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January 30, 2012

"Suspended" by the Powers that Be...

You, yes you, can now watch George Rogers'
game-clinching  fumble against the Bulldogs
in 1980 from our Digital Network for as little
as $3.99!
On Saturday morning, I had received a couple of emails asking why my blog had disappeared.  This disturbing development was certainly news to me, but sure enough, I visited my site and it had indeed been removed since early Friday.  I finally got it restored yesterday morning. 

I did some digging and found out that there was a very good reason for my blog's disappearing act: I had committed a major violation and because of it, I was being punished by the powers that be!

It seems that the 40 or so videos of old Bulldog games I had posted on YouTube over the last one-and-a-half years and embedded into my blog posts were committing copyright infringement.  XOS Digital - a division of XOS Technologies, Inc., and the group behind the SEC Digital Network - has apparently been on a mission to rid the Internet of any video depicting members of the SEC.  They finally caught up to me a few days ago, and in the process, got rid of every last one of my 40+ freakin' videos that I spent hours cutting up and preparing!    

Suddenly, without any sort of notification or warning of my wrong doing, my blog was temporarily removed, all of my videos were wiped out, and my YouTube account was suspended.

I got my blog back and that's what really mattered to me the most.  Losing the videos isn't that big of a deal; however, there was an audience (albeit, a small one) that enjoyed watching my old clips of the Bulldogs from yesteryear.  Now, because Jake Scott, the "Junkyard Dogs," Herschel Walker, Scott Woerner, Terry Hoage, Garrison Hearst, etc., played for SEC member Georgia, their videos can no longer be posted; XOS Digital will have none of it.  

I can no longer share my clips with the Bulldog Nation, but am forced to watch them by my lonesome (and I mean all alone -- strangely, my wife doesn't enjoy reliving the 1976 Florida game with me).  However, if the Bulldogs were a member of the Big Ten, for example, the videos would remain on my blog and up at YouTube for the few viewers that actually wanted to watch them.

Also, how ironic is it that the SEC Digital Network, who emailed me countless times a year or so ago wanting me to post its "SEC Video Zone" (or whatever the hell it was) on my blog (which I actually did for a short period before I noticed it was slowing down my site) is run by the same group that reported to YouTube all of my "infringing acts"?  Bunch of squealing bastards...

One quick look at the SEC's site and I notice it has one of my favorite old Bulldog classics "on demand" -- the 1980 Georgia-South Carolina game.  Before you could go to YouTube, or my blog, and view clips from this game.  Now, you still can view the clips from the very same game via the SEC Digital Network, but it's gonna cost you: $3.99 to rent, $6.99 to own.

Now, I get it.  It's all about the almighty dollar.  And folks that already have plenty of them, only want more.  Oh, well.  You live and learn -- that is, me and numerous others, who were not looking to make any money, but simply enjoy video clips of our favorite SEC teams from the past and present. 

On a positive note, I'm nearly finished with my Georgia-Florida manuscript, so I should have more free time beginning next week to dedicate to my now video-less blog.

January 17, 2012

Just Another Lost Lead...

In four seasons from 2008 through 2011, Coach Richt and company reached a mark
higher than Georgia did during the entire 25 seasons of the Coach Vince Dooley era...

...but it certainly isn't a mark to be proud of.

It recently dawned on me that Georgia's loss to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl was surely the third or fourth setback the Bulldogs endured the last several years after it led its opposition by double digits in the second half. 

I did a little research, and sure enough, the loss to the Spartans was Georgia's fourth in the last four seasons after leading by 10 or more points in the second half -- a "lost lead," so to speak.  During the four-season period, the Bulldogs had no "comeback wins," or the contrary -- trailing by 10+ points in the second half only to rally for a victory.

