You're On Notice, Dawg! Week FIRE ERRBODY

UGA Sports Communications

As seems to happen frequently in seasons where great things are expected from the Georgia Bulldogs football team, we have just completed our annual "face plant" game. After said game, it is customary to sound the refrain to FIRE ERRBODY. Who am I to break with tradition?

Ok, so we didn't exactly get curb-stomped like in 2012 against Carolina, or in (OTHER GAMES NOT FOUND BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT IT OK). In fact, it would be fair to call it a "close game" in the second half. But our annual "face plant" games are characterized by a run of bad luck/poor playing in the first half in which we manage to find ourselves down by 3 or more scores, followed by a gallant comeback attempt that falls short.  So, yes, this definitely qualifies.

And, inevitably, these losses are ALL caused by poor coaching. We must, I repeat, MUST fire someone!  Why the hell aren't the coaches telling the players not to fumble?  And not to throw INT's?  And who the hell told the offensive line to stop blocking for an entire game? And I swear, there has GOT to be an audio recording somewhere of Todd Grantham telling  Corey Moore to intentionally wander around in the secondary like a child lost at Disney World.  WHERE'S THE HAND SIGNAL THAT TELLS ME WHERE SPACE MOUNTAIN IS, COACH??

Therefore, as is to be expected, this is #FIREERRBODY week at Dawg Sports.  Oh, and I think we might have another game Saturday or something.  I heard something about Mark Richt taking a group of folks to Nashville on Saturday, but I don't know... maybe they're just working on David Richt's new country music video. #FireDavidRicht'sVideographer

Therefore, I'm letting the following people know that, for FIRE ERRBODY week (also known as Week 8), You're On Notice, Dawg!

In no particular order:

On_notice_20131013_medium

1) Steve Spurrier: Why Steve Spurrier? Because he hates us, we hate him, and because I have it from a very authoritative source inside the South Carolina administration that he personally made sure that South Carolina scored more than 50 against Arkansas just to remind us that he can still do that in opponents' home stadiums.

2) "Hey, we're still in contention for _____" (fill in the blank with the postseason accolade of your choice... SEC East, SEC Championship, or BCS Bowl): I thought that we adequately covered this last Sunday, but apparently I'm incorrect.  Is it mathematically possible for us to still win the SEC East and SEC Championship, and is it possible for us to go to a BCS bowl if we win out, even if we don't go to the SEC Championship Game?  Well, sure.  I mean, it's theoretically possible for us to still win the national championship if we win out, beat Alabama by 50 points, Ohio State loses to Michigan and either Purdue, Illinois, or Indiana, and Oregon loses to Stanford and one of, well, anybody else in the Pac-12.  Oh, and if Clemson and FSU both lose to somebody... anybody... in the ACC, in addition to losing to South Carolina and Florida, respectively.  Those things totally can happen, and then we're right back in the national championship picture!

But, you know, even if all of these increasingly unlikely "We're still in this!" scenarios were to come to pass, there's the little matter of, "Oh yeah, and if we win out."  At this point, with 5 of our best 7 players on offense out of the game, 4 of them for the entire season, we just have to worry about beating Vanderbilt. If you'll recall, Vandy had a pretty dang good year last year (as in, the best of their entire football program's history), and their only really bad loss was between the hedges (a 45-7 beatdown that wasn't even as close as it appeared).  You can bet that the Commodores smell blood in the water, and they're looking for revenge this season, and in their own house, too boot.

I honestly don't see how anyone can still dream about making the SEC Championship Game when I can't even be certain with any level of confidence that we can leave Nashville with a W. This week is what our season comes down do.  Beat Vanderbilt and we'll have a bye week to heal up, get more reps for the youngsters, and generally get better as we prepare for the Gators.  Stutter, sputter, and come up with the L in Nash-vegas... and the FIRE ERRBODY talk will become much more serious and sustained.

3) The Offensive Line - I made a comment Saturday night that, against Mizzou, our offensive line was exceptionally poor at doing anything that falls under the heading of "what an offensive line does," and I still agree with that sentiment today. I don't know if it's coaching or if it's simple lack of effort or focus on the players' part.  I know that it's not lack of talent, because all of these same players performed at a much higher level at the end of 2012, and even during periods in some games this year.

