Inexcusable Loss Punctuates Disappointing Season
Sorry I’m late, y’all. I wanted to wait and see if my analysis changed any. In 2008 I wrote a column immediately after the Tech game and was said to have made grown men cry. I promised myself I’d not do that again.
First of all, I am of a certain generation—before the Auburns and the Tennessees and the Floridas of the world were considered huge rivals—Georgia Tech was The Enemy. Pure and simple. The first Georgia game of which I have any recollection was in 1957. I was 5. My mama and I drove our second-hand Buck down to the back gate of the Osprey Mill in Porterdale and my daddy came out and sat in the car to listen to the end of the Tech-Georgia game.
Drought breaker Theron Sapp scored a touchdown and Georgia won 7-0 at historic Grant Field, ending an eight-game losing streak to the hated Yellow Jackets from North Avenue. It was the first time I had ever seen my daddy with tears in his eyes. The only other time I would see those same tears was the day we buried his mama.
That’s how important beating Georgia Tech is to those of my generation.
Saturday was a travesty and a microcosm of this entire season—which became an epic fail as far as I am concerned when Jacob Eason’s last gasp log was picked off, insuring a Tech win.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Georgia Tech does not have better athletes or football players than the University of Georgia. Except for quarterback, where the seasoned Justin Thomas gets a clear nod over the rookie Eason, Georgia had a better player at every position.
Yet, when I turned on the radio to head home after my disappointing walk across campus Saturday, Kirby Smart was bemoaning the fact that we just had to recruit better and get better players and more depth.
Bullshit! Yes, I’m calling Bullshit.
Yes, we need better players and more depth to compete for the Natty, or even the SEC East. But by God, we have good enough players to beat Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson just did a better job of using his. Tech was better prepared, better coached and more motivated.
We had good enough players to have a 27-14 lead and the ball at midfield with 8 minutes and change left in the game. Our players didn’t suddenly deteriorate into an inferior group of athletes. Tech’s players didn’t suddenly morph into legitimate SEC caliber athletes. But they sure as hell wanted to win more and their coaches sure as hell put them in position to do so, while ours tried to run out the clock.
Even after we couldn’t make a first down and were forced to punt, we pinned Tech on their own 6-yard line. And then backed them up to the 4 on the next play. Y’all know the rest and it is too painful to recap.
Kirby Smart inherited a team that had won 10 games the previous year and finished in the Top 25. He inherited a Top 5 recruiting class that included the number one QB in the land and the number one tight end. He inherited two superb running backs, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. He inherited three returning starters on the offensive line, as well as Isiah McKenzie. The cupboard was not bare. What he did with the contents of that cupboard was anemic.
Georgia averaged 24 points a game. Remember just a couple of years ago when we scored 42 a game and led the SEC and everybody wanted to fire Bobo?
Kirby Smart was given free hand and a wide open check book and he looked all over the land and decided that Jim Chaney was the best person in the country to handle Jacob Eason, Sony Michelle, Nick Chubb and company.
Chaney had great success as OC at Purdue, back in the previous century when Drew Brees was among his players. More recently he had served with little fanfare at Pittsburg, Arkansas and Tennessee. At Georgia this year he was stubbornly predictable and unimaginative and refused to alter his system to fit the skill sets of his players. The result was a tepid offense that struggled to score throughout the season. Saturday he chose to quit trying to score with eight minutes in the game and the result was a loss to Georgia Tech.
Kirby Smart is supposed to be a defensive genius. Kirby Smart has increased the number of aides attached to the football program by more than 20 and has spent twice as much money as his predecessor. Last week he hired Brian Van Gorder as a “defensive consultant.” It didn’t work out too well because when the game was on the line, the kids he had coached since last January couldn’t stop Georgia Tech.
Yes, I am venting. I am also writing the truth.
Losing to Tech is inexcusable, given the resources and the recruiting classes and the advantages we have.
After the game, after the classless Tech players and fans had destroyed our hedges for the second time in as many trips to Athens, the Governor’s Cup was presented to Paul Johnson in the Tech locker room. A person told me that he then cleared the room of the press and all outsiders and then released a tirade against the University of Georgia and its program and its fans, in which he used words that can be abbreviated using letters like MF and CS and other choice terms. Then he said, “I love coming here. I own this stadium.”
Let that sink in for 365 days.
7-5. With a last second win over Mizzou, winner of one conference game, and a 2-point win over Nicholls. Quite a body of work. I can live with the 7 and the first 4. It’s hard to live with that fifth loss.
To hell with Tech, now and forever.
The good people at Georgia Tech insist that I received erroneous information about Coach Johnson's post game comments and that he said nothing derogatory about the University of Georgia, its football program or its fans. If that is the case, I apologize profusely. I readily admit that I was not there and do not have direct knowledge that this happened.
Darrell Huckaby is an author, educator and syndicated newspaper columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.