As the Dogs prepare to take on rising Sun Belt Conference member Appalachian State Saturday in this year’s Homecoming game, you can bet on three things: 1. Georgia’s coaches have mentioned this week the 2007 upset in which the Mountaineers beat Michigan thanks at least in part to a blocked field goal. 2. If the Dogs run true to form, there’ll be at least some letdown in emotion and focus the week after a big win. 3. It unfortunately is likely to be a late-arriving crowd thanks to the 12:30 p.m. kickoff.
However, the current App State isn’t anywhere near as strong a team as in 2007, and with Georgia’s first-teamers at least starting the game and Aaron Murray set to break Danny Wuerffel’s SEC career touchdown pass record on what should be a beautiful fall day, perhaps there won’t be as many empty seats as at some of these nonconference games.
Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. Despite the big win over Florida, some of you are still fuming about the way this season has transpired. …
Paul writes: Bill, Each and every year we witness the same excuse from Bulldog Nation: Fire this coach or fire that coach, but let’s give Richt another year or two because he won an SEC Championship and he is a nice guy. At what point do you feel [Greg] McGarity should engage in the proverbial “cut the head off the snake”? It appears too much blame is passed around Richt and into the staff ranks he has interviewed and hired. Fans continuously ask for a championship, yet don’t seem to want change or accept the fact their leader isn’t as enthusiastic about obtaining that crystal trophy as he alludes to in interviews. I like Richt, but there comes a time when a regime change can be a good thing. The stagnant culture in our locker room can only be the result of poor leadership. … Should we not scrap our staff and start fresh?
Ask the folks in Knoxville how that regime change thing has worked out for them. Granted, this season isn’t turning out as brilliantly as seemed possible a few weeks ago, but let’s not forget the string of major injuries to key players and the rebuilding job necessary after losing a bunch of NFL-caliber defensive talent. Plus, there’s this year’s schedule, which Jeff Sagarin rates the toughest in the country. (By the way, he has the Dogs still ranked at No. 17.) Georgia has quality wins this year over two Top 10 teams and barely lost to another Top 10 team in the season’s opening game. The season derailed somewhat after the injuries mounted. Even if Georgia doesn’t manage to knock off another Top 10 team in Auburn, I don’t think anyone could reasonably make the case that this is the type of season that costs a head coach his job.
David Rosenberg writes: Bill, Any win over Florida is a good win, no matter the circumstance. There is no telling what this game may have meant nationally, if both teams were not the walking wounded. I am thrilled with the outcome, but disappointed in the execution. Even Coach Richt said he was “subdued” because Georgia almost blew a 20 point halftime lead. Georgia is talented. I am no longer willing to lay blame on the players because I believe they are playing the way they are being coached to play. I believe they are following the lead of the staff and that is getting them into trouble. Bobo mixed up his game plan early. Then he got conservative and predictable late. The offensive line was dominant early. Then they took a powder. The defense was aggressive early and then fell into some old habits. Football fans all over cringe when Nick Saban gets upset with his team over a 40+ point win. But Saban does what I wish we did a better job of: PAYING ATTENTION TO DETAILS! Receivers not running routes past the first down marker, CB’s giving 10 yards of cushion on 3rd and 3, punt returners catching the ball inside the 10, DE’s and LB’s not setting the edge and not containing, or having 12 men on the field after 2 timeouts and a television delay. I still see our defensive unit THINKING WAY TOO MUCH. So much confusion exists they are not able to use their athletic gifts by simply reacting to the football. Looking forward, even into 2014, with everyone healthy, we have the potential to be special. But potential cannot be realized when it is being impeded. DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS! What do you think?
Along the same lines, Matt Cafaro writes: Bill, After Saturday’s game, I’ve come to a sobering conclusion: The Bulldogs will never win a national title, mythical or otherwise, because of Mark Richt. This is unlike coaches such as Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, or even Pete Carroll. The teams that employ(ed) those coaches won titles BECAUSE of them. Why? Because all of them, even Carroll, obsess over every single, little, tiny, most infinite detail. Their teams don’t send 12 men out after timeouts. They don’t play undisciplined football. They don’t make the kind of mistakes that lose them games. Why? Because their coaches PAY ATTENTION TO EVERY SINGLE DETAIL. They certainly don’t make the same special teams mistakes, year in and year out. Mark Richt either doesn’t care to obsess over the smallest of details, or it’s just not in his nature. Either way, it’s not a recipe for winning titles. If the Bulldogs are ever going to win a title under him, it’s going to be despite Mark Richt, not because of him.
