Friday, October 3, 2008

More thoughts on UGA/AL

I've been discussing with a friend the ramifications of the UGA/AL game, along with a few other points about the state of Georgia football versus another popular program, USC. Because I and this friend live out here in Los Angeles, we're constantly forced to listen to meaningless pac-10 drivvel, and the media's hype of "the greatest college football team ever." So, here is a letter I wrote in response to a recent letter from him:

-------------------------------------------
Saban may be a superior coach to Mark Richt (quite debatable), but to date, he is 3-2 against Richt. That's as even as possible in a 5 game series.

We didn't throw a long ball on the first drive against Bama. We hit a bunch of short ones, then had our legs cut out from under us on an unwise screen pass.

If Stafford is going deep on 3rd and 5, that's because he thinks he sees a chance to complete it. There's no pass play that we run that has only one option. Either he thinks it's open, or he thinks it's the best option because the others are cut off.

Why are we in trouble with our O-Line? Because over the past few years, we've had a few career ending injuries, guys get kicked off the team, guys graduate, etc.

Our Defense not getting pressure? We have 11 sacks, the same number we had last year (when we led the conference in sacks) after five games.

The game was winable on offense. That's why Cox didn't play. Richt of old wouldn't have done what he did this weekend. Old Richt would have put the second team in, and given up. They would have been running the ball three times and punting. It would have sickened me. Instead, Richt kept the guys on the field who could win the game, and they had an opportunity. Even with 3 minutes to go, down by 18, they had an opportunity. Brett Favre led his team back after being down 3 scores with 2 minutes to play. I'm not saying Stafford is Favre...but in that final quarter, he was finding his receivers and hitting them for big gains. If we got that last onside kick, there's no telling what would have happened. It would have been our ball on their 40 or so...with 1:40 or thereabouts to play. Still winable.

SC hasn't won the national title since 2004. Their program isn't as amazing anymore as the voters would lead us to believe. The hype machine is running out of gas with continued losses to inferior teams. Fortunately for them, their streak of Pac-10 titles won't likely end anytime soon...because there's just no real competitor.

UGA hasn't had a chance to play in the National Championship game, you're right. Last year, that was purely UGA's fault. In 2002, it was purely bad luck. Ohio State and Miami that made it to the big dance that year. I'm convinced that David Greene and Co. could have beaten either one of those teams. They sleep-walked through the Sugar Bowl victory against FSU.

Also, you've been talking about time running out on Richt for about 4 years now. The simple truth is, delivering a national title isn't as simple a prospect as we fans like to believe it is. We think "Win all your games." Sounds easy. Funny...but when was the last time a PROFESSIONAL team did that? Even guys that get paid 10 million a year to play ball can't win every game. Why? Because the other guys get paid the same. Well, the SEC is the conference most like the NFL. Don't get me wrong...even the best SEC team would likely get beat by the worst NFL team. It's just a fact. Still, in the SEC the whole "they're just as good as us" factor weighs most heavily.

UGA and AL were two very evenly matched teams. But, they had the advantage on both lines. That was the biggest problem. Their O-Line is very very good. Our D-Line is pretty good...but the DEs are still a bit unproven. "Sack Master" Marcus Howard didn't come on until later in the season last year. He finished the year with 10.5 sacks...but 3 were in the Sugar Bowl! That's 7.5 over the other 12 games. That's not amazing. Give the guys a little time, and they'll find their way to the QBs.

And our O-Line play wasn't as awful as you're making it out to be. In fact, Stafford only went down once...it was at a very inopportune moment...but there was only one sack. They had trouble with some different blitzes...but for the most part, did well. Ben Jones did particularly well against the man-monster Terrence Cody. Stafford was a bit nervous. I saw his feet get happy on plays where there was no need.

Also, you ask about how we can come up with such glaring weaknesses...well, injuries are a good place to start. We know about the two big line injuries in the offseason. Also look at the fullback position. How much more would Brannan Southerland have meant this year so far? I can think of a number of first downs and a few TDs (two at ASU alone) that would be ours had Chapas not been in the game. Southerland is a bigtime player...one we miss, obviously. In the AL game, we lost Ellerbee, Durham, Chandler (which hurts the run game...and is at least another body that defenses have to cover) and Moreno was dinged as well. Ellerbee was lost on the FIRST AL POSESSION. That's huge.

But, there are MILES OF DIFFERENCE between the AL game this year, and the TN game last year. We were never really in that game. We hit two good passes in the third quarter, making it 28-7. Then we got the ball with 10 minutes to go in the game, and went on a four-minute "character building" drive that would score a futile TD with 6 minutes to go. We were down 35-14 with 6 minutes to go. 6 minutes. 3 scores. There had been nothing we'd done ALL DAY to make Richt think that we could stop them and get the ball back three times. Still, we kicked it off. They held the ball for two and half minutes...and when we got it back, Stafford threw an INT, effectively ending the day. He wouldn't return. Cox had mop-up duty. Still, I have to point to the fact that behind by 3 scores, and having scored twice already in the half, Richt basically threw in the towel. On Saturday, down 3 scores (24 points, so more likely 4 scores) with only 4 minutes to go, Richt thought this was a game we could win. He hurried the team, they scored, and he kicked an onside kick...which we got. And scored. We were now down 2 scores...and the game was still winable in his eyes. He wasn't scoring "style points" so that the loss wouldn't look so bad. If he was, he would have kicked that last kick deep, as the onside kick is a low-percentage opportunity, and he'd want to eliminate Saban going for any style points of his own.

This game was FAR AND AWAY a better game than the TN debacle last season.

But, I understand how most people don't see it that way. Alot of people don't look at the game through a player's eyes. You probably didn't see Richt's eyes after Miller ran the punt back to open the 4th quarter. I did. It's a look I've seen in many a coach's eye when he knows his team can do what they set out to. He was determined. He was steadfast. He wasn't faltering. He wasn't questioning. He was determined to give his boys a chance to win the game...and they had the opportunities. They just failed to do so.

That last drive in the game against TN was something those players built on. They stuck together, counted on one another, and knew that when all the chips were down, they could count on one another to hang in and be tough. They didn't know that a week later against Vandy they would need to trust in that and truly work hard for every last inch so that they could set up a field goal for a victory. But, that's what they did....and then they carried that on to FL, where they bonded as a team on the goalline after the first touchdown...and never looked back.

It's been nearly a year since the last time you felt the sting of a UGA football loss, so I get how you can be angry, confused, etc. But you're not seeing the team for what they are...and you're not seeing that game for what it was. In the second half of that game, I saw a team who thought they could still win the game, and were fighting for it. I saw a coach who was going to give his kids every possible opportunity to come back and win that game. And though they didn't come away with a victory, I can promise you that every kid on that team now knows something very important - that even when the situations look their most bleak, they can trust one another to never give up. They can trust that each player on that sideline, and every coach in the skybox will do all they can so that UGA can end the day victorious. It's a different lesson (though it may sound similar) and there are new kids learning it. You think this is the beginning of some downward spiral. I think this is the first step in an ascention to the game's highest honor. I believe that second half will be a galvanizing one. The Dawgs hadn't had true adversity thrown in their face. Against South Carolina, they were behind, but never facing anything like the AL onslaught of power. Now, they will know how to respond. They will have a newfound trust in one another...and in their coach, who would not let them give up.

I hope the fans have the same.

Go Dawgs!
-------------------------------------------

My friend responded positively to that letter, stating that he doesn't usually read sports commentary written that way...that he too often reads the same re-hashings of plays during a game, but with none of the analysis/emotion behind it. I appreciated that comment, and followed up with this:

I just write from my perspective, and I have a disease which makes me always believe that my perspective is right. That's how I can write with such blinding conviction.

: )

People have expressed to me that their gambling accounts have been bettered by my analyses in the past. Hope I didn't lose anyone too much money on the AL game. HA. I truly didn't see that coming. I can understand completely how it did...but I didn't expect Saban to change his gameplan like that. I should have done more research into how his LSU team destroyed us in the SEC Championship in 2003...because I remember that game coming as quite a shock. The game in the season had been much closer, but they had answers for everything we did in Atlanta, and Greene's play was terrible. Remember him bouncing balls off his linemen's helmets? I should have looked those games up if possible. Oh well, lesson learned for me I suppose.



I hope y'all have enjoyed reading it as well. : )

Go Dawgs!
Ben

1 comment:

moodoggydogg said...

I came here looking for Tennessee coverage but saw "Alabama" in the headline.I almost didn't have the heart to read on. But I'm glad I did.

All I remembered from 2 weeks ago were the flags. So many flags! There were some factors at play across the NCAAFB scene that helps mitigate that loss.

Keep up the good fight!

Go Dawgs!