South Carolina game mars an otherwise promising first half for Bulldogs

ATHENS – Everything was rosy with Georgia football until this past weekend when it ran into a buzz saw in South Carolina operating under the name of Gamecocks. Then the nation’s No. 5-ranked team, the Bulldogs fell behind 35-0 before scoring save-face touchdown in the game’s final minutes.

Now Georgia finds itself having to pick up the pieces. All the optimism the Bulldogs had gained in by annihilating their opponents by an average of 26.3 points in the first five games was wiped away in one nationally-televised butt-kicking.

Since that game, Georgia coach Mark Richt has  anybody who would listen – including his own players — not to read too much into one lopsided loss. As ever, he believes the Bulldogs are still a top-tier  team that can win the rest of its games and contend for the SEC championship

“Whether you lose by a point or you lose by 28 points, it’s only one loss,” Richt said this week. “It’s not five losses. It feels like three or four losses, but it’s only one. The way the world works in the Southeastern Conference is the team with the best record at the end wins the East. There’s a lot more football to be played. Let’s see how it shakes out.”

He chalks up South Carolina’s domination to “a perfect storm” of atmosphere and performance that was reminiscent of what the Bulldogs were able to do against Auburn in their first black-out game at Sanford Stadium in 2007.

“It was kind of a perfect storm for us that day, too, with the emotions of the fans, the excitement of the fans and the emotion of the players when we kind of sprung that thing on them,” Richt said. “They were just at an emotional peak. We had something big happen early and it snowballed for us that day.”

Georgia scored 25-unanswered points to win 45-20 in 2007. But, he said, the Bulldogs weren’t 25 points better than Auburn. Neither, he said, are the Gamecocks four touchdowns better than Georgia.

“This game was a little bit like that for South Carolina,” Richt said. “Momentum got grabbed and they just kept rolling. We had opportunities that might could have made a difference. The first pass of the game, if [Bacarri] Rambo squeezes the ball a little tighter and comes down with it, that’s a big momentum play for us. Maybe we turn around and score, I don’t know. But we just never got momentum going in our direction.”

Richt’s point is less about South Carolina and more about the rest of the season. The 14th-ranked Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 SEC) arrive at the halfway point still feeling like they’re a team that can fulfill all its goals from the outset of the season. As Georgia is off with a bye this week, here’s our assessment of what they’ve done so far:

OFFENSE

The South Carolina performance brought them down a notch, but it’s hard to deny what the Bulldogs have been able to do in the rest of their games. Georgia remains second in the SEC in scoring (41.3 ppg) and third in total offense (484 ypg)

It features an experienced quarterback in Aaron Murray, top-grade tailbacks in Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Ken Malcome fleet of proven wide receivers. The Gamecocks exposed Georgia’s weakness on the offensive line. But even with their failings in that game, the Bulldogs nine sacks allowed is fourth in the league.

“I think we’ll be fine,” said Murray, who “I thinknwe’re still very confident with who we have, with the play-calling and everything that’s going on. We just didn’t execute when the time came against South Carolina. There plays were there to be made; we just didn’t hit them. . . . I don’t think we’re shaken up at all.”

Assessment: Very good.

DEFENSE

This is the biggest mystery regarding the 2012 Bulldogs. They returned nine starters from a unit that finished fifth in the nation in total defense. Yet halfway through this season they’re ranked 51st in total defense, 68th against the rush and 79th in quarterback sacks. Worse, Georgia is giving up a lot of “explosive plays.” It has allowed 14 of 30 or more yards.

The easy answer is that Georgia had two starters out with suspensions the first four games and two others out for the first two contests. But Richt refuses to point to that.

“We don’t have any excuses,” he said. “We haven’t played as well. We’ve given up too many big plays. Some of it has been gap control; some of it has been communication on the back end. We’ve just got to get better.”

Third-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham hasn’t been sharp in the area of game-planning. Ninety-four of the Georgia’s 135 points allowed – or 70 percent — have come in the first half, which suggests the Bulldogs haven’t been ready for what teams have thrown at them. However, with a 6.83 points second-half scoring average, Georgia is clearly making good halftime adjustments.

Assessment: Very average

SPECIAL TEAMS

Georgia is 91st in the nation in field goals at only .67 per game, but at the rate the Bulldogs have been scoring touchdowns (34), that isn’t necessarily been a bad thing. And when freshman Marshall Morgan has been asked to make a big kick, he has come through. Two of his four field goals (he has attempted only five) came from over 50 yards. However, Georgia has failed on three point-after attempts – two were plain missed – and have had three others bounce through off the upright.

