Monday, November 30
Blue skies, heaven-sent.
You mess with our hedges, we mess with your turf . . . oh, no, I guess this is our turf now.
First, a confession: Other than Joe Cox's final kneeldown, I still have yet to see any of Georgia's win over Georgia Tech from Saturday night. When that game started, I was watching another game already in progress, and despite repeated offers by the other folks in the room to change the channel, I said no, partly out of a desire not to somehow "jinx" the team (hey, I never said there was any logic to any of this), partly because I wasn't sure I could bear the sight of the Dawgs getting trampled by Tech's running game. I just sat back on the couch, crossed my fingers, and did what they always tell you to do -- hope for the best while preparing for the worst.
The crawl at the bottom of the screen soon informed me that Georgia had gone up 7-0 on their very first drive; I didn't change the channel, thinking that the Dawgs appeared to have gotten off to a good start and didn't need my viewing eyes upsetting the delicate balance of . . . well, karma, or whatever cosmic force had spurred them to the early lead. (Again, didn't say there was any logic here.) When the Dawgs held Tech scoreless for the entire first half and held them to a field goal for their first score of the game, I didn't change the channel then, either, for the same reason. And then Georgia went into halftime up 17-3, and then I saw that Tech had scored on a 76-yard pass play on their first drive of the second half, only for Georgia to answer right back with a 75-yard run from Caleb King just seconds later, and then Georgia went into the final frame still ahead by double digits, and then kicked a field goal to go up 13, and then allowed a TD to the Jackets with seven and a half minutes left, and then had to give the ball back to Tech with three minutes left . . .
But then UGA-GT popped up on the crawl again with less than a minute and a half left in the game, and the little football icon was on Georgia's side, and I could finally breathe easily, knowing that the Dawgs were only a few kneeldowns away from getting revenge on the Jackets for last year's upset and closing out a trying regular season with their best win of the year. For the record, I don't regret not watching the game, as exciting as I'm sure it was; I'm going to pick it up on ESPN360 later on today anyway, and besides, I'm the kind of person who would rather the Dawgs go 14-0 and not be able to witness any of it than be present for every snap of a 10-3 year.
Didn't get to see Caleb King win the gold medal in the 75-yard dash, but I'm still confident it actually happened.
But here's what I do regret: not believing enough in our players. It's one thing to point out Georgia's weakness on this unit or that unit, express worry over a specific matchup, or even predict a loss; it's another thing to doubt whether your team has the heart to win a tough game, and I can't deny having done some of that in the week leading up to Clean Old-Fashioned Hate. In my "defense," I wasn't writing off our players as a bunch of spineless layabouts, but rather wondering whether they'd have the willpower or mental strength to get up off the mat after such a crushing loss to Kentucky and outlast a heavily favored opponent (after already having clinched Mark Richt's worse season, statistically speaking, to boot). But still, as someone who's gone ballistic over poor treatment of our players by our own fans, I shouldn't have done that, and I apologize to the team. I apologize to the coaches, too, whom I'd similarly written off.
Now, I'm not a Pollyanna about this one win, no matter how satisfying it might have been. After last season's solid bowl win over Michigan State, I think I made the mistake of being too quick to ass-out-of-you-and-me-assume that the problems that had made 2008 such a disappointment were automatically on the way to being solved, which clearly they weren't; I'm not going to make that same mistake this time around, because I know there's a lot of work to do over the next couple months. Souls will have to be searched, hard questions will have to be asked, and yes, people will have to get fired.
And no, beating Georgia Tech doesn't change that. Looked at a certain way, the GT win really shines an even more glaring light on some of our larger failings this season -- if we really had this much talent in the backfield, why didn't it start producing anything until halfway through the season? If we could screw our heads on straight enough to maintain a positive turnover margin against the #7 team in the country (and, it should be said, a team that came into the game 28th in the country in that category, at +6), why couldn't we do it against teams like South Carolina or Arizona State? If we could corral an offense as dangerous as Georgia Tech's as solidly as we did for four quarters Saturday, why did we only do it for two quarters when we faced them last year -- and why did we do it only intermittently (or in some cases not at all) against much lesser teams this time around?
Like I said, hard questions will have to be asked and very hard decisions will have to be made; I'll be digging into these topics over the next couple weeks. If Mark Richt makes the same mistake I made last year (and, evidently, that he made last year too) and assumes that one win has turned everything back in the right direction on its own, then we're more than likely going to be having this same conversation in a year's time, only in more desperate tones, and with yet more (like Richt's own job) on the line. But if Richt takes full stock of the season as a whole and full responsibility for his staff's failings, and makes changes in both personnel (no matter how hard they might be for him personally) and the overall attitude and mentality of the program, then there's reason to think that with the talent we have on hand, we'll be more than capable of fulfilling the promise this program seemed to display two years ago when we were marching out of the Superdome with 11 wins, a Sugar Bowl trophy, and a top-five ranking in our pocket.
Reshad, after all the crap you've had to take from me, the refs, and everyone else, you deserve some credit for being a DGD.
A lot of ifs, I know. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it; for right now, I'm certainly not going to let those difficult considerations cloud my enjoyment of a win over GT. I'll never be disappointed about beating the nerds, particularly at a juncture where they were angling to seize the mantle of the state's premier college football program. That may happen eventually, Techies -- law of averages, infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters, and all that -- but for right now, we're still Georgia and you're still Tech, and that still sucks for you.