It's been less than 24 hours and there are already some calling for a complete overhaul of the UGA football program and even calling for EVERYONE'S heads. Honestly, I am still trying to shake off this (non-alcoholic) hangover.
I am still terribly confused and disappointed in UGA's performance yesterday. That being said, let's put things back in a level-headed perspective and in an optimistic outlook.
The Bulldog nation was looking to make a national statement of credibility by taking down the No. 4 ranked, mostly untested, LSU Tigers. In a game that probably could have made a Twilight Zone episode. It didn't happen.
THE FIRST HALF
The first half of the game was as pathetic and miserably executed by UGA as I thought was even possible. There were three positives: no turnovers, few (or no?) penalties, and our usual excellent red zone defense. Attribute all of that, along with a less than powerhouse LSU offense, to our only being down 6-0 at the half.
WHAT HAPPENED TO JOE COX ???
During that first half, he was looking more like the Joe T that all of the naysayers have been saying he was than the Joe C we've seen in the previous three games. And I say this as a hardcore Joe C supporter. He did nothing right. He had no rhythm; and he looked confused and rattled.
Further, we had no rush offense; the O-line seemed to be asleep; it appeared as though neither Samuel nor King had any heart or fight in their game. AJ Green was frequently able to get the separation he needed from the big time corner, Patrick Peterson. But he was not able to effectively pass the ball to himself!
WE HAD ONE FIRST DOWN!!!
During the first half, our rush defense, normally a very dependable element, looked anemic. We did have some pass rush and one interception (that we were able to do nothing with!!). Our pass defense performed as poorly as they have all year. The question arising again was, is it play calling, execution or a combination?
UGA played both sides of the ball on diesel fuel instead of the high octane they so desperately needed to be playing on in this game.
THE SECOND HALF
In the second half, the Dawgs came out looking like a different team. Offensively, Joe C looked to be getting his rhythm back. His pass accuracy was back, he was more mobile and he was making better decisions. And he kept improving through the second half.
The O-line got energized. They were opening holes and giving Cox more time to make the plays. And then we saw the introduction of true freshman Washaun Ealy. For his first game on the big stage, he was electrifying. Let's hope we see him (#24) much more often.
At the end of the game, Ealy carried eight times averaging 4.1 per carry; Samuel carried four times averaging 2.8 per carry and King carried eight times averaging .9 per carry. Green and our other receivers were able to get separation and Cox was finding them.
And in the second half, our defense also came out of its coma and began playing with real fight. We saw REAL pass rush; our run defense tightened up; and we even saw a little pass defense. How about those three sacks in three straight plays? How 'bout THOSE Dawgs!!
Where was this second half team during the first half?
Unfortunately our fired up second half Bulldawgs were met with a second half LSU team that decided to come out and play much more like a No. 4 ranked team.
With just over a minute left in the game, the Dawgs scored and UGA went ahead by a point. Because of an utterly ridiculous - and wrong - excessive celebration call against AJ Green and a great kick off return by Trindon Holliday, LSU was on UGA's 33 yard line with a minute to work with.
Even with that, a three down "brick wall defense" would have forced a 55 yard field goal, a good chance of a miss and a UGA win. It was not to be. LSU caught the UGA defense flat-footed and ran in for a go ahead TD. The remaining 46 seconds were not enough for Joe Cox to work a miracle comeback.
I'm not going to be so overly humble to say that some bad officiating should not be considered in the loss. Was it the reason the Dawgs lost? Hard to go that far. I'm not blaming bad officiating entirely. But it was definitely a factor. The utterly ridiculous excessive celebration call against AJ Green was a primary factor in LSU's 8 go ahead points in the last minute of the game.
In the first half, we saw a pair of average SEC teams. In the second half we saw a pair of top contending SEC teams who were both hungry to win. Unfortunately, the second half Dawgs were not quite enough for the second half Tigers.
If the Dawgs came into this game from the start with the same hunger and efficiency as we saw in the second half, we could likely have seen a different outcome. But "ifs" are meaningless.
Was it play calling, execution or a combination? Did our coaches properly prepare the scheme, the plays and the players for the most important game to date this season?
WHERE ARE THE BULLDAWGS NOW?
Is this loss a season ender? Do we need to hang this season up and start getting ready for 2010? Do we need to bench Joe C? NO; NO; and NO!
If the Dawgs can figure out how to play for 60 minutes the way they played in the second half, we can still easily be looking at a 9-3 season. Even a 10-2 season is not delusional.
We just need to get and keep scheme, execution and hunger - CONSISTENTLY.