Sunday, October 8
I may be wrong, but I thought we said it couldn't happen here . . .
Like Dr. Dre, I feel for the nigga who think he just gon' come and change thangs.
Before I begin: Please, University of Georgia Athletic Association, no more soldiers parachuting into the stadium before kickoff. I know, it's cool-looking, I love the troops with all my heart, but pretty please with sugar and a cherry on top, no more goddamn parachuting. Good things do not happen when we do that.
Now then. If an angel had come to me in a dream Friday night and told me that Georgia was going to roll up a 24-7 lead on the way to scoring 33; that Joe Tereshinski was going to complete more than half his passes, and that Mohamed Massaquoi was going to remember how to catch them; and that we were going to average more than five yards a carry on the ground while holding the opponent to 3.4, I would've almost wet myself with joy. Would've very seriously considered gathering up my life savings, to the extent that I have any, and saying fuck the two points, give me the Dawgs in a straight upset. But all that was before The Most Bizarre Georgia Game I Have Ever Seen, referred to forthwith as the MBGGIHES, happened.
The nation's number-one scoring defense, getting tagged for more than 50 points by a team not coached by a Spurrier? A punt return and a KO return for touchdowns on our side? A third blocked punt in two games ending up a touchdown for theirs? Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson unable to muster a pass rush? After the near-horror of the Colorado game, I thought the solar system was perhaps a little out of alignment, but after the MBGGIHES I'm afraid we're all spinning off toward Alpha Centauri.
Yet strangely for an admitted toaster-thrower, I'm not predicting the end of the world over any of this. Sure, the usual gang of jackholes and bipolars on the AJC.com message boards have gone nuclear over the MBGGIHES, calling for Joe T's lifetime banishment from Bulldog Nation and coaching purges of varying degrees of severity, and to an extent that's to be expected whenever you open up the morning paper and see the number 51 sitting on someone else's side of the scoreboard, but if you're only looking at the points total or even the box score, you're not getting a full picture of what happened. If I may, I'd like to offer a few things to keep in mind:
1. You cannot lay the blame for this loss at Joe Tereshinski's feet.
The haters both within Bulldog Nation and without are all taking this game as a clear sign that Joe T has no business being the Bulldogs' quarterback. Without meaning to sound crude, they are all cordially invited to impregnate themselves. It's astounding just how willing these people are to forget the passes that Tereshinski was lacing right into the teeth of Tennessee's secondary in the first half, the fact that he was hitting the kind of long balls that Matt Stafford, peace be upon him, has yet to actually complete this season. Yes, Joe T threw two picks in the second half and lost a fumble, and that is unfortunate, but there were two main turning points that this game hinged on, and Joe was involved in only one of them (and only partially responsible for that one. If anything, Kregg Lumpkin was the one most directly responsible for those snafus, but I'm not going to spend all my time pissing on his grave, either).
Here are the two pillars upon which the second-half collapse was constructed, and yes, I know that last sentence is a paradox:
The interception on the first drive of the second half. During halftime, I told my sister that what we really needed to do to stanch the momentum Tennessee had built up on their just-before-the-half TD was go on a long, grind-it-out drive, wipe four or five minutes off the clock, and even if all we got was a field goal, we still would've fouled up the Vols' rhythm. Instead, what happened was the polar opposite: Second play of the drive, Tereshinski throws a pick that puts the Vols at our freakin' 19. Not exactly what you wanted to have happen.
The haters choose to excoriate a) Tereshinski for throwing the pick, and b) the coaches for telling him to throw in the first place. But Tereshinski wouldn't have thrown the pick if the ball hadn't been tipped, and the ball wouldn't have been tipped if Lumpkin had blocked his guy and kept him from getting his hands up in Joe T's grill. As for the play selection, well, fuck, what did you expect? That Richt was going to shrug his shoulders and say, "Well, Joe, you've gone 7-of-9 for 127 in the first half, but the people on AJC.com don't think you're that great so I'm gonna go in my shell and not let you throw anymore"?
That led to a touchdown that brought UT within three, but the game was obviously still salvageable at that point. The other turning point came about a quarter later:
The blocked punt recovered by Tennessee for a TD. Again, Lumpkin left someone unblocked and Ely-Kelso paid for it. That seems uncharacteristic even of the team that let two punts get plonked against Ole Miss, so I won't even make an overall judgment as to whether this means we've got serious problems on special teams. But I will point out that Tereshinski wasn't even on the field when this happened. That was when the MBGGIHES started slipping away in a major fashion.
In astrophysical terms, this is what's known as event horizon.
