ATHENS- Bulldog fans excused the loss to South Carolina. Georgia played on the road with a new defense against a great young running back. Dawg Nation was disappointed with the loss to Arkansas but the late forth quarter comeback made fans forget the miserable three quarters that preceded the rally. But, Saturday was the kicker. Georgia lost 24-12 on the road against Mississippi State to slip to 0-3 in the SEC. Excuses?
I have heard them all, and until recently I was exclaiming the excuses along with the next guy. I could not stomach the thought that Georgia was not very good. Slightly before the 7 PM kickoff on Saturday, I had multiple friends sending me text messages stating, “The Arkansas loss does not look so bad now” (Referring to the epic battle between the Razorbacks and Crimson Tide). I even bought into the texts for a second and rallied at the hope that Starkville would be where Georgia turned their season around. But then, Georgia played.
Three things have caught my attention in the first three SEC losses thus far. The Bulldogs have come out flat, failed to execute in the clutch, and never seem to feel desperation even when the situation calls for it.
In Georgia’s three SEC games they have scored 16 points in the first half of those games. Of the 42 points, which more then half of those were against Arkansas, only 16 points were scored in the first 30 minutes of the game. Prior to the season, I stated that if Georgia was going to be successful in 2010 they were going to need to establish themselves early in each of their games because their offense would struggle if they played from behind. Other then the Bulldog’s victory over U La La, Georgia has come out flat in every game they have played this season. The team has not been able to come out of the gates smoothly and it has cost them severely.
Secondly, the Dawgs have not been able to capitalize when they have a chance to score in clutch situations. While Georgia has not started each game the way they hoped, they were in position to win late in games if they could produce in pressure situations.
The Bulldogs were only down 8 points against South Carolina almost the entire second half until the Gamecocks kicked a field goal with a minute and ten seconds left in the game. Georgia had three drives in which they had an opportunity to tie or close the gap to one after they kicked a field goal in their opening drive of the second half. Washaun Ealey fumbled in the red zone on Georgia’s second drive and the other two drives were three and out. The Bulldogs could not produce in tough spots.
At home against Arkansas, Georgia made a remarkable come back late in the forth quarter to tie the game at 24. Aaron Murray and the Dawg’s offense produced electrifying plays when the team was trailing. But, when the time came to “rise up” (as stated by Falcons fan Samuel L. Jackson) Georgia fell flat on their face. Whether the offense sputtered due to bad coaching or poor execution, Georgia could not produce in a tight spot.
This past Saturday in Starkville, Georgia had countless opportunities to march down the field and put points on the board. Until 4:22 left in the forth quarter Georgia was only down by four points. The Dawgs trailed by only one for most of the game. But, Chris Relf connected on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Arceto Clark to put Mississippi ahead 17-6. While Georgia had missed opportunity after opportunity to take the lead, they were only down 11 with 4:22 left in the game. A lot can happen in the game of football in 4:22. In the next three plays, Georgia gained six yards but was hit with a five-yard penalty and was forced to punt. Three plays later, Mississippi State scored another touchdown and the nailed was hammered into the coffin of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Point being, when Georgia is backed into a corner and needs a big play they come up short.
The final point cannot be argued with stats and numbers, only by observation. The passion that used to fill the locker room, sidelines and even stands for the University of Georgia has departed. The Bulldogs do not look as if they feel the heat and pressure to win. I know from being a competitor that athletes want to win, but it sure does not look like they care. From what I see when I look at the Georgia sideline, I see a lot of talented athletes that believe they deserve a win just by stepping on the field. Thus far in 2010, they have not busted their tales for the extra yard to get the job done.
Most of the issues I have brought up are coaching issues, but I do not believe that all the blame lies on Mark Richt and his staff. I believe it is the coach’s job to get his team prepared for each and every game. The poor starts and unproductive first halves have been evidence that the team is not prepared. But, players need to execute as well. As a whole, Georgia’s football program is sinking. The Titanic has broken in half and is starting to plunge into the ocean. Will Mark Richt survive this season and get another shot at leading the Georgia Bulldogs back to the upper echelon in the SEC? One thing is for sure, he will not freeze to death and suffer Jack Dawson’s fate because Mr. Richt’s seat is blazing hot now with no sign of cooling off in the immediate future.