I know MaconDawg has told us to calm down, but I am in a panic, so I was pleased to see RedCrake’s cupcake breakdown, which made a valid point yet got Depressive Kyle thinking, causing me to note that, thanks to a Zac Whitfield punt block recovery and a Zach Paul point after touchdown, the North Texas Mean Green were tied with the Georgia Bulldogs 43 seconds into the third quarter, and that deadlock remained unbroken until after the halfway point of the penultimate period.
That led me to wonder what point marked the latest juncture at which the Red and Black had been tied with a cupcake opponent in the Mark Richt era. By "cupcake opponent", I mean an unranked non-rival non-conference opponent faced between the hedges and scheduled with the expectation that the game would represent a "tune up" prior to squaring off with tougher opposition. Division I-AA and Sun Belt opposition qualifies; Boise State and Oklahoma State do not. Honestly, I don’t think the dividing line is a particularly murky one---Colorado was a bad BCS conference opponent, but the Buffaloes nonetheless were a BCS conference opponent, and one that has won a national championship a decade more recently than have the ‘Dawgs---but, in case there is any dispute, feel free to let me know in the comments.
Here are the latest points at which Georgia was tied with each such opponent during Coach Richt’s tenure in the Classic City:
2001, Arkansas State: Last tied, 0-0, with 10:27 remaining, 1st qtr.
2001, Houston: Last tied, 0-0, with 6:31 remaining, 2nd qtr.
2002, Northwestern State: Last tied, 0-0, with 11:48 remaining, 1st qtr.
2002, New Mexico State: Last tied, 7-7, with 14:56 remaining, 2nd qtr.
2003, Middle Tennessee: Last tied, 3-3, with 7:49 remaining, 2nd qtr.
2003, UAB: Last tied, 13-13, with 12:58 remaining, 4th qtr.
2004, Georgia Southern: Last tied, 7-7, with 2:41 remaining, 2nd qtr.
2004, Marshall: Last tied, 0-0, with 11:38 remaining, 1st qtr.*
2005, Louisiana-Monroe: Last tied, 0-0, with 6:30 remaining, 1st qtr.
2006, Western Kentucky: Last tied, 0-0, with 9:29 remaining, 1st qtr.
2006, UAB: Last tied, 0-0, with 9:43 remaining, 1st qtr.
2007, Western Carolina: Last tied, 3-3, with 12:55 remaining, 2nd qtr.
2007, Troy: Last tied, 10-10, with 0:46 remaining, 2nd qtr.
2008, Georgia Southern: Last tied, 0-0, with 12:21 remaining, 1st qtr.
2008, Central Michigan: Last tied, 0-0, with 9:14 remaining, 1st qtr.
2009, Tennessee Tech: Last tied, 0-0, with 8:16 remaining, 1st qtr.
2010, Louisiana-Lafayette: Last tied, 0-0, with 3:01 remaining, 1st qtr.
2010, Idaho State: Last tied, 0-0, with 12:01 remaining, 1st qtr.
2011, Coastal Carolina: Last tied, 0-0, with 12:25 remaining, 1st qtr.
2011, New Mexico State: Last tied, 0-0, with 7:18 remaining, 1st qtr.
2012, Buffalo: Last tied, 0-0, with 10:27 remaining, 1st qtr.
2012, Florida Atlantic: Last tied, 14-14, with 6:30 remaining, 2nd qtr.
2012, Georgia Southern: Last tied, 7-7, with 6:26 remaining, 2nd qtr.
2013, North Texas: Last tied, 21-21, with 7:12 remaining, 3rd qtr.
* Marshall kicked a field goal to go out in front, 3-0, early in the first quarter. Georgia took the lead for good on a two-yard Michael Cooper touchdown run with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter. In all other games listed above, the final tie was broken in favor of the Bulldogs.
Of the 24 "patsy" games played by the Red and Black during Coach Richt’s tenure, 15 of them were tied for the last time in the opening minutes of the game preceding either squad’s first score; of the remaining nine outings, five were tied for the final time as single-score outings (two at 3-3 and three at 7-7), leaving just four games deadlocked at double-digit tallies. Prior to last Saturday, no cupcake conquest under Coach Richt was ever snarled at a higher score than 14-14.
Likewise, 14 of those 24 contests were tied for the final time in the first quarter, and 22 of those 24 games were not deadlocked after the second quarter. Only the Bulldogs’ 2003 tussle with the UAB Blazers saw the scoring snarled later than last weekend’s struggle with the Mean Green.
So, should we be worried? Maybe, maybe not; certainly, there was a lot to like about last weekend’s stat line, as Georgia doubled up North Texas in first downs (26-13), amassed 641 yards of total offense, and held the opposition to 245 total yards. The contest was close only because of special teams gaffes that saw the ‘Dawgs surrender a 99-yard kickoff return and allow a punt to be blocked and recovered in the end zone.
That said, this fact remains: Georgia has never before been tied at 21 with a patsy opponent during the Mark Richt era, and only once before during that span has Georgia been tied with a cupcake after intermission. This was virtually unprecedented, which ought to give us pause, especially in light of the result that followed the one comparable contest (against UAB in 2003): a three-point setback in Jacksonville with the Eastern Division crown ostensibly on the line.