hot Rod Wildthing Rodrigo Blankenship is a straight out of Marietta Classic City cult hero, who has made unseasoned hook ’em Ham a bad memory. The one long kick “Blanky” (he needs more nicknames!) missed since his first, which was way back when he was trying to be like Ham and start at Georgia, was right on track Saturday and just a yard too far for his decent range.
We faced a team missing the SEC rushing leader, starting a banged up quarterback who we hurt in the game. White came in as the most accurate passer in the SEC. You try going hurt with your best team weapon out and see how that goes for you. It had tough loss written all over it for AU-barn, who we’ve now whipped 9-of-11 times and owned in Athens since 2005. I crowed we would win to my Auburn contacts before the game and told them we would completely shut them down without Pettway, who I heard from an inside source could barely walk.
I knew we would snuff them. Just as I said we would beat Kentucky by a kick and lose by 10 or more to Florida (it was 14), because our offense was still so off and the Gators had the top defense in the SEC and top pass D in the country coming into rivalry season. These old rivalries matter, and I see these things coming based on trends and tendencies, not on hopeful fan emotion. We are simply an average and underachieving football team lacking an offensive identity, still.
I see us going 9-4 now, maybe. If we can get to 9-4, Kirby will best Mark Richt’s record in his first year by a half game. Keep in mind what we have coming back, and that Richt’s second team had the most wins in UGA history. We went 13-1 in 2002 and won the SEC and were within a dropped pass in Florida from being in discussion for the national title game. UGA actually would have been locked out that year, sort of a 1946 Dawgs situation with us undefeated (but golden Notre Dame got the votes) or an undefeated Auburn situation, from David Greene and David Pollack’s senior years. Auburn got locked out as unblemished SEC champs with perhaps their best team ever.
In 2005, it was a fourth down miracle pass for the Tiger-WarEagle-Plainsmen that beat DJ Shockley in his only regular season loss as a starting quarterback. As has been well documented here and later elsewhere, the only two Aubie wins over a full decade coming into this year’s game were by teams that played for the national championship (they went 1-1 by beating Oregon and then blowing the SEC championship streak to FSU). $CAM was a much bigger pro than a young Aaron Murray who got off to an early lead. The esteemed Mr. Newton (of The ATL) turned down $100,000 from Miss State (for his daddy, a preacher) to play for the top-flight academic institution on the plains for free, though they too were struggling at football at the time. Makes perfect cents…Most recently, was the Prayer at Jordan-Hare catastrophe where a current Auburn starter named Trigger and a Louisville transfer who left with Todd Grantham collided, going for glory instead of knocking it down.
Speaking of knocking it down: the Tennessee Hail Mary was the biggest play of the SEC season for both Georgia and UT. We would probably be ranked today if all the rest was the same but we had won that game. Tennessee may even still, even after a swoon, win the East because of that play, and if GEORGIA had one more win, there, in a game we mostly dominated over a not that great team, we would still be in contention for a three-way SEC East title co-championship with the Gators and Vols. You can’t lose to them both and win big, folks.
Greg McGarity won’t do it, because he was a loyal Gator for almost two decades and has friends down there. And the southern Georgia alumni who have to go so far to reach Athens think they still need the Cocktail Party in their lives. But we don’t win regularly below the gnat line, so I implore our next athletic director to move the game. We are giving away a home game every other year to our biggest rival. Does that make sense for one good Friday night? We have lost 21-of-27 to them since they grew up. The state population is so many millions greater that they do not need any other advantages. Everybody recruits Florida. Everybody recruits Georgia, too. No program can own Atlanta, because it has represented the whole South since the Civil War. It’s going to be difficult to become a dominant program in the South while giving away home games every other year to play at the site of the Gator Bowl. They don’t call it a party anymore, because it’s not so fun when one side is always the away team. Wake up to reality, UGA.
Sam Pittman was widely considered the top offensive line coach in college football when he came to Athens. Jim Chaney was a respected offensive mind. Chaney and Pittman had produced yardage, more than lots of wins, together at Arkansas and Tennessee. If I judge them on wins, they are 4-4 in the league this year. If I judge them on on-field productivity, they are near the bottom of the league. Just two seasons ago, three seasons ago, Mike Bobo was setting school records for production on offense in back-to-back years while switching out quarterbacks and lead runners. Our offensive line was not full of dominant NFL-bound linemen then, either. If Eason was throwing interceptions, I would understand these growing pains. But when I look at our last two big games, and I do throw out Kentucky because they are still just a basketball school, we are not getting it done at all.
When I judge CEOs like say Kirby Smart, it’s on the success of their hires. Richt’s hire of Coach Schitty to replace Bobo doomed him. Can Kirby do better with or without these two? He simply better. It’s about all three sides (offense, defense, special teams), and the main thing Georgia has historically been able to do is produce offensive studs.
Lose the Tech game and nothing besides a short reprieve is gained with the Auburn win. Tech has the same record as Georgia as I write and, playing with their backup quarterback, just blew out a ranked division leading Virginia Tech. While if we can beat little Louisiana-Lafayette at noon, we have matched our longest win streak of the short Kirby era (just 3).
Chubb says he is finally almost 100%. Sony Michel is auditioning for a pro departure this year, too. Ridley, Wims, Nauta are rounding into shape and Eason has great touch and composure. And that defense may be done losing any games. They gave up just 7 and scored 7. Auburn had no first downs in the second half. Making it impossible for our offense to lose the game. They did enough to lose, though, leaving points on the field with three aborted promising drives, two with failures into the end zone on our only two real trick plays of the year so far. Don’t we have any good tricks in the bag?
The less than all that brutal this year SEC schedule is over for us. Sure, we lost as many as we won and got eliminated from glory early. But things aren’t all bad in the state of Georgia or in the program, though the glow of the big Auburn win is fading fast for me. I’m only watching the replay one more time. Under a smoke-filled from mountain region fires Athens sky, my brother Johnny and I watched us win. We whooped it up through the bus window with Sony and company, loudly on both sides “U G A! U G A! U G A!” and it was good.
It was good.
Things are looking up with the Ragin’ Cajuns coming to Athens to start a three-game out of conference schedule. Aren’t they? I’m anticipating a (possible) Georgia versus Miami bowl matchup and momentum toward next year…if we win out. GO DAWGS!