ATHENS — If after one game you were convinced that this would be a dreadful season, and after two games you figured maybe the quarterback wouldn’t be so bad after all, and after three games you once again were ready to catapult Willie Martinez out of Athens, out of the state and out of a job, well, guess what? They’ve come full circle.
Maybe it’s best to just not assume anything about Georgia this season — certainly not an easy victory.
Blair Walsh kicked a game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired Saturday to give the Bulldogs a 20-17 win over Arizona State at Sanford Stadium. And that’s really all you want to know without a bottle of Tums.
Given that this is a bottom-line business, the Bulldogs will try not to think about how they got there. There was an offense that committed three more turnovers, leading to 14 of the visitors’ 17 points and left the team at a minus-9 in turnover differential this season. There also was an offense that produced only two field goals (and the three turnovers) in 10 possessions after two early touchdowns.
There was bland and unimaginative play-calling and a stunning decision by coach Mark Richt to pass up a potential winning 45-yard field-goal attempt earlier in the fourth quarter to go for it on fourth-and-one (and the play was stuffed).
Good thing nobody is paying attention to polls this season.
“You’d like to think you’re progressing over the last three weeks,” Richt said. “It’s almost like we’re that record that gets stuck and the same things keep happening over and over again. The good news is at the very end we’ve been winning. We’d like to remove some of the drama if possible.”
The defense was strong. That would be the good news. But somewhere it is written that you should not be tied with Arizona State in the fourth quarter on your home field, particularly after leading 14-3 in the first quarter.
Haven’t figured this team out yet? Stop trying.
It was far different circumstances when these teams met at this time a year ago. The Bulldogs still had national championship aspirations. They won in Tempe 27-10. It was one of their best performances of the season, setting up meteoric expectations for Alabama week.
Then came the blackout. Then came the knockout. Bama jumped to a 31-0 lead and it was over. Neither the Dogs nor expectations were the same the rest of the season.
That wasn’t an issue Saturday. The season-opening loss at Oklahoma State smothered the rankings talk early. The wins over South Carolina and Arkansas were fun to watch, much like cartoons are fun to watch. Great offense, no defense, too many penalties and turnovers and exploding body parts.
The game was tied 17-17 when Georgia got the ball back with 5:40 left. But on first down, Joe Cox threw behind A.J. Green right into the hands of safety Jarrell Holman (who earlier returned an interception for a touchdown). This one he brought back to the Dogs’ 20. But the defense held again, and a 38-yard field goal attempt was blocked — by A.J. Green.
Green also caught a 56-yard touchdown earlier in the game. On the ensuing Dogs’ possession after the blocked field, he made a third-down 22-yard catch at the Arizona State 22. That ultimately set up the winning field goal. Pretty sure he was player of the game.
It looked for a while liked Georgia might have an easy night. Didn’t happen. Maybe we should all just assume at this point that there won’t be any easy days or nights.
First the offense stalled, then it started dropping engine parts on the highway (a fumble set up one touchdown and an interception was returned for another score). Suddenly, ASU led 17-14. The Dogs came back to tie it. After forcing ASU to punt, the Dogs drove into Devils’ territory again. But Richt elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 28 — passing up a potential go-ahead 45-yard field goal. Result: fullback Fred Munzenmaier ran into a wall.
They seemed destined to lose. But at this point we should just assume they’re not destined for anything. Except maybe to keep us guessing.