Yes, Joe fumbled on Georgia's next possession, and the haters have taken this as evidence that he should be rolling around the field on a motorized wheelchair bringing Gatorade to the players, not quarterbacking the team. But if you can point to any sign that this would never, ever have happened with Cox or Stafford under center, good luck. Have at it.
2. The defense is not as bad as it looked Saturday night.
Again, when you go from leading the nation with 6.8 points allowed per game to having a 51-bomb dropped on you in your own house, the temptation is to immediately hit the big red button and start crying meltdown. Now, our defensive effort against the Vols was definitely subpar, but let's not punt the entire season or give Willie Martinez cement shoes and throw him into the Oconee just yet.
Consider Tennessee's final yardage total: 383 yards. More than a Bulldog defense should be giving up, I'll certainly grant you that, but also a conspicuously so-so number of yards for a team that hung 51 points on somebody. Here were the lengths of Tennessee's touchdown drives in the second half last night: 19 yards, 36 yards, 0 yards (the blocked punt), 55 yards, 44 yards. Sound familiar? It should if you read the post I wrote after the UAB game, in which I pointed out that Georgia's overall strategy -- counting on the defense to cause turnovers and give us a short field on offense, and making big plays on special teams -- looked a whole lot like BeamerBall. Well, there was BeamerBall going on in the MBGGIHES, but this time Georgia was on the receiving end. And if the other team is grabbing the ball from you on your own 40 or 30 and not letting your defense stay off the field for more than a couple minutes at a time, your D is going to be spending a lot of time playing uphill and being very, very tired. It's not a recipe that spells holding your opponent to your season 6.8 PA average.
Now, should a defense as good as ours still have come up with a way to stop the Vols despite the short fields? Probably, and you certainly can't ignore the fact that we probably put up less of a pass rush than Duke did Saturday night. Kind of a head-scratcher for a team that has Q-Mo and Charles Johnson choppin' heads on the defensive line, to be sure. But let's take a moment to stop and consider that defending Tennessee is possibly a lot harder than it looks. Other than perhaps Florida, we're not going to see a team all season long that has as complete a receiving corps as Tennessee does; it's hard enough to cover the field when you've got two potential deep-threat wideouts to worry about, but Tennessee really had three. And when you consistently have to assign coverage to three deep threats, that makes it a lot harder to blitz, or even to create any kind of consistent pressure at all.
Then there's the fact that Tennessee's O-line may actually be, you know, pretty good. I don't know, I'm just planting seeds here. But that brings me to my third point:
3. Tennessee is actually a really good team -- good enough that this year, just maybe, they're better than us.
I know that's the last thing a Georgia Bulldog wants to admit, with respect to Tennessee or anybody else. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that Tennessee is the same bunch of functional retards they were last year. This is a team that began the season with an open-handed bitch-slapping of California (who has been murdering people ever since) and came within one point of knocking off Florida (who at this point has every reason to start thinking about a potential national-title run). Erik Ainge, a basket case in 2005, is now being Mr. Miyagi'd by the same guy who developed Peyton and Eli into superstars. Again, I know Georgia fans go to bed every night thinking that everybody in the SEC sucks except them, but that kind of attitude expressed toward this year's Tennessee squad only shows you haven't been paying much attention. It also makes you a homo.
Look, I'm not trying to sit here and come up with all kinds of Pollyanna excuses as to why everything in Bulldogland is OK, there's nothing at all wrong with the team, it's all sunshine and puppy dogs all the time. Clearly we've got some problems to work on. But if all you do is take a cursory glance at the final score of the MBGGIHES and then consider yourself qualified to go off on a rant about how the team has imploded, fuck off, 'cause you're not helping. This may sound crazy, but I'm actually more positive after this loss than I was after the narrow wins against Colorado and Ole Miss. We have an offense now, or at least the makings of one, and assuming that our dumbass fans haven't completely shot Tereshinski's confidence to hell, I think we have a starting quarterback. Our fairweather fans may not be, but I hope Mark Richt, at least, is smart enough to realize that Joe T gives us the best potential at this point for winning games rather than just giving the backups experience for next year. We also have special teams that can potentially turn a game around on any given play.
As my sister said last night, y'all musta had your vaccinations, 'cause there ain't no way you're catchin' TB.
