Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shot at Redemption

Collegiate athletes face more public tests of their ability than most people face in their entire lifetimes.  Every week, a player can be a hero - or a goat.  Not so in the lives of so many fans.  Also uniquely theirs, is the opportunity to spin perception on a dime.  In the early part of the 2012 season, Aaron Murray was seen as somewhat of a Heisman Candidate.  Many thought he had truly matured and become a championship-caliber quarterback.  He would finally be able to win the big games, to lead the Bulldogs back to the promised land.

Then South Carolina.

For the first five weeks of the season, the offensive line had looked quite strong.  They were opening big holes for young running backs.  They were holding their own against the pass rush, protecting Aaron Murray.  They were getting out to their assignments on the edge and allowing runs to get big yardage.

Then South Carolina.

A young pair of runningbacks dominated early competition.  They exploded for huge runs.  They ran out of arm-tackles.  They punished defenders instead of taking punishment themselves.  They garnered the love of a fanbase, and even of the media.  They found a nickname - Gurshall.  

Then South Carolina.

After the South Carolina game, the fanbase soured.  Our shot had been lost in many eyes.  We were again underachieving.  For the 8th time in 10 tries, UGA had lost to a ranked opponent.  That's not a record that instills a great amount of confidence.  Georgia was behind the eight ball.  We were forced to sit and wait, and hope that a miracle would happen.  We would have to hope that the team that had so thoroughly dominated our squad in Columbia that night would falter, that they would fail, that Steve Spurrier had not yet coached them into a position to run with success, but rather that being so unaccustomed to it, they would let it slip through their hands.

Then South Carolina....lost....and lost again.

So now Georgia, the team whose offense crumbled against South Carolina, stands poised to once again take the reigns of the SEC East Race.  The Dawgs did not impress against an overmatched Kentucky team.  Oh sure, Aaron Murray was back to early-season form...but what else would we expect?  He was facing a team that had no chance to match up with his receiving corps.  He wasn't in a "big game"... so naturally, he was going to light up the scoreboard.  A career day for him, but the stain from the USC game lingers.  The running game wasn't on point against Kentucky.  How then, can we expect it to be strong against Florida?  The defense was slashed-and gashed against Kentucky.  Surely Florida fields a better offense than the worst team in the SEC.

This is Georgia's "Rocky" moment.  This week is one of two things - a coming out party for a beleaguered team who will finally stand up and slap down a ranked team, or further proof that against the best competition, we just plain don't get it done.  After the South Carolina game, we were left broken and bloody on the mat.  But here we are, two weeks later, back on our feet with a chance to knock out the apparent champ, and pave our own way to center-ring to square off with (most likely) Alabama.

Can these athletes once again spin their perception in a 180?  Can they now shake the horror that has been the UGA-FL game for the better part of 20 years?  Can the young offensive line "Man-Up" and get it done?  Can those young backs once again remind a fanbase why they made all those grand comparisons to a bygone hero?  Can a quarterback, much maligned by writers such as myself finally stick it in our face and show us that on one day, on one great Saturday, he can play his best, against the best, and finally BE the best?  

Saturday is a shot at Redemption.  I'll be glad to eat crow if these guys can do it.

Go Dawgs.    


Hatch said...

Nice job. Keep up to good, candid, objective commentaries. Enjoyed your performance. Good Luck with your career.

Ben Dukes said...

Thanks, all aspects. My writing has slowed, as I no longer have the time to dissect the games. But, I try to offer a little perspective from time to time. Glad you enjoyed this piece.