Smarter, Older, Tougher
The University of Georgia (1785) is the nation’s oldest state chartered public university, while the University of North Carolina was chartered second. The Tarheels – a state border non-rival UGA plays extremely rarely – again came up second Saturday night.
Offensive genius Larry Fedora just didn’t have the horses when he took over football duties for the nation’s oldest public basketball school after a meteoric rise to end his tenure as head coach of Southern Miss. A half decade later, UNC finally has the look of a tough major college football program. They just weren’t nearly as tough as Ol’ Georgia when the game was on the line in the Georgia Dome. Leading 24-14, they ultimately got whipped 33-24 by a plainly superior program.
Halfway through last season, Baylor was on pace to be the statistical greatest offense in college football history. Of course as any Georgia fan can attest, injuries can and do happen regularly in this brutal contact sport. By season’s summation, UNC actually averaged the most yards per play (just over 7) of any team in the country. They almost outscored national runner up Clemson in the ACC championship, the team that almost outscored Bama and probably would have if not for a well-timed Tide onside kick. The bowl game, though, saw Baylor’s second and third-line guys set rushing records against North Carolina. The run D was the big problem at UNC.
Enter Nick Chubb. Spelling Gurley during a suspension, running along side him for a blowout of Auburn and then taking over again after an injury, Chubb had over 1,500 yards as true freshman and was the reason for hope last year for UGA fans. We had replaced the best player in the country with the best player in the country. Last year, Chubb broke the YPC record and was a Heisman frontrunner at time of injury, even gashing eventual national champion Alabama for about a buck-fifty.
Without him, Georgia’s offense went in the tank. But it’s revelatory that we still won 10 football games without much of a passing offense. Michel played well at runner, sure, but way bigger was that UGA led the nation in forcing three-and-outs. And UGA led the nation in pass defense. While defense isn’t nearly as glamorous, and it really does take an explosive offense to win championships these years, top-tier defenses definitely still win football games.
So Saturday night. Bright lights big city. Nick was ready; he had the statistics of a successful full game by halftime with over 100 yards. But veteran QB Greyson Lambert was still holding the ball too long, was still not checking down to non-primary receivers, still sat in the pocket like a statue. The Dawgs wearing those red tops against the fabled, pretty Carolina Blue barely clung to a 14-10 halftime lead behind strong running and a mighty defensive effort which seemed to befuddle the overhyped new UNC starting quarterback.
Then, the special teams gaffes reoccurred. This must stop. We brought in Lil Beamer from VaTech to do here what he and his daddy did. Still looked ugly. UNC took the opening second half kick to the house. Ham hooked a bologna sandwich off his foot into the stands. Señor Blankenship isn’t any better than this kid? We may be in big trouble at kicker. Come on, man. Get it together on special teams! Please…
Enter Jacob Eason, who hit Joystick for a bomb bigger than any pass play of last season. Hammer Chubb for two touchdowns and 222 on the ground.
When it was all over, we walked off the Georgia Dome carpet a winner for the first time since beating LSU there in 2005. An ATL sUGAr Bowl loss, two painful SEC thuds and even a beating by Boise State lay between. This is a stadium we must learn to win in.
Kirby is 1-0, in Atlanta, in big games, in neutral site contests, overall.
Kudos to the defense: Throw out that -10 in special teams and this is basically a blowout win. They only gave up 17 points. Giving up under twenty to top offensive teams will get lots of wins.
Especially if we can scheme a way to get wideouts and tight ends open, because young Eason is the truth. Only four of his passes even touched turf, while Lambert was sacked only one less time than that by holding on way too long. Let it go. Let it go. It’s the kid’s time…and he will have a steady and experienced backup who has now moved to 11-2 as a starter. Eason, Chubb and a dominant D can take GEORGIA places.
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Book by Han Vance: “Richt Era” debuts 11/11 Avid Bookshop (Athens)