Of course, special teams encompasses much more than placement kicks. The Bulldogs allowed a 70-yard punt return TD to South Carolina and are last in the SEC in net punting and punt return yardage allowed. But they’ve also blocked two punts and an extra point, snuffed out a fake punt and returned a kickoff for a score.

“The coaches are keeping us motivated,” said freshman Josh Harvey-Clemons, who was named the Bulldogs’ special teams captain for the Kentucky game. “We’re really emphasizing special teams a lot. We know how important it is to the game.”

Assessment: Decidedly average.

COACHING

Obviously Georgia wasn’t ready to play in the South Carolina game this past Saturday. The Bulldogs didn’t appear to have a specific plan for dealing with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney beyond letting tackle Kenarious Gates handle him and the defense was gashed with big plays early and could not contain quarterback Conner Shaw on the zone-read, option keeper.

That said, that was the second “game of the century” kind of atmosphere the Bulldogs faced this season. Missouri was eyeing its SEC opener versus Georgia as one of the most important in school history. And after last-season’s post-game run-in with Vanderbilt, this year’s game featured a highly-charged environment. The Bulldogs obviously handled those challenges with aplomb.

“Overall I think we’ve coached pretty well,” Richt said. “A lot of really good things have been happening. When you lose a game the way we did [to South Carolina] you start to evaluate everything and we have. . . . But I still think we have good coaches and good players. I think we’re still a very good team and the future is bright.”

Assessment: Decent

PROGNOSIS

The Bulldogs finish against Kentucky, Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. They’ll likely be favored against them all except for the No. 4 Gators on Oct. 27 in Jacksonville.

As such, Georgia is still very much in the SEC picture. If South Carolina loses two SEC games – the Gamecocks are on the road at LSU and Florida the next two weeks – the Bulldogs could regain control of the Eastern Division with a win over the Gators in Jacksonville. Should South Carolina beat LSU and lose to Florida, Georgia could forge a three-way tie at the same juncture.

“We’ve got an opportunity to get back on a winning track,” Richt said. “The best thing we can do is correct our mistakes. We had to assess some things we need to get better at. That’s what you do. . . . Hopefully we can go out and have a good performance against Kentucky and get our momentum going again.”

653 comments Add your comment

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
5:53 am

Yaddi yadda, Same song different verse.

So UGA beats Florida, and SC loses to LSU and Florida, putting UGA in the SEC CG where they get destroyed by Bama. They then win against a crappy B10 team in the Outback bowl. UGA is 12-2 and Richt (and worse yet Bobo and Grantham) get contract extensions.

But is the team any closer to the national championship?? That’s a resounding no.

Of course the problem is who to hire if Richt is fired?? Look at the situation down in Tennersee. They fired a coach who actually won a MNC, and look at where they are no. Those goobers would kill to have a coach like Richt, so be careful of what you wish for, Dawg fans.

It could be worse afterall. You could be a Tech fan.

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
5:58 am

Oh, and you can keep Murray and all of his flashy stats. The guy doesn’t flat out win the big games. I’ll take a hard nosed tough QB like Connor Shaw every day of the week. His stats are ok, but all he does is win (13-1 as a starter).

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:01 am

Now that I think about it. Forget what I said. UGA won’t be Florida. They finished off SC last week by running straight at them (25 consecutive runs to end the game).

The Gaytors will steamroll the Dawgs, who will defeat everyone else and end up at 10-2. They’ll still get to a decent bowl and maybe win it for another ho-hum year.

Don’t get me wrong, the goobs at Tennersee and tickle pile loving nerds at Tech would kill for 10 wins a year, but that isn’t good enough around here anymore.

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:02 am

Oh,and one last thing before my shift is over here at the Quick-E-Mart,

Yo Chip,

How many times do I need to tell you?! We need MORE Tara Petrolino and LESS Noah Coslov!

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:03 am

Ok, so I’m kinda quirky. I can’t leave w/ only four posts.

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:03 am

Five posts is more like it.

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:04 am

Wait a minute, now I’m on six. How’d that happen?!

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:04 am

Make that seven.

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:05 am

Doh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

sgmjohndavis

October 12th, 2012
6:32 am

So, the point of the article was to show that CMR is right. I mean, really, we all want the same thing here: A National Championship. I’m a life long fan and season ticket holder. I support the team and the players who don’t get paid. Our coaches are paid very well to coach and I would like more accountability from CMR when the staff did terrible job with adjustments in this game. We all saw what happened and can’t understand why adjustments weren’t made. The talent this team has was superior to that of South Carolina, but coaching lost the game, not “A perfect storm.”

