Well Dawg fans, it's been a teeth-pulling, migraine-inducing heck of a journey, but we have reached the end. This is the last "On Notice" article of the 2015 regular season. I'll certainly do one for the
Belk bowl game, but this is our last regularly-scheduled getogether. And I don't know about you, but when it all comes down to it, as much as I crave football during the offseason, I'm just ready for this season of Georgia Bulldogs football to be over.
The theme of this 2015 season will be about our players overcoming adversity. The biggest part of that adversity was caused by one injury in particular, but much of the rest of it has been inflicted either by the coaches or by simple lack of execution, but however it unfolds the final chapter in that story will be written this Saturday. And it's going to be another nail-biting chapter against one of our oldest rivals. This Saturday will mark the 110th entry in the "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Both teams have been pretty bad this season, and both have won-loss ledgers with the numbers "8" and "3" in them. Tech is a completely-deserved 3-8, and Georgia is somehow 8-3 despite having the worst offense I think I've ever seen in Athens. As the old saying goes, "If the other team never scores, you'll never lose." The reverse is also true, however, in that if you can't run, pass, kick, or catch the ball, you're going to have a dang hard time winning games. This game might well be decided by a final score of 3-0 in 2 overtimes.
No matter what happens, though, one thing's for sure: It's going to be intense, and the Golden Tornado are going to give us the best effort they've given all year, so we have to do the same. Therefore, I'm letting the following people know that, for week 13, "Clean Old-Fashioned Hate" week, You're On Notice, Dawg!
In no particular order:
1) (Vacant) - In the words of the late, great Yogi Berra, I'm not a superstitious man, but I am a little stitious. The Vacant honorary #1 spot is now 3-0, so I'm not going to get off the train at this point.
2) Brian Schottenheimer - And our semi-permanent #2 spotholder is firmly once again entrenched in his position. I have to admit that the shotgun draw play with exactly zero lead blockers is the play we ran in OT to win the game, but that still doesn't mean we're good enough to run it repeatedly on first down all game. That play in OT was just about the only play that has been blocked perfectly by the offensive line since the South Carolina game, and I ain't complaining about their impeccable timing in doing so.
And again, to be fair, Schotty's play-calling has gotten less stodgy and more aggressive in the last 3 games. I'm not sure if that's to Schotty's credit, though, or if Mark Richt has covertly inserted himself back into the process of calling the plays and just not told any media about it yet. What I have noticed is that Richt has been holding play sheets over the last 3 games on the sidelines. I don't think that's a coincidence.
Being an OC in college is more than just about calling plays and designing schemes, though. Unlike the NFL, in college you have to coach your guys up on the fundamentals of the game, too. Many of your best guys were simply bigger and faster than everybody else in high school, and their coaches might not have needed to teach them all the fundamentals of blocking, ball security, and defense-reading that they absolutely must have in college. And Schotty is our QB coach, too, and his grade is unquestionably an F in that category. Greyson Lambert, if anything, has regressed this season after starting strongly. And Brice Ramsey has turned into one of the SEC's best punters.
I honestly don't know what Schotty can do to make anything better at this point, or even in the offseason, and it seems clear to me that he's just a bad fit for UGA. We're just going to have to grit our teeth, hope we beat Tech, and see if somebody from the NFL won't take him off our hands for us in the offseason. Either that, or hope that this man who was groomed and raised by an NFL-head-coach father can somehow learn to coach in college.
3) Greyson Lambert - After 11 games, there's just not much more you can say about the quarterback situation. It is what we think it is. The data and performances speak for themselves. Lambert is our #1 QB, Ramsey is our #1 punter, and Faton Bauta is just a DGD who, in spite of his exceptional work ethic, just plain isn't quite good enough to win the job.
Early in the season, Lambert looked like our best option primarily because he consistently made "safer" throws, even on long passes, that only his receiver or no one could catch. This is what, more than anything else, made him a better option than Brice Ramsey. He has regressed from this trend, however. In the 4th quarter, as we were driving on Ga Southern, we were just inside Marshall Morgan's field goal range, and had 3rd and 8 from the 26 yard-line. On this play, Lambert had time to set his feet and get his throwing motion right, and she still undershot Malcolm Mitchell by about 5 yards, throwing in right into a pack of GSU defenders. If this had been against a good SEC defense, the pass would have been intercepted and the game might have been effectively over. But instead, we got lucky, no GSU defender made the play, and Morgan kicked a field goal to tie up the game.
I point this out not to say that Brice Ramsey should be the starting QB. Hell, there's only 1 game left in the regular season. It's too late to make major changes now, and Ramsey's not going to do any better than Lambert has, anyway. My point is that Lambert needs to figure out what's causing this issue and do his best to correct it. He was doing it right early in the season, so maybe it's just a confidence thing now. Or maybe Schotty is completely screwing him up technically. I really have no idea. But big offensive mistakes like a Pick 6 or a scoop-and-score is what will cause us to lose to Georgia Tech. We need to be solid on offense and not make silly mistakes. And that starts with the quarterback.
