On Sunday, I wrote a post proposing that this season could easily be summed up by a quote after the Georgia Tech game that stated that the team lost focus and let the Bees back in the game. I believe it does so on a very simple level, but doesn’t do so on a much deeper level.
There are plenty of posts questioning the coaching and the motivations of the coaches. There have been posts that pointed out the short comings on defense and the lack of solid “Georgia” defense in at least three seasons. This is the first time in eight years that a Georgia team has regressed. Blutarsky took the time to look at Georgia’s season. It wasn’t pretty as the weather got cooler. The defense basically regressed after the Alabama game. Impossible to explain, but impossible to deny.
You can point to injuries, there are plenty. You can look at a few key plays, especially in the Florida and Georgia Tech games. However, there is no denying that this 9-3 Georgia team is mere plays from at least 6-5, with a Reshard Jones’ interception against South Carolina inside the 10 yard line on what could have been a tying drive. Who knows how that game might have played out in overtime. I was aghast with the way the team let up against LSU, despite having a big fourth quarter lead. At the time, it was attributed to a lackadaisical attitude. In hindsight, especially considering the Kentucky, Auburn and Georgia Tech games, it was emblematic of deeper issues, part coaching, part players.
There is no doubt that our defenses have been out schemed and out played, especially in the second half of ball games. In the last five games, opponents scored 71+% of their points against the Dawgs in the third and forth quarters. Obviously, there is something missing that prior Georgia teams had defensively.
Greatness begets greatness. There was plenty of greatness in the past. This season’s defensive squad, whether due to coaching, lack of desire/talent, or injuries never found that greatness. After Tech scored on the 60 yard run at the beginning of the third quarter, I looked at my wife and told her we were in grave danger of getting blown out. I thought back to LSU’s mini-comeback and needing to score late to beat Kentucky. I thought about the Auburn game and how we got lucky it was Kodi Burns running the offense trying to make a comeback. I felt in my gut that this Georgia team wouldn’t have the fortitude or leadership to come up with a win, especially with Darryl Gamble out. I was right.
Georgia loss the Tech game because of the little things, especially the tendency of a couple of players to want to deliver THE hit or just flat out not wrap up on tackles. That coupled with the same players’ tendency to not stay on assignment, and you have the recipe for 400+ yards rushing from Georgia Tech. Those little things are symptoms of something deeper, though. There is a lack of leadership from the players and coaches. Look at Tim Tebow after the Mississippi loss. He promised his team wouldn’t play like that again. They haven’t. No one involved with our program has stood up and said that. There have been excuses and glib jokes, but no one is willing to say “NO MORE”.
The title of this post is from one of my favorite movies, Lonesome Dove. It is a bastardization of a Latin phrase that basically translates to ‘grapes ripen in the presence of other grapes.’ In Lonesome Dove, it encapsulated the spirit of Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae and how they lived. They led by example and expected the men working for them to do so, too. Those that didn’t live that way were weeded out. In that sense, the two former Texas Rangers made a new breed of Texans by showing them how to be Texans. This Georgia team doesn’t have anyone on defense stepping up to be Call and McCrae, either from the coaching staff or as a player, showing this team how to be a great Georgia team.
I could be completely full of crap, and probably am. However, something major is going on with this team and has been for a couple of years. Save a few glorious games last year, the past three years have been notible due to the team’s failure to play to a consistently high level game in and game out. Yes, you need luck to win a national championship. Yes, it is crazy to expect to win 12 football games a year and the SEC championship game. It is not crazy to expect the kind of talent Georgia has, with the head coach and some position coaches we have, to win all games against teams with equal or lesser talent and at least one a year against any one team that has greater talent (in the event there is such a game on your schedule). With the talent Coach Richt is bringing in, you do that and you are competitive for the SEC East year in and year out.
Much can be said about expectations and how that plays. Expectations are a double edged sword. However, they are generally based on something tangible. A 9-3 season is great, regardless of how we got here. However, when you have the possible first NFL draft pick as QB and a top 25 draft pick at running back (plus two receivers that will likely play in the NFL), expecting more isn’t unreasonable. Coach Richt is right. Had our expectations been less, this season would feel different. However, no matter if Georgia were 12-0 right now, and they could have been, I still don’t think I would feel differently about how this team’s defense has played. I felt this way after Alabama. I felt this way after LSU. I felt this way after Florida. I felt this way after Kentucky.
Don’t even get me started on special teams, especially kickoffs….
Finally, I like some of what I have heard since Saturday from Coach Richt. I hope he means what he says about working on fundamentals. I hope he means what he says about improvement and doing a top to bottom assessment of the program. Hopefully this football season will be looked at in the same way that the 1977 season was, one that produced much soul searching and more importantly planted the idea that Georgia football had to be about more than just playing in a bowl game, that the SEC championship is not too much of a goal to be aspired to and worked for.