If nobody kept score, UGA did well. Someone did, and it lost

His teams used to win these games. What happened? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

His teams used to win these games. What happened? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – It was there for Georgia, the second-biggest game of Mark Richt’s stewardship, same as the biggest game this coach has worked had been there that cold day at Auburn nine years ago. His Bulldogs needed one drive to win. On Nov. 16, 2002, the prize had been Georgia’s first SEC East title. On this warm and frenzied Saturday, the prize was ….

A sliver of job security? Yes. A hushing, even if only a temporary one, of a roiled Bulldog Nation? Sure. A leg up on another SEC East title? Absolutely.

One drive to win. At Auburn, it had come down to fourth-and-14, to 70-X-Takeoff, to David Greene throwing and Michael Johnson leaping over Horace Willis. That was the victory that made us believe Richt’s Bulldogs could win any game, degree of difficulty be hanged.

But that was then, and this, sorry to say, is now. And now we can say of the same coach — the same but different — that his team can  manage to lose almost any game, the excellence of its effort notwithstanding.

With one drive to win, Georgia couldn’t even make one play. This on a day when it would outgain South Carolina and amass 23 first downs to the Gamecocks’ 15. This on a day when the Bulldogs seemed the more gifted team. One drive to win, and here’s what happened.

Nobody blocked Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 recruit of 2011. Clowney burst up the middle, grabbed Aaron Murray and shook the ball loose and watched as Melvin Ingram gathered it up for the touchdown that made this a 10-point game with 3:12 remaining.

More would happen — Georgia would score a quick touchdown and Richt would botch the calling of his next-to-last timeout and the Gamecocks would run out the clock — but that sack-and-fumble-and-touchdown was the moment. These Bulldogs and their coach had the chance to grab a game they weren’t expected to win, and they wasted it.

There might well be better days — great days, even — ahead for these Bulldogs and their coach, but what we saw Saturday was what we’d seen all last season. Given the chance to Step Up, Georgia takes a seat. It hasn’t lost the capacity to make inspired plays, but it no longer makes winning plays.

So much had gone right. The defense had played far better than it had in the deflating loss to Boise State. Murray had steadied himself. The offensive line had blocked, finally, and Isaiah Crowell had rushed for 118 yards in his second collegiate game. If nobody had bothered to keep score, you’d have scored this a Bulldog victory. That said …

This is big-time football, and a score is kept. And Georgia lost.

We can look at this game and say, as Richt said afterward, that this is “going to be a fine football team.” But there was a time when Georgia didn’t need to traffic in moral victories. There was a time when Georgia went out and won these games.

A strange sequence in an exceedingly strange first half was telling. Richt ordered an onside kick after Georgia had taken a 13-7 lead, and it worked — almost. Bacarri Rambo, who recovered the ball, had been a hair offside. Undaunted, the Bulldogs forced Carolina to punt — almost. The Evil Genius in the trademark visor called for a fake punt, and Ingram took it the distance. Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks were back in front.

As Ingram was fleeing up the sideline, Richt flung his play cards and his headset 10 yards onto the field. All week he’d had to parry the question of whether this was a must-win, but here he gave us the answer. The famous stoic was throwing things in exasperation.

“Georgia outplayed us,” Spurrier said, “but we won the game. Sometimes it happens like that.”

Sometimes it does, but it no longer happens that way for Georgia. This has a program that has the requisite talent and resources but has lost half of its past 30 games. There’s still an opportunity for these Bulldogs to make hay of this season, but at this moment it’s hard to see beyond 0-2.

As for Richt: The end is not yet at hand for this coach, but we’ve reached the point where every loss nudges him a bit closer toward the door. He now presides over a program that could and should win big. It has, alas, forgotten how.

By Mark Bradley

1,658 comments Add your comment

SouthJaxBeach Bulldawg Fan

September 10th, 2011
9:02 pm

Where do we turn MB…..where do we turn to?

SouthJaxBeach Bulldawg Fan

September 10th, 2011
9:02 pm

I hate being first right now

CMR

September 10th, 2011
9:05 pm

At least my hair and tan looked good on TV. You better feel lucky you have the best looking coach in the SEC.

SouthJaxBeach Bulldawg Fan

September 10th, 2011
9:07 pm

See…….I disagree. What do we play for now? Another trip to the Liberty Bowl?

Robards

September 10th, 2011
9:07 pm

Sorry Mark, Maybe next year.

