(UPDATED: 12:10 a.m.)
This is when you start struggling to remember the good times. This is when a Georgia fan thinks back to an early seven-year span under Mark Richt when Georgia went 24-11 against ranked opponents and wonders, “Wait, did that really happen? Or was it those brownies I ate?”
If it wasn’t bad enough that the Bulldogs were underdogs (get used to that) in their season opener and a relative home game Saturday to a school from Idaho — something difficult for so many to swallow — the team’s response made all past criticism seem understated. With eight months to prepare since a humiliating effort against Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, Georgia couldn’t give Boise State any tougher of a game than it usually receives from Wyoming.
Save some trickeration — an 80-yard touchdown run by Brandon Boykin that gave the Dogs an early 7-0 lead — it was Boise State’s night. It was Boise State’s celebration. It was Boise State that played smart and physical, the kind of performance that gets teams into BCS bowls. Remember BCS bowls?
Both teams made loud statements. Georgia just made the wrong one. Following that Boykin touchdown, the Bulldogs saw their opponents real off 28 straight points. Boise State went on to win 35-21, and it didn’t even feel that close.
Georgia’s defense looked as bad in its second season under Todd Grantham as it did in the first. The Boise State offensive line dominated. Quarterback Kellen Moore at times seemed to toy with defenders.
If only the Dogs had more than eight months to prepare.
If only they had completely revamped their strength and conditioning program.
Oh, wait a minute …
Since going 24-11 against ranked teams, Richt is 2-9. That’s more than a trend. The next ranked opponent also is the first SEC opponent: South Carolina, next week in Athens. The level of desperation just went up.
Richt must realize that. He just didn’t show it after the game. In fact, what he showed was somewhat alarming. After some standard introductory comments — “They were better than we were. We’ve got a lot of work to do before next week. But we know everybody is 0-0 in league play” — Richt actually laughed. Yes, laughed. He turned to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Chip Towers, who had been pestering Richt all week about the status of safety Bacarri Rambo, laughed and said that Rambo would not be suspended for the South Carolina game. Richt had been playing coy with the media, but Rambo was held out Saturday as expected for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Laughter may be a defensive mechanism for Richt. But his team just got whacked with a 2 x 4 in the season opener. Is laughing in the post-game new conference really a good idea?
Richt has been getting a lot of heat. He should. Fact is, Georgia’s slide hasn’t been merely about the ascension of Alabama and Florida in the SEC. In the last two years alone, the Dogs have lost games to Oklahoma State, LSU, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Colorado, Auburn and Central Florida. How long ago was it when you could not have imagined Georgia losing to many of those teams?
The Dogs suffered borderline humiliation on their first possession. They had a false start penalty before the first snap. They had a false start three plays later. They were whistled for delay of game before punting. Before the first quarter was over, the Dogs also were called for an illegal formation for having five players in the backfield (the penalty was declined) and they burned a timeout before a Boise State punt for having only 10 players on the field.
This is why having the biggest, strongest and fastest players sometimes doesn’t matter.
Boykin’s touchdown would be the Dogs’ only score of the first half and it comprised more than half of the team’s yardage (151). The Dogs totaled 71 yards in the other 29 plays.
Georgia’s defense looked strong for the first few Boise State series. But the Broncos appeared to make some adjustments in pass protection and Moore starting find holes in the zone. He moved the offense well in three of BSU’s last four possessions in the half, two resulting in touchdowns (the other, an interception by Branden Smith).
Boise State’s offensive line took over in the second quarter. Moore wasn’t sacked all game and completed 28 of 34 passes, three for touchdowns. He could’ve had a Baracalounger in the backfield to recline before some of his throws. At the outset of the third quarter, Georgia looked lost and overmatched on defense. Moore went 7-for-7 for 69 yards on Boise State’s first possession of the half. Then on second down from the Dogs’ 7, running back Doug Martin faked Smith into oblivion and danced into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.
It wasn’t over. But it was over. Once Boise State’s offense got going, Georgia couldn’t stop it.
The slide continues. It’s uncertain if Richt can stop that, either.
By Jeff Schultz