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October 29, 2012

Curse Lifted?

 In a 17-9 momentous victory over Florida, Georgia's defensive unit finally flexed its collective muscle for an entire contest.  But, it was only a matter of time, right?  With all the talent on that side of the ball, some of us Dawg fans insisted the defense would eventually show up at some point this season.  
From midway through the second quarter of the Tennessee game through last week's disappointing defensive showing in Lexington, the Bulldog defense yielded 13 touchdowns in the opposition's last 31 offensive possessions (not interrupted by halftime or a game's end).  That's allowing a touchdown 42 percent of the time the opponent possesses the ball a downright dismal defensive rate.  However, on Saturday, Georgia defenders stepped up to hold the Gators completely out of the end zone in 13 possessions. 
Still, the primary manner, and particularly the number of them, in which the Bulldogs defeated the Gators was unforeseen by all; a defensive output not generated by a Georgia team in quite some time.
It was rather clear Georgia would have to force a few Florida turnovers if it had any chance for a win.  Still, no one could have predicted the Bulldogs would gather six (or likely even half that amount) by the end of the game... Not this Bulldog defense, against that Gator offense.
Consider how far fetched it was for Georgia to force six turnovers from Florida, four of which came via fumbles:
You don't have to go back too terribly far – "only" five years to find the last time Georgia gained as many turnovers as it did in Jacksonville.  In the Bulldogs' 41-10 rout over Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, the Warriors also committed six turnovers.  However, as far as the last time the Bulldogs recovered as many fumbles, I had to go way back, like more than 20 years ago to discover Georgia recovered five fumbles in a 56-0 win over Cal State Fullerton in 1992. 
Here's the thing, though: that CSF squad fumbled a lot, against every opponent, setting a single-season Division I-A record with 41 lost fumbles during the year.  On the contrary, Florida ventured to Jacksonville as a team not to turn the ball over, and especially when facing a defense like Georgia's.
The 2nd-ranked Gators entered the game ranked ninth in the country in turnover margin, having committed just four turnovers in seven games.  Only one of the other 119 FBS schools (Ohio) entered Saturday having committed less turnovers.
On the other hand, Georgia had forced just 10 turnovers in seven games this year.  In recent seasons, the Bulldogs especially had a difficult time forcing fumbles.  Since the '08 Sugar Bowl, Georgia had recovered only 34 opposing fumbles in 60 games, including just two the entire 2009 season.  
What might be difficult to comprehend can be recognized as a miracle, as well.  Against a team that hardly loses a turnover, the Dogs recovered twice as many fumbles in a game as they did during an entire 13-game season in, by the way, a series in which Georgia had forced just three combined turnovers in the previous four meetings (2008-2011).
Finally, in a rivalry in which Georgia has been said to be cursed or suffering from a "Jacksonville Jinx" over the last two-plus decades, not only does it appear the curse has been lifted, but inflicted upon the opposing school. 

