Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE
There's a lot going on this week for the Cocktail Party. Everyone can say it's just another game, but it's simply not. Here are some of my thoughts as we head into this weekend. Yea, I may seem a little off my rocker to think a win is possible, however, I think it gets down to what's in between our ears more than anything else, and you can't predict which Georgia will show up on Halloween weekend.
On the Shawn Williams quotes and player reactions: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a …. Seth Emerson made his whole webpage about player quotes and player reactions to Williams’ challenge; however, I could care less. This just gets into the same type of off-season hype that I’m not buying any longer. What I still want is less talk, and more action. Most successful people I know that are very, very, good at a job don’t spend much time talking and jawing. Although people may say they like the "fire" shown by Shawn Williams, he can do the exact same thing in a defense player meeting, in private, where it will impact his teammates more, and distract less. Your bravado, sir, doesn't fool me. What I want from these guys is not talk, but to show me by action on the field this Saturday by making a tackle, running back to the huddle, and then doing it again. I need them to do it without slapping their chests and jumping around after allowing Kentucky to run the ball on them. What I am seeing is yet more off field issues during a critical week to really focus on practice and teamwork. I am surprised that the Dawg Nation got so into it, but I know we’re looking for anything to latch onto. The fact the story is player’s mouths and not their work is the most worrisome bit for me this week. I don’t really hear about Alabama players saying stuff on twitter and calling their teammates out…
On keys for the game: You may have heard me on the podcast, but I think starting field position is going to be huge and in the end be a tell-tale metric for the game. It’s not just as simple as that one stat, however. Starting field position is greatly impacted by turnovers and special teams play. So, what I’m more deeply getting at is old football wisdom: we don’t need to turn the ball over, we need our special teams to flip the field or scrape out a field goal when required, and we really need special teams to be a slight positive, certainly not a negative. We have the best offense Florida will have seen. Aaron Murray most definitely has the best pocket presence and arm they will have seen. I think the chess match of field position could be critical with their ability to run and our inability to stop the run (less distance for us, more distance for them for the win!), and an old school Mark Richt victory with field goals is a possible win. Not TD less, but grinding out what we can every possession. I also think the deep ball can be our asset. We need Mark Richt circa 2002-05. It’s all about parity in this one: We have a good passing game; they have a good run defense. They can’t pass, but they have a good scrambling QB. Most certainly, special teams cannot become a hindrance in this game. A tall order as of late, but special teams very likely will be a difference maker if we are to win. Field position, starting confident and strong, stopping their first drive, and moving the chains on our first drive are all things I see as huge.
On Mark Richt in general: He knows more about football than most anyone else does. And if he doesn’t know more than we do, then we have much greater problems than just at head coach. I realize his quotes (and most certainly Bobo’s) don’t always make sense. The problem is we don’t get a full sit down interview with all the backstory. Take the coin toss quotes for example. Mark Richt has done it (deferring) forever, and I am sure he would say if asked for more detail, "Well, if we differ, and our defense gets an initial stop against their scripted and maybe best drive, that means we have stopped them from their first push, and then we also get the ball in the second half, so it’s like getting the ball twice." In fact, I bet money that’s about what he’s thinking. Sure, I wish we would take the ball and shove it down their throat, but at least what I wrote has some validity, and Coach Richt knows all this, just as he knows a lot of other things, like special team problems. Head coaches, however, don’t like to give all the info on why they do what they do, and they don’t really like talking to the media, so you get these weird sounding quotes. It just goes all to heck when the odd quotes match fan complaints. I sincerely believe Mark Richt can out football me every day of the week, however, if he said, "No comment" to the press and walked out, we would get mad at that also. The results on the field are what is important. Our first attacks coming out of the tunnel, and our special teams play, will speak for themselves on Coach Richt’s performance, so don’t’ sweat the quotes.
On Marshall Morgan: Please give this kid a break. We are so utterly spoiled at UGA with the best kicker ever x3. If you watch as much football as I do, you will see teams like BSU that are too scared to even try a 25 yard kick. There are simply not that many Butler’s, Bennett’s, and Walsh’s around, and UGA has had most of them. When this kid kicks a 50 yarder, we take that for granted, completely missing the fact that he is a true freshman and not that many kickers in college can do that in general. As long as he matures as we go, I’m fine with it. Do the extra point misses concern me? Yea, they do. But yanking him out for EPAs the way some are calling for is only going to make the problem worse in the long run, not better. How easily we forget the game where he kicked – what, 5 of them? A strength of Mark Richt is taking a good player that made a mistake and putting him right back in the fire. That’s how he instills confidence and experience. That’s what he is doing with our starting place kicker so the reward is in this year to some degree, but the next three to a much larger degree. If this kid wins a game with a 50 yarder, you will be cheering as loud as anyone, and he is a kid that can do it.
Final Thought(s): I texted and wrote the DS staff a few weeks ago that UGA was going to lose, lose, lose this game. However, I have one good reason that we do in fact have a chance to win. If we reversed roles, and this was #2 UGA vs a Florida once beaten to heck by South Carolina, I would utterly be peeing myself with worry. In fact, a good national championship bound UGA getting through Jacksonville still seems the biggest obstacle for UGA to overcome. The good news for this game is, well, that’s on them this time. It’s hard for me to believe that former UGA player, trash talking about UGA coach, losing to UGA many a time Coach Will Muschamp doesn’t have a little knot in his stomach over this Saturday’s game. In fact, if we’re hanging in there at half-time, he’s going to have an epic meltdown. Let’s not forget, this is a whole new Florida team trying to carry the burden of unbeaten. If we breathe and execute our on-field assignments, we could have a psychological edge with the pressure just as much on them as it is on us. That edge is the big unknown in this game, if we have it, we can win, problem is, I have 20 years of history saying we don’t. The parity of Xs and Os tells me we certainly have a chance on paper. Not for the first time in two decades, the team that is the calm, cool, confident one is likely the victor. A nervous Georgia in the first drives will worry me. A Georgia that gets a solid Defensive stop, and at least moves the chains on Offense a few times, I’ll feel good about to start. In the end – this is what football is all about, a decent UGA team with a chance to beat a big rival on a big stage. It sure would be nice to perform well on the big stage; it feels like it’s been a while.
Bonus: I had written this mostly before finding out about Hurricane Sandy. On paper, the wind hurts us more with a more "vertical" game than Florida, but experience tells me you can’t predict how the weather will or won’t affect players. It could make Florida so ground oriented it helps us.
Until next time….