Monday, October 4, 2010

"I said I was Sorry"

This was the theme of my weekend trip to Boulder, and I'm certain it's echoed by Caleb King, Brandon Boykin, Mark Richt, Mike Bobo, and many others. In my own group of friends, this sentiment was tossed about for various reasons, not the least of which was when, during a rousing "Georgia - Bulldogs" cheer, I brought my chair down directly on the sandal-clad toe of Matt, a member of our group. He did not yell. He did not scream. He did little more than say, "GEORGIA! (you're on my toe) GEORGIA!" It was something to behold.

It's this kind of patience I hope the fanbase will give to the team which is bringing them such pain in this season. "GEORGIA! (you're really hurting my pride) GEORGIA! (c'mon guys, win a game) GEORGIA! (please turn this around)"

I think reiterating "Nobody's happy" 1,000 times does none of us any good. We all know we aren't happy. The fanbase isn't happy with the mounting number of "L"s in the second column. Richt and Co aren't happy with the performance of the team. The team itself isn't happy with the results they are getting. And why should we be? There has been very little to be excited about.

Well, kind of.

As I mentioned earlier, I was in Boulder. I didn't actually make it into the stadium until the second quarter, just in time to see Colorado score to go up 14-3. Then, AJ came alive, and so did the rest of the Georgia team. Let me say this, at no point during my viewing of the game did I ever think we would lose that game. I saw us go down 14-3. Then, moments later, it was 14-10. We shut them down. Then we were up 17-14. This was what I had expected. We drove down the field again, and looked poised to take a 24-14 lead into halftime. Then.....the "interception?" I haven't had the benefit of examining it on tivo, but on the day, it sure looked like that kid was standing about 2 yards out of bounds when he got control of the ball. I guess not. Still, we intercepted them right back and were again in business.

That's when Aaron Murray made a freshman mistake and got greedy. The team lined up in split-back Shotgun, a formation that has been very successful for us over the years. I saw Carlton Thomas lined up to Murray's left, and two wideouts to the left as well. I guessed at the call. I said, "He's gonna hit Thomas on a swing pass." The play started, and AJ Green and the other Wideout (I think it was Troupe) ran downfield, taking the two DBs in man coverage with them. No one covered Thomas as he slipped into the flat on a swing pass. No one was within ten yards of Thomas - but Murray never looked in his direction. He had AJ Green in 1-1 coverage, and wanted the points. He threw a half-second late, and the DB caught up with AJ, knocking the ball away. Had Murray seen Thomas, the play would have been good for a first down, maybe even a score. Bobo will show him that in film, and he'll see it next time.

Still, we looked ready to take a 20-14 lead....until a rare Walsh miss.

Coming out of the half, we added another score and were up 24-14. Again, I felt like this is where we should be - riding our talent to score after score. But, somewhere along the way, players lost focus, perhaps a referee did as well (did a single Bulldog touch that kicker?), and we didn't get it done. That's what the fumble at the end of the game represented - a loss of focus, and just not getting it done.

People ask how I can still be positive about the Bulldawgs, given the on-field product we've seen this season, and the off-field issues as well. These questions come from those who've never been in the arena as well as those who have. It's hard for any of us to put a finger on why we should be optimistic. But, I'll tell you what I see. I was in that stadium, and I watched a team fighting, scratching, clawing. Against MSU last week, I saw Boykin go in and strip the ball from Relph before he took a knee, only to find out that the ref had blown the whistle to stop the play - for no particular reason. Against CU, I saw the defense laying the hammer down. There were hits out there like I haven't seen in YEARS for UGA. We got after the quarterback. Boykin and Smith made reads and hits that would make Thomas Brown cringe. Dowtin picked off a pass. It just didn't seem to all come together at the right moments.

And that happens. You have those games - and sometimes, you have those seasons.

But, teams learn from these types of seasons. They gain trust in one another and pull together. Kids learn the new defensive scheme, and improve. Kids learn about reading defenses in live action, and improve. Kids scratch and claw and fight and eventually find a way to win. And then they truly begin to believe - in each other, in their abilities, etc.

The reason we always look forward to next year? Because in next year, there's hope. In this year, there's pain. Here's to letting this year's pain pay off in dividends next season. I told you I thought we could be big winners this year. I was wrong. But, "I said I was sorry."

Go Dawgs.

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