Georgia’s win not art, but we’ve come to expect this

Georgia celebrates after Justin Houston's interception in the final seconds sealed the victory. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

The Dogs celebrated after Justin Houston's interception in final seconds sealed win. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ATHENS — It was supposed to be easier than this.

But then, so was the Colorado game.

So was the Mississippi State game.

So was . . . well, let’s just assumed “easy” left town with Louisiana-Lafayette 12 weeks ago.

The offensive line hasn’t been the dominating unit that Georgia expected. The defense under Todd Grantham certainly hasn’t improved like expected. (Did Willie Martinez leave just his playbook in Athens or was that his spirit?) The physical and mental edge that the Bulldogs have often lacked over the past three seasons? Still lacking.

This is what Georgia fans get in 2010: a 6-6 record in this season’s deep sea of 6-6 records. The Dogs won 42-34 over Georgia Tech on Saturday. They became bowl eligible, not because they were much better than the Yellow Jackets but because — until a touchdown with 1:29 left — the opposing kicker had missed an extra point.

The teams combined for six turnovers plus a botched opening kickoff return by Georgia. When the Dogs and Jackets accounted for three fumbles in four exchanges, I’m pretty sure every bowl official in attendance stood up and left.

But if you’re a Georgia fan this season, you take it. Why? Because a win at least makes the 6-6 record far more appealing aesthetically than 5-7. Because a bad bowl game is better than no bowl game. Because this season has predominantly lacked beauty from the outset, save the acrobatics of A.J. Green and the surprising play of freshman quarterback Aaron Murray.

In retrospect, it was silly to think that the fact the Dogs were two-touchdown favorites suddenly would propel them to a dominating performance.

“It would’ve been sickening to be 5-7 right now and for the season to be over,” coach Mark Richt said.

Who knew a bottom-tier bowl game in Birmingham or Memphis could look like paradise?

It was nearly three months ago to the day Saturday when Richt looked ahead to this season like a child peering through the window of a toy store. He talked about his offensive line. He talked about veteran leadership. He talked about a turnaround on defense. But when asked for a won-loss projection based on the schedule, he balked.

“I used to do it more than I do now,” he said in August. “What year was it — [Matthew] Stafford’s freshman year [2006]? I kind of did it that year a little bit. We didn’t have a great season. Everything looked different than it was.”

Sort of like this year. There’s no spinning it. The season went sideways, and the Dogs have been wobbling almost from Day 1.

Richt will be back next season, and he should be back because winning two SEC titles in his first five seasons earns him the right to fix the problems. But he has a lot of problems to fix.

Aaron Murray completed 11 of 14 passes with three touchdowns in the first half but didn't throw much in the second half (3 for 6). (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Aaron Murray completed 11 of 14 passes with three touchdowns in first half but didn't throw much in the second (4 for 5). (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

He can leave Murray alone. The young quarterback entered this season as the team’s biggest question mark, and he ended it as one of its few strengths. But almost every other area is due for an overhaul.

It wasn’t difficult to tell this was a game between 5-6 and 6-5 teams. The Dogs’ Shaun Chapas dropped the opening kickoff and Tech recovered (technically it’s not a fumble, just early humiliation). But the Jackets failed to score on that possession or the next one, despite starting at the Georgia 27 and 46. Their second drive? It ended with a fumble.

In the end, it wasn’t so much which team had fewer thumbs — we’ll call that one a tie — but which best took advantage. The Jackets’ first three fumbles all led to Georgia touchdowns. The Dogs’ fumbles led to bupkis for Tech.

Murray was phenomenal early, completing 11 of 14 passes for 220 yards in the first half and touchdowns to Kris Durham, Orson Charles and Bruce Figgins. But the Dogs couldn’t get through this without some drama. They jumped to a 14-0 lead and to fizzle ad see Tech come back with touchdowns on three of their next four possessions to tie it at 21-21.