October 26, 2012

Turnovers the Key to a Tall Order

In 1974, Georgia was a touchdown underdog in
Jacksonville, and would be outgained 420-263 by the
Gators. However, the Dogs did not lose the turnover
battle, and thus celebrated in the end.  
I received an email yesterday from a reader, asking when was the last time Georgia had defeated Florida if ever when the Bulldogs entered as big as an underdog as they will be tomorrow.
Currently, Georgia is a 7-point underdog, and unless the line drops by more than a point, it'll mark the 18th time over the last 40 meetings Florida entered the game favored by 6 points or higher.  Of these 18, notably, nine came consecutively from 1993 through 2001, or nearly the entire time Spurrier was the Ole Ball Coach at Florida.
To answer the emailer, not long ago it was just five seasons ago when the Bulldogs upset Tim Tebow and the Gators 42-30 as 7.5-point underdogs.  However, Georgia's upset victory in 2007 marked somewhat of a rare occurrence in the series.  Entering tomorrow, of the 17 meetings the Bulldogs were 6-point underdogs or more to Florida, only four times did they come away with a win:
1974: WON 17-16 as a 6.5-point underdog
1975: WON 10-7 as a 10.5-point underdog
1997: WON 37-17 as a 20.5-point underdog
2007: WON 42-30 as a 7.5-point underdog
Each of Georgia's upset victories certainly has its memorable moment(s): Florida's incomplete pass on a two-point conversion attempt and a try for victory in '74, Appleby to Washington the following year, Robert Edwards running wild against the Gators in '97, and Knowshon Moreno doing the same a decade later.  However, besides the games all being played in Jacksonville, there was hardly any other similarity I could find amongst the four Bulldog upsets.
Searching for a historical statistical trend, so to speak, I dug deep into the 17 times the Bulldogs have previously faced Florida as big dogs, looking at yardage totals, first downs, time of possession, and even examined if those "nasty" winds in Jacksonville were a factor in the outcome.  I found nothing, that is, until there it was as obvious as spotting a cocktail at the WLOCP perhaps, the most important of all statistics; one a team tries to force, yet not commit: TURNOVERS.
Of the 17 times the Bulldogs have entered Georgia-Florida as a significant underdog, just ONCE (Florida in 2001) did the winner of the game commit more turnovers than the opponent. 
I've heard it all week from the pundits: If Georgia has any chance for a victory tomorrow, its defense will need to play up to its talent level, the offense will need to somehow establish a running game, our kicking game cannot fail, and/or the Bulldogs' special teams cannot yield good field position.  I agree with them all to some degree, but believe there's a more important component.
If history has a way of repeating itself, and it evidently and continuously has in this series, the winner of the turnover battle tomorrow will almost assuredly win the game.  If the Bulldogs can do more forcing in Jacksonville than committing, expect a fifth game to be added to their short list of entering The Cocktail Party as a big dog, but leaving as prevailing Dawgs.

October 25, 2012

A Ringing Endorsement

It just wouldn't be proper for a blog focused on the history of UGA football not to mention the Belue-to-Scott pass play during the week of Georgia-Florida.  Besides being aware of the obvious it's the greatest play in Bulldog history and there's no national title in 1980 without it I assumed I had either read or heard most every experience or account from those involved in the 93-yard miracle or were only yards away when the play unfolded.  That is, until I recently watched filmmaker Lenny Daniel's "1980 Dawgs: The Inside Story of the National Championship Season." 
The DVD set, which was released more than a year ago, is a documentary I thought I'd eventually get around to watching, but was in no hurry to do so.  I, like maybe some of you, have gathered numerous books and videos over the years, describing the 1980 season in full, including a detailed account of the Belue-to-Scott touchdown.
However, when I recently sat down to watch 1980 Dawgs, I honestly couldn't break away from the video until I had consumed all 3½ hours of footage.  The documentary is a thorough and excellent narrative regarding Georgia's greatest football season told by those who experienced it first hand.   
Take it from someone who thought he had seen or heard it all about the national championship campaign prior to watching the documentary.  There are many fascinating anecdotes and memories from former 1980 Bulldog players and coaches that were once untold, but now can be shared.

October 23, 2012

When the thought of UF beating UGA was laughable...

 From a 1919 newspaper article previewing the Georgia-Florida game being played at Tampa's Plant Field:
A Tampa sports writer goes out on a limb and predicts the Gators will defeat the Red and Black, and then expects all readers to laugh.  Unfortunately for the writer, his fearless forecast would prove faulty as Georgia defeated Florida 16-0 in the rivalry's lone meeting in Cigar City.
This Saturday, the Gators might be laughing at the Bulldogs by game's end; however, there was a time (albeit more than 90 years ago and when the rivalry was played in front of 2,800 spectators) when everyone laughed at the mere thought of Florida beating Georgia.


October 21, 2012

Dinner with Dooley

Eat, drink, and be merry with Coach Dooley...  For all you Dawg fans heading down to The Cocktail Party this week, I was asked to pass along this information for those who wanted to start partying by Wednesday night.

