Even after another Dome drubbing, UGA’s progress is clear

Two reasons to be cheerful: Alec Ogletree, Todd Grantham. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Reasons to be cheerful: Alec Ogletree, Todd Grantham. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

It ended as it began:  A massive Georgia contingent arrived at the Dome for a hugely anticipated game against a brand-name opponent, and the folks wearing red went home early. On Sept. 3 the Bulldogs led Boise State 7-0 and lost by two touchdowns; on Dec. 3 they led LSU by 10 points and lost by 32. And now you’re asking: This is progress?

Absolutely. The Boise game was a function of scheduling: Georgia’s choices were either to play or forfeit. The LSU game was for the championship of the nation’s best conference, and the Bulldogs had to win their way there. For the first time since 2005, the Bulldogs graced the big December game in the big city, and to qualify they had to rise from a 6-7 season and a Liberty Bowl to, ahem, Central Florida.

Another way in which the Boise loss wasn’t the LSU loss: Georgia was outfought and out-thought against the Broncos. As tight end Orson Charles admitted not long ago, “The first game was too big for us.” The only thing too big for Georgia on Saturday was its opponent.

The Georgia Bulldogs have played a lot of good teams over their long and distinguished history, but they might never have played one so physically imposing. There have been collegiate teams with greater skill, but as far as running fast and hitting hard the 2011 LSU Tigers might rank near the top of any list you’d care to compile.

To its credit, Georgia started fast and furious. Had it not dropped two touchdown passes and missed a field goal — and had the replay official been more diligent after Tyrann Mathieu flipped the ball to the official at the end of his first epic punt return — the Bulldogs could have led by 17 or 21 points and the game would have changed. LSU would probably have changed quarterbacks. (Coach Les Miles admitted afterward he was considering it at 10-0.) LSU would have had to throw the ball, which isn’t what LSU wants to do. That said …

LSU still might have won. There’s an indomitable nature to these Tigers that comes from being secure in their physical gifts, but such self-assurance is also fueled by the knowledge that they’ve played and won a bunch of big games against teams of comparable worth. Georgia still can’t say as much. Its biggest victories en route to the Dome were against Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech, which lost a total of 15 games. LSU’s biggest victories were against Oregon, Alabama and Arkansas, which lost a total of five games.

This isn’t to say Georgia can’t ascend to that exalted plane. The Bulldogs could return as many as 16 starters and, apart from tailback Isaiah Crowell and receiver Malcolm Mitchell, the effect of the Dream Team recruiting class hasn’t been felt. Georgia will be a Top 10 pick in preseason and the favorite to win the SEC East. (And with Florida and Tennessee in clear retreat, Vanderbilt might be tabbed third behind South Carolina.)

How will UGA fare in 2012?

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Better still, the Bulldogs proved in 2011 that coaching, which  failed in 2009 and 2010, is no longer an issue. Todd Grantham’s defense was tremendous. (Can’t do any better than holding the nation’s No. 1 team to no first downs in a half.) Mark Richt recommitted himself to offensive scheming, and the results were apparent. He and Mike Bobo stitched together a cohesive attack without benefit of a reliable tailback, which isn’t easy to do.

That said: The key issue over the winter might again be the question of Crowell. His signing topped off the Dream Team last February, and his first appearance against Boise State was greeted with a mighty cheer. Contrast that to the boos spawned by his third and fourth limp-offs against LSU. Clearly Crowell has tried his coaches’ patience: He was disciplined twice this season, and Saturday he drew an unsportsmanlike penalty from the bench. Two weeks ago Richt, casting an eye toward the recruit Keith Marshall of Raleigh, noted the “tremendous opportunity” awaiting a running back at Georgia.

And he’s right. There is opportunity here, not just for a tailback but for a team. Georgia figures to be back in the SEC title game next year, and in December 2012 the Tigers — don’t look now, but LSU is also scheduled to return 16 starters — mightn’t hold the same edge in manpower and mindset.

