Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Lady Dogs look to continue a week of payback against Tech

Friday December 4, 2009

“If the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech got together to compete in mumblety peg, it would draw a crowd and there would be lots of emotion displayed by the fans of both teams.”
– Andy Landers

All was right with the world when Georgia’s football team emerged with a win last Saturday night over Georgia Tech. The football Dawgs earned a good measure of payback for last season’s disappointing loss in Athens, and sitting back to watch the fallout this week has been extremely satisfying. What has Georgia done since 1980? Only beat the Tech football team 21 times.

Georgia has another program that’s experienced even more success than the football team against Tech, but that dominance has also been challenged recently. Andy Landers’ Lady Dogs won every one of the first 24 meetings in the series with Tech. But since 2002 Tech has won 3 of the 7 games against Georgia and emerged as a top 25 program that’s an annual participant in the NCAA Tournament. An ugly 57-42 beating at the hands of Tech last year in Atlanta was a harbinger of a disappointing season for the Lady Dogs.

The Lady Dogs look to be much improved this year, and they’ve already beaten a few teams that have spent some time in the rankings. Georgia has raced to a 7-0 start and are as high as #13 in the polls. The core of Houts, Robinson, and Phillips is as strong as expected, and freshman Jasmine James looks to be a significant upgrade at the shooting guard. Fellow freshman Ann Marie Armstrong is starting to click, and sophomore Meredith Mitchell has been a nice surprise so far in the backcourt.

But Tech has another quality team this year and have started 5-1 while hovering around the bottom of the top 25. They’ve just added back their best player – junior wing Alex Montgomery who had been recovering from a knee injury suffered at the end of last season. Montgomery’s return addresses Tech’s primary weakness: scoring from the perimeter. They’re able to generate a tremendous amount of offense out of turnovers and transition, but they can bog down in halfcourt. Montgomery gives them a legitimate scorer who can fill the basket outside or inside.

Sunday’s game against Tech (2:30 p.m., Stegeman Coliseum, CSS TV) will be a great test for both teams. These are both teams bound for the postseason, and Tech isn’t coming into these games anymore just hoping to be competitive. The Lady Dogs have a good bit of pride at stake after last year’s awful showing, and they have at least managed to defend the home court in the series with Tech.

If you’re still enjoying last Saturday’s payback win, come out to Stegeman on Sunday afternoon – at the risk of getting punched in the face – and help the Lady Dogs experience that same feeling.

Post Scratch VanGorder

Thursday December 3, 2009

I hope no one was seriously hung up on this idea, but it’s past time to come to grips with the fact that we’re not getting back together with the ex.

Post Butler’s an All-American

Thursday December 3, 2009

Congratulations to sophomore punter Drew Butler who earned AFCA All-American honors in his first year as Georgia’s punter.

Post Two guarantees about the coordinator search

Thursday December 3, 2009
  1. You have someone in mind who’s the obvious choice to head up Georgia’s defense.
  2. There’s someone else who thinks that would be a worse hire than Mike Locksley at New Mexico.

I’m not even going to bother with a list because there’s a good chance few will be familiar with the coordinator (and definitely the assistants) Georgia ends up hiring. Mark Richt hasn’t had to make a lot of staff changes, but I don’t recall seeing names like VanGorder or Jancek or Searels before they were brought on. The world of college football is a much bigger one than the same three or four names you’re seeing everywhere.

Post Richt pulls the trigger on wholesale defensive changes – now what?

Wednesday December 2, 2009

Well, it’s official. Mark Richt has announced that three defensive coaches – coordinator/DB coach Willie Martinez, linebackers coach John Jancek, and defensive ends coach Jon Fabris – will not return for the 2010 season.

“I cannot express enough my thanks to all three for their contributions to our program,” said Richt. “However, in the final analysis I’m charged with providing the leadership and direction for the Georgia program and sometimes that means making difficult decisions. This was one of them.”

I can’t say it was unexpected, but I question anyone who doesn’t respect the human angle to this story. It had to be excruciating for Mark Richt and it goes without saying that everyone from the coaches to their families to the student-athletes under their direction are in a very bad place today. The news is especially tough in the case of Martinez and Fabris. The case can be made against either professionally, but both men made key contributions to the elevation of the Georgia program during this decade, produced some incredibly successful units at their respective positions, and both were in Athens long enough to put down considerable roots.

It doesn’t escape notice that there was one defensive coach who will apparently be retained. Mark Richt made it a point to keep Rodney Garner when Richt took over the program at the end of 2000, and it seems as if Richt will again turn to Garner as a source of stability. The question is whether Garner is interested in serving in that same role this time. Garner continues to make no secret of his ambition to become a head coach (and we certainly don’t begrudge him his ambition). He’s courted offers from rival programs recently, and comments by Damon Evans over Garner’s lack of a contract don’t seem to indicate the best of working relationships. Garner might not be let go, but it remains to be seen whether Mark Richt will be looking to replace the entire defensive staff anyway.

One conclusion is that Garner might be promoted to defensive coordinator, but I doubt it. First, you’d expect that to be part of today’s announcement in order to minimize uncertainty about the future of the defense. It would also be tough to sell an internal promotion when the last one brought us to this point (twice, if you count Jancek’s offseason promotion to “co-coordinator”). Garner likely won’t even get a chance to be interim coordinator as all three departing coaches have been asked to remain on through the bowl game.