Numberwang

September 10th, 2011
9:07 pm

Mark -

I think we may have seen the Mark Richt era come to an end tonight. We played much better than last week, but you can’t turn the ball over to a Top 15 team and expect to win. This is the second worst offensive line of the Mark Richt era and the one that’s going to send him into retirement.

dogman

September 10th, 2011
9:08 pm

I still love you dawgs, man it just didnt fall your way. they players played hard, but now that everyone is on the we need a new coach bandwagon it will never stop.
Go dawgs, get ready for next week, it is a long season!

Jimmy

September 10th, 2011
9:08 pm

The lack of comments tells me this was a crushing loss for the Bulldog nation.

sarfdawg

September 10th, 2011
9:08 pm

Sadly, I think Georgia has to run the table for the outcry to quiet down. We all knew this would be the toughest stretch of the schedule, yet we all seem surprised when Georgia can’t win either game they were the underdog in.

Jimmy

September 10th, 2011
9:09 pm

Shoot…my own heart tells me this was a crushing loss.

Ray Goff

September 10th, 2011
9:09 pm

I’m available if you fire CMR.

southeast dawg

September 10th, 2011
9:10 pm

Come on, we play to win. we all know the AJC loves tech, but if we loose every game we will still beat tech!
mark that down and write a story about it!

Vince Dooley

September 10th, 2011
9:10 pm

My son will crush my dawgs.

standawg

September 10th, 2011
9:10 pm

stick w/ richt

Rod Johnson

September 10th, 2011
9:10 pm

LOL – buh-bye, Richt! Terrible play-calling with under 2 mins left. Why oh why do you NOT call TO on 3rd & 3 for SC????

Not outplayed, not outrecruited but outcoached.

Jimmy

September 10th, 2011
9:11 pm

sarfdawg: I agree. Until we take control of the SEC East…this season will be about Richt if it is about anything. Sadly…the “fire Richt” brigade will pretty much kill this season for everyone else.

Me

September 10th, 2011
9:11 pm

This is getting old.

david

September 10th, 2011
9:11 pm

Richt will resign before the UF game, it’s only going to get worse for UGA. He should have been fired after the UCF loss.

DAWG in SC

September 10th, 2011
9:11 pm

The only consolation is that Mark Richt is a man of God. He seeks God’s will in his life. I believe God will bless that whether he stays at Georgia or not. Would really hate to see them let him go. Wouldn’t mind it if they helped Bobo find another job however.

Beast from the East

September 10th, 2011
9:12 pm

Tough loss to swallow. Dawgs played with tons of hear today with the lone exception being when Boykin did his Deon Sanders imitation on the fake punt. I’d bench that wuss for the rest of his career. No heart, no playing time.

Athens Dawg

September 10th, 2011
9:12 pm

Well we’ll be 1-2 after next week then we have Ole Miss, Miss. State, Tennessee, Vandy, Florida, New Mexico St, Auburn, Kentucky, then GA Tech.

Wins: Coastal Carolina, Ole Miss, Vandy, New Mexico State, Tennessee, Kentucky, GA Tech

Toss-ups: Miss State, Florida, Auburn.

We’re getting ready to reel off a lot of wins folks.

Martin the Calvinist

September 10th, 2011
9:12 pm

Disappointing loss, credit USC on turning turnovers to 21 points. Maybe one day UGA gets back on track, I at least liked the effort. I am hoping it does turn out to wins when it is all said and done when December rolls around.

lucky dawg

September 10th, 2011
9:13 pm

Making that 29yd FG with an All-America kicker would’ve been nice.

DawginTX

September 10th, 2011
9:13 pm

The Dawgs made mistakes and SC capitalized, but for it to be worth 4 TDs, is absolutely terrible luck. And all 4 were needed to make the difference because our O outscored their O 42 to 17. Munson used to talk about Old Lady Luck, and she took a dump on our face tonight.

MC Mac

September 10th, 2011
9:13 pm

UGA is the only team in the NCAA to play two ranked teams in their first two games and we should have one this one. Too bad for Richt and the players as they really played their hearts out.

Sad Dawg formally known as Socal Dawg

September 10th, 2011
9:14 pm

Unlike last week, I am proud of the way the Dawgs played tonight. They played with heart and never quit on the game or CMR. I hate to lose but tonight’s loss was much different than last week. If a few very young players had not made mistakes we would of won big. To all of the SC fans that is not trying to take anything from your team, you bet us because your team was better. I’m just saying true freshmen are going to make mistakes. They are improving and that is what I ask for.

Deano

September 10th, 2011
9:14 pm

I do agree that Georgia has not lived up to its talent but remember the coach you have now is not only a really good one but even better man. UGA, is not a top notch program but he has given the fans a great product. So remember do not fire a man just because he does not win like you want him to because there is always a Ray Goff around the corner.

