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Georgia Bulldogs 33, Vanderbilt Commodores 28: I Ain't Afraid of No Goat

Here are a few questions and observations concerning the Georgia Bulldogs’ 33-28 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores and last night’s Second Annual Dawg Sports Sacrificial Goat Roast:

  • Aaron Murray completed 22 of 38 passes for a career-best 326 yards and a trio of touchdowns, so why does it feel like he had another pedestrian outing and the latest in a series of "off" nights? (We developed a theory last evening that Murray and Blair Walsh learned during fall camp that they were dating the same girl, and that this threw them both into a funk, but, really, we have absolutely nothing with which which to back up that hypothesis.)
  • I don’t mean to be an energy vampire, but Bulldog Nation’s collective overconfidence about this game nearly came back to bite us. We as a fan base simply have to exhibit more negativity. It’s time for Depressive Doug to sock Manic Doug right in the nose. Our tradition is defined by such hall-of-fame poor-mouthers as Wally Butts, Vince Dooley, and Larry Munson. Let’s honor that heritage by being the most underconfident fan base in the conference. With the Florida Gators next up on the schedule, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Yes, I know the Sunshine State Saurians are on a losing streak; that was true last year, too, and look at how that worked out for us.
  • With five carries for 18 yards, Carlton Thomas was underutilized. Who thought that sentence would ever be typed?
  • Expressions of hubris concerning the kicking game are henceforth banned from the Goat Roast. Last year, I mocked the idea that Walsh might not make a field goal, right before he missed the field goal that cost us a two-point game. Last night, a loyal commenter who shall remain nameless haughtily remarked, in the face of my nervous pacing, that I should calm down, because a Drew Butler punt could never be blocked. You just can’t tempt fate that way, folks.
  • Marlon Brown picked a good night to have a breakout game, hauling in four catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns, including the 75-yarder that looked at first like it had put the game away . . . and that’s with a drop of what would have been a pretty big completion.
  • Is it just me, or was that the longest fourth quarter in the history of football? It seemed like we were slogging through the final 15 minutes forever.
  • Our special teams have gone from being the most reliable weapon in the Bulldogs’ arsenal to being the team’s Achilles’s heel. Last night’s breakdowns in the kicking game reached almost comically disastrous proportions. The tale of the tape (for those who can stomach it) included two missed field goal attempts, a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a fake punt that set up the Commodores’ first score, and a blocked punt to give Vandy the chance to win the game in the closing seconds. Yeah, I know the defense gave up 200 rushing yards, but, if you want to know why the ‘Dawgs had to win a nailbiter over the ‘Dores in a game in which the Red and Black held a 4-1 lead in turnovers, special teams failures account for why this was a 33-28 squeaker instead of a 39-14 laugher exactly like the one we all foresaw.
  • What surprised me about the postgame encounter between Todd Grantham and James Franklin wasn’t the fact that it occurred, it’s been the negative reaction to it, one of which included the inscrutable and downright bizarre observation that "Georgia might have given up an intangibles edge against South Carolina in the race for the SEC East." Though details are scarce, Jarvis Jones didn’t mind saying what others have observed: Vanderbilt was cut-blocking all night, and the Georgia players understandably got tired of it, and the game got a little chippy. At one point during the game, Coach Franklin came onto the field, yelling, and, after the contest was concluded, Coach Franklin again came onto the field, pointing at Shawn Williams, who incurred two of the Bulldogs’ three personal foul penalties. At the same time, at least one Red and Black defender was lying on the ground, presumably for reasons other than the fact that it was late and he thought the field would be a good place to take a nap.

    So . . . Coach Franklin’s players were cut-blocking, not Coach Grantham’s; Coach Franklin was going onto the field during the game and yelling, not Coach Grantham; Coach Franklin was pointing at (and, evidently, speaking to) opposing players after the game, not Coach Grantham; . . . and, somehow, the presumption is that Coach Grantham is the bad guy here? I’m sorry, I’m just not following that.

    Last year, when Coach Grantham made an inappropriate gesture and inappropriate remarks toward an opposing player, I criticized him for it. This year, Coach Franklin is the one who made an inappropriate gesture and, apparently, inappropriate remarks toward an opposing player, and Coach Grantham is the one who rose to the defense of his players (including, it should not be forgotten, one who was at that very moment on the ground), and he directed his justified indignation not at a college student, but at a Southeastern Conference head football coach. Based on what we now know, Coach Grantham’s reaction was proportional and warranted.

    This brings us to the genuinely baffling and incoherent observation about intangibles. This is an incident reminiscent of Mike Gundy’s infamous "I’m a man! I’m 40!" rant, which played poorly in the news media but undoubtedly impressed a lot of mothers who wanted their sons to play for the Oklahoma St. Cowboys because they knew Coach Gundy had his players’ backs. The talking heads in Bristol seemed not to notice it, but Coach Gundy and the Pokes gained much, much more than they lost that day.

    In that same vein, what, precisely, is the intangibles edge Georgia supposedly lost? The Commodores were cut-blocking the Bulldogs; Georgia players impermissibly and unwisely retaliated, deservedly incurring penalties in the process; a Georgia player was on the ground at the end of the game; the opposing coach who certainly allowed, and likely condoned, the cut-blocking, and who already had come onto the field yelling, pointed and probably spoke to a Bulldog player; the Red and Black defense had performed as poorly as it had in weeks . . . yet still Coach Grantham came onto the field, confronted the offending party man-to-man, and stuck up for his players, in front of the young men who saw first-hand just how much their defensive coordinator had their backs. As a result, the impression those players will carry into the open date is not, "Man, we just messed around and nearly got beat by Vanderbilt," but is instead, "Man, Coach Grantham is behind us, and we’re going to go out and play with that kind of intensity!" I’m sorry, but I’m not seeing the downside.
  • My thanks go out to everyone who attended the Goat Roast, and most especially to podunkdawg for coming up with the idea and making it happen twice now. Despite the anguish the last two Goat Roast games have produced, both events have been a lot of fun, and it’s really cool getting to see everyone face-to-face.
  • Don’t sweat the close win over Vanderbilt; it was a win, which was won without Malcolm Mitchell and largely without Isaiah Crowell. As I noted in last night’s Mark Richt Victory Watch, Georgia’s last close win in Nashville served as the precursor to a dominant stretch run, and the ‘Dawgs take a five-game winning streak into the bye week, during which the Red and Black will be able to get rested and ready for the Florida game. Feel good, Bulldog Nation . . . just don’t feel too good. It’s a fine line, but, fortunately, walking it is coachable.

Go ‘Dawgs!