In his final words to the media Saturday night, Richt said: “I don’t think we’re that far off. I really don’t.”

Right again. A team that couldn’t break .500 last year just played for an SEC championship. The Bulldogs will play for another soon enough, and before long they’ll win one.

By Mark Bradley

507 comments Add your comment

dawgerbrown

December 4th, 2011
11:35 am

Maybe next years Dawgs will be FIRST!

xldawg

December 4th, 2011
11:37 am

First, it is a positive sign of things to come in the future and if Crowell stays or goes the difference is in the depth and the tailback position. See you Tigers in a year for the real rematch!

omg

December 4th, 2011
11:38 am

totally agree mark great column we are ok dawgs fan

dawgerbrown

December 4th, 2011
11:38 am

LSU is a great team. Should have been 20-7 at half. Too many dropped passes, special teams breakdowns, no running game and them having a 19 yard field first two possessions of second half killed us. Dawgs couldn’t afford to make it easy for them, but we did. Hopefully, Dawgs will pick up some big time recruits that want playing time right away. This is a young team, and it will continue to improve. Always proud to be a Georgia Bulldog.

Herschel Talker

December 4th, 2011
11:39 am

MB:

Well said. However, McGarity realizes that this may be a byproduct of the soft schedule. So while Richt deserves to keep his job and a contract extension, the bar will remain high each year on out going forward.

Crowell needs to go, and we need Mr. Marshall. Crowell is a pampered malcontent, another Washaun and Caleb in the making.

HT

Kingdawg

December 4th, 2011
11:40 am

Proud of my DAWGS – they fought with pride and great effort this year ! “Hat’s” off to LSU – great team.

Nice job, Mark

December 4th, 2011
11:42 am

Our defense has been our strong suit all year. Offense and special teams have hurt us all year and did again last night. I dont understand why we even punted the ball to #7 in the first place. And then kept kicking it to him. Things like that just make me want to pull out my hair. And as far as the running situation……why not put Malcome in there. He is def better at running up the middle than Thomas. i love Thomas’ enthusaiasm and desire to win, but the guy isnt big enough to run up to the middle. But hopefully, by this time next year WE will be celebrating an SECC!

Looking Bright in Dawgville

December 4th, 2011
11:43 am

Good article, Mark. LSU is not just physically gifted, but incredibly deep at most every position as well. The Dawgs looked spent in the 2nd half. Of course, the LSU offense having a short field on two straight drives didn’t help. Give Richt and staff another good recruiting class and the future does indeed look bright for UGA.

Sick and tired

December 4th, 2011
11:43 am

As long as “Mr. Predictable/conservative” Bobo is there we’ll always be second best

Mark Bradley

December 4th, 2011
11:43 am

Kudos, dawgerbrown.

Vince

December 4th, 2011
11:44 am

Proud of the Dogs. Those turnovers hurt. Cant wait until next year.

dmr

December 4th, 2011
11:44 am

Mark,

You hit it on the head. Georgia has a lot to be proud of; not just for the regular season, but for their efforts against LSU. LSU has 8 DL’s, 4 RB’s, and a slew of DB’s that can come in at any time. When you have virtually no running game; in part due to LSU (Give them credit), but in part to the fact that you have no one on your roster capable of carrying the load, it is going to be a tough road to hoe.

Todd Grantham and his defense couldn’t have done a better job in the first half. Many of Georgia’s wounds early were self inflicted.

The only thing I don’t get is why we didn’t “COFFIN CORNER” punts or punt out of bounds, even deep in our own territory. You had to say our defense will carry us, but I am not going to let Tyrann Mathieu beat me. We didn’t and he did.

GREAT SEASON FOR THE DAWGS! We need to recruit depth on the OL, DL, DB’s, and we need at least three (3) quality running backs.