Georgia's comeback wins and lost leads under Coach Richt:

2002: Trailed Auburn by 11 in 2H but won
2004: Trailed South Carolina by 10 in 2H but won
2006: Trailed Colorado by 13 in 2H but won
2006: Led Tennessee by 10 in 2H but lost
2006: Trailed Virginia Tech by 18 in 2H but won
2007: Trailed Vanderbilt by 10 in 2H but won
2008: Led Georgia Tech by 16 in 2H but lost
2009: Led Kentucky by 14 in 2H but lost
2010: Led Colorado by 10 in 2H but lost
2011: Led Michigan State by 16 in 2H but lost

So, what does this all mean?  Since it's such a small sampling, initially, I thought probably little.  Although I did believe it was somewhat alarming that Richt had 5 comeback wins and 1 lost lead in his first 7 seasons, but was 0 and 4 the last four.  More so, Georgia's four lost leads starting with Tech in 2008 have resulted during its total of 17 losses during that time, meaning for nearly 1 out of 4 of the Bulldogs' setbacks beginning with the Jackets in '08, Georgia actually had a double-digit lead in the second half.
During the 288-game Dooley era, Georgia lost just three
games after leading by 10+ points in the second half. 
Interestingly, TWO of those losses came in the Bulldogs'
two appearances in the Astrodome: the 1978 Bluebonnet
Bowl vs. Stanford and pictured against Houston in 1967.

What about Georgia's previous head coaches?  Maybe the fact that Richt has suffered a lost lead several years in a row isn't that much of a big deal in comparison? 

Not so much.  In 44 seasons from 1964 through 2007, the Bulldogs never suffered a lost lead in back-to-back seasons, much less one FOUR years in a row.

DOOLEY (25 seasons, 288 games): 13 comeback wins, 3 lost leads

GOFF (7 seasons, 81 games): 4 comeback wins, 2 lost leads

DONNAN (5 seasons, 59 games): 5 comeback wins, 3 lost leads

RICHT (11 seasons, 144): 5 comeback wins, 5 lost leads

More telling, in 519 games from 1964 through 2007, Georgia lost just 9 games where it led by 10+ points in the second half (1 in 58 games) compared to 4 lost leads in 53 games from 2008 through 2011 (1 in 13 games).

At first, I thought comparing coaching eras in this regard might be completely apples-to-oranges...  Supposedly, offenses are far more sophisticated these days than they were during Dooley's time for example, and more points are scored in games.  So, a double-digit second-half lead nowadays is far less "safe" than it was say 30-40 years ago.  This argument might have some significance; however, major college teams averaged 21.2 points per game in 1968 for example, compared to only a slight increase to 24.4 points nearly 40 years later in 2006. 

Anyway, no matter how many total points are scored, if a team has a double-digit lead in the second half, I don't care if it is the year 2011 or 1911, it shouldn't lose the game.  

A closer look at the Richt era reveals... 

From 2001 through 2007 (91 games), Georgia led by 10+ points in the second half of 62 games, suffering just 1 lost lead.  The Bulldogs trailed by 10+ points in the second half of 16 games, rallying for 5 comeback wins

From 2008 through 2011 (53 games), Georgia led by 10+ points in the second half of 32 games, but endured 4 lost leads.  The Bulldogs trailed by 10+ points in the second half of 14 games, rallying for ZERO comeback wins

How is all of this significant?  In my opinion, the problem lies in exactly what this blog and 1,000 others have been declaring since the Bulldogs started their demise in 2008, whether its poor conditioning, complacency, or so-called "energy vampires" within the program.  I was under the impression these issues were beginning to be controlled, which they probably and hopefully are, and perhaps the second-half collapse to Michigan State was a mere hiccup --  just another lost lead in the Bulldogs' improvement process.

Regardless, what occurred just twice in seven seasons of a dark Ray Goff era has resulted in each of the last four years... and that doesn't say much for the current coaching regime.

January 10, 2012

In Our Heads

As the 2011 college football season officially ended last night, I realized that I'm just about over the Bulldogs ending their campaign in very disappointing fashion.  I've basically forgotten that Georgia simply handed another victory to an opponent, which is exactly what I was afraid might happen.

Still, I cannot seem to get Blair Walsh and particularly his first failed field-goal attempt in overtime against the Spartans out of my head.

As one who is passionate about the history of UGA football, I've imagined how historic, memorable, and almost fitting it would have been if Walsh had made his first overtime attempt - a kick I actually thought was good until the very last moment.  After recording two of the greatest seasons ever by a Georgia placekicker, here's a player who had struggled all year and yet on his final field-goal attempt as a Bulldog, he not only wins the Outback Bowl but sets the SEC's all-time career scoring record in the process.