Ramad Ashad

October 12th, 2012
6:37 am

Same ol same ol for UGA

sgmjohndavis

October 12th, 2012
6:41 am

To finish my (rant) point; we need to focus on the positive. CMR is right to tell the team the year and our goals are not lost. Yes, we have one SEC loss, but so does LSU, and their fans are patient with CLM. I’m not saying the loss in Big games is hurtful, I’m saying it happens. C’mon folks, it was 1980-1981 when we last went 12-0 and won a NC. Going undefeated is an incredible feat. Mark my words: Our DAWGS will beat UF in our next, “Big Game.” Further, we will win out and “Show up” in the SEC CG against either Alabama or LSU and win. Just get us to the NC game and see where this teams players and coaches heart is at! Our team grew up with the SC loss, mark my words and continue to support our DAWGS!

sgmjohndavis

October 12th, 2012
6:46 am

Chip, great article. My prediction is the coaching staff will make the adjustments going forward and this season will turn out to be a great one. Not a “homer” just looking at the big picture with Carolina and Florida’s schedule, I feel we can beat UF and SC doesn’t have the team beat LSU and Florida.

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:58 am

What the heck are you talking about John Davis??

What has this team done in big games to lead you to believe that they can win?! Absolutely positively nothing! We’re not talking about Vandy here.

Florida is a hard nosed physically tough football team that plays better in the second half. They take a teams best punch and don’t flinch.

UGA on the other hand, is like their coach – they take their arse whipping like a wounded dog. They just lay there and don’t even compete.

Pathetic.

fan

October 12th, 2012
7:00 am

Georgia football, when all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done.
Looking up at South Carolina, my oh my!
when you have no present , the past looks mighty nice.
most of you folks are not 32 years old.

sgmjohndavis

October 12th, 2012
7:13 am

I think you can read what I posted and discern what I said. Yes, we lost and were terrible. Your point is we lose all big games and I can’t deny that. My point was how difficult it is to win “All” games all season long in the SEC. Coaching is a problem and needs to get better, I know that. Give the season a chance and see what happens. I’ve been to the games and watched away games on TV. This is a talented team and will rebound.

Buckeye

October 12th, 2012
7:24 am

O Va Raaaaaaa Ted

AKA

Delusional

Mike Bobo 17 INT

October 12th, 2012
7:36 am

UGA will never be championship caliber until they open on the road against a ranked opponent. UGA continues to play the BCS window dressing game with openers against D1-AA team, hoping that the ranking system will look the other way.

As in 2008, UGA fell in the first 2 weeks from their #1 pre-season ranking. Why? Because, they were playing cupcakes. Man up and play the big boys (i.e. Alabama, LSU).

old time dog

October 12th, 2012
7:37 am

Yes Georgia is the best team in the Mid America Conference. Great stats against lousy competition. Yes Georgia will end up 10 -2. We will have a great point differential. May even back into the SEC East. With all that said this team is middle of the pack SEC. No amount of hype changes that. No amount of easy scheduleing changes that reality. When talent levels are equal dogs come out on the short end. Coahes that are great recruiters deserve credit Not getting the best out of those players is quite another story.The games that have been won were won of superior talent. Enough said.

Craig

October 12th, 2012
7:37 am

Chip- and you’re still surprised?????????? Geez….same story…different year. We get to feeling really good about ourselves while were beating….WHO??? average to sub par SEC teams plus the usual cupcakes……but even doing that there are signs we ignore….Buffalo driving the field 3 times on us…..tied with Fla Atl….etc etc…..then when we play a really good team BAM! all of a sudden..what happened??? This has been the story for the last 3-4 years…and Chip, You’re surprised?????????????????????????

Mike Bobo 17 INT

October 12th, 2012
7:38 am

Anyone who defends this program and current coaching staff is burying their head in the sand and in serious denial. If this same talent had been under Saban or Miles for the past 12 years, you would have at least 2 crystal trophies, end of story.

Craig

October 12th, 2012
7:40 am

oh…and Chip…my guess is we will be back on top of the world very soon…everything will be fine….we will be National Championship contenders because we beat……………KENTUCKY!

Jeff

October 12th, 2012
7:42 am

He chalks up South Carolina’s domination to “a perfect storm” of atmosphere and performance

Ya think? This seems to be the case everytime we play a team ranked in the Top 20!

t rex

October 12th, 2012
7:47 am

blah blah blah——they talk a lot but they do not beat ranked teams—–that is the reality of UGA football—sad in a way===they have some kind of dynasty of rulers in Athens who just want to be an ok football team(ACC) and they could have more but they would rather sit where they are and say ———-well we beat Tech. Well beating Tech should happen—-i mean —UGA should own them no matter who is coaching but —what about the big picture?

