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December 7, 2010

Fourth-Quarter Failure

Regarding the recent move of Joe T. II being named to take over as head of the strength and conditioning program, I was immediately encouraged with Tereshinski's mention of the Bulldogs needing to be prepared for the fourth quarter. 

Unpreparedness, if you will, for the final quarter is an issue that started a season ago for the team, which grew into a full-blown problem this year.

This regular season, Georgia remarkably outscored its opposition 343-189 in the first three quarters of games - an average scoring margin of +12.83 points per game or +4.28 per quarter.  However, the Bulldogs were outscored 85-68 in the fourth quarter, or by 1.42 points per game, which is quite unusual (and distressing) considering Georgia's success in quarters one through three.

Come to find out, the Bulldogs' fourth-quarter failures - a 5.7-point margin decrease (i.e., difference between +4.28 and minus-1.42)  from quarters one through three to quarter four this season - is far beyond unusual, but historic.

First, here is Georgia's - I'll call it - "average scoring-margin difference from Quarters 1-3 to Quarter 4" for each of the last five seasons...  See a troubling pattern?

2006: +2.4
2007: +2.0
2008: +0.8
2009: -1.1
2010: -5.7

I researched back to the 1964 season - the first of the Vince Dooley era - and calculated this same "difference" for the last 47 seasons of Georgia football.*

The Bulldogs' minus-5.7-point difference this year is the team's second worst in nearly five full decades of football, only behind -6.8 in 1979.  The '79 Bulldogs outscored their opposition by an average of 2.1 points per the first three quarters but had an average scoring margin of minus-4.7 in the final quarter (-4.7 - 2.1= -6.8 difference).

*For seasons where the postseason wasn't considered in official statistics (1964-2001), I added bowl totals into the regular-season scoring.  Only scoring for the four quarters recognized; overtime scoring not considered.   

Here are the average differences for each of the four coaching regimes during their entire tenures at Georgia:   

DOOLEY: +0.56
GOFF: -0.01
DONNAN: +0.11
RICHT: -1.04

While not as evident during the Donnan and Goff eras, there is undoubtedly a discrepancy in how Dooley and Richt's Bulldog teams performed (in terms of outscoring the opposition) between the first three quarters of games and the fourth quarter: Dooley's Dogs, on average and comparatively speaking, thrived in the final period, whereas Richt's teams have faltered.

I know what some might think: Richt's teams have often had such overwhelming leads by the fourth quarter and while reserves played (especially when compared to the Goff and Donnan eras), of course they could very easily get outscored in the final quarter.  After all, Richt's .744 winning percentage and +10.4 scoring margin are both tops among the four coaching regimes.

But in looking over the data, there have been several excellent Georgia football teams, who were winning handily by the end of the third quarter in a number of games, yet they continued to dominate into the fourth and final quarter as well.

Above all, the Bulldogs quite often haven't been winning handily by the fourth quarter the last two seasons, and needed to outscore (or at least hold their own) the opposition down the stretch, but have repeatedly failed.

Georgia's average scoring-margin difference from Quarters 1-3 to Quarter 4 of -3.3 points the last two seasons combined ranks dead last in the SEC, just below Arkansas (-3.1).  Interestingly, Kentucky is first in the SEC during the 2009-2010 seasons with a +2.4-point difference.  

Is there any correlation between a team's strength/conditioning and how it performs in the fourth compared to the first three quarters?  I would think so (at least a little).

Nevertheless, for a team whose motto is finish the drill, the drill has not been getting regularly finished in the fourth quarter the last two years, especially this season.

If a new head of strength and conditioning can help relieve that problem, even the slightest, Georgia could very well be once again vying for BCS bowls, instead of settling on the Independence and Liberty.


Anonymous said...

I think there is definitely a correlation between conditioning and 4Q play. By looking at your 2006-2010 steadily deccrease in points, it makes total sense. Since '06 UGA has steadily been losing its program while VanHalenger has underperformed at his job! Rick F.

Anonymous said...

So much for "Finish the Drill".