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October 28, 2013

A Bulldog-Turned-Gator Tale

As the story goes, Georgia's rout in the rain of the
Gators in '68 would be the root of Spurrier's evil.
While at a wedding reception on Saturday, I had conversation with a group of family members regarding, what else, the looming World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  Georgia's dominance of the series during the 1970s and 1980s was mentioned, followed by Florida's during the 1990s and 2000s, which brought up the primary reason why control of the series suddenly flipped—Stephen Orr Spurrier.
My family then discussed the logic behind Spurrier's tremendous hate for Georgia—the Bulldogs' 27-10 trampling of the Gators during the quarterback's senior and Heisman-winning campaign of 1966, or so that's the long-time, assumed reason.
Oh, contraire, I politely interjected.  I then provided for my family the true reasoning behind Spurrier's trick plays when a number of games were well in hand and the public jabs at our head coaches from the former Gators' Ol' Ball Coach—rationale fully presented in my Georgia-Florida book (and copied below).  And, in the process of my family learning something new about the storied Georgia-Florida rivalry, I learned that although family members are eager and generous enough to buy my books, some of them might not actually read them.
Perhaps the only thing stronger than the hate many Georgia followers have for Steve Spurrier is the Evil Genius’ despise for the Bulldogs. But where did Spurrier’s presumed hatred for our team stem from? Why all the snide and ridiculing comments about Georgia and its coaches over the years? What is the reason for the called flea-flickers and end-arounds when a number of Bulldogs-Gators games were already well decided?

Most of us have always assumed Spurrier’s beef with the Bulldogs was simply because of the defeats he endured as Florida’s quarterback in 1964 and particularly in 1966 to Georgia. However, the supposed truth goes much further than that.

Gene Ellenson was an All-SEC tackle as a Bulldog, a member of Georgia’s 1942 national championship team, and a Battle of the Bulge hero from World War II. After an assistant coaching stint at Miami (Fla.), he became Georgia’s top candidate to fill the head coaching position left by Wally Butts in 1961. In fact, UGA President Dr. O.C. Aderhold reportedly went so far as telling Ellenson the job was his to lose…but lose it he would.

Before his hiring became official, Ellenson, who was known for his motivational speeches, spoke a little too much to a Jacksonville newspaper, indicating several changes he would make if he became the Bulldogs’ head coach. With that, according to author Jesse Outlar, "Ellenson had talked himself out of one of the most sought after jobs in football."

So, it was off to the University of Florida for Ellenson, where he would serve as a defensive assistant for the entire—well, most of it—Coach Ray Graves era of 1960 to 1969. Against Georgia in 1968, in an attempt to shake things up with a struggling team, Graves had the ingenious idea of swapping coordinators—defensive coordinator Ellenson suddenly was the offensive coordinator. Graves’ move more than backfired as the Gators were trounced by the Bulldogs 51–0.

In that game, the Bulldogs comfortably led 48–0 with more than five minutes to play. Georgia had reached Florida’s 5-yard line, where it faced fourth down. Coach Vince Dooley decided to call upon reserve Peter Rajecki—a German-born, barefooted kicker, and the school’s first soccer-style place-kicker—to attempt his first-ever field goal as a Bulldog. Rajecki made the 22-yard attempt.

As the story goes, the successful field goal meant much more to the Gators, Ellenson, and eventually Steve Spurrier, than simply another three points for the Bulldogs. Spurrier, who was then playing in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers, was told of Georgia’s "running-up-the-score" maneuver by Ellenson in a phone conversation. Spurrier was furious and vowed then, if he ever got the chance, he’d run the score up on the Bulldogs just like they had done to his Gators.

In his first year as Florida’s head coach in 1990, Spurrier brought in Ellenson to deliver a motivational message at the team meeting the Friday night before the Georgia game. The Bulldog-turned-Gator speaker stressed taking charge of one’s own fate and not letting outsiders control it. The motivated Gators responded with an easy victory over Georgia, where Spurrier got his chance to run up the score, and sure enough he did in a 31-point victory.
Gene Ellenson: foremost Bulldog-turned-Gator
A year later, it was the same as the season before—Ellenson spoke to the team on Friday, urging them to go to "another level." The Gators would hold a late, comfortable lead over the Bulldogs the next day. Yet, it was not quite comfortable enough for Spurrier, who didn’t let up for a second straight blowout win for Florida over Georgia.

So, more or less, that is supposedly the reasoning behind Spurrier’s hate for Georgia while at Florida. However, there is a bit of information the Gators tend to leave out when recalling the story. Let’s just say that for many attending the Georgia-Florida game on that rainy day in 1968, it was rather obvious that the Gators collectively did not put forth their best toward the end of the game.

Dooley was not one to run up the score during his 25 seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Further, he certainly hardly questioned an opponent’s effort, if ever, besides this one example. Dooley said after the game, "I really believe Florida’s effort was not at its maximum.… I believe you had a [Georgia] football team after the third quarter that was really keyed, against a team that was giving less than maximum effort."

Therefore, it appears that an assistant’s hard feelings for his alma mater and a head coach’s vengeance against the same rival results from not necessarily Georgia trying to run up a score, but perhaps something else, namely the Gators simply not playing to "another level" in the 1968 game.

Besides, what would Spurrier and the Gators faithful have preferred Dooley execute on fourth down from the 5-yard line and with more than five minutes remaining in the game?

Run a Spurrier-like end-around with a wide receiver?

October 25, 2013

Superman Can Be Stopped

As told by his own head coach, the Superman of Gator
Land finally met his match in Jacksonville in 1966.
One of the greatest victories by Georgia over Florida--fifth-best in my book--was when the Bulldogs upset the Gators in 1966 and their Heisman-winning "Superman of Gator Land."

A friend of mine recently sent me a true gem--The Ray Graves Show which followed Georgia's great 27-10 win.  The Florida head coach's show is much different than the coaches shows I grew up on--no Yella Fella and his Yella Wood, no Frito Lay commercials.

Along with the game's recap from my I Love Georgia/I Hate Florida book, highlights of one of the most memorable games in UGA football history:

Led by “Superman” in 1966, Florida looked like it was finally going to capture its elusive SEC championship.  The Gators were undefeated at 7-0, ranked seventh in the nation, and were led by quarterback Steve “Superman” Spurrier, who had defeated the Bulldogs in the final seconds the year before and was the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy.

Florida, looking every bit of having the country’s seventh-best offense, took the opening kickoff and quickly drove 86 yards in eight plays to a 7-0 lead.  Georgia placekicker Bob Etter got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with a field goal, but Florida’s Wayne Barfield would answer with one of his own just before halftime.

In the second half, Spurrier was far from super, hurrying almost all of his pass attempts and often sacked.  After throwing just two interceptions in 191 passes for the first seven-and-a-half games of the season, Spurrier was intercepted three times in just 15 attempts in the second half.  The Gator ground game didn’t fair much better, netting just five yards after halftime.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs scored on a second Etter field goal, two rushing touchdowns, and a 39-yard interception return by safety Lynn Hughes, who had helped defeat Florida and Spurrier two years before as Georgia’s quarterback.

Following the Bulldogs’ 27-10 upset victory, Jim Minter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted a spirited Georgia fan, dressed in red and assuredly enjoying the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” repeatedly shouted from the Gator Bowl stands, “Superman can be stopped…”
Spurrier had been stopped on that particular day, although he couldn’t be stopped from taking home the Heisman Trophy about a month later.  Nevertheless, the loss to Georgia ended Florida’s chance for its first conference title, and it would be the Bulldogs instead taking home the SEC championship.

October 21, 2013

Dump the "Drill" Because It Ain't Getting "Finished"

What do you mean, I'm going to lose another game 
after leading by double digits in the 2nd half?
Realizing this is the third unfavorable post in my last five concerning the football program I treasure, let me first say, I hate to be a "Negative Ned" and really try to be a glass-half-full guy.  However, after witnessing Georgia's season suddenly go in a span of just seven days from one with national championship possibilities to where even a bowl game might not result, I cannot help myself to share the following "historically-based thoughts" after the loss at Vandy:
1) Georgia's consecutive losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt -- both where the Bulldogs entered as 6.5-point favorites -- marked the first time in 40 years the team lost back-to-back games when favored by 6 points or more.  In 1973, Georgia was defeated by Vanderbilt as a 17-point favorite and Kentucky as a 13-point favorite in consecutive games.  For you older Dawg fans, you may recall that those two straight setbacks prompted "Dump Dooley" bumper stickers to pop up in the Athens and Atlanta areas.  Ironically, it is said that for the very next season "Vince Dooley made a personnel decision that energized Georgia's offensive game plan" by hiring Bill Hartman as the program's first kicking coach, becoming one of the few specialty coaches in the nation.
Unfortunately, I don't think Coach Richt is going to hire a "specialty coach" anytime soon without being pushed to do so by someone else.  However, as far as any bumper stickers, or the like, that might pop up in the near future, like "Get Rid of Richt" or "Move On Mark," nothing would surprise me regarding UGA football's demanding fan base.
2) Speaking of a special teams coach, seriously, will Georgia just hurry the heck up and hire one?!?  The special teams snafus have become ridiculous, costing the Bulldogs ballgames in the process.

Georgia's excuse has been the NCAA limits each football staff to nine full-time assistants, so Richt cannot simply hire another assistant to head up his special teams.  However, often not mentioned is that since the head coach's arrival in 2001, the Bulldogs' staff has included an assistant responsible for the tight ends -- David Johnson (2001-2007) and John Lilly (2008-2013) -- and nothing else, having no other major responsibility.

For the many decades Georgia football employed assistants up until the Richt era, never was there an assistant on staff only responsible for tight ends.  Under Dooley and Goff, the tight ends were normally coached by the offensive line or wide receivers coach.  The same was usually true during Coach Donnan's tenure, plus, he actually had an assistant at one point, Phil Jones, solely responsible for special teams.

Considering the Bulldogs have essentially utilized just two tight ends this season, who have combined to make less than 13 percent of the team's receptions, does that particular position really require its very own assistant, especially when the squad's special teams, on the whole, are in shambles?

3) Following Georgia's loss in the 2012 Outback Bowl after the Bulldogs actually held a 16-point second-half lead, I researched and discovered the team's "comeback wins," where Georgia trailed by double digits in the second half but rallied to win, and "lost leads," where the Dogs lost after leading by double digits in the second half, beginning with the Dooley era. 

After the Vanderbilt loss, where Georgia led by 13 points in the second half, here's an updated look at the last four head coaches' comeback wins and lost leads during their tenures:
DOOLEY: 13 comeback wins; 3 lost leads (25 seasons)
GOFF: 4 comeback wins; 2 lost leads (7 seasons)
DONNAN: 5 comeback wins; 3 lost leads (5 seasons)
RICHT: 5 comeback wins; 7 lost leads (12+ seasons)
Richt's comeback wins and lost leads in detail:
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
2012: Led Alabama by 11 in 2H but lost
2013: Led Vanderbilt by 13 in 2H but lost
I won't bore you with a bunch of comeback wins-lost leads statistics; I probably did enough of that back in January 2012.  However, something which really stands out and is downright appalling: In a span of less than five years, Richt's teams have now lost six games when having a double-digit lead in the second half -- one for each of the last six seasons -- or, one more lost lead than Dooley and Goff suffered in 32 seasons combined.

To conclude, for a team whose motto is to finish the drill, after losing consecutive games as a substantial favorite, more atrocious special teams play, and repeatedly dropping games after having double-digit second-half leads, its "drill," or the program's aim, should be immediately altered, because the current one is often not getting "finished."

