SF-7x

May 28, 2010

Fourth and Dumb

"[Our coaching staff] did a miserable job in the second half…I made some dumb calls."
- Florida head coach Doug Dickey, following Georgia's 41-27 win over the Gators in 1976

Midway through the third quarter of the 1976 Georgia-Florida game (the first between the schools when both were ranked in the top ten), Coach Dickey's failed call on 4th down and less than a yard inside his own 30-yard line was the turning point of the eventual Bulldog victory.

The Gators, who entered the game three-point underdogs, dominated the first half and held a 27-13 lead at the intermission.  Early in the third quarter, Georgia scored on a Ray Goff-to-Ulysses Norris touchdown pass.  On the ensuing possession is when the usually conservative Dickey decided to attempt the fourth-down gamble.

A Jacksonville newspaper ran an article the next day titled "Fourth and Dumb."  Florida's Earl Carr, the fullback who was dropped for no gain by cornerback Johnny Henderson, even questioned his own coach: “When I was running the play I was asking myself why in the world we were running this play.”

Six plays following the fourth-down stop, Al Pollard's touchdown run was the second of four unanswered touchdowns by the Bulldogs en route to their 14-point win.

After the Gators gained 234 yards and scored 27 points in the first half, the Junkyard Dogs held them to 65 and 0 in the second.  Georgia's Ray Goff rushed for 124 yards, completed all five of his passes, and was responsible for five of the team's six touchdowns in earning the Chevrolet Offensive Player of the Game.

As the game's final seconds were ticking off, sideline reporter Jim Lampley told Goff about the recognition.  The senior quarterback thanked Lampley but thought a fallen teammate, who had died just prior to the start of the season, was more deserving.

"I'd like to give [the honor] to Hugh Hendrix and put it in his name," said Goff.  "He inspired us all...Praise the Lord."

As the game ended, Goff and his teammates attempted to wade through the thick, celebrating crowd.  One player remarked that it was easy for the Bulldogs to get through the Florida defense in the second half, but reaching the dressing room after the game was a different story.

On the same field, a high school football game soon followed the battle between the Bulldogs and Gators; however, it was played without the Gator Bowl's original goal posts.  They had both been just torn down by a jubilant throng dressed in red and black.

May 26, 2010

What It REALLY Takes to Get to Atlanta

ESPN.com's SEC blogger Chris Low recently posted on how "defense wins championships in this league."  He illustrated how the SEC champion usually has a high ranking in "total defense" (average yards allowed per game), especially compared to its ranking in "total offense."  This apparently is also the case for the loser of the SEC Championship Game. 

According to Low, reaching the SEC title game since 2000 "has hinged more on having a good defense as opposed to having a good offense."  He is certainly correct in his assesment but it goes much further than merely the number of yards allowed per game.

More so than the number of yards a team's defense yields, the efficiency of that defense is a much better measurement.  As simple as it sounds, a defense can give up tons of yardage, but as long as it doesn't allow any points, especially "easy" scores, it won't lose.

I've been a proponent of the YPP (yards per point) concept/statistic for a long time, realizing that a team's defensive YPP is usually an excellent indicator of its overall success, especially (and obviously) on the defensive side of the ball.  

The defensive YPP concept is straightforward: the number of yards a team yielded per point it allowed.  The larger the number, the better.

Teams with a high defensive YPP usually have excellent special teams, force many more turnovers than they lose, and commit fewer penalties than their opposition.  In short, they have efficient scoring defenses; its opposition must work for any point it scores.

Here are the SEC champions since 2000, their defensive YPP that year, and where its YPP ranked in the conference:

2009: Alabama, 20.8 (1st)
2008: Florida, 22.1 (1st)
2007: LSU, 14.5 (7th)
2006: Florida, 18.9 (3rd)
2005: Georgia, 19.1 (3rd)
2004: Auburn, 24.6 (1st)
2003: LSU, 22.9 (1st)
2002: Georgia, 20.0 (1st)
2001: LSU, 16.9 (5th)
2000: Florida, 16.9 (4th)

The average defensive YPP ranking for the last 10 SEC champions was 2.7; the average ranking for the same teams in total defense was 3.8.  In addition, the average defensive YPP ranking for the last 10 losers of the SEC title game was 4.2; their average ranking in total defense was 4.5.  

Georgia's defensive YPP and its ranking in the conference since 2000:

2009: 13.1 (12th)
2008: 12.7 (11th)
2007: 16.0 (3rd)
2006: 14.7 (11th)
2005: 19.1 (3rd)
2004: 17.5 (2nd)
2003: 19.1 (2nd)
2002: 20.0 (1st)
2001: 18.8 (3rd)
2000: 18.0 (2nd)

The Bulldogs' average ranking of 5.0 during the decade is a respectable fourth-best in the SEC behind Auburn (4.1), Florida (4.3), and Alabama (4.6); however, this is due in large part because of remarkable 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, and 2nd defensive YPP rankings from 2000-2004.

In the first five seasons of the 2000s, Georgia's 2.0 average ranking was easily the best in the conference, ahead of distant-second Florida's 4.2.  Notwithstanding, the Bulldogs' lowly 8.0 average from 2005-2009 was tied for eighth.

Since Georgia began keeping official statistics in 1946, the Bulldogs' defensive YPP of 12.7 in 2008 and 13.1 a year ago are the next to worst and second from worst in the last 64 seasons at the school. Only the 1961 Bulldogs - a team that won just three games - had a lower defensive YPP than the 2008 and 2009 squads.

How can a team clearly have the most efficient scoring defense in the SEC (and likely one of the best in the nation) the first half of the '00s, only to have the conference's worst or nearly the worst in three of the decade's final four seasons?

Was this sudden change due to a lack of team discipline, complacency, or Willie Martinez?  Most likely some of all three.

Specifically, the 2008 and 2009 Bulldogs were poor on kickoff coverage, committed too many penalties, and, above all, forced very few turnovers.  The combination of these deficiencies led to frequently allowing the opposition good field position, which often yielded easy scores.

In 2010, the Bulldogs defense will line up in a unique scheme, coordinated by a new coach.  The hope is that Todd Grantham and his 3-4 formation will eventually have the defensive success Georgia experienced during the early part of the decade, and not a continuation of its last couple seasons.

To get to Atlanta's SEC title game, Grantham's defenders can certainly bend, allowing the opponent its fair share of yardage, but it can seldom break.

As the Bulldogs have recently learned, by quickly breaking without even having to bend, a championship in this league is not attainable.     

May 20, 2010

Look at the Sugar Falling Out of the Sky!

Although the call by Bill Hartman, Butch Clifton, and Buck Belue isn't quite as good as Munson's, one thing the television trio and the acclaimed play-by-play man agreed on: it was Sugar Time.

4th and 17, I know I'm asking a lot you guys, but hunker it down one more time!

One of the great moments in Georgia football history was brought to you by Atlanta's WAGA-TV and its "Bulldog Television Network," I'm assuming on a tape-delayed basis because (although it's been nearly 30 years) I distinctly remember only listening to this game on the radio (and wildly jumping around the house as Munson declared the Dawgs broke it up!  They broke it up!

This win clinched Georgia's third consecutive SEC title.  If you would have told me then it would be 20 years before we'd get another, I would have called you crazy.

After Herschel Walker scored a touchdown, Georgia couldn't convert a two-point conversion, and a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Auburn took over on its own 20-yard line with just under nine minutes remaining in the game, trailing 19-14.

The Tigers slowly but steadily drove the field, covering 66 yards in 12 plays (only one of which was a pass - a 13-yard completion) and nearly six minutes of game clock.  With three minutes left and counting, Auburn had a 1st and 10 on the Bulldogs' 14-yard line.

Then, as it had done all season, the Georgia defense stiffened.

The Tigers committed a five-yard penalty, Bo Jackson was dropped for a two-yard loss by cornerback Tony Flack, and quarterback Randy Campbell was sacked by Dale Carver back on the 30-yard line.

On 3rd and 26, Campbell completed a nine-yard pass to tight end Ed West, who, if he hadn't slipped on the grass, might have scored.  There wasn't a single Bulldog defender near West when he made the catch.