4) Malcolm Mitchell - The senior again had a PI call or two not go his way, but he flat-out missed a couple of crucial first-down plays he should have made on the night. The most critical of those was a long pass on third down with 3:00 left in the fourth quarter that bounced right off of Mitchell's fingers. On senior day in his last game in Sanford Stadium, Malcolm Mitchell generally played ok, but he made so many mistakes that if his final game in Sanford Stadium had been a loss to Georgia Southern, Mitchell himself would have shard a not-insignificant part of the blame.
5) Booing your own team - I almost didn't put this here, because we have no more home games this season. But this lights my personal fire more than anything else our fans do at times, so I must address it. (Also, more than half of the crowd in Bobby Dodd Stadium are usually Georgia fans for this game, so it's at least somewhat applicable this week.)
No, I didn't like our decision to let the clock run out at the end of the first half. Yes, I hated it even more when we gave up and just let the clock run out in the 4th quarter, too. But no matter what... no matter the situation... YOU NEVER BOO YOUR OWN DAMN TEAM.
It's as simple as that. That's the rule. There are no exceptions. We are not here simply for our football team to entertain us, cowing and dancing to our every whim. We are here to cheer the Georgia Bulldogs on to victory. If you don't like a play or a situation, it's understandable and normal to be angry and/or frustrated as hell. Grumbling about it is fine. Shouting, "WHAT THE ****,
BOBO SCHOTTY!" is fine. Booing, however, is never ok. Like, never. Under no circumstances, and in no situations. If you're going to boo your own team, just stay the hell at home.
6) Isaiah McKenzie - I hate to put this guy here. He's a DGD, and he's been a special teams superstar for us over the last 2 seasons. But iMac did the one thing you absolutely cannot do as a ball-carrier. He was the last guy back in the backfield on an offensive play, and he fumbled. That's going to lead to a scoop-and-score for the defense 9 times out of 10... and it did so for Georgia Southern yesterday.
Maybe it was because it was really cold or something, but ball security seemed to be a recurring theme last night. With a noon kickoff versus the Yellow Jackets and a projected high in the mid-60's, the cold shouldn't be an issue again. But whatever the reason, we've got to hold onto the ball. iMac has suddenly become one of our best big-play threats, but he's got to learn to lock that ball away, too.
7) Giving the Defense time to rest - Georgia Tech's offense, as we're all acutely aware, is a flexbone-based system. Their game (like Auburn's and Ga Southern's) is based primarily on ball possession. The longer the Engineers have the ball, the more they can pound away and pound away at your defense, wearing them down... until the end of the game, when the defense is so beaten to hell that they can't stop them anymore.
And make no mistake, this defense has turned into one of the best Georgia has had in a while. They've risen to the challenge this year and been the primary catalyst of our victory in all 4 of our most recent victories. We need the offense to score points, of course, but we also need the offense to have sustained drives. Keep the chains moving, and let the guys on the D have some time to catch their breaths and recharge their fuel tanks. If we don't, we'll be playing directly into Tech's hands, and our likelihood of winning will go way, way down.
8) Malaise - As I said in the intro, I eagerly wait all offseason for college football to begin. I'm not really a recruiting buff, so I don't particularly enjoy all of the hoopla surrounding the unending pursuit (and stalking) of high-school-aged boys. I know some people get into it, and that's fine, but that's just not really my thing. I yearn for the season, and when it starts, I feel like all is good with the sporting world again.
And then comes the point where you're just ready for the damn thing to be over. It's funny... because it's barely been 3 months since the season began. But so much has happened this season to tear us apart and drag down our morale as fans... that I'm just ready to stow it away for another 8 months.
For me, there is a single moment to which I can point as the moment at which I was done with this season: the first play of the Tennessee game in Neyland Stadium. At the moment they showed the replay of that Nick Chubb run (and relatively gruesome hyper-extension of his knee), I could almost feel my spirit breaking. Nick Chubb... the man who's done nothing but do things the right way, run his ass off, and be possessed of an incredible talent for doing so... being cut down by a subpar playing surface, just like so many Bulldogs have been. I don't recall ever having cried (from a point of sorrow) during a Georgia game, but I did after that play. Even if Sony Michel had been able to pick up the slack and run like Chubb did, I don't think I would have taken much pleasure in it. My heart ached to see Nick Chubb's horrific injury, and I knew right then that I was done. I have moved on since that day, but I'm fairly certain my heart has not yet recovered.
I've been stuck in a funk of malaise, and I dare say that many Georgia fans have been, as well. Everyone reacts differently to that state: some retreating to a point of self-introspection and depression, others angrily lashing out at players and coaches (and bloggers) in frustration... and this season, we've seen all of that from UGA fans.
But here's the thing: we just have one game left, and it's against Georgia Tech. I'm stuck in a funk of malaise, the same as you might be... but there's just one more game to go. For just one last week this season, we need to get up, drag our butts off the (proverbial) couch, and stand up for our Dawgs to beat a hated rival. There are so many frustrating things about this team that we could dwell on, but now's not the time to do that. This is our last hurrah. This is the chance to take joy in cheering for our team one last time in the regular season.
This is the time to stand up and be counted as the Georgia f'n Bulldogs. Stand up, take that opportunity, and cheer your Dawgs on to victory this Saturday. I'll be standing right there beside you, cheering my heart out, too.