Monday, October 5, 2009

Defining Moments...

October. SEC. The Bulldogs are staring down the barrel of a comeback loss by a major rival. A long touchdown run in the waning moments has put our opponent ahead, and after a short kickoff return, only 47 seconds remain for us to get the job done. #14 breaks the huddle and leads his team out. There are two possible outcomes. One, he drives his team down the field and proves himself to be a true leader, and winner of football games. Two, he fails to do so, and thus becomes known as less than. Georgia will be throwing, and John Chavis knows it. Unfortunately for his team, he is powerless to stop it. #14 leads his team down the field on one of the greatest final drives of a football game in Georgia Football history.

But, that was 2001. #14 was David Greene and John Chavis was DC at Tennessee.

The 2009 edition of that final minute would not measure up, and in the minds of the Bulldog Nation, neither did Joe Cox.

In my blog last week, I mentioned that this UGA team is not a great team, and I stick by that. Of course, I don't think I'll be getting much argument. Still, the team did things this week that it has failed to do previously. We broke even on turnovers. We kept our penalties under 10. We kept consistent pressure on the quarterback. And, as a result, we were still in that game in the 4th quarter. But, also unlike previous weeks, when the defense absolutely had to make a stop, they didn't. Charles Scott broke free of a Marcus Dowtin tackle (seemingly amidst a sea of red) and ran past everyone all the way to the endzone. It was one of only a few big runs all day....but it was the one that mattered.

Still, the game was not lost. Georgia has seen last-minute heroics by #14 in the past. Does anyone remember Mike Bobo against Georgia Tech in 1997? I mentioned David Greene against Tennessee in 2001. This contest was setting up as the moment that Joe Cox could really step into Georgia Football Lore as a great quarterback. He had fought back from a rough first-half where he completed only 3 out of 9 passes. On his two subsequent TD drives, he was 10-14 for 143 yards and two touchdowns. He's the leader, the fifth-year senior, the Quarterback Emeritus, if you will. Cox had the opportunity to quiet any around the country who didn't believe in him.

He Failed.

To be fair to Cox, he didn't get a world of help from last season's ALL-SEC FRESHMAN Center Ben Jones. Two low snaps cost Cox precious moments of decision-making ability on that final drive. When the game is on the line, you can't have that. Still, Cox's 2nd down pass was very interceptable, and his 3rd down pass was intercepted. What bothered me most wasn't that Cox didn't get it done...but that he looked bad in the attempt. He threw into heavy coverage on both throws, and that's not what I expect from a Senior Leader. He does only have 6 starts under his belt....but he was a starter for years in high-school, and I have to believe that fundamentals of game management are tought at that level. I know they were tought at LaGrange High School in Georgia....and we don't have the same track record as Independence, NC. For whatever reason, Joe didn't quite pull it off, and that was a defining moment.

I love the Joe Cox story. All he ever wanted, from the time he could hold a football, was to be the quarterback for UGA. He's done that. I'm sure he dreamed of leading his team to big victories and throwing huge multiple td games. He's done that. And, I'm very certain he dreamed of leading his team down the field in the final moments to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He's done that...only, it was against Colorado - in 2006.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming this loss on Joe Cox. If we had any semblance of a running game throughout those four quarters, we'd very likely be looking at a different outcome. If Blair Walsh had hit the ONLY field goal he's missed all season, LSU's play calling on their final drive would have been different. When Scott broke that run, LSU wasn't calling plays to score a TD. They were calling plays to run the clock down and set up a game-winning field goal. If we had 3 more points (actually, it woulda been 4, because there would have been no reason to go for two after our second td), they would have been forced to pursue the TD. That's a different mindset. I'm not saying the outcome would necessarily have been different, but the possibility is there. The mindset of the D would have been different. There are many things that would have been different. Still, if the defense wraps up on that run, it's 3rd and five at the 33. I like our chances on 3rd down, since LSU was 5-14 on the day.

The improvements made by the defense will be forgotten because of a late touchdown that broke our backs. The ineptitude of our running game was all too apparent. Our "Game Winner" quarterback failed to produce when he had to. There were a number of defining moments in the UGA-LSU game Saturday, and for Georgia, the definition was sub-par.

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