A week ago, I felt O.K. about Georgia's 14-13 win over Colorado. Why, then, do I feel so badly about the Bulldogs' close shave against the Rebels?
Matthew Stafford completed seven of his 18 pass attempts for 91 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. (Photograph from Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)
Why does it seem like the Junkyard 'Dawgs played poorly defensively when they gave up only one big play in 60 minutes and held Ole Miss to a field goal when the home team took possession 10 yards and four downs away from paydirt?
Could it be because BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 135 yards against what had appeared to be an improved Georgia run defense? Could it be because the game was a statistical dead heat, with Mississippi holding a slight edge in first downs (15-14) and Georgia holding a similarly minuscule advantage in total yards (248-243)?
Why do I feel badly about the Georgia ground game when Kregg Lumpkin gained 101 yards on 13 carries and Brannan Southerland made good use of his six touches, keeping drives alive and punching in both of the Bulldogs' touchdowns?
Could it be because it was only after 30 minutes' worth of offensive ineptitude that the Red and Black began making use of their superior size along the line to make room for Georgia's talented backs? Could it be because the Classic City Canines had the game in hand and, rather than running out the clock, elected instead to rely on a passing attack that hadn't worked all night?
Why am I worried about Georgia's ordinarily stellar special teams when Thomas Brown sparked the Bulldogs' first scoring drive with a 46-yard kickoff return to start the third quarter? Could it be because the 'Dawgs had a pair of punts blocked?
There were times when it looked like Michael Kelso was punting for Georgia.
While we're on that subject, I have already gotten comments on the holding call, so let's address that now. E.S.P.N. replayed the first blocked punt once in a wide-screen shot. I didn't see the hold, but I didn't see that there wasn't a hold, either. In fact, I saw two guys running downfield alongside one another and I couldn't tell much else. If you say you could, please contact your local armed forces recruiting office, because they'd like to sign you up to be a sharpshooter.
Even if the call was wrong, though, there's no reason to believe it altered the outcome of the contest. What would have happened had Ole Miss taken possession on first and goal following a blocked punt? We learned the answer to that question later in the game, didn't we? The result was a Rebel field goal. If you want to say Mississippi deserved to lose 14-12 instead of 14-9, fine.
Even if you think the Rebs were robbed of a touchdown (in spite of every piece of evidence provided by the Bulldogs' goal line defense this season), the officials made up for it later in the game, when a touchdown was awarded despite the fact that replays clearly showed that Dexter McCluster didn't have possession of the ball when he crossed the plane.
There's no way to say that the refs took a T.D. away from Ole Miss without also saying the refs gave it back to the home team later . . . and that doesn't even take into account the numerous obvious missed calls when Brent Schaeffer was able to scramble out of harm's way or complete a pass only because the onrushing Georgia defender was held, or the highly questionable ruling on the subsequent blocked punt, when the recovering Mississippi defender had the ball in his hands above the ground before it was knocked free and recovered by the Bulldogs. As is usually the case in football, the bad calls evened out and the outcome was not affected by any one error by the officials.
That, however, did not prevent the E.S.P.N. announcers from engaging in their typical incessant criticism. University of Mississippi alumnus Ron Franklin and his broadcast partner would not let go of the holding call, continuing to gripe about it throughout the game as though it had been the sort of decisive gaffe late in the contest that made the difference in, say, the 1999 Georgia-Georgia Tech game or the 2006 Oklahoma-Oregon outing.
With all due respect, sir, stuff a sock in it, Ron.
Last year, you may recall, the surliest booth team in all of sports, Mike Gottfried and Sean McDonough, spent the entire fourth quarter of the Georgia-Vanderbilt game complaining about a call that had no impact on the result of the contest. I'm getting sick and tired of hearing the Worldwide Leader carp about every call that goes the Bulldogs' way. If I wanted this kind of anti-Georgia bias, I'd read the sports page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It is particularly frustrating to hear E.S.P.N. anchors pass judgment because they insist upon ignoring their own influence upon the game. The broadcasting team criticized Mark Richt for calling a timeout, claiming that it gave a weary Rebel defense the chance to get its second wind.
What the commentators neglected to mention was that Coach Richt called a time out, which would have lasted only a few seconds . . . and E.S.P.N. took that opportunity to cut away and air several advertisements, greatly prolonging the delay before the resumption of action.
The guy on the field wearing the red hat had far more to do with giving the Rebels the chance to catch their breath, yet the boys from Bristol blithely overlooked this reality, just as they make no mention of the fact that the change in the clock rules, which was designed to shorten games, addressed a problem that would not exist if E.S.P.N. would cut down on the commercial breaks.
Despite all that, there was one bright spot in last night's contest: Demiko Goodman, the sophomore split end from Newnan who was redshirted in 2004, contributed to the track team in 2005, and missed spring practice due to shoulder surgery in 2006 . . . yet who came on strong in Oxford with four key grabs covering 71 of the Bulldogs' 115 receiving yards.
Not only is the bonhomme Demiko a receiver who catches passes, he also looks sharp in a hat. (Photograph from DyeStat.)
On the whole, it was a miserable weekend of college football here in Bulldog Nation. Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee all won games in which it looked like each had a chance to be beaten, then the 'Dawgs stumbled out of the gate for the second Saturday in a row, casting an ominous cloud over next week's crucial Eastern Division showdown.
For now, though, the Red and Black are 5-0, which puts the Classic City Canines one win away from bowl eligibility and halfway to a fifth straight 10-win season with seven regular-season and either one or two postseason games to go. Georgia enters into the meat of its schedule next Saturday and, while the Bulldogs hardly are firing on all cylinders, the one nice thing E.S.P.N. had to say about my alma mater last night definitely is applicable: Mark Richt knows how to win football games and that's as good a reason as any for being confident about next weekend.