Ah, yes, the hair of the 'dawg (which will now be referred to as the Thomas Brown).
The hangover was in full freakin' effizzect, all right. Down 7-0 and outgained 188-87 after the first quarter? Thirty-six inches away from carrying a 14-0 deficit into the second? When Seth Adams completed his pass to Marshay Green down to the Georgia 1, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't contemplating which of my personal possessions would be least missed if they somehow got heaved off the balcony.
I'd also be lying if I said Adams's ensuing fumble at the 1 was anything other than an act of God, or Loki, or the lonely ghost of Jasper Sanks wandering the earth seeking vengeance for the ills that were visited upon him in his earthly life. But even though I should be a little embarrassed at needing a Rebel miscue that fluky to spark the momentum shift that spurred Georgia on to their eventual victory, I'm not; I dare say Florida would've been thrilled to receive something that fluky against Ole Miss last week. Or, hell, against Auburn this week.
On the other hand, 328 rushing yards? Not a fluke.
Actually, there were plenty of teams on Saturday that would've loved the opportunity to benefit from a fluke like that. So on a weekend when Georgia matched their season high for points production while six teams ranked above them got donkeybonked by supposedly inferior competition, I'm not going to spend too much time stewing about needing blind luck to accomplish this, that, or the other. Especially when the momentum didn't get permanently swung in Georgia's favor until a certain crossroads later on in the game, one that was the product not of luck but of a very astute and confident coaching staff.
Late in the third quarter, Ole Miss has tied the game up at 17 after an epic 18-play, 84-yard drive that burned more than nine minutes off the clock. On the ensuing drive, Georgia strikes quickly, going 80 yards in less than two and a half minutes too put Thomas Brown in the end zone for a second time, and then -- exhibiting a pair of big brass ones every bit as big and brassy as the ones he had midway through the third quarter of the Chick-fil-A Bowl -- Richt calls for an on-sides kick that catches Ole Miss completely unaware and gives the ball right back to the Dawgs.
Now, the kick by itself didn't end up meaning that much, since Stafford got sacked twice on the ensuing drive, with Georgia thus being held to a three-and-out and forced to punt to the Ole Miss 26. But it was important in two ways: First of all, it threw Ole Miss for a loop psychologically and put a hitch in the not-inconsiderable offensive rhythm they'd established, and second of all, it gave our defense a few extra critical minutes to catch their breath from the workout they'd just been put through on Ole Miss's marathon opening drive. Granted, I didn't get to see the game, instead having to listen to the streaming audio broadcast over the good ol' World Wide Net Web, but I have to ask: How does a defense go from allowing an 18-play drive that included 3-of-4 on third-down conversions and 1-of-1 on fourth down to holding their opponent to two straight three-and-outs and then stopping them on fourth-and-1? Again, I don't have a visual reference from which to judge, but I gotta think that on-sides kick, and the disruption it caused in Ole Miss's momentum, had something to do with it.
Ed Orgeron was so disheartened by the kick recovery that he didn't even have the energy to rip someone's still-beating heart out of his chest, like he usually does.
Yeah, I know -- had it failed, you might be reading a completely different post right now. But it didn't, and instead I get to laud my coaching staff for making a gutsy decision that helped out the team in ways that might not have been immediately apparent. You think Oklahoma fans wouldn't have liked for Bob Stoops to come up with a gut check like that when the Sooners were getting their asses handed to them in the fourth quarter in Boulder? Or that West Virginia fans wouldn't have appreciated some kind of slap to the face from Rich Rodriguez to get his guys to stop tripping over their own feet in the first half against USF? I won't pretend that I've been thrilled with every single decision our coaching staff has ever made -- certainly last year featured some head-scratchers that were well-documented here -- but as this season wears on I'm growing increasingly confident in their ability to adjust to the changing flow of a game and put the team in a position to succeed instead of piss away an obvious opportunity to win like we saw so many teams do this weekend. No more Vanderbilts-in-'06, in other words.
And no, the team isn't perfect by any means, but more and more I see the kind of spark from them that indicates they're going to be a lot better at the end of the season than they were at the beginning, which is all you can really ask for. There's still work to be done, for sure, and each week we see future opponents who didn't look all that tough come up with something that indicates they might present a considerable challenge after all. But we're growing and maturing in an area that seemed most deficient through last year's embarrassing midseason stretch -- mental focus and toughness -- and I'm really looking forward to where things are going to go next.
As is Willie Martinez, who is VERY! EXCITED!
And now for some other crap:
· I realize that complaints about ESPN's booth announcers talking about anything other than the game they're actually attending are practically on the same level as complaining about the weather or other drivers at this point. I also realize that South Florida's win over WVU on Friday was a big deal. But seriously, guys, was Auburn's 14-0 halftime lead over #4 Florida really so un-shocking or uninteresting to you that you had to cut to a phone interview with Jim Leavitt in the middle of the action? You've got ample opportunities to air stuff like that -- "College Gameday Final," "SportsCenter," the halftime show, whatever. But I was watching Auburn-Florida because I wanted to see how Auburn and Florida would do, not because I wanted to hear a USF-WVU rehash. Stop this infuriating habit, or I will kidnap Lou Holtz and start sending pieces of him to you in the mail.
