Thursday, October 27
I'll be praying to a big god, as I kneel in the big church . . .
. . . that Joe Tereshinski doesn't completely melt down against Florida on Saturday. The thing is, and maybe I'm going all Pollyanna here, but I don't think he will. I wouldn't advise anyone to expect Matt Leinart numbers from him, but I don't think anybody should be bracing themselves for, say, a repeat of what Quincy Carter did against South Carolina in 2000. Obviously I'd feel better if Shockley were in there, but when life gives you lemons, you make Tereshinski-ade, and either way it ain't the end of the world just yet.
I got two words for you, kids: Clint Longley. Don't know who Clint Longley is? Nobody else did, either, until Dallas Cowboys QB Roger Staubach got hurt in the third quarter of the Thanksgiving Day Redskins-Cowboys game in 1974. Longley, who hadn't thrown a single pass all season, was sent in as Staubach's replacement, and with the Cowboys staring at a 16-3 deficit, it looked like all the 'Skins had to do was get in the n00b's face, grind out the clock, and go home and get their tryptophan on. Longley, however, apparently had other ideas, and he succeeded in bringing the Cowboys to within 23-17 in the fourth quarter. And with 35 seconds left, 'Boys 2nd-and-10 from midfield, Longley launched a deep pass to Drew Pearson, who snagged it at the four and sashayed into the end zone. Ballgame. When I was a kid in the '80s, the glory years of the first Joe Gibbs reign, my dad told me the Clint Longley story in much the same way that Latino parents warn their kids about Cucuy: Don't get too smug or cocky about how well the 'Skins are doing, or Clint Longley will get you!
Point is, every once in a while a hero steps out of nowhere, and when it comes to this particular rivalry, Georgia is due. And who better to lead that kind of out-of-nowhere charge than JoeT3? This is a dude whose granddad played for the Bulldogs' SEC-championship teams in the 1940s, his dad played for the Bulldogs' SEC-championship teams in the '70s, and now here he is, the third generation, making his first start in what is arguably the biggest game of what could end up being yet another title season for the Dawgs. Getting to defend the Dawgs' SEC title hopes in the Cocktail Party was probably a daydream of his ever since was old enough to know anything about football. Even when he was old enough to start daydreaming about nailing Pamela Anderson in the back of a Bentley, those fantasies probably ended with " . . . on my way home from Jacksonville after beating the Gators, of course."
In order for the Dawgs to win, though, T3's gonna have to give the Gators something to respect in the passing game, and that means the Georgia coaching staff is gonna have to let him. In other words, they're gonna have to let him air it out once in a while, lest the Gators decide to put eight or nine guys in the box every freaking play and tear our running backs (not to mention T3 himself) limb from limb.
Here's my Christmas wish for you, Mark Richt: Promise me that the first time JoeT3 gets stuck with a third-and-long in our own territory, you won't call a fucking toss sweep so that maybe our punter can pin the Gator offense a little deeper. That's all I ask. 'Cause when you do shit like that, you're basically saying to the opposing defense, "I don't trust this guy [our quarterback] to be able to get the first." I don't have a problem with conservative play-calling when it's still early in the game and there's no reason to pull out anything cutesy just yet, but there's conservative play-calling and then there's just plain wilting, and making Florida respect us is difficult enough as it is (though in Richt's defense, that was certainly a problem long before he even interviewed for this job).
The maddest I've ever been at our coaching staff was right at the very beginning of last year's Georgia-Auburn game: There we were, taking on the #3 team in the nation in their own stadium, and in spite of the fact that their defense was one of the scariest in the country, I'm talking Robert-Duvall-loving-the-smell-of-napalm-in-the-morning scary, we'd mounted a pretty sweet little opening drive that took us all the way down to the Auburn 19. First down, David Greene scrambles for a yard. Second down, Thomas Brown gets nailed in the backfield for a three-yard loss. We call a timeout to figure out what to do, and then, inexplicably, Leonard Pope false-starts to put us at third-and-17 from the 26. Now, anybody with at least a George W. Bush level of brain activity knew we probably weren't gonna pick up 17 yards on a designed run against the top defense in the SEC, but Richt calls a handoff to Brown, who gets stopped after seven yards.
At that precise moment, as I sat there amongst approximately 15,000 Georgia fans packed into a visitors' section big enough for maybe one-third that, I looked at my totally hot date, who was enjoying her very first SEC football experience and whom I wanted to impress soooo badly with a big-ass Georgia upset, and I knew we were gonna lose, because the coaching staff had basically said, Well, fuck, we can't get a touchdown here. They didn't have enough confidence in David Greene, winningest quarterback in the history of freaking D-IA football, to believe that he could maybe throw a fade or something to Pope and at least get the first down; instead, they declared themselves satisfied to take only what Auburn would give us and no more, which was destined to be not freaking much. From that moment on, as they used to say on "Seinfeld," Auburn had "hand" in the relationship, because Georgia had basically turned into that one pathetic guy in every circle of friends, the one who's dating some Playmate-caliber chick who's miles out of his league and protects this status by letting her walk all over him: You want me to stay in and watch "Sex and the City" with you instead of hanging out with my friends, without even the benefit of a post-show beejer in return? Fine, just don't break up with me! The football gods punished Georgia's cowardice by making the center snap the ball high on the ensuing field-goal attempt, which Andy Bailey obediently missed, and that was that. We were going to lose, and we did lose, and it was a loss richly deserved.
So all I'm saying, Georgia coaching staff, is don't do my boy Joe like that. Remember how T3 hit Sean Bailey on that 43-yard deep pass against Arkansas right before halftime, which set up the field goal that would ultimately prove to be the margin of victory? I don't care how good Florida's secondary is (though it is 13th in the nation, just FYI), you gotta let him toss a few more of those, because if you want others to love you, you must first love yourself, and that means loving your QB enough to believe he can make those kinds of throws. Force the Gators to respect something other than the run, or Shockley's not gonna be the only one with a bum knee come Sunday morning.
But as long as Richt and the coaching staff let T3 do his thang, I think he, and by extension our offense, will be fine. Regardless of what happens, I'm not betting on him to put up Cody Hodges-type numbers, because with the kind of defenses both Georgia and Florida are bringing to the table, this is destined to be one of those 20-16 (or less) type games where one side or the other so much as crossing midfield pretty much qualifies as a pants-pissingly-exciting moment. But call me crazy, I kind of like those games, you know? Say what you will about the 6-3 Alabama-Tennessee game last week, but it was exciting, every big play and every point mattered, and I think that's going to be the case Saturday.
And call me crazy again, but even though Georgia was already 2 for their past 15 against Florida coming into this game and had to suffer the indignity of losing their star player, there's this weirdly electric atmosphere around the game this weekend, like something really amazing is gonna happen that one team's fans are going to be talking about for a long time. I'm half expecting old men to start complaining of getting funny aches in their legs or dogs starting to act funny and go hide underneath beds en masse across the Southeast. I don't know what that amazing thing is gonna be, and I wouldn't dare try to predict it, but . . . well, it could be you, Joe Tereshinski The Third. Immortality! Take it! It's yours!
And, uh, go Dawgs. Sic 'em.