I think you both make some very good points, though I have to pick a couple of nits with David’s characterization of the Florida game. Mike Bobo really only called one conservative series in the game, and certainly not in the second half. As I pointed out the other day, a play-action pass out of the end zone isn’t conservative! And that final drive showed yet again what this team can do, even at less than full-strength. As for the OL, I wouldn’t say they took a powder after their early dominance; I’d say Florida’s talented defensive front adjusted. Remember, we were playing the best D in the conference. And while I agree the 12th man penalty was inexcusable, you have to give credit to Todd Grantham for an aggressive game plan. The Dogs blitzed all day long. As for those receivers, keep in mind that a good many of them would be riding the bench this season if not for injuries. And while your criticisms of Georgia’s pass defense are on the mark, it’s still a very young unit. They do tend to play tentatively at times, though they came up big when it counted. But, yes, I’d like to see much more attention to details on the sideline as well as on the field.
Andy Adams writes: Bill, I have a hard time understanding how our secondary is struggling so much on long throws downfield. I know the rush defense has generally been good, but the pass defense continues to be a sore spot. Outside of last week, Damian Swann has had an abysmal season. Considering all of the athletes that we recruit, why can’t we find an athlete and quickly train them up to play in the secondary? Although Swann is the longest tenured back, he’s been abused nearly all season.
Overall the Dogs have worked their way up to being seventh ranked in total defense in the SEC, but they still rank last in the conference in scoring defense and this is due in part to the secondary (offensive turnovers and special teams meltdowns have been big factors, too). As has been noted here before, part of the problem with the secondary is that some of the talented athletes Georgia signed who were expected to have been playing as defensive backs by now got kicked off the team. And, unfortunately, the recruiting in that area appears to have been a bit spotty. As for Swann, he has definitely struggled this season compared with last year, when he had four interceptions. What happened? Playing with a group of inexperienced defensive backs who have a tendency not to be at the right spot at the right time has probably been a factor, as has a lack of support from the safeties on some of those plays where Swann has been burned. But it’s also possible that our expectations of Swann were skewed by the fact that he was playing alongside extremely talented teammates Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo last season. Keep in mind also that last season he played most of the time in as the nickel back and, in fact, when he’s played nickel this season he’s seemed much more comfortable than when he’s playing corner. And even at corner his play has improved somewhat over the past couple of games. Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out.
Matt Mashburn writes: Bill, I really thought that your blog posts about Florida were some of your best ever. The game really was a roller-coaster. I thought that you captured very well the conflicting emotions of overwhelming joy at beating Florida three years straight and “gee whiz guys, if a pass is even close to being a lateral, you’ve got to jump on it like a hungry man jumps on a peach.” I think we’ve got a surprise in store for Auburn (too bad scheduling has it there instead of home). I also REALLY like your idea of playing in black jerseys every home game for Auburn. I think you had it right. That way it’s a tradition rather than a gimmick.
Thanks, Matt. I think the idea of using the black jerseys just for Auburn games in Athens or perhaps the student-generated idea of wearing them for the final home game of the season, no matter who the opponent is, both offer a way to re-embrace UGA’s other primary school color. Hope you’re right about this year’s Auburn game.
David Downs writes: Hey, What’s the deal with the horse collar penalty? I thought it required the shoulder pads be grabbed, but during the [Florida] game when called against Georgia is was obviously the jersey we grabbed. What exactly is the rule for that penalty?
You’re not the only one, David. Coach Richt said on his “Bulldog Hotline” radio show this week that he also thought the pads had to be grabbed for it to be a horse-collar tackle, but after having it called on his team for a second time this season when it was the jersey grabbed, he had concluded that it also applied to the jersey. The spirit of the rule, he said, is that if you grab a player from behind in a jerking action and yank him down, you’ll get called for it, whether it’s pads or not. A 2008 ESPN.com report from when the NCAA rule was instituted noted that it would be assessed “when a runner is yanked to the ground from the inside collar of his shoulder pads or jersey.”
Greg Seritt writes: As a very avid fan of the Georgia Bulldogs for a long time, I have two questions: I don’t understand getting a good lead and sitting on it. It’s not like the other team is going to quit and walk off the field. They are going to continue doing what they need to do to come back. So I say keep on scoring all you can and don’t quit. Second question: Why isn’t No. 48 Quayvon Hicks running the ball more? He’s a beast.