October 18, 2013

The "Shoestring" that Sunk the 'Dores

Gene Washington races into the end zone, com-
pleting what "was so easy it was ridiculous." 
Notably, the Bulldogs faced the same opponent they'll play tomorrow 38 years ago on this very day on the same field.  Back in 1975, there were few televised games, especially one being played at Vanderbilt, so you nearly had to be there to believe what occurred on that wet and chilly day in Nashville.  "What" was so imaginative, totally tricky, it was reported by a writer fortunate to be present that the incident would "be the talk for quite some time."
In 1969, UGA offensive line coach Jimmy Vickers had been an assistant at North Carolina under head coach Bill Dooley, brother of UGA's Vince.  That season, UNC had been fooled by Duke, executing the sandlot "shoestring play" to score the go-ahead touchdown to defeat the Tar Heels.  In preparation for the Commodores six years later, Vickers noticed that Vanderbilt's defense often held hands while turning their backs in the huddle, so he suggested "the shoestring" to Vince Dooley.  A couple of days prior to the game, the Bulldog offense began running the play in practice.
With just over five minutes remaining until halftime, Georgia possessed the ball on Vanderbilt's 36-yard line, leading by a score of only 7 to 3.  Offensive coordinator Bill Pace suddenly called for the Bulldogs to pull the shoestring play; his head coach consented.  At one time, the trickery had fooled those close to Dooley; however, now it was his turn to deceive a coach once under his regime -- Vanderbilt head coach Fred Pancoast, who had been Georgia's offensive coordinator in 1970 and 1971. 
Before trying the shoestring, the Bulldogs first needed to run a play to set the play up, "68-Sweep," which called for quarterback Ray Goff to simply sweep to his right.  Interestingly, the run required no blocking from the offensive linemen, so the runner would be brought down quickly and kept from going out of bounds.  Going out of bounds would mean spotting the ball in the middle of the field for the ensuing snap -- a hindrance for the perfect shoestring play. 

On first down, Goff kept it to his right and was nearly "killed," the quarterback would later say, in being stopped for no gain; however, as planned, the ball was spotted on the right hash mark, leaving the entire left side of the field wide open and ready for perhaps the most unusual play in the history of Georgia football to unfold.                
"Although the ball was set on the right hash, we stood in the middle of the field," center Ken Helms (No. 53) recalled for me earlier this week.  "The plan was for Ray to take a knee at the ball and act like he was tying his shoe."

"My job was to streak downfield after Ray flipped the ball and just block whoever seemed like he had an angle on the ball carrier," split end Steve Davis (No. 80) informed me recently.  "We hardly passed the ball back then, so the receivers were used to blocking.  In fact, we sometimes jokingly called ourselves 'downfield blocking specialists' instead of receivers."

On the play, Goff knelt in front of the ball, pretending to tie his shoe as his other 10 offensive teammates nonchalantly gathered at the left hash mark.  Instantly, the quarterback flipped the football to flanker Gene Washington, who began racing  down the left sideline with a convoy of blockers. 

"[The blockers] just zoned across to the play side," Helms says.  "Geno (Gene Washington) was gone.  It happened so quick."

"After the snap of the ball, I'll never forget their left cornerback, the guy I would cut block down the field, when he came out of their huddle," Davis laughs speaking of Vanderbilt's Reggie Calvin (No. 20).  "In disbelief of what was going on, his eyes popped open as big as silver dollars."

The Goff-to-Washington "shoestring play" not only was one of the most inventive plays in the annals of the sport of football, but it also jump-started a struggling squad to victory.  The play would "break our backs," according to Vanderbilt's Pancoast as his team "lost our composure afterwards."  What was once a close game soon became a rout as Georgia would eventually hammer Vanderbilt, 47-3.

The shoestring play evidently caused the Commodores' head coach to lose his composure afterwards, as well.

"I certainly remember the play, but what also stands out is what happened after the game," says another Georgia player involved in the shoestring.  "Pissed off because Coach Dooley ran the play, I remember Coach Pancoast refusing to shake his hand, and here Pancoast had been Dooley's offensive coordinator just a few years before." 