Date: Wednesday, October 24
Time: 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Location: Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Morgan Center

Tickets: $45 per person. $75 per couple ($35 and $65, respectively, for Bulldawg Club Members!).
Enjoy a memorable evening with legendary coach Vince Dooley at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel's Morgan Center. Tickets include dinner and drinks. Coach Dooley will speak on his new book History and Reminiscences of the University of Georgia, illustrated by artist Steve Penley. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

October 18, 2012

Expectations Off A Bye

A year ago, Richard Samuel and his Bulldog teammates
grabbed a rare victory over the Gators, and an infrequent
cover in recent seasons when coming off a bye week.
Around this time in 2009, I posted on Georgia's performance over the last few decades when coming off an open week.  Three years later, I wanted to update and expand on the subject, examining if the Bulldogs have benefited over the last 40 years when having an extra week to practice and prepare.
Over the last 39 seasons since 1973 (and I'll explain later why that particular year), Georgia enters this Saturday with a winning percentage of 70 percent in 69 games coming off a bye.  In comparison, during the same time period, the Bulldogs have had similar success for all of its games with, again, a 70 percent winning percentage.
The breakdown of Georgia's off-a-bye and overall records by head coach:  
DOOLEY*:  78.5 off bye (20-5-1); 73.2 career (135-48-6)
GOFF:       46.4 off bye (6-7-1);   57.4 career (46-34-1)
DONNAN: 66.7 off bye (8-4);      67.8 career (40-19)
RICHT:     76.5 off bye (13-4);    74.0 career (111-39)
* Dooley's records begin in 1973, excluding his tenure from 1964 to 1972.
Besides maybe Coach Goff, Georgia's head coaches over the last four decades have each had more or less similar win-loss ratios whether coming off a bye week or otherwise.  However, comparing bye-week and overall records is kind of like apples and oranges.  Coach Donnan, for example, had the luxury of facing a few stinkers come off a bye.  While speaking of Goff, he faced Georgia Tech (and a few pretty good Jacket teams) annually off an open week, usually Auburn, Florida on a couple of occasions, and Alabama once.
I've mentioned it here plenty of times before, but there's no question in my mind that a good measurement of a football team in terms of straining its potential, and vice versa, is its record against the spread (ATS).  I realize betting lines are moved and set primarily based on the amount of money wagered on each side of a game.  Regardless, it's certainly by no accident that the best ATS teams in the SEC starting in 2008 to the present are Alabama (64.4%) and Florida (62.1%) teams that primarily have played to or above what was expected of them and then there's Georgia an underachiever, for the most part which has covered just 40 percent of its games (22 of 55) since the Alabama "Blackout" game of four years ago.
From 1973, or the first recognized season modern-day techniques were used to determine college football odds, through 2011, the following is each coach's off-a-bye and overall records in regards to ATS:
DOOLEY*:  38.5 off bye (10-16); 51.7 career (93-87-5)
GOFF:       50.0 off bye (7-7);     49.4 career (39-40)
DONNAN: 58.3 off bye (7-5);     51.7 career (30-28)
RICHT:     56.3 off bye (9-7-1);  50.0 career (71-71-4)
While each head coach's overall ATS record during their UGA career is right around 50 percent, the four ATS records coming off an open date are somewhat sporadic.  During Dooley's tenure, for example, the Bulldogs might have lost only five of 26 games off a bye, but the spread wasn't covered in 16 of those 26 contests.  On the contrary, if you are a betting man and began wagering on the Bulldogs off a bye beginning with the Donnan regime in 1996, you would have a rather respectable mark to date (and a little cash in your pocket).
Therefore, one may think a Richt team is possibly a good bet to cover the current 27½ point spread in Lexington (which, notably, is the largest line for the Bulldogs in their nearly 250 away and neutral-sited games beginning in 1973).
However, Richt's success against the number came during the first half of his era, covering seven of his first nine games following a bye.  Since midway through the 2005 season or, around the time many point to when this program started to have its "issues," so to speak – Georgia has been almost assuredly a losing bet after a bye.
Thus, even with an extra week to practice and prepare, the current trend would be to pass on the Bulldogs if you're a betting man.  Four touchdowns on the road, even against a dreadful Kentucky squad, are likely too many to cover for a recent edition of Richt's Dogs.

