It’s early in the season, and one conference loss certainly doesn’t eliminate Georgia from the SEC East race. Going 0-2 in conference play would be tougher to overcome, but even that wouldn’t be insurmountable if the Dogs won the rest of them and the other contenders suffered letdowns, too.
And yet it’s beginning to feel like Saturday’s game against Arkansas represents some sort of crossroad for Mark Richt and his 2010 team.
Will the Dogs shake off the loss and, as Pat Dye would put it, prove they’re “man enough” to contend in the SEC, or will Georgia end up going to Starkville already consigned to being an also-ran?
This is a week where the coaches definitely need to earn their pay. We’d heard all the talk in the offseason about stressing fundamentals, and yet that’s exactly where we saw weakness in the conference opener. Everyone involved admits that the tackling generally was poor. The offensive line, expected to be a strength of the team, failed to open up holes for the running game. Fundamental football.
Sure, it’s just one loss … and yet two games in, Richt and company are already talking about starting positions being up for grabs on defense. Now, that’s alarming in one sense but oddly reassuring in another. One of the most distressing things about the Willie Martinez era at UGA was the way lousy performances didn’t seem to have any consequences for some players. They started whether they deserved to or not. If those defenders who weren’t wrapping up tackles against South Carolina are feeling some heat to keep their jobs this week, that can only be a good thing.
But in addition to poor fundamentals, this Georgia team also appears weak in the motivational aspect of the game.
Frankly, I’m puzzled by some of what I’ve heard out of the Dogs in the wake of the loss to the Gamecocks. Bacarri Rambo, who was singled out for his lack of effort on some plays despite having a team-high 12 tackles against Carolina, did a mea culpa with the Bulldogs Blog in which he admitted “loafing.” He pledged, “From now on I’m going all-out. I’ve gotta give it all I got. I feel like I was holding something back. I left a lot of what I had in the locker room instead of taking it out there with me.”
Which leaves me wondering why would a player who fancies himself as a team leader be “holding something back” in such an important game.
Likewise, tackle Clint Boling, assessing the play of the offensive line, said, “Talent-wise, I think we have the guys up front to do it, whether we’re doing it every play or not. We just have to have that mind-set that we want to dominate our guy every play, and I don’t know if we have that right now.”
Why not? This was the conference opener, you’ve got a redshirt freshman quarterback who needs all the support he can get, the game plan calls for establishing the run, and yet you’re not in the “mind-set” of wanting to dominate the guy you’re blocking on every play?
Maybe all the plaudits the defense got after the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette made some players mistakenly think they had it all figured out. Perhaps an offseason’s worth of clippings declaring them one of the best in the country lulled the OL into a sense of complacency.
Whatever the problem is, this is the week to either shake it off and show everyone this is a team capable of rising to the occasion, or continue along the road to mediocrity, allowing jerks like Steve Spurrier to note snidely that isn’t how Georgia “used to” play.
What’s it gonna be, Dogs?
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