Saturday’s Embarrassment was True Team Effort
I came home from New England last week with the mother of all chest colds. I was a trooper and enjoyed a magnificent tailgate under the oak trees on Agriculture Drive Saturday morning, but when it was time to break it all down and head to the stadium, I got in my car and drove like a demon to Conyers so I could be in front of my giant television set before kickoff. It was the best decision I made all day. It might have been the best decision anybody wearing red and black made all day.
Let’s be frank, y’all. We are not even a mediocre football team right now. It’s Homecoming and you are playing Vanderbilt—the team that is last in the conference in scoring, last in the conference in passing yards and last in the conference in rushing yards. They had not won a league game on the road in three years. They lost to the Trade School 38-7. They are not a mediocre team. They are a poor team. They are not quite as bad as Nicholls State, but they are not a good team. This was just what the doctor had ordered for a team struggling to find its identity.
And we were so well prepared and ready to play that we allowed them to run the opening kickoff 94 yards, from their own four to ours. You might check my math. My son teaches calculus. I had Colonel Stanley for my only college math class, made a D and was happy to have it. Then we made two straight penalties, inching the ball so close to our goal line that even Vanderbilt could score a touchdown.
And things would get worse from there.
A brash young man who has yet to experience 65 football seasons, as have I, told me at our tailgate that we had become a dominant running team again, based purely on a performance against Will Muschump’s Chickens last week. We were very bad running the ball Saturday. We were REALLY bad running the ball Saturday. We were playing Vanderbilt, who is better on defense than they are on offense, but they aren’t “Hold Nick Chubb to 40 yards” good. Not even close.
Something is really wrong with Georgia’s offense and it can’t all be put on the fact they we are playing a true freshman quarterback. There are 11 people on the field plus several coaches on the sideline. The guys on the field get room, board, tuition and books, (wink, wink) The guys on the sideline are getting paid enormous amounts of money to teach their charges how to block and where to run and to choose what schemes and plays we will run. Those guys aren’t earning their pay.
And Jason Eason completed 27 of 40 passes for 346 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t throw a pick—or fumble. That’s not a losing day if those other people, particularly the ones on the sideline, are doing their jobs.
Georgia may not have the best athletes in the league, but Georgia has better athletes than Vanderbilt. But they are not disciplined, which has translated into not well-coached for at least the past 11 years of the internet-age. My Cousins Middle School teams in 1975 could line up and run their plays without jumping off-side, because we drilled it into them in practice and there would be hell to pay if they did.
Remember how we all crucified the previous administration because of special teams and our inability to play a seamless kicking game? Isaiah McKenzie, who is one of my favorite Bulldogs, muffed two punts and didn’t seem to know if he were afoot or on horseback when balls came bouncing toward him. Those are things that are coached and problems that are overcome in practice.
We can’t seem to hem up a punt but we can catch a kickoff that is headed out of bounds and step out at our own 3. If that’s poor coaching last year and six years ago, it is poor coaching today.
And I am not just trying to beat up on Kirby Not So Smart. Georgia is my team and he is my coach, too, but if fair is fair, we need to assess the things we need to assess. When you lose to Vanderbilt everybody needs looking at. Kirby said so himself. So let’s look.
We finally got a hot field-goal kicker and so instead of allowing Los Cuatro Ojos Mexicano drill a 54-yarder as the half ended, we tried a Hail Mary that was not at all full of Grace.
And the decision to give the ball to Isaiah McKenzie around end on 4th and 1, instead of living or dying with Nick Chubb—or at the very least, Sony Michel--was at least as bad as throwing the ball on the goal line against South Carolina back when we had Mike Bobo to blame for all our shortcomings.
So it was not a very good showing for the UGA coaching staff. That’s OK. Kirby Smart is trying to find his way as a head coach and it will take time. I’m willing to give him the time, but I’d feel a lot better about the process if he were smart enough to realize he needs to do a better job and admit it, rather than talking about players not executing and blah, blah, blah. Fish Fry over on the Flats throws enough people under the bus for the whole state. We deserve a bigger man at the state’s Flagship Institution—and a better effort from our football team than we got on Saturday.
If things don’t change in a hurry, November won’t be much fun once the tailgate tents are struck. We have Auburn and Georgia Tech coming to town and a cupcake that has a lot more frosting than Nicholls State in between. And we have to take a trip to Jacksonville in two weeks, too.
But we won’t have to fret next Saturday. We are playing the perfect opponent for our current situation. Open Date. We haven’t lost to Open Date in any of the 65 football seasons I have experienced.
Look for me Thursday. I’ll be here with a Throwback, even though we don’t play.
I’ll be the good-looking guy in picture, wearing a red shirt.
Darrell Huckaby is an author, educator and syndicated newspaper columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.