What has happened to Georgia Bulldog football?
Under the helm of Coach Mark Richt, has it fallen captive to the throes of coaching mediocrity just like it did in 2009, 2010 and now, 2011?
Was Saturday afternoon’s ever-so-close loss to South Carolina (45-42) enough to keep the 11-year head coach out of the woodshed beatings of the fanbase and sports press for the remainder of the season, or at the very least, the week ahead? Could Richt be a tiny step closer to redemption because his team played well on paper but still lost the game?
Looking at the big picture, it’s doubtful that Richt—a really nice guy that players and fans seem to like—can hang on too much longer.
The sun set Saturday at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium to a sky ablaze with color, the rants of “cocka-doodle-dos” and a Gamecocks victory. Georgia Bulldog fans—disgruntled, silent and shocked—endured the post-game cries of their SEC East rival, loathing the cheers that wafted through Athens. As they filed out of the stadium, the “ifs, ands and buts” became louder and more daunting than they had been the week before when their team lost 35-21 to highly ranked Boise State. To summarize their emotions, the Bulldog fans didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
On one hand, their team had improved greatly in a tumultuous week for their coach. On the other hand, the Gamecocks were the ones honking their horns with glee.
If wins were defined by almosts, then the Georgia Bulldogs won, and Coach Mark Richt can press his khakis for next week’s game back between the hedges. Unfortunately, in the game of football, the only thing that matters is the final score. Oh, and almosts don’t earn a team the trip to Atlanta. Instead of achieving a 1-0 start in conference play with perhaps their toughest rival, this Bulldog team marched into the locker room, proud of their gutsy showing, but bruised by the defeat, 0-2, for the first time since the coaching days of Ray Goff.
Rewind to 2008:
The Bulldogs were ranked preseason No. 1 for the first time in school history. This was the year slated for Bulldog greatness and national prominence, yet Richt’s team never made it to the conference championship although they were stacked with talent. Led by standouts including: quarterback Matthew Stafford, who passed for 3459 yards, running back Knowshon Moreno (who chalked up 1400 total yards) and receiver A.J. Green, who scored eight touchdowns and 963 yards for the season, this team failed. They went 10-3, losing to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech and beat Michigan State 24-12 in the Capital One Bowl, finishing the season with a No. 13 ranking, a few stories short of the top slot.
In 2009, they went 8-5, losing to Oklahoma State, LSU, Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky. And if things couldn’t get much worse, they did in 2010. That’s when the Bulldogs went 6-7, giving Richt a new line on his resume.
Richt has two games under his belt. Last night, running back and Georgia hopeful Isaiah Crowell rushed for 118 yards. The Bulldogs played with heart and soul, answering almost every Gamecock score with points of their own…just not enough. On paper, they were a brilliant team. But on a perfect fall day in Athens, the Bulldogs fell with pride, sweat and tenacity. All the “ingredients,” according to the head coach, of a great team…everything but a win.
Today, all eyes are focused on whether Mark Richt is still the right man for the job.
Maybe so; after all, they did accomplish great things in Saturday’s game against South Carolina.
The Bulldogs led in almost every area offensively. They dominated in first downs—23 yards to the Gamecocks’ 15. Bulldog QB Aaron Murray surpassed USC’s Stephen Garcia 248 yards to 142. On total yardage returns, Georgia came out front with 219- to 92-yards for South Carolina.
With their opponent scoring twice off their turnovers, the Bulldogs have some work to do. But from the words of their head coach, the answers to their problems are yet to be found.
“I don’t know why we fumbled like we did. I don’t know why those things happen. I don’t have any doubt that our process is good. I think we have outstanding coaches,” Richt proclaimed.
Let me get this right. The coach doesn’t know why his team fumbled?
Richt said of the Dawgs’ final drive (at his post-game press conference), “We overcame a lot of things and took the lead relatively late in the game. Of course they scored. We were getting ready to score again. That was our mindset.”
Of course, coach. The mindset of any game is to score.
Richt praised the work of his quarterback Aaron Murray, his running back, Crowell and others. But with this exceptional leadership, it seems this team just couldn’t master their blunders to win the game.
Last week after Georgia took the Boise State loss back to Athens, talk of change escalated. Now, although they almost won, change is still in the picture.
“This will be a very good football team before it’s over,” he said, from his post game podium.
Before what’s over, coach? The next game? The season?
Perhaps the old ball coach, Steve Spurrier, said it best in his post-game remarks: “Georgia outplayed us, but we won the game. Sometimes it happens like that.”
Until Georgia’s coach Mark Richt can post more wins to his name, get this team back to the Georgia Dome or win a few more key conference games, his seat lit by flames is still reserved.
Ouch. The seat is getting hotter.
Sometimes it happens like that.