From 2002-2007, the Georgia Bulldogs gave up at least 30 points in 7 games. They've doubled that over the span over the last 10 games. What that amounts to, is a whole lot of awful. I have been slow to call for the head of Willie Martinez, as I believed that execution was a large part of our problem this season. But, after a 45-19 drubbing in Knoxville, I can no longer ignore the facts. Willie isn't getting it done.
Don't get me wrong...the defense isn't the sole reason for our loss today. 3 points from our offense is unforgivable.
9 years into his regime, Mark Richt is fielding one of the ugliest performing teams he's ever had. The talent level is far higher than many teams he's had over the years, but for some reason, they aren't performing. I refuse to believe they aren't performing simply because they're lazy (with the exception of Bryan Evans who is, by his own admission, lacksidasical in his coverage). Apparently, the coaches aren't getting it done - either in their technique coaching or in their motivation. Whatever it is, the Dawgs are just plain ugly.
Today, I saw a defense that was just plain bad. How many times does a quarterback rollout against you before you send a safety to take his head off? In the early 2000's, this doesn't happen. Now, it does. Jonathan Crompton is an average-at-best quarterback, who looked like a Heisman winner today. His biggest miscue was an interception to Bacarri Rambo, who, had he been covering the receiver better, never would have made the play. We never really got good pressure on Crompton all day, and he took advantage. No, our defense sat in huge zones that Crompton just ate alive.
On the other side of the ball, Monte Kiffin called as perfect of a game as you can call. When AJ Green was able to make catches, he couldn't do much more with the ball. Our offensive line couldn't protect Joe Cox. TN didn't sack him, but they forced him into bad decisions. He threw wildly, often looking lost and unsure of himself. Our runningbacks gave us very little spark, as they seemed hampered by a lack of holes. How many times did 4 or 5 TN players make a stop on a rb? Far too many.
It all added up to a huge victory for Tennessee, and a very telling loss for the Georgia Bulldogs.
"So what do we do, Dukes? Where's the silver lining?"
SILVER LINING? I'll take a copper lining at the moment. In the past three weeks, our offense has produced 36 points. That's less than in either of the previous two games. Cox has gone 54-99 with 2 TDs and 5 INTs.
If I try to find a silver lining, perhaps it's this: UGA is 3-3, we're 2-2 in the SEC East and are basically 4th in the East. Our team will NOT win the east. We could go 6-0 from here on in, and won't win the east. So, perhaps this is the moment when Richt makes the tough decision. Joe Cox has been his guy, but it's obvious that he's not "The Guy." Cox isn't the winner I had hoped he'd be. He's not the "Deadly accurate" quarterback we hear about. Cox is a guy who could have been a good distributer of the football if the pieces around him were more up to the task.
They aren't. For whatever reason, the line has decided to take a season off. The runningbacks haven't found any kind of production. The receiving corps is mostly young, and still learning. It's a very tough job that Richt has placed in front of Cox...and Cox hasn't been able to overcome the struggles of the team. So now, since Richt has delegated playcalling to Bobo and Martinez, he must take on the role that he's given himself - General Manager. It's here where he has to make the decision to prepare his team for success in the future - because their goals for the season are a bitter failure.
"But Dukes, if we win out, and FL loses another SEC game, we can still win the SEC EAST."
Nope. We're too far down the rankings now. If (by some miracle of God) that happens, and TN is able to win out as well, we'll be in a three-way tie, and the East title will go to the highest team in the BCS...which will be either TN or FL. But, that is moot...because at this stage in the game, even being the eternal optimist that I am, I know we ain't winning out. The way we performed today, we'll do well not to go 0-for-October.
No, the answer is simple: begin preparations for 2010. How do we accomplish that? Evans doesn't touch the field again. Cox might get a couple more starts, but by Auburn, Gray should be the guy. Our offense gains nothing by winning sloppily with Cox. He's had his shot. He hasn't delivered. He's 4-3 all-time, and lest we forget, he was pulled from his lone start in 2006 after doing very little.
