New Look, Same Struggling Bulldogs
Last Saturday, Georgia entered its game with Florida having two weeks to prepare, an apparent new attitude towards the last half of its season, and wearing brand spanking new uniforms. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs got spanked. Georgia lost its 17th of the last 20 games with the Gators, including the last two by an embarrassing, 90-27 combined score.
On offense, the Bulldogs actually "executed" better than I expected. Beforehand, I did not envision them moving the ball much nor scoring more than 10 or so points against perhaps college football's best defense. Georgia's 17 points and 286 yards are the third-most totals against the Florida defense this season in eight games; its 5.1 yards per offensive play, was the second-highest average. However, just as penalties hindered the Dogs during the first half, interceptions stymied the offense in the second.
Joe Cox and Logan Gray combined to throw four costly interceptions, all in the second half—the first time in nine years (Quincy Carter threw four of his interceptions in the second half at South Carolina in 2000) and just the second time in 25 years (since Todd Williams threw four first-half interceptions against Clemson in 1984), that Georgia was intercepted four times or more in a single half.
Georgia's defense had its moments, but as been the case since the start of last season, was mostly ineffective and accommodating at the most pivotal moments. The Bulldogs entered the game ranked last in the SEC, allowing opponents more than 40 percent of the time to gain five or more yards per play. Florida's offense, a unit who had struggled in four of five conference games, gained five plus yards on 50.8 percent of its plays.
Georgia also yielded 35 or more points for the ninth time in its last 17 games, recorded two or less sacks for the 14th game in the last 17, and, while committing four turnovers, did not force a single one. Georgia has not forced more than one turnover in all eight games this season and just once in the last 13 contests (2008 vs. Kentucky) since the Florida game a year ago; absolutely pathetic.
The Bulldogs' turnover-margin misery continues, currently ranking 119th of 120 FBS teams with a -1.88 margin. In addition, of the nearly 400 teams in FBS, FCS, and Division II football, only three schools have a worse turnover margin than Georgia.
Penalties, committing turnovers, and not forcing turnovers on defense have been the main factors that have led to a disappointing season. Georgia's lack of success reminds me of the Bulldog teams (1993-1996) I witnessed when I attended UGA—teams looming around .500, hoping for a mere winning record and bowl bid. With that being said, Georgia is having its worse season in 13 years since the 1996 campaign—a season led by a first-year coach and following three consecutive years of sub-par records and just one bowl appearance; what's the excuse for 2009?
Hopefully, Georgia can take three of its final four regular-season games and maybe, with a lot of luck, win out through the end of the year, but don't count on it. "Old Lady Luck," as the great Larry Munson would broadcast, has not smiled on the Bulldogs in 2009 as she did in years past. She may be waiting and willing to do so, however, in the off-season. If so, she can start by helping Georgia find a relatively error-free quarterback and replacing an assistant coach or two.
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