I agree completely with your view about building on a lead. I think that’s one complaint about Bobo that is valid; he tends to take his foot off the gas when Georgia gets a couple of touchdowns ahead. As for Hicks, he hasn’t had much success in recent games when he has had a chance to run the ball (though, admittedly, it’s usually been up the middle off the line). He has, however, developed nicely as a blocker; he delivered some monster blows in the Florida game. What I don’t understand is why Murray hasn’t thrown to him more, like he did with success early in the season. I’d like to see more of that.
Michael Scharff writes: Bill, My Dad (UGA ‘55), my son (UGA 2011) and I were at the game in Jacksonville this past Saturday. I am very proud of the Dawgs for pulling out our third straight win over Florida. That being said, I was very concerned and disappointed with the rash of scrums that broke out over the course of the game. We had good seats, but we were up high on the 400 level, so I couldn’t see what the Gators did to Gurley at the bottom of the pile to set off the first fight. I have never seen Gurley that angry and uncontrollable. And during the last fight, it was really upsetting for the Georgia State Patrol officers to have to go out with Coach Richt. I know they were there for his safety, and I appreciate that, but I thought it was really beyond out of hand for the officers to have to be involved in getting our players off of the field to the sidelines. And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, both teams get called out on ESPN on the wrap-up show later that night by Rece Davis. I would really like to see the SEC commissioner call out both Jeremy Foley and Greg McGarity, and they in turn their head coaches, and tell them that they had best make sure they figure out a way that such an embarrassing display never happens again.
Gurley apparently was mad because of some attempted eye-gouging on the part of the Gators that has shown up in photos online this week. I thought it was interesting that Voice of the Bulldogs Scott Howard brought up the eye-gouging pictures on this week’s “Bulldog Hotline” show. I doubt he would have done that if the UGA coaching staff hadn’t come to the same conclusion that many of us have — that Gator players were trying to provoke the Bulldogs, particularly Gurley, in hopes of getting him kicked out of the game for retaliating. (Eye-gouging, you’ll recall is a Gator specialty.) It was even more appalling that Gator fans actually had the gall to complain after the game that Gurley wasn’t tossed. Still, you’re right that both teams got a lot more “chippy” (as the broadcasters like to call it) than is proper. Hopefully, the Georgia coaching staff talked with players this week about not letting cheap shots rattle their composure.
Albert Brown writes: Hello Bill, What became of Chase Vasser (senior linebacker)? Name on roster but not on depth chart? This guy started some games last year. Went down with shoulder surgery, vanished this year. Just curious.
You’re right, Albert. Vasser has only played in one game so far this season (North Texas) and has no tackles. I put the question to our UGA beat writer, Chip Towers, who notes that Vasser suffered an ankle injury in preseason camp and “has been completely out of the mix ever since. As far as I know nothing else has happened to him.” Apparently, Chip says, Vasser has just been passed on the depth chart by others on the team, including Leonard Floyd.
Chris Pugh writes: Hey Bill, I’ve heard so many stories where Mark Richt is not always given what he needs at UGA, so my question to you is, does Richt have full control when it comes to the every day football operations? And does he get what he needs to be successful at UGA?
Yes, Richt is in control, with oversight from the athletic director, Greg McCarity. Aside from an indoor practice facility, which Richt opted to skip a couple of years ago in favor of expanding the weight room at Butts-Mehre, I can’t think of anything that UGA might be lacking in facilities. Some might argue that he could use more noncoaching staffers like Alabama’s Nick Saban uses, but that’s an approach to the game that college football observers are still debating.
Dallas Dawg writes: Bill, Firstly, I really enjoy your column. I’m a Georgia grad but have spent the majority of my adulthood west of the Mississippi. God bless the Internet — I can just call up a little bit of home whenever I need it. Secondly, I love the Ray Drew quote, where he referred to himself as taking the “crock pot” approach. Leonard Floyd, on the other hand, has come on like gangbusters in a very short period of time. Hence, I think he should be referred to as Leonard “Microwave” Floyd. This way our defense could have a “Crock Pot” and a “Microwave,” and honestly, what could be more intimidating then a defense stocked with kitchen appliances! Remember Eddie “Meat Cleaver” Weaver?
Thanks. Interesting concept, Dallas. But I don’t think I want to know which Georgia defender gets to be the “George Foreman Grill.”
That’s it for this week’s mail. Meanwhile, if you’re in Athens Friday afternoon the annual Homecoming Parade is set for 6 p.m. downtown. Starting at the corner of College Avenue and Dougherty Street, the parade will proceed down Pulaski Street before turning onto Washington from Thomas Street, then return to its starting point at the corner of College Avenue and Dougherty. It’s usually a fun outing, especially for kids.
Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg