Georgia Bulldogs Team Celebration: Should Mark Richt Have Done It?

McLeod NealeAnalyst IAugust 2, 2008

More often than not, there are multiple versions to a story.

It is no different with last year's Florida-Georgia game and the controversial endzone celebration that happened in Jacksonville last year. 

There is obviously the Georgia Version and the Florida Version of what actually happened.  I will give the typical version that I hear from Georgia fans, and then I will give the Florida perspective from my own orange and blue glasses.


Georgia Version:

The Georgia Bulldogs were a talented team, but they did not play with enough emotion for the first part of the year.  They lost to South Carolina in week 2, barely beat Bama in OT in week 4, got stomped by Tennessee in week 7, and then they squeaked one out over a Vandy team in week 8.  Georgia played the Gators in week 10.

The team was better than they had been playing, and Mark Richt needed to spark the team, so he told the offense to get a celebration penalty on the first touchdown in order to get his team to play with energy. 

Well Mark Richt and his entire coaching staff were just as shocked as everyone else in the stadium when his entire team rushed out onto the field.  Mark Richt was a genius for making the move, even though he did not know his team was going to celebrate like that. 

Georgia went on to blow out the Gators, and did not lose a game the rest of the year.  Georgia owned Tebow, sacking him six times and holding him to negative rushing yards. 

Tebow's injury is an excuse.  Tebow could obviously run since he ran for two TDs.  Georgia was the best team in the nation, but got hosed by the BCS.

The celebration was a genius move by Richt, and the only reason Gator fans say anything about the celebration is that they are whiners and they are mad that they lost. 

The celebration does not matter because Georgia won, and that is why Gator fans are angry.  Georgia now has Florida off of its back and now they own Florida because of what they did in the end zone. 

It was simply the highlight of the season, and it symbolizes how Florida no longer owns Georgia, and how the series has evened out recently with Georgia winning two of the last four.

It symbolizes how Georgia has broken free from the losing streak and choking against Florida.  Georgia is about to start a win streak.  Simply put, that one play represents how much joy it gave Georgia fans to finally beat Florida in a decisive fashion:

And Spurrier is the scum of the earth for what he said he would have done in reaction to what Richt did.  He deserves to be beaten up by Herschel Walker.


Florida Version:

The Gators had one of the toughest schedules in the country, and they were the youngest team in the country due mostly to a defense filled with youth.  It was a disaster for the Gators as they faced a slew of senior QBs, and that resulted in a defense that allowed more points than any Gator defense since the '60s.

A youthful secondary made one of the worst-ranked pass defenses in the country, but the Gators actually had one of the best rush defenses in the nation.

In a five-week span, the Gators faced Auburn at home, and played LSU, Kentucky, and Georgia on the road.  Florida's first loss came against Auburn, where the Gators just came out flat. 

The offensive coordinator had emergency surgery hours before the game, and Florida posted its lowest offensive output of the year with 17 points and lost on a last-second field goal. 

Auburn had figured a scheme that worked against Florida's spread offense.  The next week they went to LSU and were leading the eventual national champions most of the game, but a young defense folded and allowed five fourth-down conversions in a last minute drive that resulted in a touchdown that put the Tigers in the lead. 

The next week LSU went to Kentucky and lost, while the Gators were sitting at home.  After the bye, the Gators faced one of the hottest teams in the country in Kentucky who had beaten LSU the week before.  They were able to overcome Kentucky in a 45-37 win.  

The Gators rolled into Jacksonville having lost two out of their past three, and they were very beaten up:

-Four defensive linemen, two of whom were starters, were out for the game, which allowed Moreno to run all over the helpless Gators for 188 yards, while additionally giving Matthew Stafford all of the time in the world to throw the ball.

-Additionally, the Gators had lost FS Major Wright, who led the SEC in forced fumbles last year.  He was replaced by Kyle Jackson, who played one of the worst games ever seen by a Florida safety, getting beaten deep in a way that can be described as "taking candy from a baby."  This was a huge blow due to the quality of his backup and due to how well he did in run support.

-On top of that, Tim Tebow had a bruised non-throwing shoulder.  Mullen and Meyer limited Tebow's ability to run due to the injury.  As a result Tim Tebow, was reduced to a single threat as QB, which dramatically damaged the effectiveness of the spread offense.  That was a huge blow due to the fact that the defense did not have to deal with a dual threat for most of the game.

The Georgia coaches decided to use the game plan that worked for Auburn.  It worked almost as well.  While the Gators had seen it before and probably made some offensive adjustments, Tebow was injured and that made up for any improvements that could have been made by the Gators.  Thus, the Gators scored their second lowest point total of the year with only 23 points on offense.

The defense probably would have done decently without all of the injuries, but they were doomed from the start with loss of those four linemen and Major Wright.  Either way Georgia fielded a better team and had a brilliant game plan.  That is why they won.  Not the celebration.

The celebration was a classless move by a desperate coach.  Richt's team lost to South Carolina in week 2, barely beat Bama in OT in week 4, got stomped by Tennessee in week 7, and then they squeaked one out over a Vandy team in week 8.  If he lost to Florida he may have been on his way to losing his job.  Richt was desperate.

Richt claimed that he did not know that his sideline was going to empty, and that he was surprised.  Well if that was the truth then why didn't his immediate reaction show it?  Mark Richt was seen clapping and smiling on the sidelines as it was going on (0:33-0:40):

Is that the type of reaction that you would expect from a person in the state of shock?  If it was a surprise, then wouldn't you expect at least one assistant to run out there and try to restrain the players?  Certainly at least one person on the coaching staff would have looked as if they were surprised.

Based on the immediate reaction of Richt and his staff, it makes the coach look like a liar. He seems like a man who did what he had to do to win the football game, and then lied and apologized his way out of trouble.  The coach, and a whole lot of players, should have been suspended for at least one game.

Even if Mark Richt did not know what his team was about to do, it happened and Mark Richt allowed it to happen.  The unsportsmanlike conduct apparently did not upset him. He could have stopped it, but instead he is sitting on the sideline applauding and smiling while his entire team runs on the field and is taunting and disrespecting the other team. 

Even if he did not know it was going to happen, he put his stamp of approval on it by not running out on the field and breaking it up like he did at the Vandy game.

What Richt did at the Vandy game makes him look hypocritical.  It sent the message that you only have to have good sportsmanship when you are better than the other team, and it does not matter since it is Florida.

That is what his reactions from the Vandy and Florida games seem to communicate.  He simply apologized to the right people to be politically correct. That could be a misinterpretation, but Richt would have helped his cause by reacting the right way.

Actions speak louder than words, and he really was not sorry based on his reaction to the whole thing. He actually seemed to enjoy the whole thing and let it go the way that it was going because he liked it and he would not have to take full responsibility for it.

In hindsight, it is no surprise that Richt would not care what his team did to the Gators.  Just look at his resume.  In college he played QB at Miami, a team that had developed a reputation for being classless and disrespectful in the 80's, where they have a deep rooted hate for the Gators. 

He was the offensive coordinator at FSU where he learned the ways of the master, Bobby Bowden, whose team also celebrated and started an ensuing fight after the "swindle in the swamp" after stomping on the logo in 2003:

I actually do not believe that stuff about Richt and his resume in the last three sentences that I just wrote, but it is the homer in me wants to believe that Richt is the big bad devil that went up to Georgia from Miami and Florida State and should have been kicked out like it happens in the song, but he missed his chance. 

It is just a funny coincidence.  I actually kind of admired him and had a lot of respect for the guy until that game last year.  He took care of that one for me.

It easily could have turned into an FIU-Miami, Florida-Florida State, or Clemson-South Carolina type of brawl, and it could have been a dark spot that followed around Mark Richt for the rest of his coaching career. 

Georgia may have won the game, but Urban Meyer's Florida Gators walked off of the field that day as the classier team that was able to have restraint and prevent a fight.  It takes two to fight, and Mark Richt is really lucky that the Gators were not up for a fight because then he would have been in a fight of his own, over his job.

Trust me when I say that if Spurrier were still the coach at Florida, Mark Richt would be somewhere else right now.  Spurrier's comments were a relief to Bulldog fans due to the fact that they were now able to somehow legitimize what Richt did because he did not stoop to Spurrier's level.

If anything, it made Georgia fans feel better because it gave them somebody to compare Richt to, and anyone is going to look good compared to the guy that runs the score up and said that he would send a third stringer out on the field to start a fight. 

It really proves why Spurrier earned the title of "evil genius" because if that really had happened, it would have been a move that is perfectly described by those two words.  Thank goodness for Richt that Meyer is only a genius because if he was an evil genius something like this could have happened:


Now You Decide:

Is that celebration something that will turn the rivalry in Georgia's favor as Georgia fans suggest or is this something that will backfire on Richt and the Bulldogs as Jim Rome suggests?

Both sides of the argument are out there now.  It is your choice.  You can believe whatever you want, and feel free to comment on something if you think I missed anything.


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