I posted most of this in the comments section of the Game Day thread, but I wanted to stimulate some discussion on what seems to be the problem with our Big Game preparation. Twice this year we have had huge games and twice we have fallen flat on our faces, I don't think that it is a matter of talent. I also don't think that it is a matter of preparation (i.e. we practice well, rep our plays etc), so what is it? Psychological? Physical? Animal? Mineral?
Just off the top of my head I can't remember us winning a truly BIG game in years.
2002-Big Game vs UF-We were undefeated for the first time since 1982, had playmakers all over the field, and were playing some of the best football I had ever seen at UGA. What happened: We go in and go 0-for11 on 3rd down conversions, and Terrence Edwards has the worst drop of his career. Result: Some would say it cost us a shot at the MNC, but with an undefeated OhioSt and Miami ahead of us, we would have probably been the poster child for blowing up the BCS instead of Auburn '04.
2003-Big Game vs LSU-Undefeated going into Death Valley to play LSU. What happened: Billy Bennett misses 3 FG's and we lose 17-10. Result: Go on to win the SEC East and get pasted by LSU in the SECCG.
Big Game #2 vs UF- Once again we go into WLOCP with the more talented team expecting to win for the first time since 1997. What happened: I refer to this game as "Death by Bubble Screen". Rex Grossman had to have thrown that pass at least 20 times and we never adjusted to it. Result: Luckly UF sucked so bad that year that we STILL managed to represent the East in Atlanta.
Big Game #3 vs LSU SECCG- The Dawg Nation was primed for a rematch with LSU after our defeat in Death Valley. What happened: Justin Vincent left, Justin Vincent right, Justin Vincent up the middle. Gashed, gashed and gashed. Evidently LSU got better and we didn't. Result: Capitol One Bowl..meh.
2004 Big Game v LSU- LSU came into Athens for a rematch of the previous years SECCG. Dawgs were locked and loaded and primed for revenge. What happened: The most complete performance of the Mark Richt era. It was 24-0 after the first quarter, David Greene threw 5 TD passes and the Defense dismantled LSU's offense. Result: The one bright shining moment on this list...too bad it was followed the next week by.....
Big Game #2 vs UT-Tennessee came into Athens having struggled early in the season and rotating 2 true Freshman QB's. What happened: Hangover from the LSU game, poor execution, and some questionable penalties result in a loss that cost us the SEC East. Result: Much like in '07 a very average UT team manages to hold on the rest of the year and win the East, only to get pasted by Auburn in the SECCG.
2005- The two Big Games of this season were UF and Auburn, with DJ Shockley healthy we win in Jacksonville easily, and the Auburn game was just a great game where one team unfortunately had to lose.
2006 Big Game vs. UT- Tenessee came into Athens to face the 5-0 Dawgs. JT III was back at QB after leaving the USC game with an injury. What happened: After coming out and playing a great first half and going in to the half up 24-10, the team has one of the worst second half meltdown's in UGA history. Between turnovers and special teams break downs the Vowels drop 51 on the Dawgs. Result: This game started the downward spiral that was the 2006 season.
Big Game #2 vs Auburn-The Dawgs rolled into the Plains with their season on the brink, a loss here almost guaranteed a trip to Shreveport in December. What happened: I can't really say since I was in the woods doing an adventure race and didn't watch the game. Evidently we played well and Tra Battle picked Brandon Cox off 3 times. Result: This win salvaged the season and layed the groundwork for a sucessful 2007.
2007 Big Game vs UT-After being embarrassed at home the year before, the Dawgs were looking for a little payback. Unfortunately someone forgot to tell the team when the bus left because none of them got on in Athens and certainly didn't get off in Knoxville. What happened: After it was 28-0 we woke up and decided to play some football, but it was too little, too late. Result: Just like 2004 a very average UT team managed to hold on and represent the East in the SECCG while the Dawgs rose to #2 in the polls but had no shot at the MNC.
Big Game #2 vs UF-We were looking for something, anything to change the mojo of this series and we got it in "The Celebration". Admittedly the UF defense was pathetic, but this is what happens when you get a good team ready to play. What happened: Knowshon left , Knowshon right, Knowshon up the middle, our line grew up and we played some good old fashioned Georgia football. Result: We built a wave of momentum that carried us the rest of the season.
Big Game #3 vs Auburn-The first "Blackout" game. Riding the wave of emotion from the UF game, the Dawgs were ready to play and the stadium was crazy. What happened: After a relatively close first half, the Dawgs turned it on after half time and pummled the Warchickenplainsmentigers. Result: Continued the climb up the polls.
2008 Big Game vs Alabama- Blackout game #3 in less than a year. The fans were ready but the team was not. What happened: Nothing went right, the defense couldn't stop the Tide, untimely penalties that extended drives for UA or killed our drives, O line couldn't protect or open holes. Result: The 41-30 score is deceptive, this was never a game.
Big Game #2 vs UF- SEC East championship game, Gators still pissed about the celebration. What happened: Despite playing a relatively even first half we find ourselves down 14-3 due to 2 missed FG's and boneheaded play calls in the Red Zone, the onside kick didn't help either. The second half was a complete and total team implosion. 3 picks and a fumble all lead to UF points. What happened: Yet to be determined. Do we come out and play the rest of the season and finish 10-2 and go and play some crappy Big 10 team in a crappy Florida bowl or do we lay down and quit and end up in Shreveport or Memphis? Do any heads roll because of this one?
Looking back over the period of '02-08 our record in Big Games is 4-9. In two of those wins we needed some sort of "gimmick" to get up for the game. My questions to you Dawg fans are:
1) What is the problem in your opinion? Coaching? Preparation? A team of head cases? Is there a talent gap that we don't see through our Red and Black colored glasses?
2) What can we do to rectify the situation? Do heads need to roll on the coaching staff? Do we need to change the culture of our program?
Looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts.