I usually try to find the good things, even in the most brutal of losses. But in this one, there really isn't much. The gameplan was pretty good. The production was absolutely terrible. After Walsh missed yet another short-ish fieldgoal, I began to wonder whether or not he's the answer for the Dawgs at kicker. I hate myself for that, because the kid is clearly talented...but I'm just a bit spoiled, I guess. In my senior year at UGA, Billy Bennet arrived. He went on to grab the all-time SEC record for points scored in a career. After him, Brandon Coutu was absolutely wonderful. Walsh has big shoes to fill....and he's having trouble.
But, what bothered me more was our inability to score. We had moved the ball from our 19 to their 17 in two plays. Then, Moreno busted a nice little 7-yard run to the FL 10. We were looking at drawing first blood...with a 2nd and nearly 3 to go on their 10. Then we called a play-action and the blocking fell apart. Stafford was sacked. Then we called a qb sprintout (a run) and Stafford was stopped behind the line when Boling missed a block on Florida's tough-nosed LB Brandon Spikes. I didn't argue with the play-action playcall. They would most likely be expecting a run, and if the pass were incomplete, it'd be 3rd and a short 3 for the first. Instead, Stafford took a sack. Bad decision.
Walsh missed a field goal.
On the Gator's drive, there were two very "lucky" moments for FL. First, when Tebow was stopped short of a first down, the ref spotted the ball forward of the line to gain. A challenge by Mark Richt wasn't upheld, and FL was given the firstdown. I don't know what drugs the replay official was on, but they must have been great. That play enabled the Gators to keep the ball moving. Then on a 3rd and 6th from our 27, came a HUGE stroke Gator luck. Tebow threw a bad pass out to a WR in the flat, and Prince Miller stole it away. It looked like UGA had snatched the ball and the momentum. But, DE Wynn was flagged for a "personal foul" when his hand slipped beneath the facemask of an offensive lineman, knocking his helmet off. Convenient. FL kept the ball, got a "half the distance" walkoff and then after Demps was stuffed at the line, Harvin took advantage of a misalignment by CJ Byrd, and walked into the endzone untouched for the Gators first score.
Georgia again drove the ball straight down the field, mostly through the air...but the drive stalled on a false start penalty and bad screen pass. Walsh made a fieldgoal but 7-3 wasn't exactly what we were looking for at that point.
Then came a call that I really don't hate...but it's extremely risky. I mean, if we pulled it off, Richt would have been a genius. As it stands, people question the call...but nobody really called it dumb. He went for the onside kick. Walsh didn't kick a good one, and it was covered quickly by Florida. Giving that offense a short field is never a good thing. Another penalty pushed Florida to first and goal at the ten. The defense kept Tebow out of the endzone on 3rd and goal from the 1..but he was able to put it in on 4th.
So, 14 - 3....
The next drive was Moreno's....he rattled off gains of 12, 9 and 6 before being spelled by Caleb King. On 3rd down, Stafford hit Massaqoui on a pass thrown on an icy rope to the six yard line. The Dawgs were in business with first and goal from the 6. The first play should have been a touchdown. Stafford rolled right and then threw behind a wide-open Chandler in the endzone. Now, whether that was Stafford's fault or Chandler's is up to debate. After the play, you could see Stafford tell Chandler that he should have been offering a target....generally when I see that play, the TE runs to the center of the endzone and just sits down. You've all seen it....when it's against your team you say "WHY WAS HE SO WIDE OPEN!?!" Chandler kept moving though, and Stafford's pass fell behind him.
Again, poor execution by someone.
A man went unblocked on the next play, a run that was stopped for a 4 yard loss. And then, on 3rd and goal from the ten, Stafford's pass bounced off Moreno's facemask. It was right there. A TD...dropped by Knowshon Moreno.
Walsh's fieldgoal attempt bounced off the left upright.
Going into the break, UGA was behind 14-3. But, most were optimistic.
Georgia stopped FL on their first possession, and were poised to really get something going. Stafford hit Massaqoui, Chandler and Green on the drive, and picked up an 18 yard scamper by Moreno as well. Then, came the first of two awful misses by the refs. Stafford threw toward AJ Green, who was held and undercut by defensive back Chas Henry who interecepted the pass and returned it 88 yards to the UGA 1 yardline. Now, the pass wasn't perfect. If it'd had a bit more heat on it, it may have sailed right past Henry to a waiting AJ Green, who had noone between him and the endzone. I dunno. Still, the official missed the hold...and Stafford could have thrown a better pass. Poor execution.
Tebow would score from a yard out. FL 21, UGA 3.
After a 3-and-out by UGA and a quick first down from FL, came the second "miss" by the official. Against man-coverage, Louis Murphy ran at Asher Allen and pulled on his jersey, slowing Allen and propelling himself forward. Tebow hit him for a 44 yard touchdown. I can't blame that one on Asher Allen. He had his man covered. His man did something illegal, and no one saw it. The Ref standing right in front of them didn't see it. The sideline judge 15 yards down the field didn't see it. The backjudge didn't see it. I guess only the UGA team, the cameras, and every viewer at home saw it. Oh well.
FL 28, UGA 3. The wheels had officially come off. If you needed more proof, you needed only watch 3 more plays. After Stafford completed two passes and picked up a first down, we went with the toss-sweep to the left. Moreno couldn't secure the ball...but FL Defensive Tackle Terron Sanders did, and galloped to the GA 10. Two plays later, Tebow would score his 3rd rushing TD of the game.
35 - 3. Now, I'm never one to give up on my team...but Jesus. Desperation set in. Stafford started moving the team through the air, but didn't spot linebacker Dustin Doe, who tipped and then intercepted a crucial (If UGA had any designs on making the game respectful) 3rd down pass. Poor execution by Stafford. Rolling into the fourth quarter, UGA was all but on the bus.
UGA stopped FL, and then flew down the field, picking up "garbage yards" against FL's softer defense. Then Stafford was picked for the 3rd and final time....this one was returned to the UGA 25. A tired and fed-up UGA defense allowed a quick TD to Percy Harvin. The fight was out of them.
In the time since the end of the game, I've talked to various friends with various ideas about the game. Some have said that Richt isn't a good enough coach to win a championship at Georgia. They point to UGA only having success when the other heavyweights in the division fail. They say that Georgia lacked either the talent or the coaching to win today. I defy that.
The production of the offense moving up and down the field on drive after drive shows that the gameplan was good. UGA had 3 three-and-outs all day. Three. Sadly, UGA also had 4 turnovers and 2 missed fieldgoals. Those aren't a result of bad coaching. They're a result of poor execution. Noone is going to say that Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, AJ Green, Mohamed Massaquoi and the rest aren't talented. That would be folly. But today, they certainly didn't produce what we would expect.
Was it the offensive line? Well, Stafford was under pressure...but was only sacked twice. Also, they opened good holes for Moreno. But, on a few key downs, they did let us down.
If Wynn could have kept his hands away from the offensive lineman's head, UGA would have had a pick in the first quarter, and FL's first touchdown wouldn't have existed. Poor execution.
If not for two missed calls by the officials, FL would not have raced out to a 28-3 lead nine minutes after halftime. I've said it many times before, one bad call doesn't win or lose a game. But, when it seems like ALL the calls are going the other way...well, that has two effects. First, the direct effect - 14 points for Florida. Second, the effect on the psyche of the players. It gets into your head. It's very hard to overcome the tought that no matter what you do, things aren't going to go your way. I don't know if that happened to the Dawgs today or not...because they kept fighting. But, when the fumble bounced away from Moreno, I think that might have cemented it.
Coming into the game, I didn't agree with the people who said Florida had a "mental edge" because of last year's celebration. I still don't. But, I will agree that as the game played out, they certainly gained one. Misfortune after misfortune befell the Dawgs and was coupled by poor execution.
But, I stand by what I said earlier - the coaching and the talent were there. They just didn't get it done.
So, what's left for the Dawgs now? Well, the SEC title is all but lost. It would take consecutive losses to Vandy and USC for FL to not meet AL in the title game. So, UGA has to refocus. They have to get ready to take on a tough Kentucky team. A 10-2 record, while inexcusable, will at least be respectable. Anything less, and this season is a tale of sorrow and woe.
But I believe in the Dawgs. I think when the dust settles, they'll have a few more performances they can be proud of.
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What re you thoughts on a lack of leadership on this team, dating back the past couple of seasons?
Same officiating crew as last year, I think. Same crew that misapplied the rule in the TN game (defensive holding on MoMass) that should've resulted in a first down in the red zone. Same horrible calls. Why they let Penn Wagers into these critical games, I'll never know.
Still, we did not execute and, unlike last year, let the calls get into our psyche again. Inconsistent play-calling and a lack of belief made us look unprepared for this one. We did not get that banged up at LSU, so I expected better. Yeah, it was emotional but still... What happened to "Finish the Drill"?
I need this team to get over the hump. Hope Matt and Know stay for one more dance.
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