A tale of two seasons: UGA rights itself; Tech is going wrong

Let's try this again, shall we? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Florida usually wins this game. But maybe not this time. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Seasons can be confounding things. Georgia lost its first two games and its coach was thought by some to be a goner. Now Mark Richt stands one game from solidifying his position once and for all. (Well, at least until 2012.)  The game will be played in Jacksonville, the place where Richt fares worst, but still: If the Bulldogs win Saturday, they’ll surely finish no worse than 8-4 and they could well win the SEC East, and either way significant improvement will have been shown.

Consider, on the other hand, Georgia Tech. The Jackets won their first six games and rose to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll. They’ve since lost to two unranked opponents and figure to be underdogs in three of their remaining four games. What appeared to be a bounceback season could become something far less, and a 7-5 record wouldn’t satisfy anyone. Not after the 6-7 of 2010. Not after starting 6-0. Should Tech prove unable to arrest its slide, it would represent the first real reversal of Paul Johnson’s stewardship.

Here we pause for stipulations: Tech’s 6-0 start was largely a function of schedule, the same as Georgia’s 0-2 beginning, the same as the Bulldogs’ five consecutive victories. (Georgia’s four SEC wins have come against opponents that are an aggregate 1-15 in league play.) But you can only beat the teams you play, and you can only play the teams on your schedule. And football, for all its intricacies, is often a game of sheer momentum. Georgia and Richt have found it. Tech and Johnson have lost it.

There are moments where you’d swear this Georgia team is scarcely an improvement over last season’s, but this team — key difference — hasn’t fumbled away so many winnable games. (Only one so far, that against South Carolina.) A starving Bulldog Nation will take the thinnest of victories over the hated Gators and treat it like fiilet mignon. And even if Georgia somehow contrived to lose to Auburn and Tech, it would be hard to part with Richt after a season in which he finally negotiated his tripwire game.

Georgia Tech Clemson Football

See you soon. Paul Johnson with Clemson's Dabo Swinney. (AP photo)

Tech could lose every game from here until New Year’s and Johnson wouldn’t be going anywhere. He remains in high esteem among his constituency. But here’s a cold slice of truth: The man who beat Georgia in Year 1 and won the ACC in Year 2 has gone 7-7 over his past 14 games. Last season’s collapse could be attributed to the loss of quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, who broke his arm at Virginia Tech on Nov. 4. These past two losses have been far more troubling.

When all else failed, Tech under Johnson could always be counted on to do one thing as well as any team in the land — run the ball. Heck, the Jackets rushed for 411 yards behind a backup quarterback against Georgia last year. In the losses at Virginia and Miami, Tech could muster only a total of 406 yards rushing.

If you’re a Tech fan, that’s scary stuff. It suggests the Jackets’ talent has grown so thin it can no longer power an offense that has been proved to work. After the Miami loss, Johnson suggested Tech was getting the five-blockers-on-four-defenders looks that mandate running up the middle as opposed to pitching wide, but that “the four [defenders] are winning.” That’s not a schematic issue. That’s a failure of manpower.

Most all the players he inherited from Chan Gailey are gone, and in four recruiting classes Johnson hasn’t yet found a talent on the order of Nesbitt or Jonathan Dwyer or Demaryius Thomas. (Unless it’s freshman quarterback Vad Lee, who’s being redshirted.) And if Tech can no longer do well what it has come to do best … well, what hope is there?

But that’s another thing about seasons. Just because you look awful one week doesn’t mean the next will yield greater misery. Georgia stunk out the joint in its opener against Boise State, but here the Bulldogs are, back in the Top 25.  Even if Tech still has to face Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia, all three games will be staged at Bobby Dodd Stadium, and Johnson is a fairly daunting figure as an underdog. (Ask Georgia.)

Tech could still make something of its season. Georgia could still find a way to mess up. Right now, though, only one team is on the upward trail, and that’s the one bound for Jacksonville.

By Mark Bradley

363 comments Add your comment

mmgtfan

October 24th, 2011
3:19 pm

whats a three point shot worth ?