Ben

September 10th, 2011
9:14 pm

I feel bad for Mark Richt. It’s terrible to have to sell a house in this market.

brenda

September 10th, 2011
9:15 pm

keep on doing what you always did, keep on getting what you always got. PERIOD

Athens Dawg

September 10th, 2011
9:15 pm

That Blair Walsh missed kick really, really came back to bite us and so did all those field goals we attempted in the first quarter. Field goals don’t win games.

Jimmy

September 10th, 2011
9:15 pm

I can tell you this…I won’t come back to these blogs if there are only Tech fans here.
If you can’t support your school…you are Tech.

not a dawg fan

September 10th, 2011
9:15 pm

you guys are not that bad, why must you feel you have to win the division or else? a dose of reality would do you all some good…

G

September 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

I expected more from you Mark. This team played very well and lost. It happens. I thought you would see that

sarfdawg

September 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

Richt is not going to resign before season’s end. The two teams Georgia have played are the toughest two on the schedule. There is going to be some de facto winning whether you like Richt or not, starting next week. Clearly Mississippi State is not as good as we feared, and Auburn has no where to go but down. Tennessee and Florida have much to prove as well. And Tech… love Richt or hate him, nine out of ten says a lot.

Ben

September 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

To Deano: It appears that Mark Richt has morphed into Ray Goff. Talent abounds, but no serious wins to show for it.

Herschel Talker

September 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

MB:

Please be honest. At this moment, irrespective of how nice a man he is, do you believe that Mark Richt (and consequently his assistants) deserves to lose his job?

HT

brenda

September 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

why did god make richt lose to UCF? why did god hang a sub .500 season on pastor richt’s dogs? OH WAIT, GOD DONT GIVE POOP ABOUT FOOTBALL, NOW I REMEMBER!

Mike Lum

September 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

I still don’t know why some fans think Dan Mullen will drop everything and take the UGA job. Are fans sure Richt could be replaced with someone better?

bdawg

September 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

this game was on aaron murray…tuck the ball when someone comes unblocked…He gave SC 14 points on a silver platter.

Brooksdawg

September 10th, 2011
9:17 pm

Defense gave up 24. The O and special teams gave up the rest. That missed field goal came back to haunt us. Say what you will–DAWGS played like a team this week—Murray lost it.

Socal Dawg

September 10th, 2011
9:17 pm

Unlike last week, I am proud of the way the Dawgs played tonight. They played with heart and never quit on the game or CMR. I hate to lose but tonight’s loss was much different than last week. If a few very young playesr had not made mistakes we would of won big. To all of the SC fans that is not trying to take anything from your team, you bet us because your team was better. I’m just saying true freshmen are going to make mistakes. They are improving and that is what I ask for.

trackdawg

September 10th, 2011
9:17 pm

Bulldogs did not get out coached that happened against boise. Anyone who knows football knows that the players did not make a few more plays when they were in position to. It came down to players making plays not coaches.

Soul Patch

September 10th, 2011
9:17 pm

God don’t like the UGA.

Made famous by herschel

September 10th, 2011
9:17 pm

Dawns Oh and 2′ shocking LOL

Poopdawg

September 10th, 2011
9:18 pm

UGA needs to show improvement every week . And for god sakes on the punt return team forget the dang return and just make sure they PUNT. 2 fumbles 1 int and the dang fake punt. Coaches I was proud of tonight. Defense played well and offensively the Dawgs looked good. GO DAWGS!

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

September 10th, 2011
9:18 pm

WOW….another loss by the DAWGS….SURPRISED????…..NOT!!!! I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that UGA will pick up their FIRST WIN of the season next weekend. Nothing like padding your schedule annually with fluff oponents….UGA the football dynasty of the SEC???? …..NOT!!!!!

DawginTX

September 10th, 2011
9:18 pm

We mad mistakes and SC capitalized. But for all 4 of them to translate in to TDs when their O was outscored 42 to 17 is bad luck. Munson used to talk about Old Lady Luck, and she really took a dump on us tonight.

brenda

September 10th, 2011
9:18 pm

richt laughs all the way to the bank. got a great rep from being in the right place at the right time with bobby’s FSU thugs. got all the credit for what the players did and now banks all that coin. if he is such an offensive genius, why hide behind bobo? at least paul J owns play calling at GT.

TrueHawk

September 10th, 2011
9:18 pm

Not a Bulldog fan, and not emotionally attached. But you lost to two teams in the top ten. Winning would have been an upset. So don’t run yourself down. Richt may go 9-2 this year. Your team is great.

sarfdawg

September 10th, 2011
9:18 pm

@Dawg in SC: couldnt agree more. Well said.