Alas, as we all know, Walsh's kick instead missed, he later set the record on an attempt to force another overtime, and his final and second-most important field-goal try as a Bulldog was blocked, ending the placekicker's Georgia career.

What I can't seem to get out of my head is how did it come to this?  What on earth happened to Blair Walsh this season? 

How does a former All-American, who missed as many field goals in two years combined that you can count on one hand, miss 14 attempts in a single season?

During the season, I heard that Walsh is surely "rattled," or simply put, there must be "something in his head."  But surely and simply there must have been something more to it than just that... 

Look, I have no place-kicking experience.  The last time I kicked a ball in organized sports, it was a soccer ball, and that was way back in middle school, and my kick probably went astray and out of bounds.  Also, I realize that Blair is a college kid in his early-20s, so just about anything is possible.  In addition, I'm a firm believer in until you walk a mile in a man's shoes, it's difficult to judge him

However, this is beyond baffling:

In 2009, Walsh made 20 of 22 field goals, or 90.9 percent.  Of the 52 players in FBS football to attempt at least 20 field goals that season, Walsh's 90.9 percent was tied for the SECOND best in the nation.

In 2010, Walsh made 20 of 23 field goals, or 87.0 percent.  Of the 44 players in FBS football to attempt at least 20 field goals that season, Walsh's 87.0 percent was the FIFTH best in the nation. 

In 2011, Walsh made 21 of 35 field goals, or only 60.0 percent.  Of the 43 players in FBS football to attempt at least 20 field goals this season, Walsh's 60.0 percent was tied for the SECOND WORST in the nation.

In my research and work over the years, I've nerdily looked over and analyzed more statistics than I care to recall, and I've hardly ever observed something quite like this: a near first-to-worst player at his position - one of the best placekickers in the country instantly becomes arguably the worst.   

You would have to believe that if Georgia had some sort of coach specifically for the special teams unit and/or for kickers, it would have only helped Walsh.  Granted, the Bulldogs didn't have such an assistant in 2009 and 2010 when the placekicker was at his best; however, a special teams coordinator, or the like, on Georgia's sidelines in 2011 could have only provided  assistance to Walsh during his apparent meltdown.

For 21 seasons from 1974 to 1994, Bill Hartman was a volunteer kicking coach at Georgia.  The placekickers under the former Bulldog standout is like a who's who of the greatest kickers ever at UGA: Allan Leavitt, Rex Robinson, Kevin Butler, Steve Crumley, John Kasay, Todd Peterson, and Kanon Parkman.  From 1974 through 1994, Bulldog placekickers made better than 70 percent (70.3) of their field-goal attempts.  During the same time period, the remaining kickers in all of major college football were nearly 10 percent less accurate (61.1).  Assuredly, Hartman had something to do - even if it was only the slightest - with this remarkable difference in accuracy.

I realize the NCAA eliminated volunteer coaches nearly 15 years ago, and Georgia doesn't have a full-time special teams coach because Coach Richt takes the same approach as his mentor, Bobby Bowden, and divides the special teams amongst position coaches. 

For 2011, it's my understanding that offensive line coach Will Friend was responsible for coaching the PAT and field-goal kicking unit.  Friend may have been an All-SEC lineman for Alabama in 1997, but I seriously doubt the one-time 6-foot-2, 275-pound offensive guard attempted many PATs or field goals in his time. 

More than two months ago, when asked if he ever considered a full-time special teams coach, Richt said he "looked at it" but "if you have a guy that does only special teams, all of the sudden you’re robbing a position from the offense or defense."

Coach, desperate times call for desperate measures, and whether you have to rob, steal, or cheat, something needs to be done for next year regarding Georgia's special teams - perhaps a new approach from the old-school way of Bobby Bowden. 

Specifically, whether Walsh was coached by  Friend, had his own personal kicking coach, or wasn't coached at all, it simply did not work in 2011; whatever was "in his head" evidently stayed there the entire season with no assistance for escape. 