October 24th, 2011
3:21 pm

I have never felt great about Washington….as the QB goes so goes the team. we are in trouble

rich

October 24th, 2011
3:21 pm

Alero

October 24th, 2011
3:22 pm

Just a reminder that we’ll be having our regular tribute and moment of silence on Saturday for Saint Jan Kemp, the courageous martyr who exposed UGA and Vince Dooley’s “remedial studies” fraud.

Please approach this special moment with reverence as we honor her sacred name.

George Stein

October 24th, 2011
3:24 pm

Funny how UGA got well when they started playing girl scout troops and Tech got sick when they stopped.

Banlon

October 24th, 2011
3:26 pm

The photo shows Cornelius Washington in one of his rare sober moments.

Mark Bradley

October 24th, 2011
3:28 pm

Kudos, mmgtfan.

And I believe I failed to kudo you Saturday night, if memory serves. Apologies.

Nativebird

October 24th, 2011
3:30 pm

“it would represent the first real reversal of Paul Johnson’s stewardship”. You’ve got to be kidding right? Last year’s debacle was not a reversal of stewardship? To what length’s does the apologising have to go? Oh yea, I forgot, it’s those darn kids he keeps recruiting that just won’t listen.

Joey

October 24th, 2011
3:32 pm

You’re right, George, neither of us have beaten a good team. And, almost impossibly, nobody else UGA plays is a good team this season, though we could still lose to 3 of them.

Panther Student

October 24th, 2011
3:34 pm

Where is the Georgia State post? No love again… we will get plenty when we run this State!

San Diego Dawg

October 24th, 2011
3:35 pm

Talk to me after J-ville. Even then, this win streak is average at best. Wanna see where we really stand, win out and suit up versus Bama or LSU. Then we’ll know.

That said, winning is better than losing, so this streak has been a refreshing change from the past two years.

Doodlebug16

October 24th, 2011
3:36 pm

i fear PJ will leave us for valdosta state soon…

DawginLex

October 24th, 2011
3:38 pm

Way too early Mark to be saying this.

If Richt loses to Florida again and Tech upsets clemson, the situation is reversed.

George Stein

October 24th, 2011
3:38 pm

Eh, I can’t think of a single reason why UGA will lose Saturday, Joey. Conversely, I can’t come up with a single, rational, unemotional reason why my beloved Yellow Jackets won’t get run out of the building Saturday night.

If you’re a betting man looking to make some easy money (I was but I learned the hard way not to be), the line is Tech +4. I’d happily lay the points. I was stunned it was less than 11.

Panther Student

October 24th, 2011
3:39 pm

Fight Panthers to victory
Our voices yell
You’ll hear us mighty and strong
We’re from the ATL
We’re gonna give them hell
Fight Panthers to victory
Drive on for the score
Blue – White
Georgia State is in the fight
G-S-U, G-S-U, G-A S-T-A-T-E

jawga boy

October 24th, 2011
3:41 pm

Doodlebug….I was just wondering where PJ would take his gimmick offense next and you answered that for me. Thanks. Its bout’ run its course in the ACC, everyone’s seen it. I long for the days of Eddie McShan…..now that’s a blast from the past!

Gravy Train

October 24th, 2011
3:42 pm

Captain Fish Fry is his own worst enemy. He doesn’t believe in recruiting unless he happens to actually be in the running for a good one. He has no use for effective special teams which can be the difference in a close game. He is the opposite of a motivator, for example see how he always blames his players for losses and see how he greets them on the sidelines after errors. It’s beyond comical that an esteemed academic institution such as Tech would have such an egomaniacal, backwards thinking, mountain man as the leader of their football squad.

Also, I’ve seen 12 year old boys with a better arm than Washington has.

Cohutta Dawgman

October 24th, 2011
3:42 pm

GO DAWGS!!!!!!!! Upward and Onward or something like that.