October 15, 2012

"Game of My Life"

We'd appreciate any assistance...  A couple weeks ago, I was asked by Skyhorse Publishing of New York City to author a book on UGA football Game of My Life: Georgia Bulldogs.  You may have seen similar versions in bookstores: Auburn, South Carolina, LSU, there's even a Game of My Life: Minnesota [Gophers football].  So, it's about time someone put together a version on our beloved Bulldogs.
Anyway, when asked to write the book, I had a small request for the publisher: instead of someone writing it, could more than one do so?   
For those of you who read this blog from time to time, you're perhaps aware of my occasional mention of my father, "Old Dawg."  My dad is an inspiration, my best friend, and the primary reason for my passion and enthusiasm for the UGA football program and its history.
Now, Old Dawg might be, well... old, but he is still my chief editor and proofreader and remains as sharp as when he served the University of Georgia and three other schools for 50 combined years as a sociology professor.  Therefore, if I was to ever co-author a book, it's been a desire of mine for some time to write one with my dad. 
Late last week, this desire became a reality, and come July-August 2013, yours truly and A.P. Garbin, Sr. will be releasing the aforementioned title.  The book will feature approximately 30-35 ex-Bulldog standouts with each player describing in his own words the "game of his life" while at Georgia.  My father and I will be conducting all of the interviews with the first already scheduled for this week.
In writing the last couple of my five books, I discovered that I was beginning to repeat myself to some degree, mentioning the same all-time great players, moments, plays, performances, and games in Bulldog history.  So, with Game of My Life, we plan to take a little different approach.  Sure, our book will contain features and interviews on the usual suspects a number of living UGA football legends  that seemingly always grace the pages of the typical book on the Bulldogs.  However, we plan on including quite a few players from yesteryear who were certainly standouts while at UGA, but today aren't necessarily household names.
A year ago, when I began my book project on the Georgia-Florida series, I posted here asking for your assistance, and got it in a huge way.  I received dozens of emails with anti-Gator stories and jokes; I still cannot get over the response and support I got. 
Therefore, for this book, I'm asking for your help as well.  If you know of an ex-Georgia "standout" player, or better yet, just so happen to be one, who can recall a game of their life and wouldn't mind sharing the memories, I'd really like to hear from you.  Please email me at patrick@patrickgarbin.comTwo Dawgs an old one and another a little younger would be very grateful...

October 10, 2012

When a Dawg "Under Fire" Lit Up the 'Cats

In Lexington 30 years ago, someone (No. 12) other
than Herschel had to come to the Bulldogs' rescue.
Personally, it was good to hear recently that the upcoming Georgia-Kentucky contest was set for 7:00 p.m. ET.  As an enthusiast of UGA football history, I think of the series when meeting in Lexington as one normally played at night.
In addition, I think of past Georgia games at Kentucky where often a Bulldog in obscurity plays a significant role in defeating the Wildcats.  Such was the case 30 years ago when a quarterback "under fire" had a career night, lifting Georgia from approaching what would have been one of the biggest upsets in school history.
Entering the 1982 season, perhaps the biggest question for the Bulldogs had been who was going to play quarterback.  Georgia had signed highly-recruited Jamie Harris, but the Danville, Virginia native had a difficult time adjusting to the college game and was redshirted.  The Bulldogs also featured freshman Todd Williams from Waycross and Villanova transfer Danny Greene, but none of the two newcomers had played well enough to challenge the starting signal-caller by default junior John Lastinger.
Lastinger had played on Georgia's junior varsity squad as a freshman, redshirted in 1980, and attempted just 18 passes as a sophomore (completing only seven) as a backup to Buck Belue.  When Harris struggled in summer practices, Lastinger seemingly with reluctance was named the team's starter under center.  Nevertheless, there was little worry by the Bulldog faithful...  For the most part, all Lastinger had to do was turn around and hand it to Herschel, right? 
Through the first six games of the 1982 season, for the most part, that is all Lastinger had to do.  Herschel Walker and a stout defense had carried the Dawgs to a 6-0 record and a No. 3 national ranking.  Lastinger entered the Kentucky game having passed for just four touchdowns all year and was ranked as the lowest-rated passer in the entire conference, and one of the lowest in the nation.
Against Kentucky, who entered its night-time affair versus Georgia as a three-touchdown underdog and would eventually end its season without a single victory, the Bulldogs found themselves trailing 14-3 in the second quarter.  With the Wildcats smelling what would be an all-time upset, Lastinger instantly took over a stagnant offense, passing for a career-high 162 yards and three touchdowns (or just two less scoring passes than he had thrown in his previous 14 combined games as a Bulldog) in what would result as a 27-14 Georgia win:   
Of the 21 Bulldogs in history to pass for at least 1,750 career yards, Lastinger ranks the lowest with a 45.2 completion percentage; his 104.2 career efficiency rating is third from the bottom.  Regardless, no Georgia quarterback equals his career winning percentage of nearly 90.0 as a starting quarterback.  In 1982 and 1983, Lastinger combined to go 20-2-1 in career starts.
Granted, much of the Bulldog signal-caller's winning success can be attributed to Herschel in '82 and a dominating defense both seasons.  However, exhibited that night in Lexington plus in at least a couple other contests the following year (Florida and Texas in the Cotton Bowl), John Lastinger simply rose to the occasion above all, demonstrating why the underappreciated quarterback is unmatched in school history in the "statistic" that matters the most winning.   