Further, when bowl season is over, I don’t want to hear Crowell’s name at all during the off season. If you do, it will be for the wrong reasons. There needs to be a players only meeting and a sort of intervention with Crowell to find out how dedicated he is to the off season program and if he really wants to be great and help this team. Richt cannot afford another stable of running backs that are nothing but trouble. And remember, this season started off by getting rid of our two best backs.

Chris

December 4th, 2011
11:44 am

Very good article Mark! I think you are spot on…GO DAWGS!!

oakisland

December 4th, 2011
11:45 am

Need more running backs that can pound the line. Good year dawgs, and recruit like mad the rest of the way till signing day. Look forward to next year and please Coach Richt, open up the qb competition. Murray just overthrows too many receivers. Go Dawgs–class of 69.

david

December 4th, 2011
11:45 am

UGA is headed for another fall in 2012. The schedule will be much harder next year, plus they could play Texas A&M too. UGA has to address the running back situation or 2010 will repeat itself.

Al Beeski

December 4th, 2011
11:47 am

Sure hope Albany St can beat out North Alabama in recruiting Crowell. But looking at YouTube, marshall doesn’t appear to have size needed to carry da rock 20-25 times per game. CMR def needs to recruit some bigger backs.

rbr

December 4th, 2011
11:47 am

sure, better than last year – but given their talent pool, what did that take?
UGA would have lost to the 4 better teams this year head-to-head and if their schedule had included Alabama, LSU, or Arkansas, they’d not even have won their division
so to win the SEC, in the near future, they’ll win the SEC East AND the championship game against one of those western division teams?

Classic City B&R

December 4th, 2011
11:47 am

SEC Fan

December 4th, 2011
11:48 am

Once again, Mark Richt proves he is the Bobby Bowden of the SEC. He wins when other programs are down and by out talenting them. Clearly, the games he won were due to UGA having more talent than the rest. Nothing against him, but his legacy will be like Bowdens. He has not proven to be a big game coach. He got desperate and attempted an onside kick in the first half. Really. He is a great guy, but a subpar coach. Florida State ran the same primitive offense back in the 90’s. How many national championships did they win. Sad state of affairs for UGA fans. But as you guys always say, we’ll get ‘em next year. Go pups.

wow!!!

December 4th, 2011
11:50 am

uga chance was this year with that cupcake schedule!!! SC had a better team and beat you head to head so just to think you’ll be bk next year is far and beyond. UGA qb is a big game choke!!! But maybe uga will keep CMR and lose a couple games each year and never win a national championship!!!

cattle dawg

December 4th, 2011
11:50 am

CMR contract should only be extended by about 3 years . Mark, what you think about bobo ?

jerry

December 4th, 2011
11:51 am

@Looking Bright in Dawgville

“Good article, Mark. LSU is not just physically gifted, but incredibly deep at most every position as well.”

True enough, but why isn’t UGA?

Dabo

December 4th, 2011
11:51 am

Give up dawgs, Keith is coming here to be a tater farmer.

Getting back

December 4th, 2011
11:52 am

I’m proud of this team and coaching staff. 0-2 to a SEC Championship berth and should have beaten South Carolina. Two dropped TDs or that game would have been 21-0 before LSU scored. It was a good season. Here’s hoping for a great season next year! Go Dawgs!

Mark Bradley

December 4th, 2011
11:53 am

I have no issues with Mike Bobo, cattle dawg. I think he’s a good offensive coordinator.

CAreer Broadcaster

December 4th, 2011
11:53 am

Isiah Crowell nees to grow up. When he committed the personal foul and Richt started dressing him down, he turned his back on Richt. You did not see Crowell again after that. I was urging Richt to put a foot on his backside on national tv and then dress him down in his face when he turned around. I wish Ealy and King had been there with their heads screwed on for more depth. Crowell may be closer than we think to returning to Columbus to join the likes of Jasper Sanks and there is no future in that. UGA is better but we gotta have a big bruising back or two next year. I hope it is Crowell, but I am not confident. How many times was Hershel disiplined?

