Sunday, October 7

Who issued the instruction for this mad act of destruction?

Lots to tear my hair out about this morning, but before I get to that, I have some helmet stickers to give out: Thank you, Southern Cal. Merci beaucoup, Wisconsin. ﺷﻜﺮﺁ, UCLA. Because of your high-profile implosions on Saturday, the national media is all but completely ignoring what was easily the most wretched game the Bulldogs have played -- or coached -- during the Mark Richt era.

"Oh . . . uh, you're welcome, I guess."

The passing game was, with a few isolated exceptions, every bit as out-of-sync as it was during the worst moments of the South Carolina game. The rushing attack was a mere shadow of the one that had been talked up for weeks as Georgia's major strength. The defense could barely get into the proper position half the time, and even when they did, they "tackled" with an indifference I've not seen since the Jim Donnan years. The entire team looked like they were either recovering from New Year's-grade hangovers or attempting to run through mud that, strangely, Tennessee's players managed to avoid. Brian Mimbs was a beast at the punting position (yes, that was intended to sound ridiculous), and Demiko Goodman made an awesome catch to take away the shutout early in the third quarter, but otherwise, everything about this team, in every phase of the game, sucked. It was a Jim Mora "diddly-poo" speech waiting to happen.

Except it never did.

I watched the game in Atlanta with a bunch of the Tent City tailgating crew as part of poor Scotty Hartman's 30th birthday festivities, and I was able to listen to most of Mark Richt's postgame press conference as I made the long walk drive of shame back to the Salty 'Ham. I did not hear anyone yell, scream, or curse at that presser, which came as no surprise; I think anything short of Katharyn Richt getting bludgeoned to death by an al-Qaeda assassin in her own kitchen would elicit little more than a scowl on the face of our Fearless Leader, and to some extent that's been a boon for our program and our players. But to some extent it's also been a hindrance -- as I've alluded to before in this space -- and never has that been the case more than it was on Saturday. Some of the statements Richt made I had to grudgingly concede were true, but others -- such as the following quote, recounted with no small amount of incredulity by by Jeff Schultz in his dumbfounded column in Sunday's AJC -- made me wonder what a toaster oven would look like if it was hurled out the window of a Volkswagen Jetta traveling through downtown Atlanta at about 85 mph:

“It’s not that surprising to see Tennessee’s D-line handle our guys like that,” coach Mark Richt said Saturday.

Mark, you keep using that word, "surprising" -- I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Was it inconceivable that Tennessee's D-line would handle us like that? Certainly not. This is the SEC, after all, and even a subpar defense by SEC standards -- which, coming into this game, Tennessee's most certainly was -- usually still has enough raw talent to jump up and sock somebody in the mouth on any given day. If you did not find their domination of our offense surprising, however, then sir, you have truly lived a rich and exciting life. Here we had a Tennessee defense that, up until today, had appeared little more than passive spectators in relation to the offenses they faced, yet against the best Darren McFadden-less rushing attack in the league, they looked like the New England Patriots.

That isn't surprising to you? Not even a little bit? Look, we can even throw out the games Tennessee played against great teams like Cal and Florida. Southern Miss's offense managed not to get rolled by Tennessee; the Golden Eagles were down by only one at halftime. Arkansas State's offense managed to hang with the Vols, in Knoxville, into the fourth quarter. Yet Georgia, with a five-star QB and one of the best tailback tandems in the country, had been blown into the Tennessee River by halftime, if not sooner. The alternative to "not that surprising" is "I expected it"; Mark, did you expect that all this would happen? If you did, why'd we even charter a team bus up to Knoxville in the first place?

Let me slow down a bit before someone here in the Starbucks on 11th Avenue plugs me with a tranquilizer dart: It's entirely conceivable that Tennessee's 2-2 record, constructed as it was against pretty good teams, was a sort of reverse mirage, and that even a Georgia team performing at its highest level wouldn't have been able to beat the Vols at Neyland on Saturday. OK, fine. Honestly, given the high tensions and various motivating factors working on both sides in this game, a loss, while disappointing, would not have surprised me; and if the Dawgs had played their best but still not been able to seal the deal, I would've been bummed this morning, but I would've accepted it. Does anyone think, though, that we played at our highest level on Saturday? Does anyone, either inside or outside of Bulldog Nation, think that this team's baseline -- even taking into account youth, injuries, whatever -- is sub-Arkansas State?

The sun rising in the east: not surprising. Georgia being down 28-0 at halftime: slightly more so.

