Athens — If you saw the game, be it live from Sanford Stadium or via the high-def glory of ESPN, you’re wondering how in the world Georgia is going to beat Vandy. And here, being the committed contrarian, is where I say: Relax. Georgia is going to be fine.
It’s not going to win the national championship in 2009, but it’s not going to collapse under the cannonade of verbiage emanating from little Lane Kiffin. This is a very good program that will continue to be a very good program. (And, as measures go, spring games offer zilch. Remember how awful Georgia Tech looked 12 months ago? Remember that same Tech winning between these same hedges on Nov. 29, 2008?)
Yes, Matthew Stafford is gone, and no, there’s no more Knowshon Moreno, but Georgia under Mark Richt has suffered other losses — David Greene and David Pollack and Thomas Davis and Brian VanGorder in the span of one offseason — and chugged ever onward. You know all those recruits about whom folks get so excited? They’ll keep the Bulldogs on track.
More important, Georgia learned last season that skill alone guarantees nothing. “It doesn’t matter how talented you are,” said Rennie Curran, the gifted linebacker. “We’ve definitely got talent, but it’s going to be the intangibles, the leadership, the discipline and the technique that makes this a team.”
That didn’t happen in 2008, when a multitude of penalties and three protracted defensive lapses undid the team voted No. 1 in August. Said A.J. Green, the splendiferous receiver: “We’ll be real good if we play as a team, and we’re pushing each other harder.”Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Was such urgency not in evidence a year ago? Green again: “Yeah, just a little bit, probably. We maybe believed the hype. But [not being ranked No. 1] is a better place to start — it gives you something to work for.”
Nothing happened Saturday to make Bulldog Nation stand and shout, “Hurrah!” Big deal. When you’re playing yourself, there really can’t be a winner.
Said Joe Cox, the new No. 1 quarterback: “If the offense goes up and down the field, people would be talking about how bad the defense did. It’s a grind going against each other every day in practice, and this was just the last day of it. We just did it in front of a bunch of people.”
The offense didn’t go up and down the field. There were 18 first downs made and 329 yards gained, and the game’s only touchdown came on the final snap. Cox and Logan Gray, the second-stringer, looked OK. (The early enrollee Aaron Murray looked quite good.) Lots of passes were dropped. And the great Green caught a flea-flicker from Cox on the game’s first play and then nothing else.
Again, it’s April. Were this September, the Bulldogs would have been more assiduous in the attempt to feed their best player. But September is five months off.
Is this team apt to win the SEC East? Not with Tebow and the reigning BCS titlists still sitting there, no. But these Bulldogs will build the bridge to the post-Tebow years, and it will be a sturdy structure. They’ll go 9-3 and position themselves for 2010 and beyond.