Personally, I don't know if I keep Willie another week. I've been preaching that execution was been the problem, but today, he was obviously out-schemed. Open receivers happen occasionally, but not with the regularity and severity of this afternoon. In my mind, keeping him around only gives him a chance for "false redemption." Even if the defense plays lights-out for the rest of the season, it does nothing to overshadow the disasters that have plagued us for the past two seasons (and that have been evident in the progressive backslide beginnning in 2006). If Martinez is removed, at the very least, you can begin a search IN EARNEST for a new DC. The coaches at UGA know the scheme well enough to call games without Martinez, and it may develop a sense of urgency. But, this also is moot, as I don't believe Richt will fire ANYONE mid-season.
Here's a question: could the lack of RB production have anything to do with Tony Ball moving to the receivers? I didn't understand that. Bryan McClendon was a receiver at UGA, and our runninggame has been the backbone of our offense for 9 years. Why would you take the RB coach that has had such success and make him a receivers coach, then take a former receiver and have him coach RB's? I trusted the move in the preseason, acknowledging my offensive ignorance...but you can't argue with a lack of production.
So then, I have to turn the light also on Bobo. 3 points? 3 points? That's all the offense can muster? In 4 games this year, our offense has been absent. In two, I think our offensive success was as much a result of the lack of composure by the opponent as it was a result of our overpowering gameplan. Arkansas' defense is just plain bad. South Carolina got caught up in a shootout and didn't respond well. Either way, whatever we had in those games, is gone. Bobo's plan isn't working, and I can't pinpoint why he continues on the same path. Before the season, I thought back to Pre-Moreno days in hopes of getting an idea of what our offense would look like. Does anyone else remember putting Brown and Ware in the same backfield and running misdirections and swing passes and such? Does anyone else remember a ton of read plays that opened holes more by formation than by pure bull-headed blocking? Where is all of that? How do we have a group of skill players that is one of the fastest and most talented that UGA has ever had, and yet still have trouble spreading out the ball?
On 3rd and two today, we lined up in 4 wide and tried to throw for a first down. On 3rd and one, we lined up 3-wide and missed a pass to Orson Charles. Our running game is abysmal, and someone has to be held accountable.
Here's the sad fact: When Richt showed up in Athens, he was the class of the SEC. He brought a coaching staff that was better than Fulmer's and Tubberville's. He hasn't proven the same success over Saban. They're 3-1 against Miles, and 1-3 against Meyer. Bad luck prevented a title opportunity in 2002...but since then, UGA hasn't EARNED it. The coaching staff Rich has assembled was good enough to dominate in the early half of the decade, but the coaching and talent landscape in the SEC has changed.
Right now, UGA has great talent in its young players. If these players aren't developed correctly, it will be a complete waste. I think the fanbase can stomach a 7-5 season if the next 6 games are spent developing young players. I don't think it can handle going 7-5 or 6-6 without doing so.
Halfway through 2009, and I (the most homer-ific guy I know) want us to start preparing for 2010. Something truly IS rotten in Athens.
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If you want to see what level UGA should be performing, then watch Alabama play each week. Do any of you really think Bama has better players than us? NO. They are just better coached.
Watching us play each week is like watching Kentucky football. If we win, it has to be a shootout.
Tennessee has humiliated us 3 of the last 4 years, and the Vols are in the down cycle of its program.
Once in 53 games did a team score 30 points on Van Gorder. It has now happened 15 times under CWM.
If Richt won't fire Martinez and Fabris at the end of the season, then we need fire Mark Richt. This team will never be better than a three loss team with Martinez as DC. If Richt is too nice to fire his friend, then he must go.
I don't even get upset watching UGA play anyomore. We are so embarrassingly bad that I have no expectations. We are the equivalent of Kentucky football as this point.
One more thing. We are averaging fewer offensive plays than every single team in college football. I think it right at 54 or 55 plays a game. That's largely because our opponents churn out first down after first down when our defense is on the field. Turnovers are a factor as well. It is tough to score when you never get on the field.
P.S. Who calls a "spike the football play" with one second on the clock.
Do you play Logan Gray or take the redshirt off Aaron Murray?
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