I'm doing just fine. Really. This is all going to be a great character-building experience. Like so many Bulldog fans, I know I'll emerge from it with a newfound sense of perspective and an air of humility that will make me just that much more pleasant to be around on Saturdays.
Oh, who am I kidding? If I could get close enough, I would have spiked Terrance Cody's Powerade with elephant tranquilizers. Like it would have done any good. And I hope John Parker Wilson's hair falls out. All of it. From the bangs back. Or maybe he could be forced to shave it because of a bad case of pediculosis. Yes, that's it.
Idle revenge scenarios aside, the fact remains that the Georgia Bulldogs got manhandled Saturday night in Athens by the gang from Nick Saban's School of Nonbounded Roster Engineering (giving out tomorrow's scholarships. . . today!!!). Let's move on. And the first step to moving on around here is to deal with the mistakes of our past. And nobody who doesn't play on the University of Georgia offensive line made more mistakes this weekend than me. So let's review:
1) Tripp Chandler: "The tight end will be open, and thrown to at least 5 times. Let's hope he catches it." I was a little surprised we didn't go to the tight end more, at least until Tripp left the game. At that point abandoning the position was essentially a fait accompli. I attribute a lot of it to the need to max protect on passing downs to slow down the 'Bama front. Once Chandler left the game, it became an entirely different story altogether. Perhaps I should have seen it coming after the second snap of the game for the 'Bama defense when Lorenzo Washinton turned to the sideline and yelled "Ally, Ally All Come Free!!!", hide-and-seek style. On Saturday at least, foreshadowing wore Crimson.
With Chandler's injury and Bruce Figgins gone for the season, last year's defections at the tight end spot have finally come home to roost. When you're dressing 290 pound offensive tackles in eligible numbers and moving them to the tight end spot, you're either in the midst of the kind of depthchart crisis Custer experienced at Little Bighorn, or preparing to move to the Big-10. And I don't see Northwestern on the schedule (thank goodness).
On the bright side (see title), we'll now get to see what Aron White is made of. Obviously there's a reason he's not seen the field a lot this season. But it's not uncommon for a guy who's buried on the depth chart to blossom when he's pushed out onto the field. We all know White has the physical ability to be a threat in the passing game. Now we'll get to see if he has what it takes to be a complete tight end. Somebody's going to have to line up at tight end for the Bulldogs in 2009, and White could gain an inside track for that job with a solid performance during Tripp Chandler's absence.
2) Less Terrance Cody than you think: "He's definitely a matchup problem for freshman center Ben Jones. But ask yourself this: how often does Georgia really run the ball in the "A" gaps without some counter motion or other misdirection? Answer: fewer than 10 times a game and most often along the goalline. Cody presents a bit of a problem in pass rushing situations, though." And by "presents a bit of a problem" of course, I mean "couldn't be stopped with elephant tranquilizers, believe me, I gave it a shot."
On the bright side, Ben Jones fought hard all night. As things slipped away I found myself paying more and more attention to individual matchups, and noticing that Jones wasn't doing as badly as one might think. He wasn't driving Mount Cody downfield, but that would take a forklift. He was holding ground. I feel confident saying that was the biggest challenge our young center will face this season. I also feel certain that Terrance Cody will be playing on Sundays next season, which makes me most happy. I'd just rather not see any more of the guy who's built like Shamu and moves like the Predator.
3) Misdirection: "Alabama's pressure defense is a perfect candidate to get burned on some end around plays to A.J. Green or halfback passes." The end-around pass to Matt Stafford was about as misdirectiony as it gets. Admit it, you had flashbacks to your intramural flag football glory days as you watched #7 ramble down the field . . . only to come up short. There was something hauntingly appropriate about that play . . .
On the bright side, well, I dunno. Feel free to cheer me up in the comments. The fact that we needed misdirection and sprint rollouts by Stafford just to get the ball out of the backfield is not encouraging.
4) Passing yards: "I think the defensive gameplan will look similar to that we saw for the South Carolina game. We'll make John Parker Wilson beat us, and apply pressure selectively. . . Wilson will have to make plays when it counts." I would liken the situation to the 2006 Tennessee game. JP Wilson, like Eric Ainge, is an NFL -caliber quarterback in the same sense that I'm the King of Siam. But as with the terrible scarecrow murder of aught six, we saw a veteran quarterback who knows his offense do all the right things to get the victory. Hats off to the guy.
Stafford, by the way, did a great job in the second half of putting the offense on his back and moving it down the filed. Did he make some ill-advised throws? Yes. But when you're running for your life on every play and have "some kind of head injury" you just have to do what you can with what you have.
5) Georgia 34, Alabama 17. "Poo-poo the "blackout" all you want. The Gameday set this morning was a good preview of the cacaphony that awaits a young Alabama team tonight in the Classic City. If Georga plays up to potential on defense and avoids turnovers, this one should be solidly in hand by the start of the fourth quarter." In the words of Roberto Devicenzo, "What a stupid I am." For the entirety of my football-related life, some 25 years now, I've understood that the team with the best lineplay wins 85% of the time or more. Yet somehow I managed to turn a blind eye to our inexperience up front on offense and our general ineffectiveness so far up front on defense. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I knew better, but I let my heart lead the way. Again, this is why, at the urging of my esteemed coauthor, I don't bet on it.
Where do we go from here? Well, we go exactly where we were headed beforehand. We try to win the SEC East, which is still wholly under our own control. None of our competition has looked unbeatable, largely because their lines have been as bad as ours. If we do that we end up in Atlanta in December to play the winner of the SEC West, which could be Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, or perhaps Les Miles' LSU Tigers.
It would be a difficult game either way, and I say that before we've even seen the Bayou Bengals up close. But if we're 11-1 and then beat either of those teams in Atlanta (not to imply that we will, just if . . .), I think we've got a solid argument in favor of our appearance in the BCS National Championship game. The consolation prize is a berth in a BCS Bowl, which no one, no matter what their preseason expectations, has any right to frown upon.
Can we win out? Of course we can. Is it likely given the schedule? No. But then again, if I'd told you on October 6, 2007 that the same team that you'd just watched get manhandled by Tennessee in the first half and never really fight back would go on to beat Florida and Auburn, win the Sugar Bowl and finish #2 in the country you wouldn't have believed me.
We've got to play better on both lines, cut down on penalties, and get healthy both physically and mentally. But that's doable. And as any coach will tell you, there's a lot more to be learned in defeat than in victory. In summation, there's a bright side to be found after this debacle. You just have to look past the carnage to see it.