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Georgia's loose ends unravel championship hopes

I made the trip to the Georgia-Florida game, and I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express. Obviously neither did the Georgia Bulldogs. As is often the case, the Florida game was the biggest game of the year for Georgia, and once again the Bulldogs completely melted down. The only Georgia wins in recent memory over the Gators are 1997, 2004 and 2007. Coach Mark Richt now has a 2-6 record against Florida.

It was clear that Georgia would need to play a near perfect game to beat Florida, but the Gators were beatable. Ole Miss beat them in The Swamp. Georgia would need to be totally focused and full of confidence to win the game and they were neither. Making the mistakes that Georgia made against Florida is like sticking your arm in the mouth of some beast, or in this case an alligator. You are going to draw back a nub.

I try my best not to nitpick playcalling, especially that of college coaches. Football becomes an intricate game of strategy based on hours of watching video and analyzing matchups. I'm not in a position to do that but college coaches are paid well to do so. Try as I might, I can't avoid questioning Georgia's decision making early in this game.

Georgia's first play was a fake to Knowshon Moreno with the quick little dump off screen to Moreno in the middle of the line. All 85,000 pairs of eyes in the stadium were on number 24 and Florida jumped on it like they were in Georgia's huddle. Georgia meekly went three downs and out on their first possession.

On their second possession, the Bulldogs drove to the Florida 10 yard line. Moreno fought hard for eight yards on a first down to get them there. He then took himself out of the game as he has become prone to do. On second down and two, minus Moreno, Georgia tries a play action pass and gets sacked. On third down, with Moreno still on the bench, Georgia sends quarterback Matt Stafford on a sweep around left end into the teeth of the Gator defense. Field Goal U. then misses a field goal. I felt the air go out of the red and black then and there.

Later in the game, behind 14-3, after a long drive Georgia misses another field goal. I contend going for the field goal was a poor choice even if they had made it. There comes a time that you must appreciate the firepower of your opponent and swapping field goals with touchdowns against Florida was not going to cut it.

Trying an onside kick in the second quarter while you are still in the game is the ultimate gamble. Coach Richt uncharacteristically gambled, and lost. It reeked of pure desperation as if you were behind in the second half. The fact that colleges now kickoff from the 30 yard line tells me to dislike the onsides kick. Failure to recover an onsides kick cheaply puts your opponent in field goal range at the very least.

Georgia came into this season with great media generated expectations. They got on a roll at the end of last season and returned most of their key players from that team. The fans bought into the hype and with the impending schedule the Bulldogs were being set up for failure. They've had two huge chances on a national stage, against Alabama and Florida, and flunked both miserably. That's a tough pill to swallow.

If the Bulldogs win out, and that is a big if, they will finish with a record of 11-2 and be considered by most observers as a disappointment. That is the reality of modern day athletics at every level of competition. If perfection is expected of your team and you don't obtain it you are a failure. If perfection is not expected and you don't obtain it, everybody is still disappointed.

Georgia coach Mark Richt has a talented football team with quite frankly, a lot of loose ends. These loose ends have cost him big time in big games and prevented the chance to win some of the not so big games by a handier margin. How he tightens these loose ends will determine if the program remains where it is, worsens, or ascends to championship caliber. Those are his decisions to make, not mine, but I could offer some suggestions if asked. Thankfully, I won't be asked. My job is simply to support the team, not run it.

Web posted on Thursday, November 06, 2008

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