Bigdsel

December 4th, 2011
11:53 am

Well, a lot to look forward to next year.

Buzz 2011

December 4th, 2011
11:53 am

Bradley still trying to pump an underachieving Dawg team who gave up 42 unanswered points. I might add that 42 unanswered points is the most ever is a championship game.. The Dawgs ran for 68 yrds in total..The little Dawg quarterback was like 16 for 43 in passing. They are not even close, not close to being in any championship mix. Sorry Bradley but your reporting still lacks much merit.. You see a team with no discipline has little chance against good teams..

Cheerfuldawg

December 4th, 2011
11:56 am

We just got our a–es kicked 42-10, but the future is so bright with the same bunch that got their a–es kicked 42-10. Oh, happy, happy ,happy.

Black Mountain NC Bulldog

December 4th, 2011
11:58 am

It’s official Crowell is a “Energy Vampire”.
I believe the Dogs get both Marshall and Gurley, from this State!
As long as Grantham is running the D, it will be stout and Bobo gets a lot of blame, but he didn’t drop all of those passes.
I am optimistic about this young teams future!

buck blew

December 4th, 2011
11:59 am

Florida in clear retreat. You are a freaking moron. As bad as Florida was they almost beat the Dawgs. You are as myopic as other Dawg fans. Georgia played 3 good teams and lost to all three and in 2 of them got their clocks cleaned. bark bark.

chalkdawg4

December 4th, 2011
11:59 am

I agree – a lot to be proud of. Offensive play calling in the 2nd half left a lot to be desired.

Send'em Uhauls

December 4th, 2011
12:00 pm

Same ole Crap with Richt. Im sick and tired of watching my dawgs getting it brains beat out in big games with Richt as our coach. You kool aid drinkers and Richt apologist need to wake up. Both Bama and LSU’s football programs are light years ahead of UGA. Hope yall are happy with mediocrty with Richt for another year.

GT-97

December 4th, 2011
12:01 pm

No they won’t win one.

Richt will leave on his own accord either at the end of this season or next, and UGAs winning will crumble just like Tennessee and Florida.

Georgia Tide Fan

December 4th, 2011
12:04 pm

The Dawgs will have a true SEC litmus test next year when they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Tide. Pass that test, and you will truly be able to say you are a contender. The east will still be the least next year, although, South Carolina………….wait for it…………..COULD be good next year.

Future looks Bright?

December 4th, 2011
12:04 pm

Sounds like weve heardthis before and we continue to get our rear ends handed to us year after year. This coaching staff better get on the stick if it wants to win championship and better statr recruiting some stud players. The Dream Team was a complete joke.

The Lapinksy Files

December 4th, 2011
12:04 pm

“He and Mike Bobo stitched together a cohesive attack without benefit of a reliable tailback, which isn’t easy to do.”

Mark, the better question is why don’t we have a reliable tailback? We’re in one of the most furtive recruiting soils in America. We should be 2, 3, 4 RB’s deep. Is Boo Malcome any good? I dunno know, as I never saw him til it didn’t matter, and he looked better than anything I saw. The lack of depth is an issue, and I put that square on the HC’s shoulder.

Stopping drinking the UGA kool Aid

December 4th, 2011
12:04 pm

UGA has lost to every competitive opponent they have faced. If TECH had a quarterback they probably would have won. UGA is just okay all around. They are the benefactors of a soft in conference and out of conference schedule. Should have lost to Vandy and UK. Their record this year very different for last year, but quality of play is the same.

dawggirl

December 4th, 2011
12:05 pm

I agree with the poster who said why were kicking to Mathieu to begin with? Never should have happened, and especially not after the first time. We hurt ourselves with the dropped passes and turnovers. We might not have won, but at least it wouldn’t have been such a blowout. My hat is off to the defense in the first half. No other team has accomplished this. LSU will be the national champion, whether they play Bama or OSU.

