Remember when Mark Richt’s road record was a thing of wonder?
Invariably, it was the stat that broadcast crews latched on to when the Dogs were playing an away game: Heading into Knoxville in 2007 Georgia was a remarkable 23-3 in true away games under Richt (not counting neutral-site games like the annual bout in Jacksonville with Florida or SEC championship or bowl games).
But the Dogs, who would finish that season ranked No. 2, somehow lost to Tennessee in Neyland Stadium that year, and while they bounced back on the road in 2008, including a big win at LSU, things haven’t been quite the same since.
There were regular season road defeats by Oklahoma State and Tennessee (again) in 2009, and then in 2010 the wheels came off, with away-game losses to South Carolina, Mississippi State, Colorado and Auburn.
Last season, a scheduling quirk meant the Dogs avoided a true road loss, though they dropped three neutral-site games to Boise State, LSU and Michigan State.
As the Athens Banner-Herald pointed out, Georgia is 6-9 in games away from Athens the past two seasons and 10-12 the last three seasons.
What happened? There are lots of factors that figure into the decline. Georgia’s overall record hasn’t been as good in recent years, mostly due to uneven talent in certain areas. There also were changes in the coaching staff — with one in particular coming a couple of seasons later than it should have.
But you also get the feeling that while Richt didn’t suddenly forget how to coach a team up for a game on the road, he might have relaxed a bit after his second SEC title in 2005.
Whatever the reason, now would be a great time for the Georgia coach to get back in touch with that road magic he once had, since his team is approaching one of the biggest away games in years in the trip to Columbia, Mo., to induct the trash-talking Tigers into the SEC.
“Before I got here freshman year, Georgia was a really good road team,” senior defensive end Abry Jones noted to the ABH. “We fell off a little bit. We’re going to look at our past road games and try to build off of them.”
Indeed, with the Mizzou game and the away game at South Carolina looming as Georgia’s biggest challenges this season, Richt definitely needs to find a way to make his team Road Warriors again.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg