I know there are lots of UGA fans out there who look at the Dogs’ just-completed 8-4 record and fume about another year without Mark Richt bringing an SEC championship or that elusive national title to Athens.
A season that, at the end of September, looked so promising with a Top 5 placement, huge wins over a pair of Top 10 teams and BCS championship chatter ended up so-so by UGA standards — in large part due to an unusually large number of injuries to key offensive players that put the kibosh on Georgia’s plan to outscore everyone while an inexperienced defense learned the ropes.
It definitely was a schizophrenic kind of year. On the one hand, no season that includes a loss to Vanderbilt (even the new, improved James Franklin brand of Commodores football) and doesn’t include a trip to the SEC Championship Game is going to sit well with most of Bulldog Nation. While Richt hasn’t made a habit of eight-win regular seasons, keep in mind that a steady diet of them resulted in Jim Donnan being shoved out the exit of Butts-Mehre.
But despite the Dogs’ sensational September start — which came within 3 points at Clemson of being flat-out phenomenal — was it ever truly realistic to expect Georgia’s offense, however talented, to be able to carry the team through an entire season despite the glaring defensive shortcomings? Even if they’d remained healthy, that would have been defying the odds.
As it was, even with the plethora of offensive stars lost for part of or the rest of the season, just the absence of Todd Gurley alone for three games was probably enough to make such a dream all but impossible.
Still, in the end, can we really be unhappy with a season that included Georgia victories over South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia Tech, and nearly saw the Dogs take down Clemson and Auburn as well?
While 2013 may not go down as one of the greatest seasons ever of Georgia football, I don’t think there’s any way it fairly can be called less than successful. As Richt said, “I think there are a lot of good things that have happened this year, but it’s also been heartbreaking at times.”
As for those of you who judge a season strictly by championships won, well, most of the time you’re going to wind up disappointed. If you can’t find a silver lining in the performance of this year’s never-say-die Cardiac Comeback Kids, I’ve got to wonder why you bother to follow college football at all.
So, what do you think about this season — a success or not?
Now, on to some more thoughts and observations from Saturday’s 12th win over Tech under Richt …
Speaking of that inexperienced defense, the game against Tech saw some familiar patterns still applying on Todd Grantham’s side of the ballgame: getting off to a poor start that results in the team having to dig its way out of a scoring hole; and generally good to fine play against the run but woeful play in the secondary against the pass. Giving up a career passing day to a running QB like Vad Lee is never a good thing.
My initial reaction during the game was to lament that Georgia’s secondary looked worse in the regular season closer than it did in the opener against Clemson, which made you wonder just what defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos had spent this season doing. After 12 games, even true freshmen would be expected to play the pass better than the Dogs did against the Jackets. The combination of youth, inconsistency on the part of lone veteran Damian Swann and generally clueless play by the safeties made Georgia’s pass defense a wreck this year.
But, in fairness, Lakatos did not have a lineup that had played 12 games. Thanks to a combination of overall inexperience that saw true freshmen starting, unsuccessful lineup experiments (Brendan Langley early on) and persistent injury problems (especially to safety Tray Matthews), against Tech, Georgia started its seventh different secondary lineup this season. And even that lineup got shaken up during the game by yet more injuries. It’s tough to build consistency when you never know who’s going to be back there from quarter to quarter, much less week to week.
The hope is next year will see improvements, though Georgia’s perennial offensive line underperformance shows that experience alone won’t make players good.
On the other hand, although the Jackets took a 20-point lead early in the game while the Bulldogs offense sputtered with its new starting quarterback, Grantham’s defense again improved as the day wore on, held Tech to just 7 points in the second half of regulation play, and came up with several key stops late in the game that allowed the Dogs to prevail, just as almost happened at Auburn.
If Grantham could figure out how to open a game like that, it sure would be easier. However, it remains to be seen if the arrow is really “up” for the defense, as the defensive coordinator maintained after the game. …
Despite the first quarter, there were a number of defensive performances Saturday worth applauding. Just as they have been all season, linebackers Amarlo Herrera (12 tackles) and Ramik Wilson (9) were clutch players all day. And Wilson broke up the pass on the game’s final play. Josh Harvey-Clemons’ interception was a turning point. Swann had a really big play on Tech’s failed third-down conversion that resulted in them punting the ball away late in the fourth quarter. And Leonard Floyd’s stop on third down in the second overtime was a thing of beauty. …
Was there ever a more useless replay official than the clown who ruled that Michael Bennett reception incomplete rather than a catch-and-fumble as the video clearly showed? I liked the ABC broadcast crew reaction to the poor call being upheld: “How is that possible?” …
It may be sort of like the dog in the night who wasn’t heard, but for this season the lack of any special teams foul-ups was especially notable Saturday. And Marshall Morgan quietly has become money in the bank. …
One more thing: I absolutely loved the way Hutson Mason wound up his postgame interview on the Bulldogs radio coverage, offering a heartfelt “Go Dogs!” A player who sounds like a fan is definitely a keeper.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg