Dawgs Outlast the Volunteers in Sanford Stadium Seige
Georgia beat Tennessee for the fifth straight time Saturday. The last time Georgia won its fifth straight game over the University of Tennessee we were the Georgia Goats. Well, not really—but almost. The year was 1924, but that five game streak against the Vols—or whatever they were called when Calvin Coolidge was president—covered 16 years. We have never beaten Tennessee five years in a row. They have beaten us nine years in a row, however. The last four wins in the current streak have all been by less than a touchdown. I don’t know why people thought this year would be any different.
Georgia beat Tennessee for the fifth straight time, scoring 35 points in the process. Fourth ranked Oklahoma scored 34 against the same team. I realize that Oklahoma only gave up 10 to the boys from Rocky Top, but the Sooners didn’t cull their three best defensive backs from their roster during the off-season. In fact, they went out and picked up another team’s castoff.
Todd Gurley ran over, through and around Tennessee defenders to the tune of 208 yards. He tacked on 30 yards receiving, just for good measure. The Dawgs elevated their record to 3-1 and coupled with Missouri’s upset of South Carolina put themselves right back in the hunt for the SEC East title, which would put them in the SEC title game in Atlanta, which could provide an opportunity for a trip to Pasadena or New Orleans for the first ever NCAA FBS play-off.
That’s a whole lot of coulda, shoulda, woulda—especially for a team that has so much trouble stopping the other bunch. But I am the eternal optimist and I saw a lot of positives in Saturday’s game. I realize I might be the only one who did, but there were times when the Georgia defense really had to hunker—and they really did.
Are you aware that Hudson Mason threw two interceptions yesterday? Yeah, I figured you were. To hear people talk he is the only Georgia quarterback to ever throw an interception in a conference game. Those two picks led to a grand total of 0 points for Tennessee. That’s right. The orange-clad band in the northwest corner of the stadium didn’t get to play a single note of Rocky Top after those particular turnovers. After the first one the defense held and the Vols punted to the Georgia 13. We answered with an 87-yard touchdown drive. After the second pick Tennessee was also forced to punt the ball back to us.
Our team was much more opportunistic than their team and the Georgia defense found a way to score points after Collin Barber had pinned the Vols back inside their own one yard-line as Josh Dawson fell on a fumble in the end zone for six points. I also saw passes being knocked out of receivers’ hands on several occasions, something I had not seen in years. So, yes, the defense is a work in progress, but there has been progress.
Let me make another observation. Much has been made of the fact that Todd Gurley doesn’t get the ball enough. He had 34 touches Saturday—28 carries, 4 receptions, 2 kick returns. 34 touches is a pretty good workload for, well, for someone not wearing number 34. I would offer that Todd Gurley, as great as he is, got about as much work as he could handle Saturday. Several times after long runs—including shortly after leaping a defender with a single bound—Gurley sprinted to the sideline, taking himself out of the game. I’m not criticizing him. If a guy is gassed I suppose he should come out. What I am saying is that Gurley pounded Clemson and Tennessee in the fourth quarter because Gurley was fresh. Mike Bobo has done a great job of using him and sparing him.
Bobo has also done a great job of keeping the offense balanced. It would be so easy to just “give the ball to Gurley” on every play, like the idiots in the stands want him to do. Bobo knows that we have to pass the ball to keep the defense honest and we have to spell Gurley to keep him ready to go. He has done a great job of both.
The one thing Bobo hasn’t done is throw or catch the ball very well. He also hasn’t done a great job of getting open on pass patterns. I bet he starts doing better at those tasks this week when Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell get back on the field.
Is Hudson Mason the best option at quarterback? I cannot say, but I can say that he has earned his chance to prove he isn’t. The second team quarterback and the loosest cheerleader are always the two most popular people on any college campus. I’m hoping we get a lopsided win next week and get to see Brice Ramsey play some, but I am not screaming to bench Mason after winning three of four games and averaging 42 points a game over the course of those four contests.
Just a couple of other observations about Saturday’s win. The call against Gurley for “spiking” the ball was the second cheapest unsportsmanlike flag in the history of the Southeastern Conference. Nothing will ever surpass the A.J. Green call against LSU. Like Mark Richt said after that one. “I thought he celebrated about the right amount.”
The aftermath was very similar. Both times we had to kick from 15 yards back and the other team got long returns to set up scoring drives. It wasn’t fatal this week, thank goodness.
Secondly, all SEC fans revel in claiming how tough the conference schedule is. “We have to be ready every week! Ohio State and Oregon have a one game schedule. Everybody in the SEC is tough!”
You’ve heard it and you’ve said it, and so have I. But when it is proven on the field we bitch and moan and complain and want to bench and/or fire everybody from Squab Jones to the loosest cheerleader on campus.
Vandy is next. I wish we were playing them tomorrow. Look for me Saturday y’all. I’ll be the good-looking guy in the red shirt—class of ’74. And ’97.
Darrell Huckaby is an author, educator and syndicated newspaper columnist. Visit his website at Dhuck08@bellsouth.net.