I posted this about an hour before the news broke regarding Mark Richt's ouster. I stand by point #1 now more than ever. Thank you for everything, Coach.
Beating Georgia Tech has a certain cleansing effect in any year, but especially after losing the year before. Removing the stink of last season's 4th quarter ephemeral comeback that should never have resulted in a loss was absolutely deodorized when the clock struck 00:00 in a game in which Georgia never trailed, scored a touchdown on an impressive initial drive and then had to rely on a gritty defensive effort to effectively shut down Paul Johnson's Band of Merry Cut-Blocking Nerds.
1. Mark Richt has earned the right to remain at Georgia for at least another season. This announcement needs to be made before sundown, and the current stable of 2016 recruits need to hear this before their heads hit the pillow tonight. A change at the top? That's another story. A certain coordinator? You betcha'...
1a. If Jeremy Pruitt isn't part of the coaching equation because of any administrative decisions, I might walk away.
2. Georgia's offense was further handicapped when it was announced that starting guard Greg Pyke and sometimes Mighty Mouse Isaiah McKenzie would not be able to go. We really could have used these guys. Thankfully, we didn't need them. However, this was very troublesome news to hear prior to kickoff. Trenton Thompson, bless his dawgly heart, tried to make a go of it, but his ankle injury that he sustained about a month ago finally got the better of him.
3. So, with Big Trenton out of the lineup, stuffing the dive play and shutting down the run lanes between the tackles largely fell upon Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach. These two seniors - playing their last iteration of COFH - played an awesome game. Jordan Jenkins was his reliable self as well. All these guys are gone next season. Hats off to you, fellas. Well done.
4. It was mentioned in the post-game thread yesterday afternoon/evening, but bears repeating again: Defensive progression over the course of the season is what you want to see and is exactly what transpired. Jeremy Pruitt's squad over the last 6 games, beginning with Mizzou, has held their opponents to under 10 points per game. Total defense is now 2nd in the SEC and the wholesale youth movement has continued with twenty-two freshman seeing significant playing time this season on that side of the ball.
5. Dominick Sanders' interception of a Justin Thomas pass when Tech was sitting inside our 15 yard line halfway through the 2nd quarter now puts him in rarefied air. The kid is a ball-hawk and is only going to get better.
INTERCEPTED! Dominick Sanders snags it and sets a school record for INT return yards in a season (205 on 5 INTs). pic.twitter.com/DZyer0mbQE— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) November 28, 2015
5a. Natrez Patrick is going to be great, folks.
6. Despite losing outside contain for much of the day, the defense negated the dive play and essentially removed that key dimension from Paul Johnson's Triple Choption attack. When Justin Thomas had to pass, he had pressure in his face on most every attempt - sometimes with only a 3-man rush. Amazing what a pass rush can do.
7. Live and in person at Grant Field: Ron Cherry and the Time Bandits. What the hell was going on in the final two minutes of the game? I haven't seen official clock management that bad since the 1972 U.S.A. vs. U.S.S.R Gold Medal Basketball game. (Damn, I'm old...)
7a. Speaking of bad clock management: We burned 2 time outs on the same 3rd down play before the half, which is a bit like paying for something twice. And the play still didn't work. A lot of that is on the QB, but is there any truth to the play clock not working correctly - something I read somewhere during the game? Anyway, this issue still haunts Mark Richt and has since his debut in 2001.
8. The Jake Ganus unsportsmanlike penalty is the most ACC effin' reffin' call ever. Gonna miss you, kid.
"I didn’t say a word," Ganus said. "I just signaled incomplete and I saw a flag at my foot. I told someone else I’m not going to bash the refs. Coaches weren’t mad, so that’s a sign I probably didn’t do anything wrong." - Jason Butt/Macon.com
8a. It was good to see Tech's #40 get tossed after swinging at Brandon Kublanow. If chortled after that one.
9. Sony Michel's 149 yards on 24 carries (6.2 average, with a 34 yard TD) doesn't even begin to tell the whole story. Tech was trying to strip the ball when they could and the fact that Sony atoned for his horrible fumble at Tech's goal line last season by securing the football on Saturday cannot be understated. Ball security with a cast on your dominant hand is not easy. Sony did incredibly well by taking care of the rock. Kid is a helluva player.
9a. Keith Marshall ran tough when he was summoned to give Michel a blow. Damn near broke away for a score, too. It was great to see. Should've seen more.
10. Greyson Lambert should also be commended for managing the game and making some clutch throws. None were better than his 25-yard toss to Jeb Blazevich under the shadow of our own goal post when we had to move the ball and kill some clock. This might have been Brian Schottenheimer's best call of the season. Lambert only threw one really ill-advised pass that could've, should've been picked but wasn't.
11. Still, if we had a nickel for every pass to Malcolm Mitchell that was just out of reach for either a big gain or a long touchdown...well, we'd have a roll of nickels. Lambert is still panicking when his first option is covered and his relief valve is Mitchell. We are really, really going to miss #26.
12. If you haven't perused this, you should. There is no fan-base I hate losing to more than Tech. It brings me great joy that I don't even have to consider them for another 365 days.
13. Dawg Trifecta: Tech, Auburn and Florida losing. We beat 2 out of 3 of these. Gotta work on the 3rd...
14. Rage Against the Muschine. Seriously, Will. If you get an aneurysm on live TV, you'll only have yourself to blame.
15. Les is More. I'm glad he'll be at LSU because South Carolina doesn't deserve him...
It has been a hell of a year (as opposed to helluva' year). We are, as a fan-base, as divided as we have ever been. Still, this team somehow gutted out 9 wins with one hand tied beyond their collective backs while dancing with shoes that were 2 sizes too small. I think it was a pretty good job of recognizing what we are and playing to those strengths. And what we are is a defensive football team that is on the way to becoming a fire-breathing monster.
Offensively, how far away are we? We've got issues, but are they the types of things that good coaching and game-planning can fix? Help is on the way, but there are some pretty good parts in there as well. I'm more concerned about the offensive line more than anything as we (nearly) close the book on 2015. There are some guys on the bench that have to step up next season; some guys returning and some kids that are still in high school that will probably play early and often. This will be interesting.
We're going to need a kicker in 2016; maybe a punter, too. So much depends on who decides to stay or go across the board.
I'm glad this season is over. I pray that Nick Chubb is well on his way to returning to the superhuman Nick Chubb we love (and love anyway, whether or not this happens). The bowl game will be announced next Saturday night. I honestly don't care where we end up (well, okay maybe a little), but would love to get a crack at James Franklin and Penn State. Maybe we could get Mike Ekeler to slap him in the head.
As Always, and until next time...GO DAWGS!