With apologies to Yogi Berra, sometimes when you come to a fork in the road you don't necessarily have to take it. In a sense every college football game provides teams and fans with an opportunity to divert from their current path and "move in another direction."
The thing is, you cannot fire everybody after every loss, even the bad ones. Here's a dirty little secret. Coaches get outcoached. Players get outplayed. It happens to even the best of them. Sometimes it is the result of deep-seeded schematic or institutional problems. When that is the case, by all means throw the bums out. However, if you watch college football long enough you will notice that patterns emerge, then reemerge over the years. History repeats itself.
Such was the case this past Saturday when Georgia lost 38–20 to Florida in Jacksonville. I have seen that game before. Specifically, I saw that football game in 2007 in Knoxville, Tennessee. On that day, a #12 Georgia squad led by a young Matthew Stafford lost 35–14 to a Tennessee squad led by an embattled and soon to be terminated Phil Fulmer.
But the presence on the opposing side line of a metaphorical dead man walking is not the only parallel between these two games. That Volunteer victory snapped a three-game Georgia win streak in Neyland Stadium much as this weekend's loss snapped a three-game Bulldog streak at EverBank. Much as that loss in 2007 did not herald the resurrection of the Great Pumpkin's regime on Rocky Top, I do not anticipate that this emotionally charged Gator victory will be the turning point for Will Muschamp. The former Georgia defensive back still helms a roster with serious deficiencies, which has been seriously mismanaged, led by a series of Coordinators, none of whom has helped develop the talent on hand.
Of course one difference between the 2007 contest and this one with the manner by which a favor bulldog squad was beaten offensively. Whereas Florida simply lined up and ran the ball down the Bulldogs' collective throats, in 2007 Tennessee used a play action passing game with lots of rollouts to buy Eric Ainge time and throwing lanes, while mixing in a good dose of Arian Foster and Lamarcus Coker. Another difference? I have confidence that Jeremy Pruitt knows how to stop the power running game, even if it was not done on Saturday. At no point during 2007 or subsequent seasons did I believe that Willie Martinez was capable of scheming to beat any sort of novel offensive approach. I know Willie Martinez. Willie Martinez may not be my friend but you, Jeremy Pruitt, aren't Willie Martinez.
If you go back and read the ESPN recap of the 2007 game you will be struck by the familiarity of it all. But do not dare be that guy (or gal) who moans "WAAHHH!!! Why does this keep happening!?!?!?" Every so often a good football team comes up against another football team which, on a different Saturday, has a hell of a lot more motivation to win. When the team with motivation is aided by a few breaks going their way , be it a savvy, well-executed special teams play or an official setting a pick which prevents a defender for making a tackle near the line of scrimmage (sorry Quincy Mauger), they can find a way to win on that day. It happens.
But bear in mind that the better football team sometimes uses that poor outing as motivation, goes on to find itself, and doesn't lose again. Sometimes, they backdoor themselves back into national title discussions. Sometimes they go on to beat a favored Auburn team at home. They even go on to win the Sugar Bowl. I am not saying that this Georgia Bulldogs team is going to do any of that, but I am saying that if you are citing a once every seven years phenomenon as the reason to fire everybody, you really should take a longer term perspective.
Mark Richt just got through beating Florida three out of four years. No Georgia coach has done that in 30 years previously. My hats off to Will Muschamp. He needed a win, and he figured out how to get one. He was able to harness all of the bad karma surrounding his team for one week and move mountains. It does not in any way convince me that Will Muschamp is a better football coach than Mark Richt, or that Mark Richt is not one of the best in the world at what he does. So go ahead and rail about how this always happens to us, and no one else ever loses football games they should win. That's categorically and demonstrably false, but get it out of your system. Just promise me that when Saturday comes, you've been right back where you should be, rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs to win. Until later...