The Thin Line Between Winning and Losing

That was a sickening loss.

But think of this: If we’d done nothing else more besides having not gotten sacked at the end of the Arkansas game and kicked a winning field goal, we would be only one game back from the lead in the SEC East. Tennessee is down. Kentucky is Kentucky. Vandy is Vandy. And S. Carolina and Florida have dropped conference games. We’d be a shabby 2-3 and still essentially in control of our own destiny in conference, since we play Florida still and Carolina always loses games late in the year.

As I sit, in recovery from another tough close loss – our fourth in a row – it’s easy to forget how many close games we have won since Mark Richt took over as head football coach for the nation’s oldest state chartered public university ten years ago.

To date: Mark Richt has the fourth best winning percentage of any active football coach. That stat is hard to argue against, but so is this one: 1-4.

Many of those ninety wins in Richt’s first nine years as head coach came in very close ball games decided late. And I’ll quote my dear departed dad here: “Losing is contagious…so is winning.”

With our best player on suspension, we did not pack our offense for road trips to Columbia and Starkville and got beat by teams with less talent in their programs. We controlled the ball at past midfield with the clock running down and needed only a field goal from the best kicker in the country to win at a clearly improved Colorado and at home versus highly-explosive Arkansas. Arkansas sacked Murray and scored and we lost; Caleb dropped the rock on the mountainous turf and we lost. We literally found a way to lose after showing some heart and fight in those two games.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda, didn’t and haven’t – not this year, not this quarterback, not this defense, not this combination of coaches. And it only took a handful of plays by AJ tonight to realize what we could have been this season: perhaps SEC East champions or better. It just hasn’t happened, and we must find a way to win again.

No time like the present, as Tennessee takes a trip to the Classic City for a 12:21 matchup of recently good programs in rebuilding modes. Beating them never gets old, and our new goal for this season has to be to win any football game against a major program. Do that, and then we can think about returning to .500…and eventually beyond. Our four biggest rivals are still on the docket, and the season already feels over, the run of program success feels over. Is it? Or do we have heart.