October 8, 2012

Historically "Embarrassing"

Coach, as Pink Floyd once said,
the dream is gone...
Yesterday, a friend of mine jokingly asked what possible "historical viewpoint" did I have in regards to Georgia's 35-7 debacle in Columbia.  After some consideration, my response concerning the defeat, historically speaking:
In my lifetime, likely never had a Bulldog football team, which was at least expected to play competitively, been beaten so soundly by an opponent from start to finish like that Georgia squad was last night.
Aaron Murray is now 0-10 in "big games," the Bulldog once-vaunted defense is obviously overrated, and the special teams continues to give away points.  After Saturday's loss, what some hoped for as a "dream" season is now gone, and with it, likely even a mere divisional title.  And, to make matters worse, the rout came to a school that had never defeated Georgia three times in a row and, until only several years ago, had actually more all-time losses in its history than victories.  
Even our head coach called the loss "embarrassing."
Indeed, the 28-point loss was embarrassing historically embarrassing ranking as the fourth-worst defeat by a modern-day Georgia team (beginning in 1973) when it was expected to win, or at least be competitive (an underdog of less than 7 points):   
33- Kentucky in 1977 (lost 33-0 as 2-pt fav)
31- Virginia in 1979 (lost 31-0 as 8-pt fav)
31- Alabama in 1995 (lost 31-0 as 3-pt dog)
28- South Carolina in 2012 (lost 35-7 as 1-pt dog)
27- Florida in 1984 (lost 27-0 as 3-pt dog)
26- Tennessee in 2009 (lost 45-19 as 1-pt fav)
24- Miss. State in 1974 (lost 38-14 as 4-pt fav)
24- Pittsburgh in 1977 Sugar Bowl (lost 27-3 as 3-pt dog)
I'm rather familiar with the top three historically bad losses the stunning shutout to the 'Cats 35 years ago in front of Prince Charles, the drubbing Virginia game us two years later on Homecoming, and the last shutout the Bulldogs endured resulting in Coach Goff's final season and, from what I recall, at least Georgia was "in" all three games for at least a quarter or so.  That wasn't the case the other night; remove "likely" from my response above.  
But, I thought this year's team was suppose to be different from that of the last several campaigns one with some leadership.  Instead, it appeared quite similar to the soft, undisciplined Georgia teams lacking heart and discipline of recent seasons. 
You can now officially forget that old argument by some local Bulldog apologists as recently as a year or two ago that Georgia simply is not as talented as it was during the early-2000s compared to other schools. That argument was ridiculous to begin with; now, it's just plain ignorant. Personally, and as I have often voiced here the last several years (as many of you), I place little blame on the players, but the problems start at the top.
Besides declaring Georgia's poor performance "shocking," analyst Kirk Herbstreit keenly identified the Bulldogs' disheartening response to a pep talk from the top Dawg entering the fourth quarter.  Coach Richt's message obviously fell on deaf ears as the Gamecocks began the final stanza from their 13-yard line, marching through our defense to a touchdown in 13 plays all rushing.  South Carolina was aided on the drive by three Georgia penalties, including an offsides by Jarvis Jones on 4th-and-1 and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike by Bacarri Rambo.   
Speaking of defense, on a side note, I saw Todd Grantham last Thursday in the early evening at Prince Avenue Christian School's football stadium; his son and my nephew play on the same 5th-6th grade football team.  From the stands just prior to the game, I overheard someone mumble, "Grantham should probably be in his office, watching film on the Gamecocks..."  Everyone within earshot, including myself, found it humorous. 
I'm no longer snickering, but think there might be some truth to the statement.  I bet none of Nick Saban's top assistants were at a pee wee football game within 48 hours of Saturday... and Alabama had an open date this past weekend.
Look, I'm certainly not advocating Bulldog coaches shouldn't attend the school functions of their children, or even arguing that there should be some sort of coaching change.  But, as another friend of mine said to me yesterday, simply put, "the culture of the program stinks."  And when the culture stinks, it's likely that impressionable 18 to 22-year-olds within that culture are going to stink on occasion, as well.
And, until the surrounding culture of the University of Georgia football program is totally changed, or at least slightly altered, the Bulldogs will often continue to appear unprepared and unmotivated whenever they face a formidable opponent.