Dooley would admit afterwards, "If I'd known the game was going to end like it did [in a blowout], we probably wouldn't have used [the shoestring play]."

Perhaps the best postgame assessment concerning a play that apparently wouldn't have even been used came from the speedster who was on its "receiving end."  Washington, who said he'd knew the shoestring would work the second Goff grabbed the ball, declared "it was so easy it was ridiculous."

As easy as tying your shoestring...

October 16, 2013

Give it away, Give it away, Give it away now...

This sack on Aaron Murray resulted in a fumble
returned for a touchdown, and was yet another
incident of Georgia simply "giving away" points.
Growing up observing UGA football during the 1980s, I became accustomed to the Bulldogs' bend-but-don't-break defenses, which often allowed opponents to march up and down the field; however, as for any points the foe put up on the scoreboard, as actor John Houseman would say back then in Smith Barney commercials, they usually earned it.

Therefore, like many of you, it is still difficult for me to endure games like last Saturday's, when Georgia yielded 375 yards of total offense to an excellent Missouri offense -- about 30 yards less than the Bulldogs had been giving up per game, and the first time in eight games they held a BCS-conference opponent to less than 400 -- but allowed the Tigers to tally 41 points, the eighth consecutive opponent dating back to last year (an all-time program high) to score 20+ points.

In its 41-26 loss, as has been commonplace, Georgia gave scores away to its opponent, or handed it points, and gave away the ballgame to Missouri in the process.

I've often mentioned YPP, or yards per point, which is just that -- the number of yards a team gains/allows for every point it scores/yields.  It has been called "probably the single most powerful stat in handicapping college and NFL football."  Defensively, Georgia's YPP is poor -- very poor -- which might help explain why the Bulldogs have covered the spread just once this year in six games.
Although defensive YPP primarily and obviously concerns defensive play, as I've mentioned before, the ratio is a reflection of the entire team: the offense giving opponents good field position, unfavorable turnover and penalty margins, poor special teams play, bad coaching calls, etc.  Simply put, it's a measurement of how hard a team makes its opposition "work" to score points.  The lower the defensive YPP, the worse.  The worse of the worse in the country entering this week:

114. California- 11.86
115. Georgia- 11.851
116. New Mexico St.- 11.846
117. UNLV- 11.80
118. Western Michigan- 11.69
119. Eastern Michigan- 11.58
120. Purdue- 11.03
121. Florida Int'l- 10.54
122. SMU- 10.32
123. Southern Miss- 10.21
Of all 123 FBS schools, the Bulldogs are eighth from the bottom in defensive YPP, or one of the most generous in the nation this season in just giving away points to their opponents.  Besides being charitable, what else do the 10 teams above have in common?  For the most part, they're big losers.  Excluding Georgia, the nine others have combined to win just 9 of 53 games.

Notably, the FBS teams currently with the highest defensive YPP: in order, Louisville, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Clemson -- all with defensive YPPs of greater than 21.3.  What they have in common is that they're big winners.  In fact, they're such winners, they haven't lost a single game combined, recording a perfect 29-0 record, while holding five of the top six spots in the latest Coaches Poll.

As for our team, a lowly defensive YPP is something we've gotten used to.  In the first five years of the Coach Richt era (2001-2005), Georgia notably averaged about a 19.0 mark per season.  However, since the start of the 2006 season, the Dogs have been down wit' defensive YPP.

This is near mind blowing: Of the last eight seasons (including 2013), SIX rank among Georgia's bottom 12 defensive YPPs of all time (all time meaning the last 68 seasons, 1946-2013).  Remarkably, FOUR of the last six seasons rank in Georgia's bottom five of all time (And, there is no excuse of defensive YPPs, on the whole, trending down over time as the NCAA average has remained rather consistent, hovering around 14.0 to 16.0 annually for the past 50 years).  UGA's bottom five defensive YPPs in its history, including this season:     
11.85 in 2013
12.61 in 1961
12.71 in 2008
13.09 in 2009
13.48 in 2011

Last season, due in large part to the Bulldogs allowing just 43 points to their final five regular-season opponents, Georgia got back on track by recording a defensive YPP of 18.2, which ranked third in the SEC behind Alabama and Florida.  However, this year, the Dogs are up to their old tricks, on pace for the lowest, worse mark in the program's history.