January 2, 2012

An All-Time Favorite

Win, lose, or draw, the 1978 WONDERDOGS are one of the most favorite Bulldog teams of all time
Over the holidays, a friend of mine mentioned that the 2011 Bulldogs, even if they were to lose their bowl game today, were one of his most "favorite" Georgia football teams of all time; a squad with a coach on the supposed "hot seat" starts off 0-2, only to win 10 consecutive games and capture the SEC East.  What's there not to admire?

When asked of their "favorite" Georgia team, it has been my experience that often Bulldog fans, instead of mentioning the elite and championship teams of the past, will declare a group that more so overachieved and/or endured adversity to succeed.  Examples of such overachieving Bulldogs include the 1975 Junkyard Dogs, the season after Herschel in 1983, Operation Turnaround in 1991, and the 2005 SEC champs. 

In addition, there were the 1978 Wonderdogs - perhaps the best example in Georgia football history of underdogs turned topdogs.

Entering the 1978 season, the Bulldogs were actually forecasted to be even worse than the losing 5-6 team from the year before.  In the preseason, one media outlet predicted that Georgia's game with Vanderbilt would decide which school was the 9th and 10th-best squad in the 10-member SEC.  Reportedly, the only probable victory on the schedule was a meeting with the Virginia Military Institute - a Division I-AA opponent - in early November.

Nevertheless, Georgia achieved an unfathomable 9-1-1 regular-season record and came within an eyelash of capturing an SEC title.  Within the first five games of the year, the Bulldogs remarkably defeated three opponents - Baylor, Clemson, and LSU - as decided underdogs.  For the entire season, four of the nine victories by the Underdogs to Wonderdogs were by a scant one- or two-point margin.

Ranked 7th nationally in the UPI Poll, Georgia headed to the now-defunct Bluebonnet Bowl at the Astrodome in Houston.  The Wonderdogs were facing Stanford and Coach Bill Walsh's high-flying offense, and once again - this time by more than a touchdown - the Bulldogs were underdogs:

In the 1978 Bluebonnet Bowl, one truly had to wonder about the Wonderdogs.  During the regular season, Georgia had overcome deficits in the fourth quarter four times to rally for three victories and a tie at Auburn.  Included was a 29-28 win over Georgia Tech, where the Bulldogs trailed 20-0 at one point. 

After pulling off the biggest comeback victory in school history in its regular-season finale, Georgia suffered its biggest blown lead of all time the very next game, dropping a 25-22 decision to Stanford after the Bulldogs had led 22-0 in the third quarter.  

After averaging just 329 yards of total offense for the year, Georgia gained more than 500 on Stanford.  On the contrary, the Cardinals (and, yes, the nickname had an "s" back then, unlike today, but still referred to the color and not the bird), who entered with the fifth-highest ranked offense in the nation, was held to roughly 100 yards below their regular-season average.

Notably, after losing a school-record 35 fumbles during the 1977 season, Georgia decided to switch from the Veer offense to the I-formation.  The change was a success as the Bulldogs lost just 16 fumbles in '78.  However, in the Bluebonnet Bowl, the old epidemic emerged as Georgia lost five fumbles to the Cardinals - ALL of them in the second half.

Also sporadic was the performance of Rex Robinson.  During the year, the sophomore placekicker was nearly perfect, missing just two kicks (29 of 29 PAT, 15 of 17 field goals).  However, in the Astrodome against Stanford alone, Robinson missed four (1 of 3 PAT, 1 of 3 field goals).

As Robinson has mentioned before,  part of his problem that day 33 years ago, like many performances in bowl games, was being removed from a routine during the off period between the regular season and postseason.

It's little wonder college football bowl games were initially treated and regarded as merely exhibitions.

Anyway, despite resulting in a loss, I found some good clips - ALL of them in the game's first 35 minutes - of a band of overachieving Bulldogs that I mostly only knew of beforehand from my research.  Personally, and for what it's worth, the 1978 Wonderdogs are probably my "favorite" Georgia football team of all time - and similarly to the attitude of my aforementioned friend - even if they did lose their bowl game.