[...] post: South Carolina game mars an otherwise promising first half for Bulldogs ← Back to Home Tags: aaron murray, believes, butt, listen, loss, nationally, richt, [...]

Vampire Bill

October 12th, 2012
7:54 am

The more I listen to Richt, the more I realize he’s not a fit for the bulldawgs. He should be a pastor or a politician, someone who’s skill sets mainly include the ability to influence people to change their way of thinking. Football is too tangible. It can be measured by wins and losses and also the general quality of play.

Many people play the Mark Richt is a fine man spin. I’m sure he is actually, but sadly his influence does not extend to the team. Too many arrests for drug abuse, weapons and assault.

I just don’t see the upside to paying Mark Richt three million a year? Isn’t the expectation to compete for a national title? Once again I ask, Do you honestly thing that the current, past or even future Dawgs are National Championship material ? Do you honestly anticipate a end of 30 point loses to the upper tier teams anytime soon?

CMR has had his 10 plus years. Time for a change.

Double Zero Eight

October 12th, 2012
7:59 am

The team is soft and intimidated by top ten teams.
Richt is a nice guy, but lacks the toughness and
mentality that it takes to win a national championship.
Murray is a decent quarterback, but is intimidated
when he plays against NFL caliber defensive lineman
like SC and LSU.have. It doesn’t help either that he is
only 5′11″.

Whatttt

October 12th, 2012
7:59 am

You are kidding a promising first half, We should have seen a whipping from USC coming, if I am not mistaken didn’t Tenn. put up 44 points on our great( I say that laughing) defense. We were the 5th ranked team in the nation Tenn. was barely on radar for one week, and we were back at full strength with Rambo and tree back in the line-up. looks like we need to go back to the drawing board.

SouthGADawg

October 12th, 2012
8:03 am

What first half were you watching, Chip? They struggled with mediocre teams. Like some presidential candidates, Richt always produces “hope” and “promises”, but not delivery.

Dawg4Life

October 12th, 2012
8:11 am

Excuses excuses, I am and always will be a CMR and UGA fan, but these are the facts since 2008 our coaching staff has been sub-par in big games and we always loose big games until their is a major coaching staff change; Aaron Murray, great kid, but has always choked when pressured and in big games against ranked opponents, and we will not win any big games against ranked opponents until he moves on from Georgia football.

Vampire Bill

October 12th, 2012
8:12 am

I don’t see change coming anytime soon as I think the UGA top brass look at the football team as a business. Together with CMR they have come up with a solid game plan. Richt’s only stated goal is to win his SEC division. That puts him in the championship game which gives exposure and additional revenue. If by chance (smirk) they lose by 30 points, the team still gets to go to a middle tier bowl which of course generates additional revenue. Not a bad plan actually except that has little to do with football and NOTHING to do with winning a national championship.

I feel the UGA football program was actually hurt by winning the division last year and the 10 game patsy win streak. Fooled a lot of people and got Richt his fat extension.

KeepDreaming

October 12th, 2012
8:12 am

I think the S. Carolina game showed what suspensions on defense can really do. Both TDs scored early were blown coverages by Rambo who after the game admitted he was a “little rusty.”

Would love to see UGA start a season with its full gambit of players on the field!

sogadog

October 12th, 2012
8:16 am

“Whether you lose by one point or twenty eight points its just one loss.” Seriously? Being blown out 35 – 7 , being down 21-0 in the first quarter, and being down 35-0 before scoring a point is much worse than losing by a point. It shows a complete failure to prepare, coach and play. Its time to snatch off those rose colored glasses and stop acting like Pollyanna. Being blown away on national television in a key divisional game (yet again) is unacceptable and if I were McGarity I would get busy making some changes.

Tide Roll

October 12th, 2012
8:17 am

It’s funny. The picture shows Richt’s face revealing a combination of perplexity and a sort of grim acceptance of defeat, when the answer to his problems are standing right there beside him, offensive linemen MARK BEARD AND XZAVIER WARD! What an idiot!

Dawg4Life

October 12th, 2012
8:18 am

@KeepDreaming that’s true, but why did UGA drug test their players right after spring break, even though they shouldn’t be smoking weed anyway, but that was not a smart move in the first place. It all goes back to coaching and discipline.

beanster

October 12th, 2012
8:21 am

ALL’S WELL!!!

(smh combined with full-on facepalm)

ARdawg

October 12th, 2012
8:21 am

C’mon Chip. Decent coaching? Really?