I’m proud of my Dawgs for the season they had. I predicted a 9-3 season, and we ended up being 10-3 before the bowl. If we can recruit the right backs, I think we are definitely headed in the right direction. If there are those who don’t think so, feel free to go root for another SEC team.

Ball Glaze

December 4th, 2011
12:05 pm

progress? Ga won a weak sec east division—fla and tennessee sucked, didn’t beat any good teams all year and got blown out by lsu—that’s “progress” in athens? a once proud program, now looking for scraps.

Steve

December 4th, 2011
12:06 pm

Yea David, very scared of Texas A&M. Ha.

buck blew

December 4th, 2011
12:07 pm

i love how all the dawg fans are turning on crowell. what freaking hypocrites. didn’t richt want him to dot the I in the I formation? just another thug recruited by richt who once again shows his recruiting for ability over character. i thought those days were over but it looks it’s not. sic em dawgs!!

The Lapinksy Files

December 4th, 2011
12:08 pm

The Tony Baaaahnhart’s of the world will keep Richt in power. The older, gentile, afraid of change generation will keep their gool old buddy CMR in power as long as they can. The programs like Ohio St, Ala, LSU’s of the world will be playing on Jan 9, while we head to Tampa every year.

dawggirl

December 4th, 2011
12:08 pm

Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

Florida is in a mess right now. You can’t even keep the recruits you already have. Plus Meyer is going to take the new recruits up to Ohio with him.

GT – please. Just admit you can only manage to beat us once a decade.

mike addington

December 4th, 2011
12:09 pm

Well, Mark, this article reminds me of your logical, knowledgable, and well-written articles of years gone by, mostly about basketball, about which you are peerless. The only thing I would add is that i would like for Richt to give his 2nd string QBs some playing time, for many reasons. What if the starter goes down. The backup may be bettr (some players are better in games than in practice). The starter will graduate at some point, and a D.J. Shockley doesnt come around very often. I would say to this Georgia team that I think you could be as good as any in the country but it is up to you to make your teamates commit to playing, ie, I. Cromwell, or get off the bus. Other than Honeybadger, I thought DAWGS had better talent, just not the mindset, and that is a coaching area. Every championship needs a honeybadger; we had D. Pollack back in the day. We need that one guy who plays over his head and inspires the rest to refuse to lose.

oakisland

December 4th, 2011
12:09 pm

Good article. Would like to see a change in special teams next year. It is obvious that we need a coach for special teams that is his sole responsibilty. We really suck in this area. Need a strong recruiting finish and be ready to go back to Atlanta next year with different results. Go dawgs.

The Glass Is Half-Full « My Two Cents

December 4th, 2011
12:10 pm

[...] Mark Bradley: ‘Even after another Dome drubbing, UGA’s progress is obvious‘ At the end of the day, a young team grew up a lot over the course of three months. As it [...]

GulfShoresDawg

December 4th, 2011
12:10 pm

Proud of my DAWGS! Kicked butt first half and made it easy for them i the 2nd half…Has anyone noticed how CMR is a jerk to all the reporters? Why can’t he just be nice and courteous like Les Miles? Parents are watching his every move and he has done this for years, just makes UGA look bad!

dawggirl

December 4th, 2011
12:11 pm

“Has anyone noticed how CMR is a jerk to all the reporters? Why can’t he just be nice and courteous like Les Miles?”

Excuse me? I think you have that backwards.

Mike da Tiger

December 4th, 2011
12:11 pm

Personally I had my concession speech ready at the half. Kudos to the Dawgs and the Dawg Nation. You guys hit it on the head, we have a tremndous amount of depth. Our 4th string RB, a freshman, had three TDs. I would urge the Dawg Nation to not be hard on Mitchell, King or the D in the second half. The guys played hard for you all the whole season and I believe have restored the pride to ya’lls program. Since we both return a boat load of talent returning, what do you all say we meet up again next year in the Dome?