I begin in the only way it is appropriate for me to begin, by congratulating Paul Johnson and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on a well played game of football in which they were the better team and received the victory they had earned.
Having said that, let me also say this: I have had a long day. We had out-of-town relatives in the Atlanta area for Thanksgiving, one of whom went with me to the game. Despite the weather and the outcome, we had a nice outing, as I went to Sanford Stadium with the husbands of both of my sisters-in-law---I call them my brothers-in-law, although, technically, that is not correct; they are the men who are married to the women who are my wife’s sisters---but, because different people had to be gotten to different places afterwards, I left my house at 7:30 this morning and returned home around 9:45 tonight.
Consequently, I have not read any FanPosts or comments left at Dawg Sports since roughly 11:00 last evening. If anything needs addressing, it will be addressed tomorrow; if any of what follows repeats points already made, I regret the redundancy, although I believe these points bear making and reiterating, so I will not be saddened to learn that others are entertaining similar thoughts---not visceral reactions; thoughts, arrived at over a period of years and after sober reflection---and I hope a cogent conversation follows.
This posting might have been, but is not, the 82nd installment of the Mark Richt Victory Watch. Certainly, Mohamed Massaquoi, playing in his last game between the hedges, performed at a level fully deserving of victory. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Rockwell Moreno, also probably playing in Sanford Stadium for the final time, showed grit, heart, and determination that were worthy of a win. The Bulldogs’ much-maligned offensive line generally played capably and the criticisms of Mike Bobo as an offensive coordinator hopefully were silenced by the former Georgia quarterback’s fine play calling. The offense, in short, played well enough to have produced an eighth straight victory over our in-state rival.
Offense, however, is not the only phase of the game. It’s just the only phase of the game at which the Bulldogs performed as well as or better than the Yellow Jackets.
The following facts all are facts:
- In the first century of Georgia football (1892-1991), the Red and Black lost two games in which they scored at least 28 points. During that same period, the Classic City Canines never lost a game in which they scored at least 29 points.
- During the Ray Goff and Jim Donnan eras (1989-2000), the Bulldogs lost seven games in which they scored at least 28 points, falling 34-31 to Tennessee in 1992, 42-28 to Auburn in 1993, 29-28 to Alabama in 1994, 43-30 to Vanderbilt in 1994, 37-31 to Auburn in 1995, 45-34 to Auburn in 1997, and 51-48 to Georgia Tech in 1999.
- During the aforementioned Ray Goff and Jim Donnan eras, Georgia had five defensive coordinators: Richard Bell (1989-1993), Marion Campbell (1994), Joe Kines (1995-1998), Kevin Ramsey (1999), and Gary Gibbs (2000).
- During the four years in which Brian VanGorder served as Georgia’s defensive coordinator (2001-2004), the Bulldogs lost ten games. In those ten games, the ‘Dawgs scored nine, ten, 17, 16, 13, ten, 13, 13, 14, and six points, respectively.
- During the four years in which Willie Martinez has served as Georgia’s defensive coordinator (2005-2008), the Bulldogs have lost twelve games. In those twelve games, the ‘Dawgs scored ten, 30, 35, 33, 22, 14, 20, twelve, 14, 30, ten, and 42 points, respectively.
To reiterate: Georgia scored 28 points in defeat just twice in the first 100 years of Red and Black football; Georgia never scored more than 28 points in defeat in the first 100 years of Red and Black football; Georgia scored 28 or more points in defeat seven times in the twelve years of the Ray Goff and Jim Donnan eras, during which the Bulldogs had five different defensive coordinators; Georgia never scored more than 17 points in defeat during the four years that Brian VanGorder served as Georgia’s defensive coordinator; Georgia has scored more than 28 points in defeat five times during the four years that Willie Martinez has served as Georgia’s defensive coordinator; and Georgia has not scored 28 or more points in defeat more than twice during the tenure of any previous defensive coordinator in Bulldog history.
Injuries have played a role in the failure of this Georgia team to live up to expectations. However, the offensive line has been hit hard by injuries, yet Stacy Searels appears to have found a way to get his players who are healthy enough to play to perform well as a unit and Mike Bobo appears to have found a way to put together an effective offense despite the loss of some key players. This is called coaching.
Injuries do not excuse all shortcomings. Injuries do not explain defensive players being out of position. Injuries do not justify an inability to make open field tackles. Injuries cannot account for why teams are able to outscore Georgia in the second half when Brian VanGorder’s defenses made a habit of slamming the door after intermission. Injuries are not the reason why an option team is able to make big gains despite the fact that everyone in the stadium knows (or ought to know) that the ball is going to the pitch man.
Georgia Tech had possession of the ball seven times in the second half in Athens this afternoon. The Yellow Jackets’ first drive went 60 yards in one play for a touchdown. Their second drive went 56 yards in ten plays for a touchdown. Their third drive went 23 yards in one play for a touchdown. Their fourth drive went 76 yards in seven plays for a field goal. Their fifth drive went six yards in three plays and ended in a punt. Their sixth drive went 70 yards in six plays for a touchdown. Their seventh drive picked up the first down that allowed the visitors to run out the clock.
If two of the Engineers’ seven second-half drives had ended in punts, Georgia would have won the game. Just a pair of three-and-outs would have put the ball back in Matthew Stafford’s hands and the offense would have found a way to finish the drill. The defense did not give the offense that chance. I do not lay this at the feet of the young men wearing silver britches, who played with passion and who managed to avoid some of the foolish penalties that have plagued the ‘Dawgs this season. I lay this failure at the feet of the defensive coaching staff, of the coordinator charged with the responsibility for that side of the ball, and, if sufficient steps are not taken, of the head coach charged with the ultimate responsibility for everything that happens in this program.
Georgia Tech deserved to win the game and a commitment to class even in the face of defeat compels us to tip our caps to the best college football team in the Peach State, which today calls North Avenue and not the Classic City home. However, a decent defensive effort on the Bulldogs’ part would have produced a victory, and that calls upon us as fans to ask reasonable questions in a responsible manner.
As I noted earlier, I have not yet read any of the FanPosts or comments to have appeared at Dawg Sports in roughly the last 24 hours. I will get to them later, but it is my hope that a civil and sensible tone has been maintained. I have not ventured elsewhere in the blogosphere this evening, so I do not know what has been written in other parts of "The Dawgosphere." I regret it if the foregoing is repetitive, although this a subject of sufficient significance to warrant our ongoing attention.
The act of addressing harsh realities requires the act of asking hard questions. Many good men are being compensated handsomely to mold the talented student-athletes enrolled at the University of Georgia into a championship-caliber team and most of these men are succeeding admirably at their jobs.
Georgia gave up 41 points to Alabama, 38 points to Louisiana State, 49 points to Florida, 38 points to Kentucky, and 45 points to Georgia Tech. It is time for one of the good men mentioned above to explain why he deserves to continue collecting a paycheck for serving as the defensive coordinator of the Georgia Bulldogs and it is time for another of those good men to perform his duty as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs by taking the only appropriate step if that explanation proves to be inadequate.