Rent a Home for a UGA Football Game!

October 30, 2009

VIDEO: 1929 Georgia-Yale

Since a victory over the Gators tomorrow is going to be hard to come by, I thought I'd post a video from a definite Bulldog victory--one of the most memorable wins in Georgia football history.  Actually, I wanted to post it two weeks ago during the week of the 80th anniversary of Sanford Stadium's dedication.  Admittingly, it has taken me this long to figure how to convert my DVD and post it on YouTube.

Coach Dooley gave me this 10-minute video a couple years ago, featuring Georgia vs. Yale on October 12, 1929--the Bulldogs' first game in Sanford Stadium.  Nearly three weeks ago, I posted about the game's details and events.  In this footage, you can hear the Redcoat Band playing "Glory, Glory," see it Yale's band marching through downtown Athens, and witness one of the greatest plays in Bulldog history--Spurgeon Chandler's fourth-quarter, 22-yard touchdown pass to Vernon "Catfish" Smith, resulting in the final six points of a 15-0 Georgia win, wherein every point was scored by Catfish.

At the 1:46 mark of the video, I swear I hear someone holler, "Down in front!"  Does anyone say that nowadays?  Also, midway through the video, both bands lead their respective teams onto the field in the pregame.  You don't see that very often.  Soon afterwards, you'll see approximately 10 or so men gathered at midfield.  Five of these individuals were the governors of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, and Connecticut for part of the game's pregame dedication.  By the way, Georgia is in white tops, Yale in blue.  Enjoy...


October 29, 2009

You're Number One!


There was no stopping #1 Pitt's Tony Dorsett in the '77 Sugar Bowl (Sports Illustrated).

This Saturday, Georgia tackles, or will attempt to, the Florida Gators--the number one ranked team in most polls, including the BCS, Coaches, and AP.  I met with Claude Felton last week and he commented on how the Bulldogs, although having a 1-2 record against AP-ranked number ones in history, have never defeated a number one ranked team in the Coaches Poll.  When Georgia defeated Florida in 1985, the Gators were ranked #1 in the AP Poll but unranked in the Coaches.  Florida had been placed on probation the year before and were not allowed to be ranked by polled coaches in their UPI rankings.

I remember the 24-3 monumental victory over Florida from nearly a quarter-century ago like it was yesterday.  I was 10-years old and my father and I hovered over a radio, hanging on every word uttered by Larry Munson, since the Gators' probation kept the game from being televised.  I go into detail about the game in my "Great but Obscure" series.  The thing I remember the most is how both teams moved up and down the field the entire contest; Georgia used a powerful running game, breaking off several long runs, while Florida utilized the arm of its quarterback, Kerwin Bell.  The difference was the Bulldogs were able to get into the end zone, the Gators, despite 400+ yards passing, could not.

Georgia's first meeting against an AP #1 came in the 1977 Sugar Bowl against Pittsburgh and its Heisman-winning running back, Tony Dorsett.  Leading up to the game, reportedly, Bulldog defensive coordinator Erk Russell had devised a scheme for the defense to specifically slow Dorsett.  Unfortunately for Russell and his "Junkyard Dogs," Pitt quarterback Matt Cavanaugh unexpectedly came out throwing (VIDEO from Mark Bolding's "Exhaustive Site of Bowl History").  After passing for less than 100 yards per game during the regular season, Cavanaugh, who would be named the bowl's MVP, threw for 185 yards in the first half as the Panther's held a commanding 21-0 halftime lead over the fourth-ranked Bulldogs.  Pitt would eventually turn to Dorsett, who rushed for a Sugar Bowl-record 202 yards, and Georgia and its slim national title hopes were crushed, 27-3.  The game was actually more lopsided than the score indicated as the Dogs were outgained by nearly 300 yards (480-181), threw more interceptions than completed passes (4-3), and also lost two fumbles.

Georgia's third and last meeting against a top-ranked AP team was against Florida in 1996.  Following a two-year hiatus because of the Gator Bowl's renovation, the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" returned to Jacksonville.  The Gators jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead behind four touchdown passes by Danny Wuerffel, the eventual Heisman recipient.  Florida won easily 47-7 and even covered the whopping 35-point spread.  The Gators eventually won the national championship while the Bulldogs, guided by first-year coach Jim Donnan, finished with a 5-6 mark--Georgia's last losing campaign, to date.