We gave up a shitload of points, yes, but closer analysis reveals that this may have been an aberrance performed by a defense that spent the entire second half with the deck stacked high against it. Cut down on the turnovers and I doubt we'll be seeing another second-half landslide like that one. Easier said than done, I know, and nothing's going to be easy in this year's SEC, but I think we still have a chance to notch nine wins in the regular season and then tack on a 10th in a bowl game. If you agree with that, join me in supporting Comrade Richt. If you don't, fine, but at least do me the courtesy of shutting the fuck up and not dumping on our own team the way you dump on the people who wear orange. In particular, those suggesting massive housecleaning in the coaching staff are directed to do two things: First, read this post and this post from JMac at I'm a Realist, always a voice of sanity in the wilderness; then once you've done that, go become a Florida State fan. I'm sure they'd kill to have Mark Richt's services right now.
The MBGGIHES was frustrating. We fucked up. A lot. But if you're going to take that as a sign that things are utterly horrible and not going to get any better, your presence is no longer required in the fanbase. I'm sad, I'm disappointed, I don't like being the butt of jokes of Tech fans who even now have no choice but to live vicariously through other teams, but I'm sticking with the Dawgs. There is hope. And there's always Vanderbilt.
Don't cry, don't raise your eyes, it's only teenage wasteland.
Desperadoes waiting for a train:
· If there's a silver lining to all the anguish of Saturday, it is that Georgia allowing 51 points won't be the biggest story of the weekend in the SEC; I think we all know whom that slot's going to be reserved for. Just days after Tommy Tuberville went on an ill-supported rant about how hard it is for SEC teams to get to the BCS title game, the football gods told Tubbs to go get his shinebox and doomed #2 Auburn to a humiliating home loss to unranked Arkansas. Actually, it wasn't so much the football gods as it was the rapidly improving Hogs, who beat Auburn in a manner not unlike any of the other teams who have managed to beat Auburn over the past season and a half: Stuff the run and force Brandon Cox to win the game on his own. (Or if you can't do that, make Auburn's kicker miss five field goals, that works pretty good too.) If Auburn gets similarly bushwhacked by Florida next week, we may be looking at the very kind of high-expectation-induced collapse I was warning about at the beginning of the season, which would suddenly make Georgia-Auburn a winnable game again. Conversely, I'm real happy Arkansas fell off the sked this year.
Here's a tip: Next time you're thinking about opening your mouth . . . don't.
· I daresay my week will be devoid of a lot of crowing from Alabama fans, too . . . meaning that the most impressive game played by a D-IA Alabama team was probably UAB's 35-29 win over Memphis. Victory watch is at three, bitches! Bring on Rice!
· I will now make a peace offering to our Florida overlords in the hopes that they will reward us with mercy in Jacksonville in a few weeks: Florida is pretty fucking good. And that jump-ball TD by Tebow was -- well, I won't call it "astonishing" or "unreal" or any of those other words, because quite frankly, that was the goofiest-looking deliberate play I've ever seen in my life. But it says something about your team when you can do goofy shit like that while knowing exactly what you're doing at all times, and it works. Before the season, I'd picked Auburn and LSU to be the likely beneficiaries of BCS slots if the SEC was fortunate enough to claim two; now, I'm thinking I'd bet good money that it's Florida and Tennessee instead. The more teams we can cram into BCS bowls, the higher that pulls Georgia in terms of the conference's own sub-BCS bowl slate, so they can just keep on winning, it's fine with me.
· Since I tried to (for the most part) spare any overly harsh words against Georgia for their performance Saturday night, I guess I'll use them all against Bright House cable here in Birmingham for theirs. I can pick out at least three points during the game in which Bright House was so busy showing commercials that they jumped back into the game late. I missed a first down on one of Tennessee's second-half TD drives, and I saw probably only 60 yards of Thomas Brown's 99-yard KO return. Is this not truly adding insult to injury? The NCAA mucks around with the clock rules to shorten the game instead of just taking the obvious solution of not showing so many fuckin' ads, and then the cable companies play even more ads over the game itself. Terrrrific. It's only a matter of time before they start showing ads all the time and just keep the little scoreboard crawl at the bottom of the screen so you can check in with how your teams are doing.
· Finally, I know nobody paid any attention to this (and I didn't, either, until I saw the score this morning), but anyone who is predicting doom and gloom for Georgia's kicking game in the wake of Brandon Coutu's season-ending injury should be reminded just how good we have it with a backup like Andy Bailey. Florida International and North Texas went into overtime last night tied at 16; when the smoke finally cleared and UNT emerged with a 25-22 victory, they had gone through . . . seven overtimes. The final tally: five overtime possessions ended in made field goals, one ended with a fumble, and the other eight ended in missed field goals, FIU from 26, 25, 36, and 42 yards, UNT from 29, 38, 47, and 51. At some point don't you give serious thought to just going for it on fourth down? If the other team can't make a field goal to save their lives either, what have you got to lose?
Chin up, Scott. It could be worse.