Turn Around Seasons
This is officially a major downturn.
The harsh reality of a subpar campaign sets in with a month before a mid-tier at best bowl game. Our 3-game winning streak came to a thudding end with a 4th quarter collapse. Tech has won 2-of-3; Florida 3 straight; Tenn twice. (7-5 overall, 4-4 SEC, 1-of-3 in traditional rivalries)…When the clock struck zero on us in Athens, and we were the second best college football program in the Peach State, losing the Governor’s Cup at home, again, reality set all the way in. A stark truth could have been partially obfuscated if we had won, but it is utterly undeniable now: The Kirby Smart experiment was a total failure in Year 1. A game above .500, thanks to a miracle at Mizzou.
The Auburn (our lone old rivalry win) and once-looked-big UNC victories retain virtually no luster, as old Carolina lost Tobacco Road bragging rights to sorry N.C. State and Aubie continued to skid from a lofty (over) ranking toward total unimportance again.
The powerful league we play in itself is down, and we fit right in with the likes of Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vandy and Arkansas.
Hang your hats on a 3-1 stretch and you aren’t seeing the forest. The trees we timbered were little Ragin’ Cajuns, Le bleu Wildcats football and a depleted bunch of Plainsmen. We accomplished nothing, y’all.
Another Saturday…In ATHENS!!! Another heartbreaker for the loyal nation of fans. The Tennessee Hail Mary. Homecoming. Then this. I love GEORGIA and this really smarts, right now. This hurts.
Tailback U: Steady rock Nick Chubb moved into third on the all-time UGA rushing list, barely behind beast Todd Gurley and a far stretch from the greatest college player of them all, bumping my great classmate Garrison Hearst to fourth. While perhaps the most underused athlete at Georgia since future NFL MVP Terrell Davis, PLAY STATION Sony Michel hung 170 on the Jackets. Expect both backs to leave for the league, after a 1,000-yard season for Michel last year and Chubb battled all the way back from an atrocious injury.
These aren’t Kirby’s guys. The tops in the nation talent pool at running back that Richt rode to a play away near miss versus mighty Bama and nothing more is finally departing the Classic City. GURSHALL was Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall. Nick Chubb replaced and teamed with Todd. Sony Michel replaced and teamed with Nick. It’s over. I don’t see Brien Herrien ending up on any list of UGA legends, and Holyfield was so not ready, so not the real deal as a true frosh that he played so little that he may still be able to redshirt. These players don’t come around so often, even at Tailback U.
Eason going to save us? He regressed again Saturday, so far that he, and the unending Georgia tradition of throwing numerous receiver screens behind the line of scrimmage, basically cost us the game. We needed 30 to win, I said at the start. We got 27. Roquan was on and Bellamy bringing the big blows. But even with Sony getting his buck seventy and Chubb scoring touchdowns, we folded. We faded late.
Mel Tucker, although his defense was a clear notch or two down from Jeremy Pruitt of the year past, may be off to head coach Georgia State, as they prepare to take over the Ted (the Braves old stadium). Nobody will cry if our offensive coordinator leaves Athens, too. Two new coordinators on both sides of the ball very rarely net a big year.
No reason we can’t move up some in 2017, though, with every team in the SEC outside T-Town going to have a minimum of four losses this year, unless Florida upsets the Tide. They won’t. The SEC East suddenly looked resurgent as Georgia beat Auburn, Florida won at LSU, Mizzou upset Arkansas in the Ozarks. Then, on Saturday the division went 1-3 versus the ACC, the only winner Kentucky.
10-3 and unsatisfied, 10-3 and unhappy…then 7-5, with a bowl left. Look for the powers that be to match UGA with 8-4 Miami; they’ve now won four in a row and are coached by the man who had the best bowl winning percentage of any SEC coach during his league tenure. Yes, I was unsatisfied. Yes, I was unhappy. Yes, I miss winning.
___Re-live all the triumph and tumult of the Georgia Bulldogs over the past decade-and-a-half this holiday season, buy my new book:
“Richt Era: 15 Years in Athens” at www.silverstonepress.com