Prior to Campbell's last-ditch throw in the end zone, he had remarkably completed 12 of 15 passes, running out of the wishbone offense and against an outstanding Georgia pass defense that allowed only a 50.6 completion percentage all season. 

However, Campbell couldn't complete his most important pass attempt of the year.

The intended receiver, Mike Edwards, said after the game he never even saw the ball in the end zone, only two Bulldogs leaping in front of him, knocking it down.  One of those Bulldogs, cornerback Ronnie Harris, would say, "We had our backs to the wall, and we had to stand up and fight."

And fight they did, all the way to New Orleans...

May 18, 2010

What's In A Rank?

A couple weeks ago, some big Bulldog news was the commitment from Christian LeMay (Photo: MaxPreps), who will be one of the top pro-style quarterback recruits for 2011. 

His commitment made me wonder if, for the most part, highly-recruited players, especially quarterbacks, eventually see the majority of playing time and experience more success than lesser recruited players?  One would certainly think so.

However, I remember David Greene being not particularly highly recruited and he wound up starting four entire seasons and 52 games, winning an NCAA-record 42.

Had there been other Bulldog quarterbacks not highly recruited, who saw significant playing time, or was Greene a rare case?

In a study of mine, it was suggested there is a correlation between team recruiting rankings and final polls, particularly for the higher ranking teams and/or the traditional powers, like Georgia.

Does the same hold true for individual recruiting rankings of quarterbacks and their eventual on-field experience and success?

Personally, I prefer to use Phil Steele's team and individual recruiting rankings because he compiles information “based on the many different recruiting services across the country,” including Rivals.com, Parade, Tom Lemming, PrepStar, and ESPN.

Using Steele's rankings, I went as far back as I could (1992) and found the incoming freshman position ranking for every Georgia quarterback recruit.  Below, listed next to each recruit is the Bulldogs' record when the player eventually started at quarterback for Georgia.  If he never started under center, I comment on his time as a Bulldog.

For example, Brian Smith, Georgia's lone quarterback recruit in 1992, was the 35th-best quarterback recruit in college football for that season.  He would eventually have a 4-0 starting record quarterbacking the Bulldogs.

1992
#35  Brian Smith: 4-0 record

1993
#9  Mike Bobo: 16-10 record

1994
#7  Hines Ward: 1-4 record

1995
#36  Jon England: Although he attempted just 19 career pass attempts, England did reach a somewhat notable accomplishment
#71  Earl ChambersMoved to defensive back in '97, starting at safety as a senior in '99...Never took a snap from center.

1996
#14  Mike UsryLike England, a backup in '97 and '98, seeing limited action because of Quincy Carter...88 career passing yards, one TD.

1997
#10  Daniel Cobb: After two years of not playing at Georgia, Cobb transferred to a JUCO, and then to Auburn in 2001.  In two years as a Tiger, he made 11 starts, throwing for 2,400+ yards.  Defeated UGA in '01 as starting QB.
#22  LaBrone Mitchell: Was the backup QB in '99, throwing for 30 yards on 3-of-7 passing...Moved to receiver in 2000 and caught 27 passes for career.

1998
#4  Quincy Carter: 22-9 record (Although a '98 signee with UGA, Carter's #4 ranking is from 1997 after he originally signed with Georgia Tech.)
#17  Terrence Edwards: Instantly converted to receiver, becoming one of the best in history at the school.  Coach Donnan tried Edwards some at QB in 2000.
#27  Nate Hybl: After redshirting in '98, transferred to Oklahoma, playing sparingly in 2000 and starting in 2001-2002...5,000+ career passing yards, 40 TDs, 20-3 record as starter, 2003 Rose Bowl MVP.

1999
None

2000
#31  David Greene: 42-10 record
#35  Sean Jones: Redshirted in 2000.  When Coach Richt arrived, Jones was moved to defensive backfield...250 tackles from 2001-2003, 7 int, 4 blk kicks, 2003 All-American. 
#66  Matt Redding: Redshirted in 2000.  No. 3 QB in 2001 - didn't see any playing time...Moved to linebacker in 2002 but left team soon afterwards.