When will the Bulldogs get back on track again?  I long for the first half of the Richt regime, when Georgia hardly handed or gave away points to the opponent, or the bend-but-don't-break units I remember from the 1980s.  Nevertheless, for now it appears we're stuck with a defense that simply, well, breaks.

October 11, 2013

Happy 52nd Birthday Steve Young!

Kevin Butler "did it" with a 44-yard field goal vs. 
BYU in '82, but it was a defense, which intercepted
Steve Young six times, that ultimately saved the day.
Happy Birthday to the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback... 
Having similar circumstances to tomorrow, 31 years ago an undefeated, nationally-ranked (but barely), seven to eight-point underdog team out West ventured into Sanford Stadium for the first time in its history, led by a scrambling quarterback, directing a high-powered offense.
Steve Young and BYU led Georgia 14-7 in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs tied the game on a Herschel Walker touchdown shortly after converting a controversial fourth-down play.  The Bulldogs would get the ball back and, with just over a minute remaining, won the game 17-14 on a field goal by Kevin Butler.

Young averaged just 5.1 yards per play, was sacked three times and intercepted on six occasions.  Butler may have won the game with his kick, but hoping to have similar circumstances to tomorrow, the defense ultimately led Georgia to a big Bulldog victory, making life difficult for a visiting quarterback along the way.

October 10, 2013

One Disconnected Defense

Entering Saturday, Grantham's "guard dogs" have
allowed 7 consecutive opponents to score 20+ points, 
 & 7 straight BCS-conference foes to gain 400+ yards.
What the heck is wrong with Georgia's defense since the end of the 2012 regular season?
As evident at times during last season, especially the SEC title game and Capital One Bowl, the Bulldog defenders didn't always play as a unit as some of the starters seemed to already have one foot out the door towards the NFL.  This season, Grantham's troops are evidently too young and inexperienced, while "it's a learning experience," according to the defensive coordinator following the win at Tennessee.  "We won the [Tennessee] game with the players we had, and we're going to move on."
Thank goodness for the offensive players Georgia has had or the Bulldogs could very well be moving on from Knoxville with a 1-4 record instead of their actual 4-1 mark.
Yesterday, a good friend of mine, and someone close to the program, might have put it best when we chatted: "Starting with the SEC championship, I think our defense has been, well, disconnected.  Does that make sense?" he asked.
What doesn't make sense is that beginning with the SEC title game, Georgia's big-time defense led by supposedly a big-time coordinator, making big-time cash as Bernie points out, has allowed seven consecutive opponents to score at least 20 points, tying an all-time program record -- one of those records you wouldn't want to break.  Over the more than 1,200 games in UGA football history, only once before -- the final seven contests of the 1990 season -- have the Bulldogs yielded 20+ points over the same number of games.  The difference is while this season's squad has exhibited one of the better offenses in the entire nation, the '90 team, which won just one of those seven games, displayed hardly any offense at all.
Furthermore, if you include the Georgia Tech game prior to last season's SEC Championship, the Georgia defense has allowed seven consecutive major-college opponents to gain 400+ yards -- that assuredly is also an undesirable program record.
In their last seven games, beginning with Alabama a year ago through last Saturday, the Bulldogs have given up an average of 32.0 points per game and 4.48 yards per rush,  while yielding a passer rating of 144.23 and a 3rd down-4th down conversion rate of 44.74 percent -- all atrocious and alarming defensive results.

In defense of Georgia's defense, you might be thinking, the Bulldogs have faced some rather tough offenses since the end of last regular season: the Crimson Tide, Nebraska, and as Seth Emerson indicates, three really good offenses this season in Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU.  Still, from what I discovered, Georgia's defense was nearly as impactful, which wasn't very much, against those seven offenses as was all of the seven's other opposing defenses on averageTo my point, please bear with me as I deliver a dose of stat-geek overload.