Mountain Dawg

October 24th, 2011
3:42 pm

It warms my the cockles of my heart that Turkey Neck is held in ‘high esteem’ among his constituency. I hope he is the Bumbles’ coach for many years. GO DAWGS!

jawga boy

October 24th, 2011
3:42 pm

Enter your comments here

Birdhair

October 24th, 2011
3:43 pm

I love spray tans, adjusting my headset and mic, and driving my red ford truck. Whoops, I forgot God.

joey1

October 24th, 2011
3:43 pm

mark bradley, the article for the most part is true.. but uga hasnt hasnt beat anyone worth a darn the last 5 games and ga tech lost to virginia a inferior opponent and a better miami team.. yes tech does lack the needed talent to run the tripple option

Herschel Talker

October 24th, 2011
3:44 pm

MB:

You have to take it in context. Tech is a bad team with bad players.
UGA has not played up to it’s potential. So soon you forget the first two games.
Regardless of how the season ends, this team would be better off without Richt.
A loss to UF or Tech would actually be a blessing in disguise for years to come
if Richt was shown the way out. Let the Kirby Smart era begin.

HT

Panther Student

October 24th, 2011
3:48 pm

Go Panthers! We run this State!

jawga boy

October 24th, 2011
3:48 pm

Herschel, careful what you ax for. I’m not sure the Gatorland is beating the drums over Muschamp.

George Stein

October 24th, 2011
3:49 pm

The fans of the rival schools have turned this into a self-loathing chat room. I’m pretty sure this is a first on an MB blog. Bravo, Mark.

bugsquacher

October 24th, 2011
3:49 pm

The Dawgs are middle of the pack in the SEC. I agree they can only beat the teams which are scheduled, but against ranked opponets, we still stink up the place. I hope the Dawgs fans are remembering this…. the Dawgs have a long way to go before we are back near the top of the SEC. LSU, Bama, Arkansas, this year are on top, Florida and Auburn usually near the top, sometimes Tenn. Its been awhile since we have been true contenders. Im not ready to drink the Kool-aid that Richt is currently serving….. having said that……GO DAWGS BEAT THOSE GATORS… GATA.

BurytheBone

October 24th, 2011
3:49 pm

This game will have the after effects of a class 5 hurricane if we loose. It’s a long ride back from jacksonville. How many times have things been right for us to win, only to come away with frustation. Hopefully this year will be different. We as a football team have a long way to go. This will be a good indicator of how much we have improved. Florida may have lost three in a row. However they are not a bad team. We have to set the tone early,and play all 4 quarters. Hunker Down Dawgs.

Dawglasville

October 24th, 2011
3:49 pm

I really think it is just scheduling for both teams.

McDawg

October 24th, 2011
3:49 pm

the tech QB hesitates the moment he starts moving down the line on the option-throws off the entire rythmn of the option

if dawgs can beat up on the QB we will be fine just don’t kick it to the return men

Birdhair

October 24th, 2011
3:50 pm

I’ve had a couple of down seasons, but keep passing the offering plate around. I will take you to the promised land

THE DUDE

October 24th, 2011
3:50 pm

ALL I KNOW IS A SLIDE RULE CANNOT WIN A GAME FOR THE TECHIES. TOO BAD BOBBY DODD IS NO LONGER AMONG US. NOW LET US GO GET KIRBY SMART AND START A NEW ERA IN DAWGLAND. PLEASE.

McDawg

October 24th, 2011
3:53 pm

if Saban loses to LSU they should fire him-4 out of 5 seasons a failure

Birdhair

October 24th, 2011
3:53 pm

my players might act like thugs, but please forgive them. they are dumba**es

J-Dubb

October 24th, 2011
3:53 pm

@ George Stein

Gravy Train

October 24th, 2011
3:53 pm

If you ever want to see a combination of ignorance and self serving drivel see H Talker. Dawg Nation refuses to be defined by the rants of the fringe minority.

GTman

October 24th, 2011
3:55 pm

Tevin Washington is to Johnson as Reggie Ball was to Chan Gailey. The players are playing their best with the limited talent they have. The problem is with the coaching staff’s inability to recruit and develop a quarterback that can play the position.