Sorry, Mark, but that game surprised me on a number of levels, and the fact that it didn't surprise you makes me wonder what the hell you guys were doing all of last week. What happened out there on the practice field, exactly? Or in the film room? Supposedly we were all fired up about avenging last year's collapse in Athens; what the hell happened to that? Anyone who reads Sunday Morning Quarterback knows that stats are fickle things, and they'll often lead you to conclusions completely at odds with the reality on the field, but when Georgia gets that thoroughly and immediately humiliated by a team with whom they supposedly matched up that favorably, it goes back to coaching. I'm not going to call for anyone to get fired based on a single game, but make no mistake, Mark, you guys fucked up. Georgia obviously doesn't win every game, we don't even look good in every single game, but rare is the time when I can say that we just didn't look prepared, that we looked like we hadn't bothered to watch so much as a minute of film on our opponent. This, however, is one of those times, and for you to declare the result "not that surprising" implies a degree of meek acceptance that really doesn't cut it anywhere in the Southeastern Conference, much less in Athens.

Yes, CMR has been very careful not to inflate expectations this season; he's been relatively candid about the shortcomings on both the offensive and defensive lines in particular, even when the team's been winning. But there's really no such thing as postgame sandbagging in this business -- around here we simply call that making excuses. And while I can't blame you for not being surprised that Tennessee turned out to be a pretty good team, I find it hard to believe that you wouldn't be surprised at our team playing that poorly. If that's the kind of team we really are, coach, then we might as well forfeit the remainder of the season.

The thing is, I don't think that's the kind of team we really are. That's the silver lining here -- OK, maybe only a stainless-steel lining. We thrashed Oklahoma State and beat Alabama on the road this year; we have empirical evidence that we are not completely clueless on the gridiron. If this was indeed the worst performance of the Mark Richt era -- and make no mistake, it was -- then take some solace in the fact that it took nearly seven full seasons to lay a turd that big on the field. I'm no mathematician, but I've got to think that it is statistically damn near impossible for us to play that poorly again this season. There's nowhere to go but up.

But we've got to go way up -- that game was so godawful that even incremental improvement may not be enough to beat Vanderbilt or Troy in the next few weeks, to say nothing of Florida, Auburn, or Kentucky -- and it's not going to happen by shrugging our shoulders and saying, "Well, I guess that's the best we can do." If you'll permit me to go back to the "Glengarry Glen Ross" well for the second time this season -- and yes, I realize that any season that inspires multiple invocations of Mamet plays is teetering dangerously close to self-parody -- I really wish someone would show up at our next team meeting and give a speech like this:


Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids.

(to the sales force)

You want to work here, close! You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit? You don’t like it, leave. (pause) I can go out there tonight, the materials you got, make myself fifteen thousand dollars. Tonight! In two hours! Can you? (pause) Can you? (pause) Go and do likewise. A-I-D-A. Get mad, you son-of-a-bitches! Get mad!

Yes, guys, it is time to get mad. A loss like Saturday's is certainly enough to completely short-circuit your brain for a couple days, but if you don't care enough to get mad about it -- mad about the fact that Tennessee has now humiliated us two years in a row, mad about the fact that you let them run all over us, mad about the fact that you were too distracted to even remember where the fucking neutral zone was on a number of occasions -- then this might not be your game. If you expected to play this poorly, then you don't need to be playing at all. It is time to decide what this team's potential really is and then get mad that we didn't reach it, or even come anywhere close, on Saturday -- and if Richt can't get that mad on his own, then he needs to bring in David Pollack, or Russell Crowe, or even Alec fucking Baldwin himself, to get that mad on his behalf.

But somebody's got to get mad. Be stunned, lick your wounds for a day or two, but then get mad. Michigan cared enough to do that, and they're 2-0 in the Big Ten right now. Southern Cal, I have no doubt, cares enough to do that and will demonstrate as much against Arizona this weekend. If we care enough to do that, from the coaches to the players right down to the waterboys, then we can hold our heads up high and win some fucking games this season. But if we don't, then there really isn't much point in even fielding a team the rest of the season, is there?

So it's time to decide.


Watson said...

i hope we dismantle vanderbilt. I want to see total domination for 60 minutes. Something along the lines of:

A shutout (If AU can nearly we do it, so can we)
Running up the score (Hell, I dont care anymore it's time to get mad. Somebody needs to pay for what happened and Saturday it better damn well be Vandy)
Something North of 40 points

Ben Rockwell said...

I don't even know what to say anymore. I wanted to be a blind loyalist and say everything is okay and not throw WM to the curb, but ever since we've lost BVG our D has suffered greatly. Maybe it's time to call across to the Plains and bring Will Muschamp home...

Anonymous said...

Van Gorder was the "Yin" to Mark Richt's "Yang." We really miss that.