2001
#3  D.J. Shockley: 10-2 record

2002
#21  Joe Tereshinski: 2-3 record

2003
None

2004
#10  A.J. Bryant: According to Rivals, the No. 1 recruit at the "Athlete" position...enrolled early and moved to receiver...Started at flanker in 2006 as junior...22 career catches for 393 yards from 2004-2007. 
#19  Blake Barnes: Played in 3 games as redshirt freshman in 2005, attempting three passes...Played in only one other game (2008 Sugar Bowl) for next 2 seasons...Transferred to Division II Delta State in 2008, where, as the No. 2 QB, passed for 533 yards.

2005
#8  Joe Cox: 9-5 record

2006
#2  Matthew Stafford: 27-7 record

2007
#19  Logan Gray: In two seasons (2008-2009), has 87 yards of total offense on 23 plays, 70 yards on 7 punt returns.

2008
None

2009
#6  Aaron Murray: Projected starter in 2010 as redshirt freshman.
#24  Zach Mettenberger: Dismissed.

The first thing I notice regarding the Georgia quarterback recruits above is all of those ranked in the top 10, as was the case with Aaron Murray in 2009 and probably Christian LeMay in 2011, wound up starting for at least one season, whether as a Bulldog quarterback, at a different position, or as another school's quarterback.

None of the top ten quarterback recruits were seemingly a complete "bust."

Out of interest, I also listed the No. 1 incoming quarterback recruit for each season since 1995:

1995: Dan Kendra, Florida State
1996: Tim Couch, Kentucky
1997: Kenny Kelly, Miami (Fla)
1998: Ronald Curry, North Carolina
1999: Chris Simms, Texas
2000: Brock Berlin, Florida
2001: Joe Mauer, Florida State
2002: Ben Olson, BYU
2003: Kyle Wright, Miami (Fla)
2004: Chad Henne, Michigan
2005: Ryan Perrilloux, LSU
2006: Mitch Mustain, Arkansas
2007: Ryan Mallett, Michigan
2008: Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State
2009: Russell Shepard, LSU

May 14, 2010

Pulpwood "Spoke" vs. 'Bama in '84

A prelude to the Pulpwood Has Spoken series for the 2010 season...



Now that I'm wrapping up my book project, I'll have more time to post than I've had recently.  To get ready for the upcoming season (and now that I've finally learned how to convert and edit DVDs onto YouTube), I'm going to post a handful of memorable Bulldog moments via video.

What a better way to start off than with a video of the man, the myth, the legend - Andre "Pulpwood" Smith.  In naming him UGA football's top "One-Hit Wonder" in history, I mention that Pulpwood's name is recognized today by many Bulldog fans, who never knew of his football career at Georgia, but for unconventional reasons.  Nevertheless, he was a darn good back who could've been something really special if he would've kept his grades up. 

Although the quality is sub-par (and the audio is even worse), the video shows Pulpwood returning the opening kickoff and gaining just two yards on his first carry.  However, he would then break one off for a 44-yard touchdown.  On his very next carry during the Bulldogs' ensuing possession, Pulpwood would score again, coming on a 34-yard run on the same play as his first touchdown.

Pulpwood finished the game against the Crimson Tide with 117 yards on 12 carries - 80 yards on three rushes in the first 3:47 - in Georgia's 24-14 victory.  Two weeks later versus Vanderbilt, he would rush for another 123 on just 10 carries. 

From November 1983 to mid-October 1985, a span of 20 games, the Bulldogs had just two individual, 100-yard rushing performances, both coming from Pulpwood.

May 4, 2010

1910: The Greatest Game Ever

Entering the 1910 Georgia-Georgia Tech game, John Heisman-coached teams (Auburn, Clemson, and Georgia Tech) were 11-1-1 against Georgia, outscoring the Red and Black by a combined 281 to 63 score.