CPJ thinks that all he has to do is call plays. His plays are not even creative. Sometimes you have to get a little creative to overcome the lack of talent.

He has failed as a recruiter. He has failed at developing talent. The one position you better get right with this offense is the QB. We will see with Vad Lee, but TW and SD are not effective QBs in any offensive scheme.

He has failed at coaching special teams – an area that he said was going to get his personal attention. Does our kick return team block anybody? We lose 200 yards a game between not having a kicker that can kick the ball into the endzone and not having a punt returner that can effectively get to the football and make a fair catch. Either catch the ball in the air or get the #$!! away from it and just head to the sidelines where you belong.

CPJ – be a football coach! That means recruit the right talent on offense and defense to play your systems. Get the entire team properly coached – offense, defense, and special teams. And quit acting like a total jerk on the sidelines. I’m good with getting on the players and getting in their faces, but CPJ acts like a total uncontrolled idiot with his facial expressions and embarrassing cursing.

Gravy Train

October 24th, 2011
3:56 pm

Kirby Smart is a step down unless he will bring Saban with him. See Muschamp without Saban.

Herschel Talker

October 24th, 2011
3:57 pm

Gravy Train:

Are you really feeling secure about the future of the Bulldog program with wins over Coastal Carolina, and very bad UT, Ole Miss, and Miss St teams?
What defined Richt as a coach was the Boise and USC games, not the remaining weak schedule.

HT

McDawg

October 24th, 2011
3:58 pm

didn’t CPK a.k.a chopblock-just recruit the kicker from Marist?

GT

October 24th, 2011
3:58 pm

Bradley you are on drugs, only explanation I can give you. Georgia has not proven anything except they had a prayer answered in the Vandy game, the one thing Richt can be depended on to produce. They have played the worst teams in the SEC, something they have done for years. Who in the SEC has a easier schedule than Georgia? Boise State and South Carolina were easy teams when they scheduled them, too. Tech has a harder schedule and they are playing in the ACC. Did you think Tech would go undefeated? I think Tech could play either one of those teams over again and beat both of them, they definitely was not a decisive victories. I hope the world thinks Tech is bad, maybe the NCAA will figure out in these economic times they could spend their time in better places like someone with a winning record. Stopping Tech and their 400 dollar violations is not what is the problem for this conference.

MLH

October 24th, 2011
3:58 pm

The thing is, GT still hasn’t played a good team and still has two losses. Virginia and Miami aren’t exactly great competition.

Birdhair

October 24th, 2011
3:59 pm

Anyone that signs their name after a verse shall not be one of my disciples. BH

McDawg

October 24th, 2011
4:00 pm

so beating the teams we are suppose to beat makes CMR a bad coach? now i get it

McDawg

October 24th, 2011
4:02 pm

FYI GT; UGA doesn’t “schedule USC” the SEC does

Gravy Train

October 24th, 2011
4:03 pm

Tech fans are really trying to compare schedules or conferences? Is this basketball season?

Boise Dawg

October 24th, 2011
4:06 pm

I am not sure I buy the reasoning that Georgia has improved much from the Boise State game. Mark you had said as much in other articles, but then you also mention the scheduling has gotten much easier.. which is it? Georgia may have stunk up the joint against Boise State, but they also stunk up the joint against South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

This game against Florida should be really interesting, especially if Brantley is back. Both teams built up their records against inferior competition and both teams best victory is against Tennessee. The winner probably salvages their season and may play in a New Years bowl game…. the loser will be lucky to be playing in a mid December bowl game.

Gravy Train

October 24th, 2011
4:07 pm

If Georgia had lost to two unranked teams (in a row) that wont make a bowl game, then I can see a comparison. There is no sense in knocking a team for winning the games they are supposed to win. Tech just can’t seem to do it.

Single Wing

October 24th, 2011
4:07 pm

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

No, wait… it’s just a Mark Bradley column. Maybe if Georgia doesn’t play again the rest of the season they could crack the Top 10.

Gravy Train

October 24th, 2011
4:09 pm

I forgot, Tech can’t even beat Georgia at basketball anymore.