My father will not leave a sporting event early. This dates back to his boyhood, when he rode into town to see minor league baseball games in Cordele, Ga., with a local man who insisted upon leaving at the seventh-inning stretch in order to beat traffic. That is, in order to beat the sort of traffic one encountered when leaving a minor league baseball game in Cordele, Ga., in the 1950s.
Because of that experience, Dad insists upon getting his money’s worth out of a game. As a result, I have spent more than one summer afternoon under the overhang at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium watching rain pelt a tarp during an Atlanta Braves weather delay while thinking, If I were home, I’d be watching Andy Griffith right now. Although I do not quite have Dad’s fortitude in such matters---I left the 1996 Texas Tech game early; Dad stayed in Sanford Stadium to the very end---I have inherited much of his devotion to sticking it out while the game is being played.
Consequently, I was present for the entirety of last night’s game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Arizona St. Sun Devils. I was drenched to the skin by the time the game began, and I hung around ‘til the final horn, teeth chattering and legs weary, while thinking, At least I’m not as wet and cold as I was at the 1993 Florida game.
In a not unrelated item, Doug Gillett and Orson Swindle are total wusses.
I was supposed to meet Doug at his usual tailgate spot at Tent City, and, while a good crowd was there, Doug was not. He had promised to bring Holly Anderson (whom I have never met face-to-face), but, since he didn’t come, she didn’t come, and he also had promised to bring Orson and The Conscience of a Nation, but, since he didn’t come, they didn’t come, either.
I know Holly and TCOAN are women of fortitude and substance who happily would have braved the elements, so I will not disparage them in the slightest, but Doug and Orson are buddies of mine, so I feel perfectly justified (in a good-natured locker room sort of way) in denouncing them as a couple of pansified nancy-boys who melt upon contact with water like witches in "The Wizard of Oz" or major league baseball players. Ignore what they have to say about college football and heed the words of a man who was fan enough (or a fan who was man enough) to stand out in it and shiver and cheer ‘til he was hoarse. These are those words:
- My faith that there is symmetry to the universe is underscored by the fact that, on the Saturday following the 25th anniversary of Kevin Butler’s historic last-second field goal to beat Clemson, Georgia won on a last-second field goal in a game in which Drew Butler played well for the ‘Dawgs on special teams.
- What appeared to be the case through much of the second quarter in Stillwater appeared to be the case through halftime this weekend: Georgia had the game well in hand, despite the relative closeness of the score, until the Bulldogs started coughing up the ball. Three giveaways a game in each of the first four weeks is inexcusable and will lead inevitably to ruin against teams in the Red and Black’s weight class. As it stands, the Athenians have won three straight nailbiters when, without the turnovers, they’d have won three straight comfortable victories, and maybe even three straight runaways.
- Because the foregoing statement is true, it also is the case that you can’t hang this one on the defense. I have criticized the Georgia D’s failure to step up in sudden change situations, a shortcoming which was all too apparent against the Auburn Tigers and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last year and against the Arkansas Razorbacks this year. Against the Sun Devils, though, the Classic City Canines at least showed some fight following Caleb King’s third quarter fumble. Arizona State took over at the home team’s 37 yard line and required eight plays (including two third down conversions) to score. I wish they hadn’t given up the touchdown, but at least they contested it even when placed in a tough spot. Obviously, the defense stepped up a second time after Jarrell Holman’s interception return to the Georgia 21. The ‘Dawgs pushed the Sun Devils backwards on the drive, which ended in a blocked field goal. The results of those efforts offer at least a glimmer of hope, as does the fact that the defense ultimately adjusted and appeared to figure out how to slow down Dimitri Nance.
- Six penalties for 45 yards isn’t good, but I’ll take it. Likewise, while the special teams were far from flawless, they turned in their best performance of the season so far. Please, let it be "so far."
- The young and talented Bulldogs are starting to shed the trappings of youth and demonstrate the fact of their talent. This week, Bacarri Rambo and Rantavious Wooten began to emerge from the cocoon of hype and enter the early stages of realizing their potential.
- We in the South should abandon all usage of the phrase "SEC speed" in any manner which is other than ironic. That Pac-10 defense looked pretty doggone fast to me. In a related item, although Caleb King was an effective complement to Richard Samuel, this might have been a good game to give Carlton Thomas some carries, as his running style might have been better suited to getting through the Sun Devils' defense.
- Sometimes, conventional wisdom gets to be conventional wisdom because it’s correct. Attempts to surprise the other team by handing off to the fullback only work when your frequent use of the fullback in short yardage situations on third down hasn’t caused everyone in the stadium to look for a handoff to the fullback. Georgia has a stable of talented running backs; they should be used in such situations. By the same token, the Bulldogs have to get Logan Gray in for whole drives at the time, not for one snap at a time for plays that are blown up immediately due to their predictability.
- Going for it on fourth down was a bad call. It’s fourth and one in the fourth quarter of a low-scoring tie ballgame. You have the ball on the visitors’ 28 yard line, the wind at your back, and Blair Walsh standing on the sidelines. You kick the dadgum field goal.
- That said, the final drive following the blocked field goal was well designed and well executed. Joe Cox, who earlier in the game had thrown the ball when he should have run it, picked up three yards when a play broke down and completed four out of five attempts before darting to the hash mark and kneeling to set up a field goal on the final play of the game. Facing overtime as the worst realistic scenario, the Bulldogs had a win virtually assured and made sure to do nothing that would give it away.
Georgia is living on the edge, which justifiably is causing considerable heartburn in Bulldog Nation, but the LSU Tigers look every bit as beatable as the Red and Black in an autumn in which almost every team appears riddled with imperfections. Even if our team doesn’t seem to be particularly good, it may be enough that no one else seems to be particularly good, either.