October 4, 2012

Although the sight of it wasn't quite Paris at night...

A Bulldog braces to tackle a 'Cock in the first
Georgia-USC night game in Columbia in '62.
...Columbia, South Carolina was once a certainty to be a city of light for the Georgia football team.  For a span of nearly three entire decades, the only guarantees for the Bulldog faithful every two years were taxes and nighttime affairs at Kentucky and, as is this case in two days, at South Carolina.    
Fifty years ago in 1962, Georgia played in Columbia at night for the first time, marking the start of what would become a customary trip to the supposed Capital of Southern Hospitality.  In 11 visits to Columbia from 1962 through 1986, all but one (1964) was played under the lights.
Like most of the Carolina teams since, the 1962 Gamecocks were sub-par, at best, but rather optimistic, sporting an 0-2 record entering the Georgia contest but featuring two outstanding backs the Bulldog Nation is rather familiar with.
Billy Gambrell is still considered by some as the greatest athlete the city of Athens has ever produced.  Originally signing with Georgia, Gambrell spurned the Bulldogs for neighboring USC, where he would become a star.  In front of 28,000 on "Dad's Night" at Carolina Stadium, the senior halfback tallied the first points of the '62 Georgia-USC game on a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Prior to becoming a renowned NFL coach, an 18-year-old Dan Reeves in 1962 was said to be the youngest starting quarterback in major college football.  The week before the Georgia game, the Americus, Georgia native completed 14 of 25 passes and was responsible for nearly 200 yards of total offense in just his second varsity contest despite a 21-8 loss to Duke.
For more than 58 minutes against Georgia, it was said the Gamecock twosome were "tormentors" to the Bulldogs, but yet the score stood at just 7-0 in favor of the hosts with just under two minutes to play.
Georgia forced a punt, which was downed at the Bulldog 10-yard line; however, a "pushing" penalty on the play brought the football all the way out to the 32 with 1:26 remaining.  What happened next is far from "Belue-to-Scott" but nearly as defying.  Georgia's immobile offense, which had generated just four first downs and 135 total yards to that point, stood 68 yards and in need of a miracle to reach the Carolina goal line.
The miracle would result as quarterback Larry Rakestraw fired a pass downfield to Mickey Babb, who grabbed it on the run at the Carolina 40-yard line.  From there, the junior end streaked into the end zone, pulling the visiting Bulldogs to within one point of the Gamecocks.
Whether 50 years ago in college football, or Georgia's Marshall Morgan during the first five games this year, a successful point-after kick was far from a guarantee.  Nevertheless, Bulldog placekicker Bill McCullough nailed the PAT, handing South Carolina a 7-7 upset tie.
The draw would be the first of three for Georgia in what would result in a mediocre 3-4-3 season.  The Gamecocks wouldn't finish any better at 4-5-1, but their dynamic duo from the state of Georgia had banner years.  In leading the team in rushing, receiving, scoring, KO returns, and even interceptions on defense, Gambrell was recognized as an All-American and the ACC's Player of the Year.  Quarterback Reeves rushed for nearly 500 yards for the season, passed for just under 1,000, completed more than half his passes, and was responsible for 13 touchdowns remarkable statistics for a run-oriented, first-year quarterback from a half-century ago.   
However, Reeves is distinguished in Georgia-USC lore not necessarily because he was a tormentor to the Bulldogs, but how he aided Georgia to its 7-7 tie in '62.  On the Rakestraw-Babb scoring pass, Reeves, who was covering the receiver, lunged at the ball, missing it just before being completed.  Lying on the ground, the quarterback/defensive back could only watch Babb race untouched for the score as he was in no position to make a tackle after the reception.
Just prior to the miraculous touchdown, it seems the young Reeves made a rookie, but critical mistake as Babb ran his pass route to the inside of the field, rather than the anticipated outside.  As the pass was thrown, Reeves was instantly caught out of position a mistake he could perhaps blame on the unfamiliar lights (at least, that would make a better story).