An unfamiliar meeting against a number one ranked team for Georgia occurred in its season finale of 1942.  Georgia Tech entered with a perfect 9-0 record and, although ranked #2 in the AP, sat atop the Williamson System--a power rating system recognized by the NCAA from 1932-1963 chosen by Paul Williamson and printed in newspapers nationwide.  Led by Frank Sinkwich and Charley Trippi, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs trounced the Yellow Jackets, 34-0.  Sinkwich, who would receive the Heisman Trophy 10 days later, rushed for 72 yards and passed for another 107.  The sensational sophomore Trippi rushed for 114 yards, including 87 on one of the most memorable runs in Georgia football history, and threw two touchdown passes.  Georgia Tech freshman All-American Clint Castleberry,  who had been averaging more than seven yards per rush, was held to 8 yards on 6 carries.

Alternatively, playing as the top-ranked team in the AP Poll, Georgia has also lost just two games, winning eight, and appearing a total of 15 times as the poll's #1.  The Bulldogs were first ranked atop the AP following a victory over #2 Alabama on Halloween of 1942.  Georgia's 15th and last number-one appearance was in the preseason poll of only a year ago.


The 15 occasions Georgia has been ranked #1 by the AP ranks fifth all time of current SEC teams.  The following is a ranking of the SEC's #1 appearances along with some other teams of interest: 
 1) Alabama- 37
 2) Florida- 36
 3) LSU- 19
 4) Tennessee- 18
 5) Georgia- 15
 6) Auburn- 7
 7) Ole Miss- 5
 8) Arkansas- 1
 9) Kentucky, Miss. State, S. Carolina, Vanderbilt- 0

OTHERS:
Clemson- 2
Florida State- 60
Georgia Tech- 0
Miami (Fla)- 68

October 27, 2009

A Big "Dog"


The aftermath of a three-touchdown underdog finally defeating the "Evil Genius" in 1997 (The Red & Black).

This week, Georgia finds itself in a position it hasn't been in a long while--that of a substantial underdog.  As of Tuesday morning, the Bulldogs are 16-point underdogs to Florida for this Saturday's game--the biggest underdog Georgia has been since the Florida game eight years ago.  In fact, in 441 games played by the Dogs since 1973, 107 of which they entered as underdogs, only seven times has Georgia been considered a bigger underdog:

35- 1996 vs. Florida (Lost 47-7)
23'- 1995 vs. Florida (Lost 52-17)
21- 1994 at Florida (Lost 52-14)
20'- 1997 vs. Florida (Won 37-17)
19- 1973 at Alabama (Lost 28-14)
19- 2001 vs. Florida (Lost 24-10)
18- 1990 vs. Florida (Lost 38-7)
16- 1990 at Auburn (Lost 33-10)
16- 2009 vs. Florida (???)
Notice a pattern above besides the fact Georgia has won only once when considered an underdog of 16 or more points?  Seven of the top nine games have come against Florida, including six when Steve Spurrier was in Gainesville.  In addition, Georgia has had a difficult time covering the spread when a significant underdog.  Speaking of point spreads...

Mention "point spread" to many folks and their first and only thought is of illegal and unethical gambling.  Everyone certainly has a right to an opinion; however, I consider point spreads in sports to have significant value beyond the gambling aspect.

If a college football team "covers the spread," it out-performed what the spread setters and the betting public perceived as the accurate point spread between the two teams and vice versa.  It can be interpreted that a team who is successful against the spread over a stretch of games is a team who likely overachieved over that particular time period.  On the contrary, a team who usually doesn't cover the spread is usually disappointing and not meeting expectations.

In Georgia's case, over the last 10 seasons, the Bulldogs' best seasons against the spread were in 2002 (10-3) and 2007 (8-4)--Georgia's two most successful seasons of the decade.  On the other hand, let's face it, the Bulldogs have been somewhat disappointing since the start of last season. Although Georgia has a 14-6 overall record since the beginning of 2008, it is only 6-12-1 against the number, including just 4-12 since last year's Alabama game.

The information presented in this post is for entertainment purposes only and this blog and its blogger do not advocate gambling.  Especially, considering the information above, if one was thinking of betting hard-earned money on the Bulldogs this week.

October 24, 2009

Bulldogs Off A Bye

Today is one of those infrequent and, more often than not, precious Saturdays during the Bulldogs' football season--a bye week, or, if you prefer, off week or open date.  ESPN's Colin Cowherd mentioned the other day on radio how the best coaches, particularly in the NFL, usually have an outstanding record in games following an open date; give a great coach an extra week to prepare for an opponent and his team should have success against said opposition.In Georgia and Mark Richt's case, I immediately think of two years ago.  The Bulldogs were crushed by Tennessee, dropping their record to 4-2, and were almost, and probably should have been, defeated by Vanderbilt the following week.  Georgia used a much-needed off week to regroup and, as more than a touchdown underdog, defeated Florida (photo) following the bye.
 
