I’ve got no fancy truisms for my weekly by-line. We simply had this game won until we didn’t. Turn the page. Rather than a semi-comprehensive breakdown of yesterday’s meltdown, I’ll just make a few points and then prepare my man-cave for another long, long off-season.
1. So, we finished the season 7-5 with a glorified scrimmage to be played sometime in late December or early January. The most frustrating thing about 3 of our 5 losses is how we essentially beat ourselves. Three of our losses were very much a result of just not executing (Vandy, Tech) when we needed a play; a breakdown in discipline (Tennessee) when all was won that gave the other guy a little sliver of hope and the chance to win on a fluke. In a season like we just endured, the smart money is on the fluke. At no time during the 2016 season did the Georgia Bulldogs play a complete game. Sure we saw some flashes, but not for a full 60 minutes.
2. Sometimes the line between being “good” and mediocre is quite fine. The commonality of those teams that are perceived as good is general consistency of play on both sides of the ball for the majority of the game. In our game alone yesterday, the offense and defense were pretty much in sync for the entire 3rd quarter and the scoreboard reflected this. The first half, the defense struggled early giving up big plays while the offense generally moved the ball, especially on the ground.
3. The turning point was Tech’s ability to get out from under the shadow of their own goal post and convert on a 3rd and long situation midway through the 4th quarter with a pass that everyone knew was coming. That gave them hope. Credit to them for capitalizing on that with a long drive that brought home the reality that we did not have enough points on the board to win this game if something bad happens. Jacob Eason’s interception that bounced off of Terry Godwin into the arms of a defender that was sitting on the turf was as about as bad as it gets.
4. If this team that is so very full of youth can take away and apply the knowledge that is gleaned from some very hard lessons that transpired over the last 24 hours and 3 months it will serve them well. For now, they are a collection of kids that are still not quite sure how to win.
We have the killer instinct of PETA.— dawgsonline (@dawgsonline) November 26, 2016
The most important lesson, and something the coaching staff would be wise to revisit, is learning how to put your opponent away when you have the chance.
5. This game ultimately came down to simply not executing. A critical early drop by Riley Ridley that resulted in a missed field goal (probably caused by a poor snap) ended up being huge and perhaps the difference on the scoreboard. Eason’s aforementioned late pick and a drop by Nauta (who was clearly in pain with an arm injury) on a less-than-perfect throw when Georgia was desperately trying to get within field goal range as the clock was grinding down are just bits and pieces of a bigger puzzle. It looked to me like Nauta could’ve run for another 15-20 yards and give us a chance to kick it to win it. We just didn’t convert enough 3rd down opportunities when they were there for the taking.
6. Georgia has got to improve the red zone defense in 2017. That has to be a priority.
7. We are going to miss Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. They can and should go get paid now. Nothing but class from these two kids. Thank you for wearing the Red and Black, fellas.
8. I feel bad for the seniors and 1-season kids who transferred into the program - specifically Mo Smith and Tyler Catalina. I wish they could have gone out as winners in Sanford Stadium, but the fates have been unkind in many ways this year. There has been a ton of criticism lobbed at Catalina this season. I’d like to thank him for his effort - which was always there - and passion for playing. You do realize he was thrust into an impossible job, don’t you? Playing left tackle in any Power 5 Conference is tough enough. In this league, it’s borderline crazy. Best of luck to #72 going forward.
9. On the bright side of things consider this: Our offensive line (at least under current management) will never be as small as they were this past season. There is an infusion of some big dudes coming to town soon. Yeah, they’re going to have to grow up quickly, but the last of the mix-and-match linemen (largely out of necessity) is hopefully over.
10. With all due respect to Mark Stoops, Derek Mason deserves to be SEC Coach of the Year. Since Nick Saban will win it again, perhaps a special SEC East Coach of the Year trophy can be created. I went to bed with Tennessee up 21-7 last night.
Champions of Life my ass...
Current Tennessee football Wikipedia page is pretty darned entertaining. pic.twitter.com/Rf62rfzZM7— Aaron Brenner (@Aaron_Brenner) November 27, 2016
I love the interwebs...
11. I cannot believe this season is over already. Life just accelerates as you age. Time is precious, folks. And life is good. Embrace it...even when we lose to Tech. We’ll get ‘em again soon enough.
12. The contact period for recruiting is back on. Kirby Smart’s body of work as a coach and his time on the job is not large enough to judge. His impact as a recruiter (some describe it as an “alpha recruiter”) has already been felt. Georgia is right there for some very talented kids who could come in and play right away. This should be fun to watch between now and National Signing Day on February 1, 2017. I suspect we at Dawg Sports will begin to turn our attention to some of the blue-chippers and diamonds in the rough that are still out there.
Opportunity, thy home is in Athens...
13. Of the eligible juniors (not named Chubb or Michel) on the roster, who stays and who goes? Right off the bat I think Davin Bellamy is certainly a candidate for early entry into the draft; perhaps Lorenzo Carter who is playing better and better and coming into his own. The nucleus of a super-bad defense is returning. These guys could really be part of the senior leadership that we so lacked this year because of the dearth of seniors. I hope they stay and become part of something that could be special.
13A. Mel Tucker has been linked as a potential candidate to fill the job opening at Georgia State. Unless he’s really chompin’ at the bit to build something from scratch (which for some is quite attractive), I think he stays for now. I hope he stays for now, anyway. Every team has a guy on staff that is “linked” to a job opening. ‘Tis the nature of the beast. Maybe Butch Jones should be preemptive here and just apply.
14. My final thoughts on this entire season is this: I am disappointed, but not surprised at the ultimate record. Being a card-carrying member of the Eternal Kool-Aid Drinkin’ Optimist Club, I always expect a 10-win season at the minimum. We were actually so close to this when looking back at games like yesterday which were a microcosm of the entire slate of losses. Just a few plays here ‘n there and we beat Vandy and Tech. If it weren’t for a single kid briefly losing control and running onto the field against Tennessee after Eason’s perfect pass to Ridley which would have won the game 99.9% of the time and aided their field position for an impossible ending, we are at 10-2; Kirby Smart is the toast of the Conference and we are probably in the Sugar Bowl.
Just a few plays, a few poor decisions, and some luck. Isn’t that what it all boils down to every season? Fickle thing, this college football.
You either believe or you don't.
Nothing has changed from last week to this week. We already knew that we were a team capable of losing or winning against Tech. Our margin of error was small this year, and we saw how just a few bad plays could change the outcome of the game. I personally choose to be optimistic going forward. I believe that we are making the adjustments necessary to fix many of our issues (oline, wr’s, general positional depth), and when combined with more time for Eason to mature I do not see why our program should not be considered to be on an upward trajectory.
15. Losing to Tech sucks. But when I awoke this morning I was still grateful to be a Georgia Bulldog. Better days are ahead. Next season will be better IF and only if the hard lessons are studied, embraced and acted upon next season. Recruiting is there. Can the coaches use this talent and also learn from what has just transpired?
To be continued...