For whatever reason, we've gone through agonizingly long stretches this season where the offensive line either forgets how to run block or how to pass block (or, as was the case Saturday, forgets how to do both).

It's true that injuries might be part of the answer to this question, since both Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were experts at taking a 1-yard gain and turning it into a 5-yard gain through sheer talent and effort. We don't have Marshall anymore, though, and we probably won't have Gurley again this Saturday against Vanderbilt, so we'd better hope the answer is not "they've just never been that good."

4) People who seriously want to "Fire Errbody": I don't take issue with someone getting emotional after a loss.  Heck, I take Georgia losses pretty poorly, too.  It's natural to get really ticked off after a game and say, "Dammit, our team just got out played and out coached.  FIRE MARK RICHT."  It happens, and we've all been there at one point or another, if not with Richt then with one or more of our position coaches and coordinators.

And, to also be fair, there might be legitimate reasons and arguments that can be made for why certain coaches need to be told to start getting their resume polished up.  One thing we always encourage at Dawg Sports is open, honest discussion based on facts and educated opinions.

What I don't respect, and quite frankly makes me irrationally angry (even though I joke about it because that's apparently my coping mechanism), are fans who jump up after every loss and immediately want to fire (Insert coach of worst position group in the most recent game here) basically because they're ticked that we lost.   "HE'S JUST NOT THE MAN FOR THE JOB AND HIS SCHEMES SUCK AND WE CAN DO BETTER" is something you'd hear on the Paul Finebaum show.   This is not the Paul Finebaum Show. Also, nobody's getting fired in mid-season, so calling for a coach's firing after game 6 just isn't going to do any good.

(This also applies to any person who would argue that "The season's over now so we should just bench Aaron Murray and let Hutson Mason start the rest of the year so he can get the experience for next year."  I almost deigned even to mention it, because the argument is so insipid that I don't want to dignify it with a response.  Since I already have by even mentioning it, though, the answer is that we're still the Georgia Bulldogs, dammit, and we're not going to intentionally sabotage any season by failing to play our best player at any position for any reason.  Aaron Murray is our best quarterback, and he should be playing.  Period, end of story, thanks for stopping by.)

5) The Entire Defense: For the first 4 games of the season, I excused their inexperience. Hey, most of the biggest contributors on this squad are either freshmen or JUCO guys, and we played 3 Top 10 teams in our first 4 games.  No reasonable person should have expected our defense to be a shutdown, lights-out squad in any of those games except against North Texas, and they actually did very well against North Texas (only 7 points allowed by the defense).

This squad has not gotten better against lesser opposition, however.  Against Tennessee, the defense still gave up 31 points, which is the most points the Vols have scored against teams not named "Western Kentucky" or "Austin Peay." And even though Missouri's offense is a good one, the defense still gave up 34 points to them. Also, in both of our previous two games, the defense allowed our opponents to make key touchdown drives near the end of the game that almost won the game for UT and did ice the game for Mizzou.

Yes, Mizzou's final touchdown was on a short 33-yard field, but it's not like we gave them the ball on the 2 yard line. There was sufficient room on the field for the defense to make a stand and force a field goal attempt.   (In fact, if we'd caused them to lose 5 or 6 more yards, they would have been scrimmaging from a position where they punted more than once earlier in the game.)

And then there's turnovers... but I'll get to that in a moment.

6) AIRBHG/AGPHG/AGFPHG: This is an EDSBS'ism that I've allowed to seep into my own vocabulary.  AIRBHG stands for "Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God," and was a reference to how, for several seasons, the Iowa Hawkeyes kept losing their best running backs to season-ending injuries. Call the injury spate whatever you want to call it... AGPHG (Angry Georgia-Player-Hating God), AGFPHG (Angry Good-Football-Player-Hating God), or whatever... this run of season-ending injuries to the best players has to stop.