Continued from Trickery on the Mountain...
Following the loss at mighty Sewanee - a moral victory for Georgia - the Red and Black were upset at Augusta's State Fairgrounds in a 0-0 tie against an average Clemson squad.  Nevertheless, with two games left on its schedule, Georgia's record stood at an impressive 5-1-1.

The two remaining contests were versus Georgia Tech and Auburn - two of the best teams in the South.  Georgia hadn't had much success against either squad, especially versus the Yellow Jackets.

The Red and Black hadn't defeated their intrastate rival in seven years, losing five in a row by a combined 108 to 18 score.  Against teams coached by John Heisman, Georgia had been particularly unsuccessful.  Whether at Auburn, Clemson, or Tech, Heisman had not lost to the Red and Black since his 1896 Auburn team was defeated 12-6.

Like today, Heisman was one of the most distinguished figures in college football a century ago.  Twenty-six years before the first Heisman Trophy, the name was synonymous with winning in 1910.  This was especially true when his Yellow Jackets scored first.

It was stated that if Georgia Tech scored the first points in any game, the other team was "done for."

As many as 7,000 spectators braved the rain at Atlanta's Ponce de Leon Park, paying a variety of costs for admission: 75 cents for bleacher seats, $1.25 for the grand stand, $1.50 for the sidelines, and $1.50 for box seats.

At 3:00 PM, "the greatest game of the local football season" kicked off.  Tech's starting eleven averaged 6-0 in height and 168 pounds per man to Georgia's 5-10 and 160 - a decided advantage for the Yellow Jackets.

The teams traded punts to start the contest before Tech took over on Georgia's 42-yard line.  On the sixth play of the drive, Dean Hill scored on a five-yard run and Wayne Patterson added the PAT.  Georgia Tech had taken an early 6-0 lead (touchdowns counted for five points) and, if you believed what the media printed, the game was over; the Yellow Jackets were the first to score.

After Tech dominated the opening quarter of play, Georgia finally showed some life on offense.  From the Red and Black's own 15-yard line, Bob McWhorter circled around an end and began heading up field.  Dodging defenders, McWhorter sped to a 95-yard touchdown (the field was then 110 yards in length, not 100); however, he apparently had stepped out of bounds at midfield and the ball was brought back to the 50-yard line.

On the next play, Georgia turned the ball over and a scoring opportunity had been squandered.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Jackets were forced to punt.  Catching the ball at the 50-yard line, George "Kid" Woodruff returned the kick 20 yards.  Georgia struck quickly, scoring in a single play on a 30-yard end run by the great McWhorter.  Hafford Hay's successful kick tied the game, 6-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Red and Black committed a bizarre penalty when captain and starting left tackle Omar Franklin slugged an opposing Yellow Jacket.  Not only was Franklin kicked out of the game but Georgia was penalized 40 yards for the punch, giving Tech excellent field position.

Georgia's defense held and the Jackets were forced to punt.

Towards the end of the contest, Georgia Tech mounted a drive and reached Georgia territory before losing a costly fumble.  The Red and Black had possession at their own 26-yard line but only a few minutes remained in the game.  For the second time in the 13-game series and for second time that season for Georgia, it was evident the game was going to end in a draw.

Suddenly, right end Cliff Hatcher broke loose for a 40-yard gain to Tech's 44-yard line.  On the next play - another one of his famed, circled end runs - McWhorter ran for a touchdown.  However, he apparently stepped out of bounds at the Yellow Jackets' four-yard line.

It took the star halfback three tries but McWhorter finally broke the goal line on third down, scoring with under two minutes left.  Hay missed the PAT but it mattered little.  The game was called soon afterwards because of darkness.

In the 11-6 victory, Georgia rushed for 331 yards, at least 200 to 250 of which were gained by McWhorter.  The newcomer from the Gordon Institute had runs that included two 45-yard gains, a 30-yarder, another for 25, and both of the Red and Black's touchdowns.

Following the win, it was reported by the Atlanta Constitution that "pandemonium reigned" as Red and Black fans swarmed the field "throwing [their] hats."  Georgia had snapped a five-game losing streak to the arch enemy while starting what would be a four-game winning streak in, according to the same newspaper, the "Greatest Game Ever."