Well... that happened.
First, let's get one thing straight: Everybody is on notice today. After such a widely-publicized disaster of the highest magnitude, this is the only option. Every single coach on the team and every single player on the team (even the ones who didn't play a snap) are on notice. The band is on notice, the administrators are on notice. Even the fans are on notice. Yes, that means you. Even if you're not a UGA fan and are reading this article for purely for purposes of schadenfreude, you, sir or ma'am, are on notice this week.
The only good thing about yesterday's game is that its over. And the only good thing we can hold up today as a tiny beacon of light in the darkness that surrounds us is that there is another game this Saturday. This wasn't a crushing defeat at the end of the season that we are forced to stew upon for weeks or months before another game. We have another game this Saturday, a game versus the Tennessee Volunteers in Neyland Stadium that in many ways is even more important than yesterday's game.
In spite of the horror movie we were all forced to watch yesterday, literally every single one of this team's goals for the season is still achievable if we can get our house back in order and get the train back on the tracks over the next 6 days. Therefore, even though I remind you that literally everybody is on notice, I'm going to single out the following individuals and tell them that, for week 6, You're On Notice, Dawg!
In no particular order:
1) Steve Spurrier - Why Steve Spurrier? Because he hates us, we hate him, and because I have it from a very authoritative source inside the South Carolina administration that he flew into Sanford Stadium at halftime yesterday just to be "part of the excitement."
2) People who think our season is over, and we should just bench all the seniors and play all the freshmen to "build for the future" from here on out - Look, this was the fifth game of the season. We got blown out, but it still our first loss, and it was to a western division opponent. If we can beat Tennessee this weekend, we'll still be in the driver's seat for the eastern division title. If we can win out, we'll make it to the SEC Championship Game. And if we win the championship game to emerge as the SEC champion with 1 loss, we have about a 95% chance of being selected for the CFB playoff. And once you're in the playoff, anything can happen.
We literally have all of our goals still in front of us. Nobody's asking anyone to feel good about where we are now, because that would be ludicrous. Of course you're still mad, despondent, and possibly still hungover. We all are. (I somehow have a hangover this morning in spite of not drinking a single drop of alcohol at all yesterday.) But let's take a half-step back and realize that the world has not yet ended. No goal has gone by the wayside because we faceplanted in the one game where we couldn't afford to even stumble a little bit.
3) The offensive line - Most of our bloggers are in transit today after attending the game in person last night, so this post is going up early and I haven't had a chance to re-watch the game on DVR yet. But to my naked eyeballs on Saturday, it looked like our offensive line got manhandled in exactly the fashion the Alabama faithful predicted they would.
This is deeply disconcerting, because our offensive line is one of the biggest strengths of our team. It is literally the most experience-laden, senior-heavy position group we have on the field, and they got pushed around like they were a I-AA team. They did slightly better in pass protection than in run blocking, but even then, the pockets around Lambert and Ramsey were 5-7 yards back from the line of scrimmage virtually every single time. We were getting blown off the ball, and that's as bad as it gets from a "they neutralized our strength" standpoint.
If we want to pick up the pieces and move forward, the offensive line will have to be at the forefront of that. We cannot afford to have that happen ever again this season.
4) People who want to fire (anybody) after this game - My favorite overreaction to any bad loss is when people immediately want to fire Mark Richt/Brian Schottenheimer/Greg McGarity/Jere Morehead/the Pope after a bad game. What, exactly, would be accomplished by firing our head coach or either of our coordinators after a single bad loss? I will grant that this is a fair discussion to have at the end of the season... but for god's sake, man, we lost one game. Let's see how it plays out from here before we roll out the guillotines.
5) Pass defense - We did a pretty effective job of stopping the run on Saturday. Just like Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry was always going to get his yards, and the focus was always to contain the damage that he did. For the most part, I think we did ok with this. Derrick Henry did get 148 yards, but he only broke 1 long run and only got 1 TD. By comparison, Nick Chubb had almost that same stat line: 146 yards with 1 TD and 1 long run. No, our breakdown was in the pass defense and in covering the players that weren't the stars. We let Jacob Coker get 190 yards through the air, and though he only got 1 passing TD, their passing game was what kept opening up the field for the Tide.
Tennessee is another team that relies on the run, and we will have to keep them from sneaking up on us in the passing game to have any hope of winning. The Vols come into this game with the 3rd-best rushing offense in the conference (averaging 225 yards/game) and just the 11th-ranked passing offense (193 yards/game). I feel confident that we can stop the run if we play up to our abilities, but we have got to find a way to keep the Vols from springing players downfield like the Tide did to us yesterday.
6) Punting - Good lord, this had the real potential to be called the "Punt Georgia Punt" game. First, there's the obvious blocked punt that resulted in Alabama's second touchdown and stretched the score to 17-3 when the game was still in reach with 4:48 left in the 2nd quarter. But Collin Barber lapsed back into that rugby punting thing several times, and none of those rugby-style punts as far as his standard punts go. We were frequently punting from deep in our own territory, when a good punter would have an opportunity to bang it deep and pin the opponent back, but Barber never did that. I just don't know what's broken with our punting game, but it's not good. We will never win a field-position game if we're relying on this punting game to do it for us.
(And I haven't even started on the decisions by Schottenheimer to punt when we're inside the opponent's 40 yard line, because that's not the punter's fault... he's just doing what he's asked to do. But WHY ARE YOU PUNTING FROM THE DAMN 38 YARD LINE? Even if it's 4th and 10 and we only get 5 yards on the play, you're still giving it back to them at the 33, and that's not a bad trade-off for the times when you might make a 4th down conversion. But I digress...)
7) A QB controversy - I know Mark Richt said in his postgame remarks that they were going to "start from scratch" on the QB competition, but let's be honest. The only quarterback competition is whether Faton Bauta needs to be our #2 instead of Brice Ramsey. Greyson Lambert was not very effective on Saturday, but at least he didn't throw an abjectly horrible pick 6. Lambert is, and should be, our starting quarterback. Once Jacob Eason comes on campus in January, then we'll have a competition once again for the starting QB role. Until then... the issue is settled in my mind.
8) Toughness - To be honest, Alabama wasn't really that much better than us for large stretches of the game. Throughout the first quarter and the vast majority of the second, we stood toe-to-to with the Tide, absorbing their best shots and giving them our own. The problem came when they got their big body-blow on us with that blocked punt TD. After that, it seemed like everything just fell apart for about a quarter and a half. We crumbled under the pressure, and by the time we got our feet back under us, the score was 38-3 and the game was effectively over.
As Pat Dye might have said if this were 2002, Georgia just wasn't "man enough" to beat Alabama. We were not capable of absorbing a hit from them and bouncing back with one of our own. That game is over, and there's nothing we can now do about it, but have we shown other teams in the SEC that we're not "man enough" to stand up and fight back once we've taken a solid hit in the mouth? This is a question we're going to have to find an answer to quickly, because Tennessee has a habit of starting fast and hitting hard, and we will have to be as tough as we pretend to be if we're going to win this game.
That's all for this week, Dawg fans. Lick your wounds, visit the NSFW thread and vent if you need to, but take a cue from our coaches and players and try to move on. All of our season goals are still in front of us, but none of them will be there any longer if we don't bounce back from the crushing defeat and take care of business in Knoxville six days hence.
The Tennessee Volunteers are waiting for us, and they smell blood. We have to prove that we're "man enough" to take their best shot and given it right back to them. Let's support our Dawgs and let them know that we're behind them all the way.
(P.S. One final note: The NSFW thread is over there. Not here. All the normal rules and regulations are in effect from this post forward. Thank you for your consideration.)