Trip to Grove Leaves me Shaking my Head
I wrote after the Nicholls State game that Georgia was the most ill-prepared and unmotivated Bulldog team I had witnessed in my 60-plus years as a fan. Last weekend I drove 400 miles across three states to see the current crop of Pups outdo themselves in a 45-14 loss to Ole Miss that wasn’t anywhere near as close as the final score.
But let’s talk about the positive before we delve into the debacle that was the football game.
Oxford, Mississippi is a hell of a town. It has Old South charm, truly friendly, hospitable people, a beautiful campus, beautiful women and a great pre-game vibe. I’ve never enjoyed a visit to a foreign campus more. Hotty Toddy, Oxford! Here’s to you.
Now having said that, The Grove is the most overrated tailgate venue I have experienced. At every Southeastern Conference campus I have visited, and that would be all of them, patrons are allowed to expand across the campus and entire town, if need be, to enjoy tailgating on green grass. There are grills and cornhole and youngsters tossing footballs and all manner of pleasant activities.
In The Grove every fan is relegated to a small patch of real estate and you cannot get from one tailgate to another without encroaching on someone else’s spot. I am sure that traditionalists would insist that this is all part of the charm, but I prefer a more laid back approach to enjoying the hours before kickoff. Plus, there wasn’t a blade of grass in sight and my buddy Dorsey Hill’s brand new shoes got so dusty he had to donate them to a homeless man as we drove out of town. Dorsey won’t wear anything that is not starched and tucked and clean as a whistle.
The craziest thing I saw in The Grove is the police making a poor guy pour out 48 perfectly good cold beers while three or four fifths of hard liquor was sitting on the table beside him. Hard liquor and wine are allowed in sanctity of The Grove. Beer is not.
Again, I am not disparaging Ole Miss. I already said I loved the town and the people and the hospitality and everyone needs to experience The Grove to have your knowledge of SEC football expanded, but I will be glad to be back at my spot under the oak trees on Agriculture Drive next Saturday.
But we have to talk about the game, don’t we?
Ole Miss went through the Georgia defense like a dose of salts through a widow woman all day long—at least when they weren’t going around and over them. The defensive backfield, which should be a strength of the unit, got beat time after time after time, and if Hugh Freeze hadn’t taken pity and pulled his All-America quarterback and first team offense when the score reached 45-0, they might still be scoring touchdowns at the rate of one every 90 seconds.
The Georgia offense? Well, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrion made some nice runs against the Ole Miss JV defense, but when the game was on the line and the Rebel starters were in the game the offense was abysmal. Nick Chubb was held under 100 yards for the third straight game and, in fact, his production has dropped in each game, from 80 to 66 to 57. Young Jacob Eason experienced growing pains and threw a really bad pick 6 and wasn’t particularly effective, but he was also the victim of lots and lots of dropped passes, which is a symptom of poor preparation and concentration.
Which didn’t keep Georgia coach Kirby Smart from throwing his freshman phenom under the bus, stating that “Eason is not developing quickly enough” and stating that he continues to throw into bad coverage and to put the team into bad play selections.
But Smart saved a little dirt to throw on Lorenzo Carter, too, berating him for not making any “big plays” to turn the game around.
I always liked those coaches, like Bear Bryant, who accepted all the blame when things went bad and gave all the credit to the players when things went well, rather than taking the “It’s my responsibility overall, but . . .” approach. That’s the way Jim Donnan did it. That’s the way Paul Johnson does it. I hate to see a Georgia coach start doing it, so early in his tenure.
We aren’t very good, y’all. I know most folks want to blame Mark Richt and talk about how bare he left the cover. But, like I said last week, he is coaching in Coral Gables now and Kirby Smart is in charge of, and fully responsible for, what happens in Athens from week to week. He may build a dynasty, and I hope he does, but right now he is coaching a football team that is fundamentally poor and playing without a lot of grit or determination. Even if our talent level is a little subpar, Georgia should never be behind anyone 45-0. Georgia should never miss five short field goals in 4 games.
And whatever happened to the toss sweep at Tailback U? I know we ran it once for 12 yards in the first quarter Saturday, but can’t remember seeing it again when the game was on the line.
But enough bitching from me. I got home late from Oxford Sunday so now I have a short week to get ready for Saturday. Look for me, spread out, on grass, under the oak trees. I’ll be the good looking guy in the red shirt. Go Dawgs!
Darrell Huckaby is an author, educator and syndicated newspaper columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.