Coming off a huge win over rival Auburn and looking to improve their bowl status, a seemingly inspired bunch of Bulldogs played their best half of the year on Saturday against Kentucky. On its senior night and just days following the passing of beloved mascot Uga VII, Georgia had a comfortable, 14-point lead at halftime and it should have been by more.
We have grown to realize, however, that little comes easy for the 2009 edition of the Georgia Bulldogs football team, including victories.
To start the second half, Georgia’s Branden Smith fumbled on the kickoff return. Two plays later, Kentucky had cuts its deficit to a touchdown. It was only the beginning of the tables completely turning on the Bulldogs in their worst-played half of the season.
Outscored 28-7 in the final two quarters, Georgia was defeated 34-27, losing to the Wildcats at home for the first time since 1977 and in 16 games.
The Dogs had a 487-260 advantage in total yardage; nevertheless, two problems that have plagued Georgia all season—turnovers and penalties—were primarily responsible for the Bulldogs’ fifth loss of the year.
This defeat, in particular, for a Georgia fan, is especially hard to accept.
Although the Bulldogs were only penalized five times, their second-lowest amount this season, each penalty cost Georgia 15 yards.
For the seventh time in 2009, the Bulldogs committed three or more turnovers while, for the third game in its last four, Georgia’s defense did not force any; the Dawgs’ -1.64 turnover margin currently ranks next to last of 120 FBS teams.
All of Georgia’s four turnovers on Saturday came during its dismal second half, including three giveaways on its final four possessions.
Personally, I have found it absolutely ridiculous and somewhat humorous how defenders for Georgia’s coaching staff have blamed these season-long errors and mistakes on the Bulldogs’ talent level, or lack thereof.
“We just aren’t nearly as talented as we have been in years past,” these apologists have said.
As I’ve often mentioned during this season, this notion is untrue. Georgia has plenty of talent. The problem lies with those individuals instructing and mentoring the talent—the coaching staff.
“We have a problem respecting the ball,” said the head of this staff, Mark Richt, following the game.
That’s putting it lightly, coach, and speaking of respect, it’s something your team has a lack of, along with heart, intensity, and discipline, not talent, and this was abundantly clear with last night’s second-half collapse.
But it is not your players’ fault, just yours and your staff’s.
How else can a team play so well in the first half but yet so badly in the second? Did Georgia’s talent level suddenly drop during halftime?
Solely to blame are Georgia’s coaches—the very same staff who apparently doesn’t make defensive adjustments at halftime, who orders short kickoffs that routinely give the opposition excellent field position, and who allows its team to dance on the sideline, acting like they’ve won a national title when they’ve only defeated an average Auburn team. I could go further.
Every year since 1996, the Bulldogs have finished in the final AP rankings and have won eight or more games. The 12-season streak of these accomplishments has most likely come to an end with the 2009 squad—a team that was preseason ranked 13th in the nation.
However, some good can result from Georgia’s disappointing and embarrassing season if Richt can find it in himself to shake up his coaching staff immediately following the lower-tier bowl the Bulldogs will be heading to.
There will be plenty of talent in place for a successful 2010 campaign. It’s up to Richt to “finish the drill” in the off-season.