It will surprise exactly no one who knows me to learn that, when I got back home from the First Annual Dawg Sports Sacrificial Goat Roast at about 12:45, I could not sleep, so I figured I would put my usual insomnia to productive use by assembling the thoughts that bounded around in my head during the long drive home.
Ere I get to the game itself, though, I must express my thanks to everyone who attended the get-together. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed getting to meet everyone and put faces with the names. I am especially indebted to MaconDawg for making it possible for us to use the festivities to aid a worthy cause by raising funds for the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, to oneloyaldawg for making it possible for us to say we not only had been there and done that but also had gotten the T-shirt (I am wearing mine right now, in fact), and, of course, to podunkdawg, who came up with the idea and put together what I hope will become an annual event.
That leaves us (alas) with the game itself, about which I will be relatively brief. From the time I beheaded a red velvet cake in the shape of a goat to the time of the Georgia Bulldogs’ final fatal fumble, I felt good about the visitors’ chances. Although the Red and Black came close to winning in each of their three previous losses, the setback in Boulder was the first game about which it fairly might be said that the ‘Dawgs should have won. When a team cobbles together 20 first downs, 27 points, and 409 yards of total offense under the guiding hand of a quarterback who throws for 221 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, that ought to be enough to allow that squad to card a victory.
As before, though, this team can’t quite put it all together. Georgia isn’t truly terrible at much of anything, but neither are the Red and Black reliably good at anything. What I thought was the safest bet in all of college football---a Blair Walsh field goal, about which I arrogantly remarked that I thought it was cute that the announcers referred to a chip-shot three-pointer as a "try"---was attempted without success. Everything about this team is like that.
A defense that looked great on first and second down couldn’t get off the field on third down. Vance Cuff epitomized the Georgia D by making stellar plays then following them up with awful ones. The offense was at once maddeningly consistent and maddeningly inconsistent: "maddeningly consistent" because of the predictability of Mike Bobo’s play calling; "maddeningly inconsistent" because Coach Bobo did not call a uniformly bad game---from the involvement of the tight ends to the use of sweeps to the genuine attempts to be creative without being overly cute, he made several good calls---but his efforts were streaky.
Players who were performing well would disappear from the field without apparent reason; the offensive coordinator went away from what was working inexplicably and without warning. The Bulldogs’ latest backbreaking fumble occurred on a play that was the correct call under the circumstances. Even Georgia’s good decisions are turning out badly.
The reality of four straight losses in a quartet of games that all were thoroughly winnable in the final period of play calls to mind certain truths about statistical probability. If you flip a coin a thousand times, you’ll probably get pretty close to 500 heads and 500 tails, but you won’t alternate between the two, with all the odd flips coming up heads and all the even flips coming up tails; instead, you’ll get a lot of runs of several heads in a row and several tails sequentially. The ‘Dawgs have come up tails for four straight Saturdays.
That is not to suggest that these results are random; it is no accident that well-coached, fundamentally sound, disciplined teams like Alabama put together lengthy winning streaks. Luck, as they say, is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. Game planning, adjustments, conditioning, discipline, blocking, tackling, and the like take much of the randomness out of football games, with the advantage going to the team that is better prepared to seize upon the random bounces that could go either way in contests between equals.
Georgia could and should have put this game away, but, because the Bulldogs could not do anything consistently well, they put themselves at the mercy of chance. When you allow every play to be a coin flip, you allow every game to be a coin flip, and that leads to losses, like this one, which never should have occurred.
A dozen little things stand between this team and its potential. That is encouraging, because the things are little, like assignment football, protecting the pigskin, and avoiding penalties. It also is discouraging, because, although each individual difficulty is tiny, the troubles are multiple, so many elements of the Bulldogs’ game must be improved if the Classic City Canines are to take matters out of the hands of cruel fate and take charge of their own destiny.
While Georgia’s win over Kentucky in 2008 was a much more pleasant experience than the Bulldogs’ loss to Kentucky in 2009, both contests were marred by slipshod play that allowed random bounces to decide the outcome. The problem isn’t that Georgia is losing; the losses merely highlight the problems. The problems were there even when the Bulldogs were winning; they were there in lackluster wins (Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Auburn in 2008; Arizona State in 2009) and there in shootout victories (LSU and Kentucky in 2008; South Carolina and Arkansas in 2009) every bit as much so as they were in disheartening losses (Alabama and Georgia Tech in 2008; Oklahoma State, LSU, Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky in 2009; all four losses this year). Losing might actually be a blessing, if it serves as the wake-up call to those in a position to fix what ails us.
In the meantime, I haven’t read anything that’s been posted at the site since Saturday morning, although RedCrake went on-line shortly after the end of the game and gave us a report on the number of comments in the thread, both in toto and from the fourth quarter forward, so I have a pretty good idea that Bulldog Nation is bordering on a meltdown. I’ll review everything on Sunday afternoon and address anything that requires my attention at that time, but, for now, I’d just like to point out the following facts, which are submitted without comment:
- In his first 122 games as the Bulldogs’ head coach, Wally Butts went 84-33-5. At one time during his first 122 games at the helm at Georgia, Coach Butts endured a four-game losing streak during which the Red and Black’s worst loss was by 20 points.
- In his first 122 games as the Bulldogs’ head coach, Vince Dooley went 79-38-5. At one time during his first 122 games at the helm at Georgia, Coach Dooley endured a four-game losing streak during which the Red and Black’s worst loss was by 39 points.
- In his first 122 games as the Bulldogs’ head coach, Mark Richt went 91-31. At one time during his first 122 games at the helm at Georgia, Coach Richt endured a four-game losing streak during which the Red and Black’s worst loss was by twelve points.