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The Georgia Bulldogs, the Kicking Game, and the Hope of Audacity

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We’ve been following Seth Emerson’s practice updates on the Georgia Bulldogs and making good-natured fun of the Boise St. Broncos, but, with kickoff just around the corner, we probably ought to start paying attention to the opposing team (which is, after all, a top five club, in the estimation of the Associated Press) from a football standpoint.

Fortunately, our colleagues from the Gem State are keeping us posted on events in the City of Trees, and they report that, well, the Broncos will be better in a couple of weeks. For the moment, though, Boise State looks good in the expected areas, but shows a few weaknesses, as well. Jerrell Gavins appears undersized, Charles Leno allowed Kellen Moore to be sacked from his blind side, wide receivers are dropping balls, and the Broncos appear to have real problems on special teams, the phase of the game in which the ‘Dawgs ought to have a decided advantage.

The kicking game, in fact, accounts for two of OBNUG’s five biggest areas of concern. Last Saturday’s BSU scrimmage featured blocked punts, missed field goals, and poor kickoff coverage. Chris Petersen appears to have faith in neither Michael Frisina nor Dan Goodale, to the point that he may go for it on fourth down in the Georgia Dome. I don’t know that this possibility represents a positive development for the ‘Dawgs---not after the way Georgia lost last year’s Liberty Bowl---but, in a game in which the Red and More Red Black need to pull out all the stops in order to win, Mark Richt and his coaching staff will need to press their advantage.

We have Blair Walsh, and we’re playing indoors. Frankly, I’m not sure the rules should even allow our placekicker to attempt a three-pointer under a roof, it’s so unfair, but, since the NCAA permits it, I think we should operate from the understanding that, anytime we cross the 50, we’re in field goal range. We should run out just about every kickoff that doesn’t go out the back of the end zone. We should take full advantage of Logan Gray’s departure and forbid our punt returner from calling for a fair catch. If we don’t go for at least one block, I’m going to be seriously ill. If we win the toss, I want us to elect to receive, then I want us to attempt an on-side kick on the opening kickoff of the second half.

No, I don’t want Mark Richt to trance-channel Les Miles, if only because I don’t know what astroturf would do to a fellow’s stomach if he tried to eat some of it, but I do want Coach Richt to be bold when he matches wits with an opposing coach who established his reputation nationally with a hook-and-ladder and a Statue of Liberty, the sorts of plays you used to run in your backyard with the neighborhood kids.

How bold are the Broncos? Consider how many moves had to be made just to get them to the Dome in the first place. For obvious reasons, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game historically has been a de facto preseason Peach Bowl, pitting an SEC team against an ACC opponent. BSU’s willingness to head back to the Deep South---where, as Jmac pointed out to me in an e-mail, the Broncos are 0-3 since 2002, having been outscored by a 121-40 margin---altered the usual arrangement, yet still this game only came to pass because of the willingness of all involved to reshuffle schedules that had been set for years. Boise State’s slated showdown with the Mississippi Rebels was reset to accommodate the date in the Dome with the ‘Dawgs.

Still, the Red and Black proved equally willing to shake things up a bit, canceling their series with the Louisville Cardinals, agreeing to wear Nike Pro Combat uniforms, and to no small extent staking the program’s short-term future on a critical season opener of the sort the Bulldogs have not won since 2007 . . . which, not at all coincidentally, also was the last time Georgia finished a season having exceeded (or even met) the expectations with which they entered it.

In short, it took no small degree of boldness on the parts of both schools just to get this game arranged, and it will not be won without the same sort of uninhibited approach. The Red and Black lack the same sorts of clear advantages all over the field that they had the last time these two teams met, but the Bulldogs’ superior "soundness in the kicking game" across the board is one area where the Classic City Canines have the upper hand . . . or, I guess, the upper paw. The Athenians should press that advantage at every opportunity, as it gives Georgia the best chance of winning on the field, and it gives Mark Richt the best chance of surviving off the field if the outcome is not to our liking. Win or lose, we need to see the ‘Dawgs get after their asses with tenacity and audacity.

Go ‘Dawgs!