Dawg4Life

October 12th, 2012
8:22 am

@Sogadog, I agree and that’s is the same mentality that CMR has that is filtered down to his players. ONE LOSS and especially a BLOWOUT is EVERYTHING in COLLEGE FOOTBALL. You should expect excellence!!!

Sunny Cloisters

October 12th, 2012
8:23 am

One word of advice to UGA: Petrino. Yes, he’s a douchebag in his personal life, but he’s a guaranteed winner. Richt is not a winner.

ARdawg

October 12th, 2012
8:23 am

On the coaching you’re quite generous there Chip.

“Overall I think we’ve coached pretty well,” Richt said.

At least Richt agrees with you

Newman

October 12th, 2012
8:23 am

Would Saban have been at the Luke Bryan concert if he had gotten his butt kicked so bad Saturday?

Dawg4Life

October 12th, 2012
8:24 am

Tide Roll,

Why don’t you Roll over to a Bama Newspaper website.

old dog

October 12th, 2012
8:24 am

OUR LINE GOT EXPOSED…..like the article said. Can’t win in the SEC w/o a top-notch line, and we do not have one. We have recruited well in other positions, but done an EXTREMELY poor job upfront, which still remains the area where the game is won or lost. We can block the little sisters, but not the big boys. Last year, Boise State, LSU, and Michigan State showed us that. They (especially in the second half) made adjustments to our weakness. Richt is in the SEC, not the ACC. You gotta bring in the big-boys. Our center is point-guard height (if he is six feet, so is Danny DiVito) and the rest of the line got torn up like a pit-bull with a rag-doll. Until we get better up front, we will not compete with the Alabama’a, etc. Muschamp has passed us and (yeah, laugh if you want) Dooley at Tennessee will do the same because, like his Dad, he knows where the game is won and lost. I know it is hard to believe, but in Saturday’s game, things would have been different if we had ‘Bama’s o-line! We better step up our efforts there or things will stay the same…….

beanster

October 12th, 2012
8:24 am

Bad analogy coach. Auburn was at least in that game for a quarter or maybe a little more. They were much more competitive than we were last Saturday that’s for sure.

Fair n Balanced

October 12th, 2012
8:24 am

Perfect storm may be right but it implies that we could have won the game. Maybe, but the fact is that for really the first time in a long while, SC defeated us because they are better. We got outplayed and out coached. BUT, while we are down, we are not out. I may be a Dumb and Dumber kind of guy, but I’m saying we still have a chance. A chance to win the East, to win the SEC to win a B C S Bowl. Go LSU!

Tide Roll

October 12th, 2012
8:26 am

Hire W. Virginia’s Head Coach, Dana Holgersen, and sign the best dual threat QB in America, the next Geno Smith, Marietta’s Anthony Jennings. Sign AND PLAY similar type of “Athletes” that you’ve faced in offensive lines for Tennesee, South Carolina, and will face at Florida (which have repeatedly gashed your defense), and off you go. Not just one, but multiple National Titles await, IF YOU”LL JUST DO IT! But McGarity has to have the guts to do it. And therein lies your problem. 32 damn years. Absolutely no excuse to go that long.

Joey

October 12th, 2012
8:28 am

kd, “..Not as Bad as it Looks?” I’m not even gonna read something with a title like that. That guy need to get less mellow. We have lost 5 games, 3 in blowout fashion, in a two year period in which we had favorable schedules in both, as well as almost unprecedented talent on the field with a veteran QB. Is that good?

Here’s a little more, “recent history” as I see it. The past 4+ seasons:

20 losses with 9 blowouts. Here are the blowout scores: 30-41, 10-49, 10-24, 19-45, 17-41, 31-49, 21-35, 10-42, 7-35.

“Not as Bad as it Looks?” 20 losses with 9 blowouts is not bad in 4.5 seasons?

Without looking, I bet that record puts UGA in the bottom 5 of the SEC in losses, and blowout losses.

That’s pretty damn bad, kd.

Leg H U M P E R S amaze me

October 12th, 2012
8:29 am

Chip you are right in with the rest of these morons. UGA will NEVER win a NC with the current coaching staff and coolaid drinking fans. They are deep down content with a nice program that wins 10 games a year.

cpinthedawghouse

October 12th, 2012
8:30 am

Disappointed? Yep. Reasonable expectations from good coaches, good players are to be consistently competitive. Maybe not win every game, but be competitive.Not get your butt handed to you.Once ,or more, EVERY YEAR from Richt, Georgia produces this result.Pattern??? You bet.

Pearl River Dawg

October 12th, 2012
8:30 am

CMR has had his 10 plus years. Time for a change.

I’m sure that at least 75% of Bulldog Nation agrees with that. It’s all up to McGarity to make it happen now.