October 2, 2012

Whatever You Want to Call It, It Ain't Good

After trying to hand the game to the Vols in the 1st half,
UGA's defense buckled down a bit following halftime. 
Shooting themselves in the foot, can't get out of their own way, beating themselves, or trying to give the ballgame away...  Whatever you want to call it, the Bulldogs were up to it again against Tennessee on Saturday, particularly in the first half.  Just when we thought perhaps Georgia was over its terrible tendency of the last several years of handing the opposition points, the Dogs yielded 30 to the Vols by halftime and didn't make them work that hard for the plethora of points.  

Allowing 30 points, yet yielding just 177 total offensive yards as Georgia did doesn't say much for a team, but it does factor into a revealing statistic I've raved about since starting this blog, Defensive YPP.  Defensive YPP, or yards per point, is simply that how many yards a team allows per point it yields measuring how hard a team makes its opposition "work" to score points, and the higher the number, the better.  It's truly a telling statistic, and one I've found is always favorable for the annual conference champion

Entering this week, here are the SEC rankings in terms of Defensive YPP:    

Texas A&M (28.81)
Alabama (27.37)
Miss. State (26.42)
South Carolina (25.79)
Florida (23.92)
Auburn (17.84)
LSU (17.29)
GEORGIA (16.83)
Vanderbilt (14.91)
Tennessee (14.39)
Missouri (14.11)
Ole Miss (13.22)
Kentucky (12.66)
Arkansas (12.57)

It's certainly no coincidence that the top five teams in Defensive YPP have a combined 21-1 overall record, while the bottom six are a combined 0-11 in the SEC.  And then there's Georgia...

The Bulldogs actually had a respectable ratio of just over 20 entering the Tennessee game, that is, until they started handing out points like candy during the first two quarters.  But this trend is certainly nothing new something us Dawg fans have come to expect from our teams during the latter half of the Coach Richt era. 

Notably, of the last six full seasons of play (2006 through 2011), only once (2007) did Georgia record a Defensive YPP of higher than 15.  In fact, of the program's 11 worst Defensive YPPs over the last 66 seasons (1946 through 2011), remarkably FIVE all lower than 14.9 have resulted in the last six campaigns. 

So, what does this all mean? 

Beginning in 2006, the Bulldogs, while usually ranking towards or at the bottom of the SEC in Defensive YPP, are giving up points to the opposition without putting up much of a fight in historic proportions.  And although their lowly ratio is a "Defensive" one, it reflects poorly upon the entire team: the offense giving opponents good field position, committing turnovers, poor special teams play, bad coaching calls, etc.

Even last year's team one with a renowned defense filled with all-conference players and two All-Americans   had a lowly Defensive YPP of 13.48, or the FOURTH worst in school history since 1946.  And, after Saturday's game, it looks like 2012 could end in similar fashion.  However, there is some good news.  Maybe there is a silver lining to this Defensive-YPP dark cloud...

While Georgia allowed a consistent number of points/yards through all four quarters in 2011 in other words, the Bulldogs handed out points as it related to yardage at will from the start to finish of games a year ago   Georgia appears to buckle down, and how, during the second half of games this season.  This was even evident versus the Volunteers when the Bulldogs yielded 301 yards in the second half, but only 14 points.

This season, Georgia may have a dreadful Defensive YPP of 12.97 during the first half of their five games, but respond with an excellent 24.43 ratio following halftime.  In addition, of the 10 turnovers the Bulldogs have forced this year, SIX have resulted in the fourth quarter alone.

Now, for the bad news.  In order to defeat South Carolina this Saturday, Georgia most likely needs to eliminate in both the first and second half, or at least put on hold, its seven-season tendency of handing its opponent easy scores.  We saw first hand in Athens a year ago what happens when you try to give a ballgame away to the Gamecocks... Spurrier and his squad will gladly take it from you.