· And on that note: War Eagle, motherfuckers.
Oh, yes, let me taste your tears! Your tears are so yummy and sweet!
I was actually kind of conflicted about whom to root for in that game. On the one hand, certainly I want Florida to lose as much as humanly possible, but on the other hand, did I really want Auburn to turn out to be good? I mean, obviously the chances are good that we're going to have to absorb a loss from the Gators this year, so isn't it better for Auburn to suck than for both teams to present real threats to Georgia this season? (Then there's the desire to avoid the coals-to-Newcastle situation of Tommy Tuberville's ego getting inflated any more than it already is.)
But in the end I went with my heart and cheered on the Tigers, and even took the once-unthinkable step of hollering "War Eagle" at a few of my Auburn homies in Birmingham today. Obviously both Auburn and Florida are going to be tough this year, but I'm not convinced that either is an automatic loss. And I do like the fact that a strategy for beating the Gators -- to wit, stuff Tim Tebow at every available opportunity, and to hell with everything else -- has been somewhat clearly laid out for us.
· Even so, given the opportunity I probably would've traded the Florida upset for Steve Spurrier getting Croomed in Columbia earlier in the day. Oh, well.
· Incidentally, I was watching the game with a friend of mine who did not attend UF but grew up near there and is a fairly intense Gator fan, and I have a fairly weird history of football-watching with her. Through the 2003 and '04 seasons, Georgia suffered only five losses, yet for three of them -- LSU and Florida '03 and Tennessee '04 -- she watched the game with me (and was in Auburn for the '04 loss to the Tigers). Needless to say, I picked her out as a horrible, horrible jinx and informed her that I would not watch any more Georgia games in her presence. But all it took was one Florida loss for her to deem me (and my little dog too) a jinx and all but throw me out of her house. Tough break, lady! But you're welcome to come on over and watch Florida-LSU at my place this week.
· Folks in the Southeast were treated to a fascinating display of football physics Saturday when Chan Gailey Equilibrium collided with Tommy Bowden Equilibrium -- a more recent discovery, but no less powerful -- in spectacular fashion on the Flats. That, for the record, is why I only had Clemson at #20 in my most recent BlogPoll ballot and probably won't have Tech on my next one despite their victory. By the end of that game, did anyone seriously think they weren't looking at a pair of 7-5 teams who'd be jockeying furiously for Champs Sports Bowl position by late November?
"Sorry about this, bro."
"Hey, y'all are 2-2, we're 4-0 -- it had to happen."
· I'm still scratching my head at how Alabama managed to do so little against Florida State last night, but the postmortem that went up at Roll Bama Roll this morning gave me a clue to their continuing struggles on offense:
John Parker Wilson was terrible, end of story. His quarterback play thus far this year has been the worst we've had from any starter since John David Phillips in 1998.
The answer is sitting there right in front of you, Tide fans, and it is this: You must limit your quarterbacks to two names only. You didn't see Brodie Croyle insisting that people call him John Brodie Croyle, did you? Then make Wilson go by just "John" or "J.P." and be done with it. The one overriding conclusion I came away with from the game in Jacksonville was that it featured two extremely pretentiously named quarterbacks; "John Parker Wilson" and "Drew Weatherford" should be schmoozing their dads' friends in the bar of the country club after 18 holes, not throwing passes for major D-IA programs. But "J.P. Wilson," now, he's got a chance.
· Something else weird from Saturday: Purdue, despite winning, was outgained by Notre Dame's offense. If that doesn't convince you that Purdue's defense is absolute shit (they're currently 92nd in the country against the pass), I don't know what will.
· Finally, it's time to truck out two weekly features -- one new one, and one that's being brought out after a modest hiatus.
First of all, the weekly Wofford Terriers watch: Like Georgia's dogs, Wofford's exhibited a bit of a hangover from a big win the previous week, leading one-win Furman by only three at halftime, but busted out with 21 straight points after halftime to sock the Paladins 45-20. Wofford is now 2-0 and sitting atop the Southern Conference, a game ahead of the only other team with an unblemished SoCon record, the Citadel.
Terriers: Hell on spaniels, even worse on Furman.
And now for the weekly SI.com Cheerleader Curse Watch, which I began researching and reporting on last season. The curse whiffed in its 2007 debut, with Ohio State still managing to put away Washington despite the selection of OSU's Allison Humbert as Cheerleader of the Week, but this past week's featured cheerleader was . . . well, see for yourself:
This unfortunate young lady is Stephani DeBrucque, whose Oklahoma Sooners got whacked by an unranked Colorado team on Saturday. Does the curse live? Oh, yes, it lives. It's certainly more alive than the Sooners' national-title hopes, at any rate.
SI, if you pick a Georgia girl as Cheerleader of the Week, I am fully prepared to set off a dirty bomb in your corporate headquarters. Otherwise, you're doing a great job! Kisses!