The Dogs jumped back ahead by two touchdowns on a Washaun Ealey run and a Justin Houston 18-yard return of a fumble. But the Jackets, who had 512 yards in offense (411 on the ground), drove through the Dogs’ defense for two more scores.

Only a missed a extra point by kicker Scott Blair with 4:57 left kept the Dogs ahead, at 35-34.

Defensive end Akeem Dent, on the field, turned around just in time to see the miss.

“I turned and looked and was like: I know he didn’t miss it. Did he miss it?” Dent said.

A 20-yard touchdown run by Ealey with 1:29 left made it 42-34. Tech had one last possession fall short.

Two 6-6 teams stumbled over the finish line.

“I don’t care what bowl game we’re going to,” Green said in likely his final game at Sanford Stadium. “It’s better than going home right now.”

After the disappointment of the 2008 season with Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno and the pronounced slide of the last two years, it’s clear Georgia’s future doesn’t come with any guarantees. Richt doesn’t need to fix the quarterback. But he needs to fix everything else.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

447 comments Add your comment

Jeremy

November 27th, 2010
11:45 pm

UGA has a win, but it would be hard to be proud of this team and their performance. They were the taller of two midgets tonight. Sad. Very sad that this program has sunk to this level.

Wreckmaniac

November 27th, 2010
11:46 pm

FIrst. UGA should fire Richt but won’t because they know that even if they had Saban they won’t get any
better.

superDawg

November 27th, 2010
11:47 pm

WE OWN THIS STATE!

Georiga is one of the worst coached team that I have ever witnessed.

November 27th, 2010
11:47 pm

Outdated offense, and a very ineffective defense.

I don’t think that next year will be much better.

One more year of Richt and Bobo is enough.

Jeremy

November 27th, 2010
11:47 pm

Nice analysis Jeff.

Next year without Green and Durham who will be our playmakers beyond Murray? It certainly will not be Ealey or King.

Boca Baby

November 27th, 2010
11:48 pm

I noticed that you failed to mention that Tech’s defense could not stop UGA all day. How was that lost on you? 42 points did not suddenly appear on the scoreboard.

Mayo

November 27th, 2010
11:48 pm

Impressive? Hell no, but at LEAST they WON this one…unlike MSU, Colorado. BIG, er, make that, HUGE difference.

Wreckmaniac

November 27th, 2010
11:49 pm

The trailer crowd promised a 90 point win. A humilation. What happened ? I doubt the Shreveport bowl wants this team. If 20,000 dawgs show up for this bowl, they’re dumber than I thought.

Jeremy

November 27th, 2010
11:49 pm

Boca, how many of those 42 points resulted from turnovers versus long drives?

Boca Baby

November 27th, 2010
11:49 pm

Oh, I forgot to mention: 9-1 Enough said.

Baby Ray

November 27th, 2010
11:50 pm

512 yards of offense, 411 rushing from a Georgia Tech team playing without it’s starting quarterback. If Josh Nesbitt would have played they would have had 500 yards rushing.

You blow Richt and Grantham.

D.Ellis

November 27th, 2010
11:50 pm

GOOOOO DAWGS!!!!!

Great game Jackets, enjoyed it

DAWGS GOIN BOWLIN!

Herschel Talker

November 27th, 2010
11:51 pm

Schultzie:

Richt scoring a TD, thereby giving Tech a chance to score and tie the game, instead of taking a knee was disgraceful. A pathetic coaching decision if there ever was one. Richt should be fired on the spot. Don’t even try to continue to defend this moron.

HT

Boca Baby

November 27th, 2010
11:51 pm

Jeremy: UGA scored the first 34 points in 36 plays and nearly 400 total yards. You do the computation. I can’t help it if your team can’t hang onto the ball.

scott blair

November 27th, 2010
11:51 pm

UGA congrats on beating georgia tech with our backup!!!!!!! 6-6 is something to be very proud of. you all deserve a dawg bone on your helmets!

Mayo

November 27th, 2010
11:51 pm

Uh, Saban did his own job of coaching ‘em down this year. Alabama underachieved with the “best” of them. 24-0 lead vs Auburn blown…

bart

November 27th, 2010
11:51 pm

FIRE GRANTHAM NOW!!!!

icedawg

November 27th, 2010
11:51 pm

“We’ve seen too much over the past three seasons to know better.” You got that right. Too many holes to plug to think that next year we’ll be contenders. It is a remake almost from scratch. They really need to look at some JUCO players.

Simon's Saint

November 27th, 2010
11:52 pm

“It is the most lopsided 10-year run the Bulldogs have had in the 107-year rivalry”

(((42-34)))

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Wreckmaniac

November 27th, 2010
11:52 pm

CMR: The king of “one more year” or ” if this is all I’m going to see next year , I’m through” or
“Next year is the last year for me” or ” I’ll not tolerate this next season” or any of 10,000 more ways to say ” bring me some more CMR”. Again, the contract is permanent as long as UGA gets 5-star recruits ( what do they do with them ?) and beats Tech.

icedawg

November 27th, 2010
11:52 pm

Tek may have it worse. Their offense is far more one dimensional.

Dawg Days

November 27th, 2010
11:53 pm

We finally finished a game, and that is all that matters.

DawgInDFW

November 27th, 2010
11:53 pm

Anyone here prefer a pretty loss to an ugly win? Not me.

Minny Silver

November 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

Should Paul Johnson be fired?

He couldn’t beat the wrost team Richt’s ever coached in 24 years.

Tech Rules

November 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

Boca Baby, UGag’s offense scored 28 points, unless you want to count when Tech literally let UGag score at the end in order to get the ball back. Compared to VPI and scUM, UGAg wasn’t much. But then, neither was Tech.

gt-nuke

November 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

Clearly Johnson let the dawgs have the last TD so we could make a run at the TD and two point conversion for a tie and over time. Losing by 8 is numerically equivalent to losing by one. But the strategy at least gave us an opportunity for a miracle come back. One chance in a million is numerically larger that no chance at all. We just don’t have the talent to pull off the squeakers this year. We’ll turn it around. Looking forward to 2010-11 season. GO JACKETS! THWG!

icedawg

November 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

Hopefully C. King will opt for the NFL draft. :)

Matthews Dawg

November 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

Jeff…Dawgs won and that is all that matters. We should have beaten Colorado, but you know what Miss St. is a pretty good football team this year. It happens and we lost to them early this year. We just have to stop someone! I hope D is better in bowl game and next year! We have to get stronger!
Baby Ray…DAWGS WON don’t care about total yards! Score is all that matters!

Dawgs Won and Tech did not that is ALL that matters! Great game to watch too! Go DAWGS!!!!

TechFan101

November 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

As a huge Tech fan I must say I’m not on the Paul Johnson bandwagon. He has won the Coastal division and the ACC and has recruited NO ONE. That is very apparent in this years record and it will not get much better. The fact is that good players will not play this offense and you have to have talent to win at this level. Look at UGA, they have all the talent in the world and can still beat GT in off seasons. Not to mention the poor play calling late in the game. He has no idea what a 2 minute drill is. Its going to be several long and frustrating seasons for tech fans I’m afraid.

Dawg Days

November 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

And at least we don’t have to hear from Saint Simons again this year…

Dawgman566

November 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

I’ll take it. But disappointing is the word.

Professor Moriarty

November 27th, 2010
11:55 pm

Godawful defense, critical fumbles, poor tackling, the slowest running backs in the SEC — possibly the South — and UGA’s going to a bowl? Be still my beating heart.

Gordon

November 27th, 2010
11:55 pm

Does everyone understand that the last touchdown was given on purpose? It was the only chance Tech had. All the idiot Ealey had to do was kneel and the game was over. Why didn’t the coaches tell him that? Give those coaches equal talent and it’s not even close.

