The Case for Defense
Han Vance on Georgia football: The ancient coaching axiom “Defense Wins Championships” epitomizes UGA’s best fighting chance as a slight underdog in Atlanta for the SEC championship game this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Been there done that, comes to mind too.
First, let’s finally bury beleaguered Bama. We’ve been forced to think about those rednecks way, way too much the past three years. Last year, while writing for only front-running allowed, pollyanna fronting free fan mag Bulldawg Illustrated, I pegged BAMA-GEORGIA early in the 2018 season, accurately, as on “the biggest collision course in college football.” Y’all recall that back in January of ’18, a Georgia chocked full of Mark Richt’s final haul of strongest-in-the-nation offensive skill position recruits had led mighty, favored, Bama by double-digits at both the half and again in the 4th quarter.
They had gelled that season around an inexperienced head coach with a proven defensive pedigree honed while coaching in his birth state of Alabama, and two Richt defensive recruits in particular. Roquan Smith was the first UGA player ever to win the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker) that season, and the shutdown corner Deandre Baker gave up no touchdowns at all his final two seasons, eventually winning UGA’s only ever Thorpe Award (nation’s best defensive back) for the 2018 season.
Kirby had attended the University of Georgia after being born in Mobile; too often talked about is that he was a high school coach’s son in the Peach State (So what?). More importantly, he was an all-SEC DB in Athens, always in position to make plays. He rose above very limited physical attributes.
Green in in-game decision coaching, though, the national championship in my home city of Atlanta was totally flitted away, after it was all but in the bag. After founding Deep South football at Herty Field in Athens in 1892, UGA won only a split national championship in 1942 and a lone consensus national title in 1980. So you know these opportunities don’t come around often. Over it ever? Forget Hell.
Jeremy Pruitt, the UGA defensive coordinator who had first-propelled the program to near-top defensive dominance, had left Athens when Richt did and was the DC at Alabama. He out-schemed (his current offensive coordinator at Tennessee) Jim Chaney, while top-down Georgia played not to lose.
Nick Saban has never won a national championship without either Kirby Smart or Jeremy Pruitt.
Three SEC championship games counting here back were: Georgia-LSU; Georgia-Bama; Georgia-Auburn. No name appears more than once that isn’t the nation’s oldest state chartered public university, the birthplace of American public higher education – our best idea as a nation.
Show some pride! Play with heart!
Last time I saw Georgia-LSU in Atlanta, GEORGIA, I was dismayed: LSU fans were way better than UGA’s. Cheer with some passion, (rich) folks with tickets. Get out of your shells.
Go crazy for the Dawgs!!!
Players, to a man, save a few freshmen and transfers, have all been here before. For the University of Georgia to be truly great, we must own Atlanta. Which is our destiny. To get over the hump.
Nobody on LSU has even played in and won a truly big national game outside of two shootouts this season. 5-loss Texas put up 500 yards and was edged by the (undefeated, aka due for a loss) Bayou Bengals in Austin at the start of the long college football season; playing with an injured all-star mobile quarterback and witnessing their best wideout drop two touchdown passes, the Tide were barely outdistanced by the Bengals, on the bayou.
This is ATL, G E O R G I A…c’mon Dawg-Nation. All in and win! …Let’s go, Kirby!
10-win Florida made it a game on the bayou and LSU pulled away late. Here’s the game film we are keying on, though, AU-barn at LSU. 23-20 Bengals. The second-best defense in the SEC held LSU to just 23…again, on the bayou. Note that none of these key wins is “at” anything, other than my birth city of Austin. The eyes of Texas are firmly on Baylor and SMU and the Horns Down has been prominent this calendar year, since the sUGAr Bowl debacle (horrible job getting the guys ready for that one).
Let’s focus now on the SECCG: Georgia made it in 2002 and won, bashing an Arkansas who would not have been in if Alabama wasn’t on probation (again and again, then). I was there (1-0),
I was there the next year, as national championship team LSU broke down Georgia’s O-line (1-1, 0-1).
We missed one once, then in 2005, DJ Shockley upset LSU in a blowout (2-1, 1-1 vs LSU).
Cold, cold, cold stretch. You can’t lose every year in Jacksonville and expect to reach Atlanta. Sure, we see Tech in Midtown, up the street here, but that’s not a real championship. Neither is the Cocktail Party’s Oar, a trophy for a rivalry doesn’t gleam long. Winning in J-Ville gets you the (also not that real) SEC East championship, almost every year. The real championships start downtown.
Richt finally got back and stuffed LSU for a half, then got blown out…again. (2-2, 1-2). The Honey Badger finally got loose on our less-talented team.
In the interim prior, Georgia had the best (BLACK OUT) team in the nation and was jilted for a two-loss (to Arkansas and Kentucky, late in the year!) LSU national championship team that had won its division, barely. That was at a time when the SEC East was quite a bit better than the SEC West, too.
Richt made it to back-to-back SECCG, and Bama was there. Saban, again. A coach and a program he had had some successes against, both. As example, Georgia goes for a three-game winning streak at Bama next year. Dawgs came up four (not five, folks!) yards short in the Georgia Dome. Note that it was not called the Alabama Field or Florida Dome, y’all.
A clear advantage…we must, simply must do better downtown! Oh yeah, (2-3).
Kirby got us back in year two, and the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry was REVENGE (3-3). That meeting was key nationally because the old series (also 1892, first played in ATL) moved into second as the most-played in college football history (behind Wisconsin-Minnesota).
History matters. If you don’t know your history much, then you really don’t know crap about college football. PERIOD. If you don’t yet know: READ. Educate yourself.
We can make history Saturday, moving into sole possession of second place for SEC titles, currently tied with Tennessee at 13. (I’m looking forward to seeing new-UT in Athens next year.)
Coming full circle: That was the year we lost IT ALL to Bama, back in Atlanta, the new stadium. Building must be ours! Get fired up, y’all.
Back to see them again in the SECCG, we tried a fake punt after an almost-blowout (3-4). In defense of the inexplicable replay of a blown win where we clutched defeat from the jaws of victory. Top-down. Georgia did have the youngest team in the whole SEC last year. We were not national championship ready at that stage, not with old rival Clemson out there. We could see them soon in the desert.
Am I judging Kirby too harshly? Absolutely not! I’m sick and tired of your homer pollyanna act, fans! Either he wins at the highest level or we have not seen much true improvement, none at all whatsoever in fact from where we were back in ’02-’05. And, that was no true dominance, peaking in ’02 with one sUGAr Bowl win and a 13-1 team. This is his fourth year, these are his guys.
Making the CFP once is surely no cause for statue erection.
So, all we are asking here is to go 4-4 in the SECCG, each game played in our state. And 2-2 versus LSU in the SECCG, again, all played in Georgia. This ain’t no bayou. OWN YOUR STATE!!!
While LSU averages 48 and gave up 614 yards to 4-win Ole Piss, Georgia yields just 10 points a game. Does defense win championships? The most points Georgia gave up all season was 20, in double overtime. In regulation, that number drops down to 17.
I’m taking Georgia 27-24.