From then on out, the Dogs resembled a much different team than before, coasting through the rest of their schedule to 11 wins, a Sugar Bowl victory, and a #2 final ranking.  Many have pointed to that particular open date in the 2007 schedule as a major factor that assisted in Georgia's late-season success.  Two years later, the Bulldog Nation is praying this week's open date will help the Bulldogs get organized and rejuvenated, hopefully leading to a competitive showing against top-ranked Florida next Saturday.
 
In recent history, Georgia, for the most part, has benefited from having two or even three bye weeks a year, like the majority of collegiate teams.  Until the 1950s, the Bulldogs had no open dates in their schedule for most seasons, playing straight through on every Saturday.  Georgia then enjoyed a single off week nearly every season, usually occurring the week between the Auburn and Georgia Tech games--the Dogs' final two regular-season opponents.  In 1968, Georgia had two open dates for the first time and then again in 1975.  However, the Bulldogs did not schedule two yearly bye weeks on a regular basis until 1980.  Since then, in 29 seasons through 2008, Georgia has had two off weeks in 21 seasons, three off weeks in four campaigns, and only one off week in four seasons.
 
We remember Georgia benefiting from its lone bye week in 2007 but have breaks in the schedule historically helped the Bulldogs?  Since 1980, in games following an open Saturday, Georgia has a 39-17-2 (.690) record.  In comparison, from 1980 to the present, the Bulldogs have an overall record of 255-99-5 (.717)--a slightly better winning percentage than off bye weeks.  A more telling comparison: If Georgia's record off byes, season openers, and bowl games are excluded from its overall record, the Bulldogs are 175-70-1 (.713) since 1980 in games played on consecutive Saturdays with no rest, again, slightly superior compared to their record following open dates.  Of Georgia's 58 games after bye weeks, an even better indicator is the fact the Dogs were favored to win 74% (43) of the games but yet were victorious in just 69%. 
 
For the Bulldogs since 1980, there certainly appears no correlation between having a week off  and success, including during the Coach Richt era.  To date, Richt's overall record is 86-25 (.775), including 61-19 (.763) on consecutive Saturday games.  He is 11-3 (.786) following open dates but his teams have been favored in 12 of these 14 contests.  On a positive note, Georgia is 8-6-1 as an underdog off a bye since 1980, including 2-0 under Richt.
 
Coach Richt's three losses after an open date are unfortunately easy to recall--Auburn in 2001, the Tigers again in 2005, and Georgia Tech last year.  Notwithstanding, some of the coach's greatest wins, like LSU in 2004, Tennessee a year later, Georgia Tech in 2006, and, as mentioned, a rare victory over the Gators two years ago, have resulted for Richt and his Bulldogs off a bye.  It'll likely take a miracle but just maybe, somehow, someway, "Florida in 2009" can be added to the list a week from tonight.  

For Georgia since 1980:

* Open dates include the Saturday following Georgia's game vs. Alabama on a Monday in 1985 and the Saturdays prior to Georgia playing Georgia Tech on Thanksgiving in 1993, a Friday in 1994, and Thanksgiving in 1995.

* Of the 29 seasons, 20 had a bye week prior to the Georgia Tech game.

* The 1986, 1989, 2006, and 2007 seasons consisted of just one open date; the 1985, 1991, 1996, and 1997 campaigns had three off weeks.

* Besides Georgia Tech, the most common opponent following a bye week is Auburn (12 times).

* The biggest upset victory following an open date was defeating Auburn, a 10-point favorite, in 1996; the biggest upset loss after a bye was losing to Auburn, a 10-point underdog, in 1999.

* On two occasions there were back-to-back off weeks between games or a span of three consecutive weeks the Bulldogs did not play during a regular season: In 1981, Georgia hosted Auburn on November 14 and was originally scheduled to then play at Georgia Tech on November 28 (one open week).  ABC Television, however, wanted to broadcast the Georgia-Georgia Tech contest but would only do so if the game was pushed back to December 5.  Both teams obliged to accommodate television.

Georgia played South Carolina on September 8, 2001, and was then scheduled to host Houston the following week until 9/11 occurred, cancelling all September 15 games.  The Bulldogs had a bye week on September 22.  So, after the South Carolina game, Georgia would not play until three weeks later on September 29.  The Georgia-Houston game was rescheduled and played on December 1.

October 21, 2009

Running Game Woes


Georgia accomplished exactly what it needed to last Saturday: an essential, solid victory.  Granted, the win came over a team who had lost to Army the previous week.  However, a 24-point victory over an SEC foe on the road is impressive, even if the opponent is Vanderbilt.
One of the Georgia's several bright spots was its establishment of a running game.  The Bulldogs' 173 rushing yards was their most in 12 games since rushing for 194 against LSU last season; the 4.68 rushing average was their best in 10 games (4.8 vs. Kentucky in 2008).  Of Georgia's rushing totals against the Commodores, 120 yards on 17 carries came in the 4th quarter alone.  It might have taken some time for the Bulldogs to find their running game, but they did at the most critical point in the game.
Even after Georgia's fine showing on Saturday, the Bulldogs are still averaging only 108 rushing yards per game for the season (103rd of 120 FBS teams) and just 3.62 yards per carry.  If you figure Joe Cox has only been sacked six times for a loss of 46 yards, Bulldog ball carriers are averaging only 3.99 yards per rush.  Only nine FBS teams have scored less than Georgia's six rushing touchdowns.
These rushing statistics are rather shocking considering Georgia was believed to have a highly-effective ground game entering 2009.  Nine players returned this season who had started at least three career games along the offensive line, totaling a staggering 102 career starts.  Caleb King (photo--Tennessean.com) and Richard Samuel, although unproven and inexperienced, had the 2008 season under their belts and seemed to possess tons of talent.  Freshmen Carlton Thomas and Washaun Ealey had been highly recruited, especially Ealey, and were thought to provide tremendous support.
An offensive line considered in the preseason as one of the best in the country along with young but talented running backs should have signified possibly Georgia's greatest running game in the post-Dooley era.  Instead, unless there is continued improvement running the ball through the second half of the season, it perhaps could be one of the worst in Bulldog history.
Georgia's 0.86 rushing touchdowns per game is its lowest since 1962, when the Bulldogs ran for only four scores in 10 games (0.4).  Its 108 rushing yards per game is its lowest since averaging 107.4 for 1993.  Only six years ago in 2003, the Bulldogs rushed for just 3.36 yards per carry; however, considering Georgia quarterbacks were sacked 47 times for 336 yards, ball carriers actually rushed for a 4.32 clip in '03.  If sacks are taken out of rushing stats, the Dogs are currently carrying their lowest per-carry average since, again, 1993.
Most of us Bulldog faithful remember Georgia's running game from 1993, or the lack thereof.  By mid-season, the Dogs had a lowly 1-4 record and basically abandoned the run altogether.  "Air Georgia" would seemingly pass on every down the rest of the season and won four of its final six games but still finished with a losing, 5-6 mark.  Against Florida that season, besides having the apparent tying or even winning touchdown erased because of a controversial timeout, Georgia ran the ball just 14 times, attempting a school-record 65 passes.  Similarly to today, the Bulldogs had no excuses for a lack of a running game in 1993.  Three starters on the offensive line returned from the year before, a season when Georgia averaged a school-record 5.64 yards per carry, including All-American Bernard Williams.  The Bulldogs also had future NFL star Terrell Davis in the backfield.  Of course, when the running game failed, Georgia had the great Eric Zeier at quarterback to pick up the slack, and not a Joe Cox.
Below are Georgia's five lowest rushing yardage, per carry (not excluding sacks), and touchdown per-game averages from 1947-2008:




Rushing Yards

Rushing Average

Rushing TDs
1963
89.8
1963
2.53
1961
0.40
1962
98.2
1961
2.73
1962
0.40
1961
104.3
1962
2.77
1956
0.50
1993
107.4
1970
3.228
1954
0.90
1953
127.1
1965
3.229
1963
0.90

What do the seasons listed above have in common besides inferior rushing statistics?  Fourteen of the 15 were non-winning campaigns for the Bulldogs.  Interestingly, all three of seasons 1961 through 1963 appear in the bottom five of 62 seasons of Georgia football in all three rushing categories.  These three campaigns made up the short coaching career of Johnny Griffith, which, beginning in 1964, led into the Coach Vince Dooley era--a long duration notorious for its strong running games, star tailbacks, and, above all, winning.  It's safe to say, in UGA football history, Bulldog teams that were most challenged running the football were the ones that had the most difficult time winning games.  Georgia's 2009 team seems no different as this season's rushing totals are on pace to appear in the table above.
However, as mentioned, the Bulldogs may have finally discovered a running game and have a week off to fine tune it before facing the second half of their schedule.  Running on Florida will be difficult; the Gators currently yield less than 100 yards rushing per game and only 3.0 yards per rush.  But Auburn, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech all rank in the bottom half of the FBS in rushing defense and all are allowing 4.39 yards per rush or more.
Georgia finally found its running game against Vanderbilt during the most pivotal point of the game.  It's time for the Bulldogs to continue with their newly-discovered ground attack at the most critical point of the 2009 campaign.

October 15, 2009

To Those Who Want to Get Rid of Richt:


As the Georgia football team struggles mightily, as we all know, there are many insisting that an assistant coach or two, or three, get fired and I have even heard a small, recent outcry that Coach Richt must go as well. 
Richt is far from perfect; he'd be the first person to tell you so.  Some of his recent remarks following the loss to Tennessee, including the "arena speech," are certainly untimely and inappropriate.  Richt's personality as a head coach of a major college football program may not be ideal.  Personally, I wish he'd be more tenacious and exhibit some intensity, similar to his "controversial" gimmick against Florida two years ago.  As then, such a demonstration would likely rub off onto the team.
In my opinion, Richt is still one of the better coaches in football and we are unquestionably lucky to have him on the Bulldogs' sideline and not the opponents'.  We could have much worse.  Do Georgia fans remember his two predecessors?  Remember where this football program was for much of the 1990s?
I do believe Richt needs to "adjust" his staff at the end of this season.  However, should the head man himself be let go or even sit on the hot seat?  No, not unless Georgia football is in the same state in a year or so as it is currently--an undisciplined team without an identity with only a foreseeable .500 record and minor bowl bid.
At one time I too doubted Mark Richt as Georgia's head coach--just once.  Similarly to their current situation, the Bulldogs had fallen on hard times during a 2006 season that was quickly spiraling downward.  Nonetheless, I soon discovered that Bulldog fans like myself and the University of Georgia were fortunate and blessed to have Mark Richt as our head football coach.
Below is a piece I wrote on Coach Richt in my second book--About Them Dawgs! (Scarecrow Press, 2008).  Please keep in mind it is somewhat dated, written at the conclusion of the 2007 season.

I was in Lexington, Kentucky, in 2006 when Georgia was narrowly defeated by the Kentucky Wildcats. After starting the season with five consecutive victories, the Bulldogs were beaten for the fourth time in five games. Georgia’s record had fallen to a sub-par 6-4 and many Dawg fans were disappointed and frustrated. When Kentucky’s fans stormed onto their field after the 24-20 victory, I remember thinking it had not been this bad since the mid-1990s, when .500 records for Georgia were the norm and getting beat by teams the Bulldogs should defeat occurred often. For the first time in a decade, I began to doubt the Bulldogs’ ability to perform at a high level and for the first time in his six years at the helm, I began to wonder about Mark Richt’s effectiveness as a head coach.
Later that night in Lexington, still discouraged because of the results of the game, my friends and I exited a restaurant. As a group of Wildcat fans brushed by us, one of my friends said to them, “Good game.” (“Maybe for Kentucky,” I thought.) The response by one of the Wildcat fans suddenly changed my negative attitude: “Sure, we might have won,” he said. “But I’ll trade coaches with ya’ in a heart beat.” Then and there I realized, despite any losing streaks the team had and would endure, how fortunate the University of Georgia was to have Mark Richt as their head football coach. This even appeared evident to Georgia’s opposing fans.
A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Mark Richt played quarterback at the University of Miami (Fla) from 1978-1982. Known more for being the backup to eventual Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelley, Richt did lead the Hurricanes in passing and to a 7-4 record in his senior season, throwing for 838 yards on 71 of 149 passing in 1982. Three years later, he was a graduate and later volunteer assistant coach at Florida State until 1988 before becoming East Carolina’s Offensive Coordinator in 1989. He returned to Florida State the following season where he coached quarterbacks for 11 seasons (1990-2000) and was a highly successful Offensive Coordinator for the Seminoles from 1994-2000. While at Florida State, two of Richt’s quarterbacks received the Heisman Trophy (Charlie Ward in 1993 and Chris Weinke in 2000) and six went on to play in the NFL.
In December of 2000, Richt was named the University of Georgia’s 25th head football coach. The Bulldogs began the 2001 season with wins in two of their first three games and traveled to Knoxville to face sixth-ranked and 11-point favorite Tennessee. The Bulldogs rallied from an early 11-point deficit to take a late 20-17 lead, only to allow the Volunteers to score on a long pass play in the game’s final minute. Just as many Georgia fans, including myself, had given up on the possibility of a victory, freshman quarterback David Greene improbably drove the Bulldogs to the winning touchdown in five plays and 37 seconds. Richt had survived his first true test as a head coach and in the process, gave Georgia one of its most memorable victories in its history.
Prior to 2002 and since the Southeastern Conference was divided into divisions in 1992, Georgia was regarded as a second-tier team in the SEC East, behind Florida and Tennessee. This changed in Richt’s second season as the Bulldogs captured their initial divisional title and their first conference championship in 20 years since 1982.
In 2003, Georgia played in the SEC Championship Game for the second consecutive season and in 2004, finished its campaign with a 10-2 record while ranking sixth and seventh respectively in the final Associated Press and Coaches national polls. Coach Richt had help deliver the Bulldogs from a second-rate status in their own division to one of the premier squads in college football in only a few short years.
Georgia won its second SEC title in four years in 2005 and for only the second time in its history, achieved 10 wins or more in four consecutive seasons. As mentioned, the following season got off to a rocky start—the Bulldogs losing four of its first 10 games. At that point, most Georgia followers just hoped for a winning record and a bowl bid. Instead, Richt and his unranked Bulldogs somehow responded by defeating #5 Auburn, #16 Georgia Tech, and #14 Virginia Tech (Chick-fil-A Bowl) consecutively to conclude an outstanding season. Although the 9-4 record was the worst in five years, 2006 was likely Richt’s best coaching effort at Georgia, that is, until the subsequent season.
In October of 2007, Georgia was hammered by Tennessee 35-14, dropping its record to 4-2. The following week, if it was not for a lost fumble by Vanderbilt late in the game, the Bulldogs would have likely been defeated for the third time. After a week off, Georgia made its annual trip to Jacksonville to face the mighty Florida Gators—7½-point favorites and winners of 15 of the previous 17 meetings over the Bulldogs.
After Georgia scored the game’s first touchdown, nearly the entire Bulldog sideline emptied onto the field in celebration, costing the team in penalties. It was later revealed Georgia’s jubilation was premeditated and ordered by Coach Richt of his offense, although he had no idea that nearly the entire team would take part. While some frowned on and disapproved of Richt’s uncharacteristic gimmick, it can be argued that it unified a young team still trying to find its identity. Richt’s controversial maneuver made the highly-favored Gators aware that the 2007 Bulldogs were not the same team Florida had routinely defeated in the past.
In completely turning around its season, Georgia shockingly defeated Florida 42-30 and then were victorious in its final five games, finishing 11-2, including being crowned Sugar Bowl Champions. In 2007, Richt accomplished what Vince Dooley in his final five years, Ray Goff, and Jim Donnan could not achieve as head coaches from 1984 through 2000 (17 seasons), namely, guide the Bulldogs to an upper-tier or BCS bowl game. Richt has now succeeded in doing so three of the last six years.
Richt’s 24-13 career record, including 5-0 in both 2002 and 2007, against Associated Press-ranked opponents is simply remarkable. This success is especially admirable compared to Goff’s 4-21-1 and Donnan’s 7-13 records against ranked opposition. Prior to Richt’s arrival in 2001, Georgia had won less than 38% of its games versus ranked foes in its history. Under Richt’s direction, the Bulldogs have defeated nearly two out of three AP-ranked opponents.
Notwithstanding, and almost certainly as important as his winning percentages, if not more so, Mark Richt possesses a number of stellar personal qualities: few will disagree with the assessment that he is a man of faith, principles, and character. As an example, in a day when many head coaches threaten to leave their school of employment and/or interview with other programs only to leverage their way into signing more lucrative contracts with their current universities, not a word is heard from Coach Richt, although he probably warrants a contract more generous than he currently commands.
It is safe to say there are few doubters among the Bulldog faithful, this writer included, of Mark Richt as a coach and the program he directs. In fact, most of us fully expect that the best is yet to come.

October 13, 2009

What's the Deal With Our "D"?

A scene all too familiar to Georgia's defense during the last season-and-a-half--Bulldogs chasing instead of tackling (photo--GoVolsXtra).
What's wrong with Georgia's defense? The question started being asked with some regularity last season and, following its performance against Tennessee on Saturday, is Georgia's primary concern among several. Consider this:
Since the start of the 2008 season and leading up to Saturday's game, Tennessee had faced 12 BCS-conference opponents. During that stretch, the Volunteers averaged only 255 yards, 4.2 yards per play, and 1.67 offensive touchdowns per game. Against Georgia, the same team gained 472 yards, averaged 7.4 per play, and scored 6 offensive touchdowns.
Against those same 12 opponents, Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton, appearing in 9 of the games, completed less than 51% of his passes for 1,003 yards, averaged less than 5.1 yards per attempt, and threw 3 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Against Georgia, Crompton looked like a Heisman candidate, completing 20 of 27 passes for 310 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception.
As I've mentioned before on this blog, it is down-right baffling to me how, not too long ago, Georgia did not allow an opponent to score 35 points or more in 77 consecutive games over the course of six years. However, dating back to last season's Alabama game over the past 15 contests, the Bulldogs have allowed 8 teams--more than half--to score 35 or more. Simply unbelievable!
So, what's the deal with the Bulldogs' defense? Last season, some UGA football apologists indicated it was injuries that led to the downfall of the defense; however, there have been no significant injuries to the defensive unit this year--a season where Georgia currently ranks 118th (of 120 FBS teams) in turnover margin, 100th in scoring defense, 97th in pass defense, and 92nd in pass efficiency defense.
Others mentioned Georgia's 2008 defense was talented but blamed penalties and great field position for opposing offenses because of poor kick-return coverage. I even indicated it was not necessarily the defense on the whole, but specifically the defense not forcing turnovers, that was the main issue.
I decided to statistically analyze Georgia's defensive performance over nearly the last decade. The 77-game stretch I spoke of when the Bulldogs did not allow a single opponent to score 35 points or more was from the 2000 Outback Bowl vs. Purdue until the 2006 Sugar Bowl against West Virginia--I'll consider this period of games "Period 1." "Period 2" begins with the '06 Sugar Bowl through the first 4 games of last season--a stretch of 31 games where Georgia allowed just three teams to score 35+. "Period 3" begins with the coming out party of Alabama's John Parker Wilson last season and is through last Saturday's defensive debacle--15 games where 8 opponents scored 35+.






































































































































































































































