Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bradley's Not Buying It Either

Perhaps I, along with many of you, fell through some worm hole into a parallel universe and witnessed a different game than the Georgia coaching staff and its quarterback. The coach and quarterback are blaming the offensive line. I didn't see Ben Jones drop any passes, did you? Bobo has even talked about Richard Samuels not breaking tackles. Fair enough.

The coaches and the quarterback did their jobs. Maybe, just maybe, the defense did well enough to win.

Excuse my sarcasm, but we are 6-4 in our lat ten. The problems are many.

There's something missing at UGA, and it isn't talent | Mark Bradley
Athens – Mark Richt admitted it himself: Something’s missing.

Speaking of his offensive linemen, he said Tuesday: “I don’t know if we weren’t as intense as much as we didn’t play with the speed we needed. They played pretty hard, but they can play harder. We want to see a little more fire. They gave good effort, but they can give great effort.”

Think about that. A key unit of a Georgia team that was opening its season on the road against a Top 10 opponent didn’t, as coaches are forever urging, leave it all on the field. Could we have said the same of any part of a Georgia team in 2002 or 2005? Hasn’t playing hard been a staple of Georgia football since Ben Zambiasi was throwing up before every game?

No, something’s missing. If recruiting rankings are to be believed, it isn’t talent. Georgia should have better players now than it did in 2002 because Richt has had nine years to build. But if the offensive line isn’t going full-tilt — and an offensive line is generally a barometer of a team’s mood — in such a massive game, isn’t that the strongest evidence this program has lost its edge?

The Bulldogs got the start they needed in Stillwater — they drove 80 yards to a touchdown on their first possession — and had the game going their way deep into the second quarter. They were outscored 24-3 over the final 33 minutes. They made three first downs the fourth quarter. Richt chose to punt on fourth-and-11 trailing by two touchdowns with 6 1/2 minutes left.

We contrast that to the road victories on which Richt made his reputation — at Tennessee in 2001 and 2003 and 2005, at Alabama in 2002 and 2007, at Auburn in 2002 and 2006, at South Carolina in 2002 and 2004 — and we realize Georgia hadn’t really fizzled in an opponent’s stadium since the trip to Tennessee in 2007. That game told Richt something was indeed amiss, and the lack of enthusiasm in Knoxville begat the famous end-zone stomp in Jacksonville.

This was supposed to be a tougher and more cohesive Georgia team. It was supposed to feed off its red-headed quarterback and prove to the watching world UGA cannot be discounted just because it lost some big names to the pros. But the fire died over the final three quarters Saturday. It wasn’t a go-down-swinging loss like at LSU in 2003; it was simply a workmanlike defeat.

And that’s not a compliment. A team doesn’t have to be outrageously gifted to give maximum effort. The 2002 team wasn’t outrageously gifted, but we recall Jon Stinchcomb — an offensive lineman, wouldn’t you know? — making the impassioned halftime speech that cold day at Auburn and then falling on the fumble in the end zone that touched off the epic comeback.

Richt said Tuesday he was looking forward to the Sanford Stadium crowd to get his team juiced for the now-pivotal South Carolina game, but Georgia was once able to carry the requisite juice wherever it went. It wasn’t that the Bulldogs lost a season opener for the first time under Richt that was troubling; it was that the loss seemed so readily accepted. Put bluntly, that’s not Georgia football.

And if it takes another penalized end-zone dance for this team to remember who it is and what it represents, then I say, “Dance away, Dawgs.” Because if this is to be a true Georgia season, something needs to change.

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