That was, without a doubt, the wildest, craziest fourth quarter of Georgia football I’ve seen since run-Lindsay-run in 1980.
And absolutely heartbreaking for anyone who calls themselves a Dawg.
A Georgia team that was trailing Auburn by 20 points with 12:39 left on the clock clawed its way back into the game thanks to the incredible play of its senior quarterback and took a 38-37 lead with 1:49 left. It was as if Aaron Murray was willing his team not to lose this one despite plenty of reasons that it should have.
And then, with a mere 36 ticks left, the Tigers faced fourth-and-18 and former Bulldog player Nick Marshall launched a Hail Mary pass that was off-target and yet in miracle fashion was tipped by a Georgia defender and landed in the hands of Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis, who took it in for a score.
That play was one of the most deflating moments in my more than five
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry — and probably the nation’s most evenly matched college football series, tied up at 54-54-8 — kicks off at 3:39 Saturday in Auburn with the No. 7-ranked Tigers looking to avenge last year’s 38-0 whipping.
It’s a game full of interesting storylines. A daunting task faces Todd Grantham’s Georgia defense, as Gus Malzahn’s suddenly revived program — the college game’s most startling turnaround this season — boasts the SEC’s best and the nation’s third-best rushing attack. Better than that, the Tigers are led by Nick Marshall, a dual-threat quarterback who used to be a defensive back for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs.
But while the Dogs have had their troubles on the defensive side this season, defending the run has been their strong point, with Georgia ranking fourth in the conference and 20th nationally against the ground game. And for a Georgia
Among the many other things he is, Mark Richt appears to have become the leading supplier of starting SEC quarterbacks.
Three of this year’s SEC starting quarterbacks originally signed with Georgia. Which says good things about Richt’s nose for talent.
But two of them are now leading the offense at other schools as a result of Richt’s strict disciplinary policies: LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Auburn’s Nick Marshall.
I don’t know whether it’s happened before where a college team has to face two Top 10 conference rivals in the same season, both of whom have starting quarterbacks that used to be on the first team, but I imagine it’s pretty rare.
For one thing, not many coaches would kick a player good enough to be an SEC starter off their team, no matter what they did, and even fewer would allow the departed player to sign with another team in the same conference.
In an era when many
A few more notes from Saturday’s relative breather as the No. 25 Dogs prepare to take on another Top 10 foe in a nationally televised CBS broadcast. …
Let’s face it, getting a team up for a nonconference Homecoming opponent like Appalachian State is a lot different from getting them ready to take on a traditional rival that’s become one of the nation’s hottest teams — especially in the Mark Richt organization. So while I’m pretty hopeful that against Auburn we won’t see the sort of laid-back, unfocused play we saw from both the offense and defense in the first half Saturday, there’s always last year’s South Carolina game lingering in my memory to make me feel a bit uneasy.
Yes, I do feel that, even without all the weapons Mike Bobo had at the season’s start, Georgia is capable of outlasting Auburn in an offensive shootout — but not if they wait too long to get on track.
Along those lines, I think
Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray notched his third SEC record in Saturday’s Homecoming game against Appalachian State, topping Florida’s Danny Wuerffel to take the conference career touchdown record with 115.
And next year’s presumed starting QB, Hutson Mason, finally got into a game and for the most part looked sharp with his passing in mop-up duty as the Bulldogs won the game by the kind of margin most people expected: 45-6.
But that’s not what fans were talking about as they departed Sanford Stadium on a cool, slightly overcast autumn afternoon.
No, the good things accomplished by the Dogs Saturday — which, frankly, were expected — were overshadowed by the sluggish performance Georgia gave in the first half, as the Dogs came out (somewhat predictably) flat and sloppy in the wake of last week’s big win over the Gators, leading the game at halftime by just 14-6.
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
With just a month remaining in the regular season, bowl projections are kicking into high gear. Most projections have 11 SEC teams in postseason play, and it’s interesting that there’s basically no consensus on where Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs will wind up.
Checking a sampling of nine of the better-known sources offering projections, I found three see the Dogs returning to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl, two have Georgia penciled in for the Chick-fil-A in Atlanta, two see them falling behind Ole Miss in the pecking order and landing at the Music City in Nashville and, surprisingly, two project Georgia to go bowling at the Outback in Tampa.
These projections don’t come with predictions of how the rest of the season will play out for the Dogs, but it’s pretty obvious by the placement of Auburn that many expect the resurgent Tigers to beat Georgia this year.
For example, Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel has
Some more thoughts and observations from Georgia’s win over Florida. …
My wife Leslie likes to quote a frequent saying from her old basketball coach about a loss being a loss no matter how many points it was by. To put a reverse spin on that, a win by 3 points means every bit as much as winning by 20 or more points. Especially when it’s over Florida.
Still, considering the roller-coaster ride the Georgia Bulldogs took us on in Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, it’s understandable that sportswriters were unimpressed and many fans were, like Mark Richt, feeling a bit subdued after the game.
Maybe it’s the historian in me, but I took the long view: a third consecutive win over the hated Gators was still reason to celebrate, no matter how ugly it was.
Of course, as is to be expected of such an up-and-down game — which began with Georgia racking up an incredible 250-plus yards of offense in the first quarter
The Dogs’ hard-fought, fractious 23-20 win Saturday over Florida in Jacksonville left UGA fans about as gassed as Todd Gurley, but that didn’t make Georgia’s third consecutive victory in the fabled series any less sweet.
Yes, the Bulldogs took their eyes off the prize for about a quarter and a half in the second half, just as surely as Artie Lynch took his eyes off the ball on that dropped screen pass that turned into a fumbled lateral and gave the Gators the big break they needed to get them back into the game.
And with the Gator players constantly trying to provoke Georgia players into dead-ball infractions, there’s no doubt that the Bulldogs lost composure for most of the dismal third quarter.
But in the end it was another big game that ended with Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs offense killing more than 8 minutes of clock with a scrappy fourth-quarter drive that preserved a win.
I don’t know
It’s been a crazy year in the SEC. You could field a pretty potent all-star team with players who are out for the season or are missing multiple games with injuries. Actually, you could do it just with the injured players from Georgia and Florida.
And so it is that two teams that were expected to be among the nation’s best limp into their annual grudge match at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, where only one will emerge with even an outside chance of being a contender in the SEC East.
Shorthand on this game goes like this: Georgia is bad on defense (ranking 58th nationally in total defense, 101st in scoring defense) but Florida is even worse on offense (outside the Top 100 in total offense, scoring offense and red zone scoring percentage). Meanwhile, Georgia used to be really good on offense, before injuries took out a bunch of its key playmakers, but the Dogs