Don’t blame fans, media for star-crossed season

Dawgs Online has an interesting take on Mark Richt’s frequent comments lately that last year’s team suffered from too much focus by the fans and media on the “stars” and that this year’s team will be better off because the “the star of the team is the team.”

Asks the blog: “Was leaning on Stafford and Moreno really near the top of the list of last year’s shortcomings?” It points out that the Georgia offense was third in the SEC in scoring and second in yardage, even behind a patchwork line.

Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno were stars, and the media and fans focused on them because more often than not they produced. As Dawgs Online notes, it’s difficult to see what the outside attention paid to Stafford and Moreno had to do with the the Dogs having the SEC’s 10th-ranked scoring defense “or a secondary whose interception total was challenged by the defensive line.”

As Dawgs Online concludes: “The trouble with last year’s team wasn’t so much leaning on some of the biggest stars ever to suit up for the Bulldog offense; it was that not enough of the rest of the team rose to that level of play.”

Now, first, let’s keep all of this in perspective. We’re talking about a team that finished 10-3. While that’s not good enough to get Richt’s program to the elite status it aspires to, there’s a coach over in Columbia who probably would kill to go 10-3.

Yes, Georgia underperformed last season, but for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the media and fans focusing on the team’s two biggest stars. Injuries were a key problem. Special teams play stunk. And more than anything the finger has to be pointed at Willie Martinez’s defense, which gave up more than 30 points in five games and 40-plus in three games.

Richt knows all this. So why is he making the “star” system the bad guy as he makes his speaking rounds in the 2009 preseason? Because he also knows that perhaps the biggest problem with the 2008 team was not just the lack of on-field leadership that a number of returning players have referenced, but its lack of heart. At times last season, some of the Dogs seemed to quit when faced with adversity. They seemed to be waiting for the stars, Stafford and Moreno, to do something instead of stepping up themselves.

It wasn’t the media and the fans’ focus on Georgia’s two stars that helped sink the 2008 team’s national championship ambitions. It was the rest of the team’s focus on the stars.

Georgia’s coaches didn’t successfully address that problem last year. This year, Richt apparently isn’t waiting for the adversity to strike. He’s making the point now by declaring the star of this year’s team is the team.

Let’s hope the players buy into it.

41 comments Add your comment

U Gotta B Kidding Me

June 24th, 2009
11:27 am

The 2008 team was labeled #! preseason by the media and naturally everyone bought into it. Star power and the team was on a roll made UGA the easy choice in the preseason.

Fro better or worse, and I think better, the team first mentality is what needs to happen. Accountability by the players and coaches must be in place.

I love the fact that this year’s team is flying under the radar, which will make it more exciting when we have a good year. After all, our 3 SECCG appearances were by teams not expected to be there.

Otto

June 24th, 2009
11:32 am

The lines were questionable going into the season and injuries further thinned the lines. IMO 10-3 is not bad. The ‘07 team was #1 quality but play calling at S. Car. killed that chance.

I’m looking forward to ‘09 and ‘10 plenty of talent coming into the system and the young OL will continue to improve. The shuffling of the line last eyar will pay off over the next 2-3 years.

uga_b

June 24th, 2009
11:33 am

I think it was the lack of leadership on Defense, which lead to a lot of people being out of position. The units practice seperately so I am not sure how you can argue players were looking at Stafford and Moreno.

Pure and simple, we didn’t have the stars in the front 7 that we needed. Rennie was awesome and I love the DTs, but DE production and MLB leadership was missing. Sorry Ellerbe. Lastly, the safety play was sub par. As much as I disagree with some of Martinez’s coverages, it all comes back to leadership and talking on the field and defensive “stars”.

Huh?

June 24th, 2009
11:36 am

Injuries schminjuries. Injuries maybe account for giving up 21-24 ppg, but 5 games over 30 points? I don’t think so. I think our defense bought in to its hype too much. What did we have like 9 starters returning on that side of the ball? What could possibly go wrong? Alot can go wrong apparently if you are underprepared and do not give 100% on every single play. Georgia’s 2008 defense is Exhibit A in support of the theory that returning starters means about jack freaking squat. It also goes to show that carrying over momentum from one season to the next is no small task either. I hoping the Gators are inflicted with the same ailment.

AltamahaDawg

June 24th, 2009
11:37 am

The players focus on the stars were totally coincidental to the media and fans focus on the stars???.

This is all subjective blathering anyway. It takes horses to pull the wagon, if you dont have them, you dont have them. Doesnt matter WHO they focus on if they are all sitting on the training table.

BruffDawg

June 24th, 2009
11:40 am

Bill,
Nice post overall, but i disagree with a few things. Let’s not blame the defense too much, for special teams and Stafford’s INTs put them in some bad places (ala the Kentucky/Florida games). That being said, no excuse for the GT game or the Bama first half. I do think the biggest problem with the team last year was the lack of leadership in key positions. If you are going to be a star player, leadership comes with the territory. Tebow did not wait to be a junior to assume a leadership role. We need somone on offense this year to be a firey leader and we will be a ten win team again.

AltamahaDawg

June 24th, 2009
11:45 am

Great point that “returning starters” doesnt mean jack, when they dont actually get to play.

BruffDawg

June 24th, 2009
11:56 am

Starters on the lines will be the key this year. Strong up front=strong overall.

coachdawg 2000

June 24th, 2009
12:06 pm

I think that for all of his physical gifts Matthew Stafford (from the neck down) was sorely lacking in leadership. He would stnad alone on the sidelines usually and seemed to be uneffected by the teams poor play. I think that poise is very important but I also think the team looks to the leader/stars for passion. I also became highly concerned as the 2008 season progressed at the amount of times Knowshon tapped himself out of the games (especially in the redzone). Overall I feel that 2008 is less about who the fans and media obsessed over as far as the magazine coverboys and more about simply not executing. The execution of the fundamentals of tackling and discpline as far defensive assignments are what led to the debavcle against Tech. You had Asher Allen, Ellerbe, C.J. Byrd taking the wrong pursuit angles and when they were in position tey simply didn’t get it done. Also Stafford’s mental laspes (almost every game) that often lead to points for the other guys or at least very unfavorable field postion lead to the defenses point totals being terrible. Therefore this antiquated discussion of poor coaching is absurd. Willie Martinez hasn’t made a tackle since the first Reagan adinistration, and Bobo hasn’t thrown a ball this millenium. Coaches coach and players play so let’s focus on the facts we need guys doing their job on EVERY PALY ALL SEASON!!!!!

RAMBLE ON!!!

June 24th, 2009
12:09 pm

It’s called heavy-duty rationalization. You mutts let me know if you need me to define that for ya.

Huh?, has your battle against the Black eye pea’s manager coming?

BruffDawg

June 24th, 2009
12:15 pm

The way you rationalize rings for a regular season game you play every year? Bush league.

JB

June 24th, 2009
12:19 pm

four big surprises for Dawg fans this year.
1. Joe Cox will shock us how good he is….Matt who after first 2 to 3 games.
2. OL will be a beast…Two deep…..We will run the ball very well without a star.
3. Much improved special teams, especially kick offs.
4. Finally , the D. Word out of Athens they are pissed and working their tales off. Take up where the bowl game left off but with more players back.

BruffDawg

June 24th, 2009
12:21 pm

I agree JB. The only concern I have is Cox. Will he allow us to have a deep threat? Did you see his underthrow to Green on the flea flicker (first play of gday game)?

JB

June 24th, 2009
12:22 pm

I also think a lot less 4 and outs this year, which really hurt our struggling defense.

BruffDawg

June 24th, 2009
12:25 pm

Then again David Greene did not have the strongest arm and he did ok. If we can get that type of production 10 wins ahoy!

JB

June 24th, 2009
12:26 pm

I was at the Colorado game 3 years ago….He looked like John Elway in the second half when he played. three year of weight room, i’m not worried……..He’ll be fine…….He throws a more catchable ball than Matt

Okefenokee Dawg

June 24th, 2009
12:28 pm

I do not believe that 10-3 was good last year, and I, for one, am tired of hearing it.10-3 is not good when the three loses were embarrassments on national TV, and many of the ten wins looked bad, i.e. Kentucky.

coachdawg 2000

June 24th, 2009
12:28 pm

I’ve got my own rule. It’s called the Quincy Carter/Eric Zeier rule- it states that if the best thing you’ve got is a hot-shot Quarterback(one who Mel Kiper Jr.- declares will be the first pick in the NFL or that is a freakish ath-a-lete) then you’re screwed! Florida willsee what life is like without Percy Harvin. Tebow is a physical freak but without Harvin he may find life more difficult. Tech doesn’t have this problem. They haven’t had a legit star since Calvin Johnson. Dwyer was barely on our radar in high school (well behind Caleb King)and Nesbitt wasn’t even the best player in Greene County High School(Josh Jarboe was).

Herschel Talker

June 24th, 2009
12:32 pm

RAMBLE ON likes men

Cuz

June 24th, 2009
12:40 pm

I don’t begin to think that I know the reason we “underperformed” last year. Of course during the Dooley years, 10-3 under-performance would have been awesome. Yeah I know, one more game added. There is no “I” in team, but there is two in “Injuries”. However, the injury bandwagon was not the only problem. Some of the killer interceptions thrown by Matt, and I am a Matt fan, just seemed to let the air out of the tires on the bandwagon. Two games gave us the “Tale of the Two Halves”, Bama and Tech. It was like watching two different games on the same day. Was it poor coaching the first half during the Bama game and great coaching the second. And similar was it great coaching the first half Tech and lousy coaching the second. I think our last season was like some of the great gumbo’s I have made, a little bit of everything contributed to it.

austindog

June 24th, 2009
12:49 pm

Totally agree Bill, that’s what I said after watching each game last year. Last year’s team had no heart. Stafford and Moreno would have declared for the draft in September if they could have.

Huh?

June 24th, 2009
1:23 pm

I still do not see how on god’s green earth you can blame our pathetic defense on Stafford and Moreno, but some of you insist on trying. I posted this on another blog and I will post it again. Stafford threw a grand total of TWO interceptions against LSU, Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech last year. TWO. Yet our defense still managed to give up an average of 38.75 points in those games. How, pray tell, did Stafford’s interceptions put our poor ole defense in such bad situations in those games? It simply does not make any sense. I submit that you have made this up. Its as simple as that.

The defense was just plain bad last year people. I don’t know why its so hard for some of you to admit that. It seems to be quite a double standard really. The offense puts up big numbers and still gets slung through the mud: They scored too fast, Moreno was taking himself out of games, Stafford threw 10 INTs (to 25 touchdowns no less, but that never gets a mention). Blah, blah, blah. The defense puts on one of the worst performances in UGA history and all anyone can talk about is all the boo boos they had or the lack of a pass rush. Its NEVER the players’ faults. Like I said, a total double standard. Carry on however…

AltamahaDawg

June 24th, 2009
1:26 pm

trembling earth, can you name a team in the history of the game that did better than 10-3 with the amount of players injured as 2008 Georgia had?

No argument with the embarassment, and 10 wins never felt so bad, BUT in fair comparison to how any team would have done, it was good. The Bama and Fl losses where just a perfect storm. We were not going to beat tech for the rest of eternity either. We are going to lose to tech on occation and as such, last year was the best possible year to do that. Losing in 2007 or 2009, 2010 would have been far worse.

On another note, why do I somehow feel a lot better about the ARK game now that I know it’s at night?

coachdawg 2000

June 24th, 2009
1:38 pm

Huh?
I don’t know how you could have watched the games and not seen that Moreno wanted out of the game on the first drive of the first half against Alabama inside the 20. He also did the same against the Chickens 2 weeks earlier (our awesome offense hung 14 on the board in that game) We never got to that position again in the first half. Stafford threw a horrible pick (ball was thrown behind AJ and picked an LB. As far as LSU the “D” was responsible for 12 of the 52 points.They (the defense)saved our backside against the chickens. I am not at the practices but i can assure you that Willie and the boys covered the repsonsibilites before the tech game. Why do refuse to accept that our players didn’t do their job. Does Martinez really need to tell Ellerbe to wrap up on the bug ball carriers. Get a grip they underachieved because they didn’t have enough fire to get it done. They weren’t man enough to whip UFags,bammer, or the bumbling geeks of the hood.

On a lighter note:
Tech’s marketing firm has come up with the new advertisement about why they can’t sell season tickets.
Ice Cube is sitting on the doorstep of his project and says “Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care ’bout what’s going down in the Hood!”

Varsity Veteran

June 24th, 2009
1:38 pm

1. OKST
2. Ark or USC
3. LSU
4. FL
5. Willie Martinez
6. GT

Here are the 2009 losses, in that order.

AltamahaDawg

June 24th, 2009
1:42 pm

Huh, what I think most folks are doing is rather than trying to point fingers, is try to dissect what factor contributed to a wide range of issues, and find some hope that we could fix or improve on those. You seem to want to paint folks as totally blaming one thing over another. I see only a reference that some of the offensive situation we had did contribute to the scoring of the other team.

Spotting a team 14 point while the defense is on the sideline is going to affect that 38.7500 just a tad.

And listen, when you say things like “worst performance in UGA history”, kinda hard to tell everyone else not to make up stuff isnt it?

George P. Burdell

June 24th, 2009
1:43 pm

You can’t put all of the blame in the Tech game on the defense either. The offense was pathetic in the 3rd quarter with their 3 first downs. If you get a few more first downs along the way in that quarter and you probably beat Tech. Not to mention the fact that Stafford provided six that no defense could have prevented. The defense wasn’t very good, but the offense in all three of those losses had long periods of little production to take the pressure off the defense.

coachdawg 2000

June 24th, 2009
1:49 pm

I may be a little biased in my position that coaching is not always the reason players underperform. I knwo what it is like have to watch kids lose focus and not do what we did in practice. I always blame myself when this occurs but in true analysis sometimes the kids come up small in big moments.

Otto

June 24th, 2009
1:50 pm

Yes the defense was below par and the 3rd Qtr of the GT game is down right pathetic but the other units carry plenty of blame too.

Huh? How many fumbles were dropped against Kentucky giving them the ball in the red zone. Giving the team first and goal twice is atleast 1 TD for a good defense.

Stafford does not hold all the blame. How many times did the directional kicking give the ball to the team on the 30 something or worse? UGA regluarly lost the field position battle.

I don’t argue CWM could have done better but Bobo and the special teams coaches could make vast improvements as well.

Otto

June 24th, 2009
1:54 pm

The worst defensive performances in UGA history were the mid/late Goff years before Kines.

reebok

June 24th, 2009
2:12 pm

tech fan here…every team gets injuries, but UGA stockpiles talent as well as just about any team in the country. when georgia gets injuries, they should be able to just plug in the next 3, 4 or 5-star player on the depth chart. few teams (mine included) have that luxury. georgia didn’t underachieve (versus expectations) last year because of reliance on a couple of stars, or the media, or the fans, or injuries. they did so because they were not disciplned, focused and mentally tough enough to stay in the game when things started going the wrong way. i am an expert on this…i watched chan gailey fail to inspire georgia tech for years. anyway, see you on the flats in november…i predict both teams will be 9-2 when we meet.

RAMBLE ON!!!

June 24th, 2009
2:12 pm

Take it easy on Huh?

Bless his heart, 45-42, Miss California, and now the Black eye peas are beating him up too.

Andy

June 24th, 2009
2:14 pm

The early departures of Stafford and Moreno, while a huge loss, has some positives, and I think Richt is going to take full advantage of them. The first is that, without two nationally recognized stars, all the players on the team are more likely to feel greater responsibility for the team’s success. The second positive is that, without our two big stars that went as early draft picks, opponents are sure to underestimate this year’s team. Sure, their coaches will say that UGA is still a good team, and will try to motivate their players to play their best against the Dawgs, but in the back of their minds they will be thinking, along with many others “who does UGA have that’s any good?” I think this could be a big advantage for the Bulldogs in the coming season.

WildBill

June 24th, 2009
2:45 pm

Varsity Veteran, you got it right on!!!!! When the losses mount, CMR will FINALLY read the handwriting on the wall. But then, it will be too late and dawg fans will howl for another year. It is obvious that howling did no good this year, regrettably.

Ramblinwreck1378

June 24th, 2009
3:26 pm

coachdawg: Now let’s compare name recognition/statistics.

Jon Dwyer: 200 car., 1395 yds., 7.0 ypc
Caleb King: 61 car. 247 yds., 4.0 ypc

Who do I want on my team? ACC player of the year, or 2nd string RB?

And who is Josh Jarboe? Oh right. He got kicked out of Oklahoma and is now at Troy.

Yet another reason why high school stats/accalades/awards mean NOTHING in college.

Huh?

June 24th, 2009
3:43 pm

Was I stuttering? I don’t think that I was. You heard what I said: One of the worst defensive performances in UGA history. There was a blog on this very website by Mr. Chip Towers about how the 2008 defense gave up more points in a certain stretch of the season than any Georgia defense since the 1900’s. Don’t believe me? I happen to not give a crap and won’t be looking it up for you. I know what I read and that’s what it said. That qualifies as one of the worst performances in UGA history.

I sense a great bit of delusion about our defense. Maybe you aren’t pointing fingers Altamaha, but others are. Go over to the Stafford blog and they are ripping him to shreds, but say one negative word about our precious defense and panties immediately get bunched. They were awful last year. See my finger? I’m pointing it right at them. Good day.

shane#1

June 24th, 2009
4:53 pm

This topic has been done to death and hopefull the Dogs that actually play football have forgotten last year and are thinking about next year. The three losses mean nothing now, neither do the ten wins. The worst thing a football player can do is dwell on a poor performance, like in 2006 when UGA’s recievers dropped so many passes. It can get in a players head and he starts to worry about dropping the ball instead of just making the play. Can you guess what he will do? That’s right, drop the ball! To use a golf analogy, what happens if you start worrying about a water hazard when you tee off? That hazard is in the back of your mind and where your mind wanders your eyes will wander. You will hit that ball into the water every time! I always hated when people that worked for me started looking for someone to blame for a problem, that is a complete waste of time, fix the dam problem and move on! I have heard some say that Bobo’s play calling left a lot to be desired, well when you have different guys on the O line every week you have enough to do just getting their timing down without adding in new plays for them to learn. You had better keep the plays and the blocking assignments as simple as possible. You can’t just plug new guys in on the O and D lines and have them gel and become a team, that takes time. I don’t care how many stars they have by their name.

AltamahaDawg

June 24th, 2009
5:18 pm

fair enough. Personally, I like when the team wins more than they lose and we have had a few seasons where that didn’t happen. I just assumed we fielded a defense in those years. I guess we didn’t call it “performance” back then.

Hey, did Chip happen to mention if boo boos often require surgery?

Fools Gold

June 24th, 2009
7:35 pm

Maybe this team and coaching staff should buy into style points and a dominating defense that counts. Then just maybe UGA will get the respect it think it deserves from the college football gods….

Camden Mark

June 24th, 2009
10:00 pm

Flashy star players don’t make great FB teams.U live or die with your foundation,O-Line and D-Line in that order.If you can’t run the ball/stop the run,your finished.After that I’ll take a good QB/TB/WR or 2.But I’ll take a solid foundation and avg everywhere else first.

ceph

June 25th, 2009
7:22 am

It wasn’t the stars on offense that lost those games last year,it was that lousy-ass defense. This is just another one of Richt’s ploys to protect his bud WILLIE THE WEASEL, enough already Richt!!!!!!!