But I'm convinced that what we miss the most, despite the abundance of talent that this team clearly has, is experience and the bravado that comes with that. I just don't think we have any vocal leaders; anyone who will get up in someone's grill when the take a bad angle or commit a stupid, drive-sustaining penalty. This will come with experience and maybe by the end of the '07 campaign this team will be better for it. But right now, I have to go out and buy a new television because I threw a cat through my old Sony yesterday at about 4:15 in the P.M.

dave clark said...

obviously the win over auburn in 2002 is mark richt's most important game at georgia. i've often argued that the '05 SECCG was his second more important proved that he wasn't a one-class coach, and that georgia would be fine in the post-greene/pollack era.

i dare say that this vandy game is his third most important. if we don't care enough to win this game, then we're in dangerous mediocre-feedback-loop territory: think tech or zook-era florida, teams that can every once in a while pull great wins out of their hindquarters but are always at risk for getting blown out or dropping cheapies against bad teams.

you get to be an afterthought real quicklike doing that, especially if your conference is stacked.

it'll be simple, really- have some brave playcalling, catch some balls, make some tackles, play with some DAMN FIRE...and i think we can still argue that the program is on OK footing. if we don't, well...i can't really stomach the thought.

go dawgs. please.

Anonymous said...

excellent post as always Doug - I wish CMR would come into the coaches meeting and give the GGGR speech....a telling moment was close to the end of the first half yesterday when I heard Loran tell the radio audience that the coaches were coaching harder than they had coached all year ( I am paraphrasing here). Now this is what I think I would say if this was Alec Baldwin speaking
"The time for coaching is the 164.5 hours other than the time that we are on the field. When we play we make adjustments but we are always coaching! Always! Do I have your attention? Are you interested? Have you made a decision you want to coach Div 1 football? Will you take action this Saturday? We're going to have a contest this week. The best performing unit gets to keep their jobs. Get the name of Georgia Football out there."

Universal Remonster said...

While I agree with most of your assessment, but my problem with the game wasn't from the lack of enthusiasm the coaches had, but the players. They all came onto the field with their tails between their legs, and I really believe Tennessee sensed that and got aggressive as a result.

Obviously we have some problems with our packages, because even with just pure athletic ability we should have been able to play better than we did. But the coaches were fired up. They were angry. I saw Mark Richt more animated at one point than I think I've ever seen hime before (he even made some Spurrier faces.) But the guys on the field, on offense and defense, were simply just looking around aimlessly as if asking, "... waht? You mean I'm suppoesed to tackle the guy with the ball? OH!"

Universal Remonster said...

I can't spell or make gramatically correct sentences when I'm angry, by the way.

Anonymous said...

From a Vol Fan who hasn't missed a home game since 1994: CMR may have not been surprised but I guarantee you that 75% of all knowledgeable Big Orange fans could not believe what happened. That was defintely a throw back game to how the Vols played in the 90's. We haven't looked like that in a long time. In other words a lot of Orange Homers were just as shocked as Georgia fans were/are. (Buck up tho and let's see what y'all can do to put Florida in last place in the East!)

One observation: the UGA Defense didn't handle the no huddle very well (I know its not a No Huddle when you walk up to the line, get set, and then look to the sideline for the call). But a lot of fans noticed Brandon Miller's wild gestures to the sidelines wanting the Defensive calls to come in. But since UGA had to line up right away, sans a Huddle just in case of quick snap, it kind of caught the Defense off guard. Either that or I'm just off my rocker and Miller was trying to give "you complete me signs" to that smokin hot water- bottle Student Manager.

Josh M. said...

"That was defintely a throw back game to how the Vols played in the 90's."

Funny, the game was also a throwback to how the Bulldogs played in the '90s.

Universal Remonster said...

I just had to come back on and comment on how, in my brief moment of madness, I forgot about the English language and wrote that we "had a problem with our packages." Defensive schemes would be more correct, i cannot attest to personally inspecting Ellerbe's package. Also, in a rant to my father on the phone this morning when he was lauding praise on Tim Tebow I told him that Tebow "throws sloppy balls."

My father didn't call me out on it, but unfortunately my fiance did, also noting that I said during the game that we were playing "grabass" football.

Apparently losing terribly makes me drop homo-erotic references as often as Tripp chadler drops the pigskin.

blackertai said...

Doug, maybe this will make you feel alittle better:

Gatorpilot said...

Fantastic, sir. Some of the best SEC football blogging I've yet come across. And it discusses two of the teams I dislike the most. Fabulous.

Mark Richt's comments would make me fightin' mad if I were a Georgia fan.

"Not that surprising?"

You shitting me?

I'm going to write this up at FanHouse. Fuck it!

Gatorpilot said...

By the way, you've outed yourself as a Pet Shop Boys fan. Welcome to the club! I'm ashamed of it too.