Period






G






Win %






PPG






RA






Rating






YPG






YPP






Sk






TO






1






77






79.2






16.27






3.20






111.49






309.0






4.61






2.5






2.1






2






31






77.4






18.84






3.31






110.58






295.5






4.65






2.8






1.9






3






15






60.0






29.67






3.91






130.74






347.9






5.34






1.6






1.1




Period: period of games 1, 2, or 3

G: number of games

Win %: Georgia's winning percentage during each stretch

PPG: points allowed per game

RA: yards yielded per rushing attempt

Rating: defensive pass efficiency rating

YPG: yards yielded per game

YPP: yards yielded per play

Sk: sacks by defense per game

TO: turnovers forced per game


Interestingly, there is hardly a difference in all measures between the Bulldogs' defensive performances in periods 1 and 2, besides Georgia allowing nearly 2.6 more points per game during the latter. However, as you can see, there are major dissimilarities between periods 1-2 and period 3.

In the last 15 games, the Dogs have yielded nearly 350 yards per game and 5.34 yards per play, almost 4 yards per rush and a passing rating of over 130, and are not sacking the quarterback or forcing turnovers. In turn, Georgia has given up nearly 30 points per game, leading to just a 9-6 record beginning with the '08 Alabama loss. It appears since last season's "Blackout" beatdown, the Bulldogs have simply forgotten how to play defense, especially compared to their previous 8+ seasons. How can quarterbacks John Parker Wilson, Jarrett Lee, Stephen Garcia, Ryan Mallett, Jordan Jefferson, and Jonathan Crompton ALL have "career games" against our defense? Most quarterbacks should have their career games against the likes of Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, or a lower divisional opponent, not versus the University of Georgia.

Another argument is Georgia's defenders are just not as talented as before; no longer is David Pollack, Thomas Davis, Sean Jones, and Odell Thurman lining up defensively for the Bulldogs. Mentioned is the fact no Georgia defensive player has been taken in the NFL Draft's first round since 2005, whereas six were selected from 2001-2005. If you look at the table above, at least statistically, the defense did quite well without NFL first rounders during the second period, which consists primarily of the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The Bulldogs continue to acquire highly-recruited high school kids, the very same players recruited by Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, etc., just like before. There is little to no difference in quality of defensive recruits taken by Georgia in recent years compared to those classes from the early part of the decade containing Pollack, Davis, Jones, Thurman, etc.

So, if defensive talent level, injuries, penalities, and poor kickoff coverage are NOT to blame, what's wrong with our defense? What has happened since late September 2008 that was not transpiring prior to that time? Honestly, I cannot figure a clear, definite answer or solution. All I can surmise is it has something to do with one aspect of football, albeit, perhaps the most important: coaching.

I think more so than Willie Martinez being solely responsible for the defensive's collaspe, it is Georgia's lack of heart, discipline, toughness, and intensity that has led to its recent fall from grace. Notwithstanding, who's accountable for our players to exemplify such characteristics? The very same individuals whose responsibility is to "coach up" a 5-star recruit into a future NFL first rounder: the coaches.

A friend of mine said at the end of Georgia's 45-42 loss to Tech last season, "I think Rashaad Jones missed more tackles today than our entire defense did under the four seasons of Brain VanGorder as our defensive coordinator!" My buddy may have been exaggerating in regard to Jones, a one-time 5-star recruit, but perhaps only a little.

Is the solution to fire Martinez? Who knows. I certainly don't. But something is wrong with Georgia's coaching and it is, in my opinion, the primary reason for the defense's disheartening and horrifying play the last 15 games.