Fortunately, we didn't lose anybody else for the season yesterday, but unfortunately, Missouri did. James Franklin is one of the best QB's in the SEC, and just like last year, he's now out for their most difficult games of the season.  Mizzou might get (fairly) criticized for putting him in danger by having him run so much, but that's the nature of their offense.  Their system requires a mobile quarterback that runs. And besides, a pocket passer like Aaron Murray can still be injured while sitting back in the pocket.  (/NickFairley.gif)

As much as I hate the hype that surrounds him, my heart also skipped a beat when Johnny Manziel went down last night grabbing his knee on a non-contact play.  Fortunately, he did not appear to be seriously injured, since he came back later in the game.   The number of these major injuries is simply insane, though. For our sake and for the sake of everyone else, I hope we don't see any more of them.  (I mean, heck, we can't afford the ones we've seen, let alone any more.)

7) Again, The Entire Defense: Our defensive play is so important to the rest of our season that this point bears repeating. If we can't stop the other team from scoring at will, then we can't win about 60% of our remaining games.  Our offense is just too beaten up, and our line play has been so poor that we simply can't overcome it to score 40+ points every single time.

And let me return to the point I was beginning to make in item 5 about turnovers.  As has been the case his entire career, Aaron Murray managed to throw one truly horrible interception last night.  (His second INT came during desperation time, so can't really be held against him, and his fumble was due to a blindside hit he never saw coming, and therefore is the offensive line's fault.)  When you have a gunslinger at QB, even a very good one, you're going to get INT's from time to time.  You have to overcome them by stopping the opposing offense and getting turnovers of your own.

And "getting turnovers" is the one thing this defense has been epically horrible at doing.  We have, for the entire year, one interception.  One.  And it came against North Texas. And we only have 4 fumble recoveries.  That's 5 total turnovers caused so far this year. The only teams with fewer turnovers caused in 2013 than Georgia are Temple and Troy. Let that sink in for a minute:  Georgia, Temple, and Troy.  Those are the worst 3 turnover-creating defenses in Division I-A college football. Also, per Seth Emerson, Georgia is 105th in the country in scoring defense.  Even if you take away every special-teams and offensive score, the defense is still 84th in the country in scores allowed.

Youth is no longer an excuse.  We've played half a season.  These young men are veterans now, and need to start playing like an SEC-quality defense.

I'll tell you this... whether or not we beat Vanderbilt, if we can't cause turnovers against Florida's turnover-happy offense, we might get blown away like we did during the Ray Goff years in Jacksonville.

8) All of the Goats Within a 50-Mile Radius of Athens-Clarke County: Ok, after all the negativity for this week, I have the opportunity to close with a positive message.  This Saturday is the fourth annual Dawg Sports Goat Roast! The "Goat Roast" is what we call our annual real-life gathering in Athens to hang out and watch a Georgia game together.  Think of it as a real-life open game thread, except without the internet white knights telling us to FIRE ERRBODY and with more T. Kyle King pacing around nonstop.

We got stuck with a noon kickoff this Saturday, but we are nonplussed and will still be holding the event as planned. We're gathering, as usual, at the Blind Pig Tavern on Baldwin St. in Athens, starting about 30 minutes or so before kickoff.  Our record in "Goat Roast" games is 3-1, so let's see if we can collectively will the Dawgs to a 4-1 "Goat Roast" record together.  All are welcome and encouraged to attend!

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The most significant omission from this list, once again, is Students with Tickets. (Actually, I wouldn't have put the students on notice this week anyway, because it's an away game... but work with me here.) Once again, as has been the case throughout all of 2013, the students turned up early, were loud as hell, and helped pump up the crowd to levels that previously only existed in "those one or two special games that time several years ago."  Now, however, that level of crowd noise is the new standard in Athens. Sanford Stadium in 2013 has been an incredibly difficult place for opposing teams to play because of the home crowd's enthusiasm, and the students are the leaders in that effort.  This is me tipping my hat to you, students, because you've brought it time and time again this year.  Great job.

This is going to be a tough week, and nobody really knows what the Vanderbilt game will hold. We're going to keep cheering for our Dawgs, though, because what else are we going to do?  Become a Gator? To quote a famous dread pirate:  Death First!!

Have a good week, everyone, and...

Go Dawgs!

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