GG Times

November 27th, 2010
11:55 pm

Washaun Ealey is back. Finally, Bobo the Dodo, put the ballgame in the hands of #3. Result? 2 td’s, game winning td in the 4th quarter, 118 yards rushing, 9 yards a carry.

Melissa

November 27th, 2010
11:55 pm

It was a rough season. The game tonight was almost too much to take. For Georgia Tech, it was probably one of the more exciting games of the year, which is sad, given that it was against such an anemic UGA. I still love my Jackets, no matter what. Just hoping that we turn it around and do well next year.

tony

November 27th, 2010
11:56 pm

Richt was outcoached again. We just lucked into this victory. If he’s back next year, and every indication is that he will, he needs to clean house. Grantham obviously was a mistake. He and Bobo and all their staffs need to go. We need a clean slate.

Stevie

November 27th, 2010
11:56 pm

Defense was incredible, forced more to’s than Paul Johnson has committed in 10 years.

Wreckmaniac

November 27th, 2010
11:56 pm

I’m so proud of Tech. A very mediocre Tech team lost to an elementary school level UGA team. So why am I proud. UGA thinks that it’s the equivalent of the Steelers and gave us another chance to laugh at ‘em.

please

November 27th, 2010
11:57 pm

congrads tech, on playing hard till the end, congrads bulldawgs for winning one you could have easily lost. Murrays a keeper but some guys are going to have to step up next year, defense has got to get better.

Preston

November 27th, 2010
11:57 pm

#11 choked again in the 4th qaurter.

Sack on 3rd and long.

Fuymble on 4th & 1.

He chokes a lot in the 4th qrtr.

Wreckmaniac

November 27th, 2010
11:58 pm

Fire Richt ? Hell, fire Johnson first. If he can’t be the sorry squad the have at UGA he needs to go back to Ga Southern.

SB

November 27th, 2010
11:59 pm

We are lucky we won this game. Go Dawgs! But what about all those highly touted recruits at the game? You got to admit, Tech made ‘em sit up and take notice.

Phil

November 27th, 2010
11:59 pm

Miami fired Shannan tonight.

They have contacted Richt about the job, he’s their #1 choice.

dawgfan

November 27th, 2010
11:59 pm

Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Who wants to go find Schultz’s column after Tech’s ‘08 win where he pretty much annointed Paul Johnson the King of College Football in this state and strongly implied UGA would never beat him again? How did that work out for you Schultzie?

Wreckmaniac

November 27th, 2010
11:59 pm

Give me some more Murray. I like that Reggie Ball impersonation he pulled at the end.

GT Student

November 27th, 2010
11:59 pm

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the poser engineers
Their center-columned arch looks like it was built by cows and steers
After the bridges crumble and the planes fall from the sky
The board is asking, “Why?”

Matthew

November 28th, 2010
12:00 am

Tech douchebags love the SUMIF formula… that’s the only way they beat Georgia.

The Dude

November 28th, 2010
12:00 am

UoG fans call their team anemic. Really? That must be an “after the fact” opinion. Tech did what it should have done against a bad (and expensive, I might add) defense. Tech was never supposed to be in the game… but then there was the 400 yards rushing. Whoops. Did UoG win? Yes. Did they do anything to dispel the SEC vs. ACC discrepancy? Not really. Nice work 14 point “dawgs”.

Rally Cap

November 28th, 2010
12:00 am

Caleb King fumble was enough. Let Ealey have all the carries in 2011.

Martin the Calvinist

November 28th, 2010
12:00 am

Not an impressive win, but Jeff you are right, we’ll take it. But we’ve got to improve a lot. I sure hope Richt figures out what went wrong this year and I sure hope we get a few strong DT’s to help with this 3-4 scheme we’re running. 9-1 over the last 10 years. Mediocre team or not, when it comes to beating Tech, it is just too sweet! Go Dawgs! THWGT!