I heard a caller declare on sports-talk radio last week (and this was BEFORE the Tennessee loss): "Something is wrong with the coaching over there in Athens! I don't know exactly what [the problem] is but something is wrong and it needs to be fixed!" I completely concur and could not have said it any better.

October 11, 2009

Happy 80th Birthday, Sanford Stadium

The Bulldogs entered yesterday's Tennessee game in a must-win situation where, among other things, they were hoping to finally demonstrate a dominant defense. Instead, Georgia was embarrassed, allowing Jonathan Crompton, who began the game as arguably the worst starting quarterback in the SEC, to resemble Peyton Manning.

I'll post my thoughts on the game in a couple days, in particular, the defense's woes. On a positive note, I want to recognize that tomorrow is the 80th anniversary of the opening of one of college football's finest stadiums--UGA's Sanford Stadium--certainly, one of the more historic and monumental events in Georgia state history.

PHOTO--If you look hard, you may notice the players meeting at midfield prior to the October 12, 1929, contest of Georgia versus Yale--the inaugural game at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs were dressed in their home whites, Yale in blue jerseys.

It is still considered perhaps the greatest weekend ever in Athens, Georgia. People from all over the country infiltrated the small town, tripling Athens' population of 15,000 residents. Many arrived several days prior to the football game on Saturday and, by kickoff, the surrounding atmosphere was nothing less than circus-like. It was an event made only possible by one of the University of Georgia's most notable dignitaries.

In 1927, Georgia was playing Georgia Tech for the 12th consecutive time in Atlanta since UGA's Sanford Field, Georgia football's home since 1911, was too small to accommodate the large crowd annually attending the intrastate rivalry. Dr. Steadman Sanford, dean of the University at the time, decided then Georgia needed a state-of-the-art stadium, in particular, bigger and better than Tech's Grant Field. Sanford worked tirelessly to bring a new football stadium to UGA and perhaps even more diligently to lure a formidable opponent for its dedication game.

Sanford Stadium was built in a large ravine between the College of Agriculture and Franklin College adjacent to Sanford Field. The Bulldogs opened the 1929 season hosting Oglethorpe and then Furman at their old site. However, on October 12, the mighty Yale Bulldogs, making their initial trip south to play football, would be Georgia's first opponent at the spectacular, new venue.

There was such an overflow of spectators, aisle space was sold between the bleachers. By kickoff, 35,000 filled the stadium, including governors of five states. Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York and the eventual President of the United States four years later, was also scheduled to attend but instead stayed at his winter home in Warm Springs, GA.

Contrary to popular belief Yale was an overwhelming favorite, the game was actually seen as a "toss-up," despite the fact Georgia had opened the season with an upset loss to Oglethorpe. Nevertheless, there was no toss-up on that momentous afternoon as a Georgia "Catfish" was all the southern Bulldogs needed for victory.

Future College Football Hall of Famer Vernon "Catfish" Smith began his varsity career in 1929 as part of Georgia's "Flaming Sophs" team of 1929; Smith was one of eight sophomores on the Bulldogs' starting eleven. In just his third game at Georgia, Smith scored all 15 points in Sanford Stadium's dedication in a 15-0 win over the eastern power.

In the second quarter, Georgia's Jack Roberts and Red Maddox blocked a punt behind Yale's goal line. Catfish came out of a pile in the end zone with the football, scoring a touchdown for Georgia. He successfully kicked the extra point.

In the third quarter, Yale star Albie Booth attempted to run a retrieved ball out the end zone after a snapped punt sailed over his head. Most historical accounts indicate Smith tackled Booth for a safety in the end zone. On the contrary, Smith forced Booth out of bounds before he got out of the end zone. Nevertheless, Smith was given credit for scoring a safety for the host Bulldogs.

Georgia completed only three passes the entire game but its last completion, occurring in the contest's final minutes, is no doubt memorable. The Bulldogs had the ball on Yale's 22-yard line, facing third down. Spurgeon Chandler drifted a high, arching pass to Smith, who caught it over his right shoulder at the 2-yard line and fell in the end zone for his second touchdown and the game's final points. "Catfish 15, Yale 0."

1929 Georgia-Yale Statistics
UGA: 7 first downs, 45-176 rushing, 45 passing yds, 7-3-0 passes, 221 total yds, 3 fum. lost
YALE: 5 first downs, 43-96 rushing, 34 passing yds, 15-4-3 passes, 130 total yds, 2 fum. lost
Individual Rushing: (GA) Bennie Rothstein 13-43; Marion Dickens 4-41; John Davidson 12-28 (YU) Donald McClennan 7-28; Albie Booth 12-26