The following is Georgia's aforementioned defensive stats for each of the four categories in the Bulldogs' last seven games followed by the offensive statistics of those seven teams against all other competition (excluding their games vs. Georgia) during their respective season, and (in percentage difference) how much "better" the Bulldogs were defensively against the seven teams than the seven teams were offensively against the rest of their schedule:
Points Per Game: GA- 32.0; Seven- 36.9 (+13.3%)
Rush Yds Per Carry: GA- 4.48; Seven- 5.15 (+13.0%)
Passer Rating: GA- 144.23; Seven- 157.15 (+8.2%)
3rd-4th Conv.: GA- 44.74%; Seven- 49.01% (+8.7%)
Confused?  Perhaps all that's really worthy of mentioning, according to the four telling measurements in this analysis, is Georgia in its last seven games had a defensive advantage of only 10.8 percent (average of four percentage differences above) over those seven opponents compared to when the seven teams faced the rest of the defenses on their schedules.  In other words, Georgia might have encountered excellent offenses since the end of November a year ago, but their defense has essentially performed no better than, say, a Mississippi State defense against Alabama, Purdue confronting Nebraska, or Syracuse versus Clemson's offense.
A 10.8 percent defensive advantage is rather low considering that while spot-checking seven-game stretches during the Coach Richt era, I discovered Georgia's advantage to normally be at least twice that amount, sometimes three times and even more.  There was an exception: In Willie Martinez's final seven games as Georgia's defensive coordinator (Tennessee through Georgia Tech games in 2009), or the home stretch leading up to his firing, the Bulldogs had a defensive advantage nearly as low (9.8 percent) as in their last seven contests.
Now, similarly to when I compared Georgia's last two defensive coordinators when opposing efficient offenses, I'm not saying I prefer Martinez to Grantham -- not even close. 
All I'm saying is that Missouri enters Saturday averaging 46.6 points per game and 6.08 yards per rush, having a team passer rating of 158.49, while converting 3rd and 4th downs at a 54.9 percent clip.  And, if the Bulldogs continue to allow opponents to be just off (like 10.8 percent) their offensive output, our defense will continue to get boat raced, especially by the high-powered Tigers.  And, no offense, particularly one riddled with injuries, will be able to overcome a defense so disconnected.

October 2, 2013

Listen to the Stadium!

Dooley gets a victory ride following one
of the greatest afternoons, and before the
wildest night, in the history of Athens.
Fresh off one of the most thrilling games in the history of Sanford Stadium this past Saturday, I wanted to pay tribute to a Georgia home victory that ranks right up there with the win over LSU, if not actually surpassing it in excitement -- the memorable 21-0 shutout over Alabama, resulting 37 years ago on this very date.
Recently, the same friend who was kind enough to give me UGA's radio broadcast of the 1975 Florida game handed me a recording of the fourth quarter of the Bulldogs' win over Alabama a year later.  And, similarly to what I did with the Florida broadcast, I've arranged Larry Munson's call against 'Bama with 14 photos taken from the game.
For you Munson admirers, it's a thrill to hear that familiar, booming voice holler, "Listen to the stadium!" and ironically ask, "After all that wild noise last night, how can [Georgia fans] possibly match that tonight?"
In my latest book on UGA football, then-wide receiver Steve Davis said, "But what some people, including maybe even some players, most recall from the '76 Alabama game was the partying that ensued afterwards."  You see on that day, the Junkyard Dogs were responsible for one of the most thrilling moments on a Georgia gridiron, and later caused its surrounding city to experience excitement like it never had before, or since.
Here's to October 2, 1976 -- not only did one of the greatest wins ever in Sanford Stadium occur that afternoon, but what has been called the "biggest party" and "wildest night" in the history of Athens, Georgia, would transpire just hours later.

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