Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Beyond gimmicks

Friday November 16, 2007

Tony Barnhart gives voice to the idea going around that sooner or later Georgia is going to have to forget about motivational gimmicks and just play football. He writes of this weekend’s Kentucky game,

There will be no black jerseys. Mark Richt won’t send the team onto the field after the first touchdown. It will just be 60 very important minutes of football and a game Georgia must win to have any hope of getting to Atlanta.

Now I don’t disagree that these gimmicks gave Georgia a big shot in the arm. Clearly they did in each game. For all of the positive that has come from the attention given to Richt’s motivational tactics, the downside is that some pretty impressive and gutsy fundamental football against quality opponents is getting overshadowed. A lot of people seem to think that the Dawgs are riding on pure emotion right now.

Georgia has already faced the situation of having to move past the gimmick and just play football. Both Florida and Auburn pushed back and actually led the Dawgs in each of those games. Georgia’s ability to regroup and answer in those games has been as big, if not bigger, than any motivational ploy.

Against Florida, the Gators proved equal to the challenge and answered immediately. While the celebration might have given Georgia the confidence to stand toe-to-toe with the national champs, there was nothing gimmicky about the rest of the game as each team threw punch after punch until Tebow’s fumble finally sealed the game. Georgia’s infamous celebration only occurred because the Dawgs had the attitude and the ability to run the ball nine consecutive times at one of the SEC’s top rushing defenses.

The swing was even more dramatic in the Auburn game. Georgia led early thanks to Kelin Johnson’s interception and a couple of big plays in the passing game. Auburn’s control of the game from the late second quarter to the early third quarter was so complete that Georgia had backs running into linemen, Stafford throwing an interception, and defensive backs unable to stop tosses and screens near the goalline. The enthusiastic crowd had been taken out of the game by the turnaround and officiating. The answer sparked by Stafford’s long pass to Bailey and capped off by Moreno’s touchdown run was just big-time football.

Richt’s "transformation"…or not

Ching questions more conventional wisdom related to the whole "Evil Richt" thing today. The perception is that we’re seeing a new and different side of Richt. I called it a "transformation" yesterday, but that wasn’t quite the right word. Much of what we’ve seen from Coach Richt this year has always been there, but it hasn’t always been so visible. Coach Van Halanger explains, "if you really look, there really isn’t much difference (in Richt)." If there is a difference, it’s that we’re seeing in public a few things that had been mostly behind closed doors in previous seasons. "It just wasn’t as up front," says Van Halanger. If you’ve seen the locker room scenes on the Mark Richt show or on a highlight video, you’ve seen the same kind of dancing and celebrating that we enjoy now, and Richt has always been in the middle of it.

There is an acknowledgment that there has been at least some change. One thing that Van Halanger and Kathryn Richt both touched on was that Mark Richt did have to step on the gas after the Tennessee game. "After Tennessee, we needed something," admitted Van Halanger. Kathryn added, "I just think he maybe has more time to do things and think about them and maybe do a little bit extra. And we’ve needed it."

Ching got a really good line from Kathryn Richt. "Now we’re having parity, parity is here, and you have to find the edge and what it is that’s gonna make you different than the other team." That’s a great point. There’s not a lot separating Florida and Georgia or Georgia and Auburn. Those teams all have talented players and capable coaches. All of them work year-round and have extreme off-season conditioning programs. Mat drills don’t separate Georgia; they simply keep the Dawgs competitive with other teams working just as hard. Games that close can turn on the smallest edge or matchup or momentum change, and Richt has found that edge over the past month.

Comments are closed.