Now the tough part – getting the right people in place. There will be immediate comparisons to the disastrous changes made at Auburn and Tennessee that ended up bringing down the head coach. This is a slightly different situation – it’s not just a new coordinator being added to the staff. There will be the opportunity to assemble an almost entirely new defensive staff, and you’d expect that the new coordinator will have a say in the composition of the staff. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Georgia’s transition will be smooth or the new defense successful. There is risk involved, and we can’t get away from that. At the same time, this is a bigger task than just hiring that one coordinator. You’ve got to find (at least) three coaches who will work well together, work well with Richt, work well for Georgia, and do it while most candidates are preparing for their own postseason.

There’s also recruiting. Georgia already has a solid class with some quality defenders committed, and they’ve targeted a few more to close things out. Keeping the class as intact as possible has to be a priority. It’s unavoidable that those prospects will now get the full court press from Georgia’s recruiting competition. Garner could certainly have an impact on this situation if he decides to remain on the staff. It’s already started – key commitments like safety Alec Ogletree are already having to answer questions, but, at least in Ogletree’s case, the commitment seems firm.

PS…although today’s all about the defense, there are rumors about the other side of the ball. David Pollack tweeted within the past week about possible Texas interest in offensive line coach Stacy Searels. Searels was approached by Auburn during last offseason, but he chose to remain at Georgia. Hoepfully he’ll do so again.

Post Dawgs reevaluating QB depth chart

Wednesday December 2, 2009

David Hale mentioned this morning that Georgia quarterback Logan Gray would be moving to receiver. Though there’s been no official word about that, Georgia’s actions on the recruiting trail this week indicate a sudden interest in beefing up the depth chart at QB.

Georgia has offered scholarships this week to two quarterbacks: Devin Burns of Carver-Columbus and Hutson Mason of Lassiter. Hutson has been breaking state passing records this year and led his team to a perfect regular season and into the state playoffs.

One interesting side note is that Georgia has offered two scholarships this week to two players from Carver-Columbus, the high school whose coach banned Georgia earlier in the summer. Burns was at the center of that story. The ban itself didn’t last but a few days, and now it looks as if those fences have been mended.

Post Are the changes in Athens underway?

Wednesday December 2, 2009

ESPN’s Joe Schad tweets that Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez will not be retained.

Post Georgia has no one but themselves – and Oklahoma State – to blame for bowl fate

Wednesday December 2, 2009

So after yesterday’s fun it looks as if Shreveport and the Independence Bowl are the most likely postseason destination for Georgia. There’s enough griping about that, but it’s really not worth getting worked up over. I’ll still eat at Chick-fil-A (mmmmmmmm…Peppermint Chocolate Chip milkshake…..). Of course nothing’s official now until the conference allows bids to go out after the championship game, and it’s amusing to read all of the disclaimers and denials taking place since the announcements started breaking after Auburn and the Outback broke the logjam. “We haven’t extended an invitation to anyone yet. In fact, we’re still researching at this moment exactly which teams are in the SEC and ACC. Of course we’re still VERY interested in – what team are you calling about again?” said Chick-fil-A Bowl spokesman Gary Stokan.

So, at the risk of going against protocol, we’ll still assume it’s Shreveport for the Dawgs. And that’s life. As Texas Dawg noted in the comments yesterday, it could mean an interesting opponent from the Big 12. With teams like Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas A&M in play a decent matchup does seem to be a possibility. I’m about over playing the Big 10 at this point. And at the very least, Georgia will be an answer to a trivia question as the bowl will sever its tie with the SEC after this season.

Still, Shreveport remains a bit of a punchline among SEC fans, and people seem in agreement on what this destination offers as a lesson for Georgia: take care of business next time against Kentucky. Actually, that’s not the lesson. Auburn lost 5 of its last six games against FBS competition including a home game with Kentucky but still finds itself headed for a New Year’s Day bowl. That’s the thing about a glut of 7-5 teams: we can beat ourselves up for losing to Kentucky, but any of our peers can be singled out for their blunders and missed opportunities too. The lesson is something Mark Richt has said many times in the past. When you don’t take care of the things you can control, you leave your fate to the whims of others. It’s not about what one team or another deserves or has earned. The same whims can set you up on New Year’s Day in Florida or banish you to Shreveport, and either fate can be justified.

There’s another lesson, though. Would Georgia, at 8-4, be a more attractive to a bowl than a herd of 7-5 teams? Well, yes, that’s the point of the “just beat Kentucky next time” lesson. But Georgia is also the only one of the SEC’s six 7-5 teams to face three BCS conference opponents in their nonconference schedule, two of which were ranked. Where did that get us?

Tennessee and Georgia both finished the season with identical overall and conference records (7-5 and 4-4). The other four SEC teams with 7-5 records all were 3-5 in the league and got to seven wins with perfect nonconference records. Of those teams, only South Carolina played more than one nonconference opponent from a BCS conference. Would Tennessee or Georgia be more attractive bowl teams had they swapped UCLA or Oklahoma State for a generic mid-major to get to 8-4? It didn’t hurt Ole Miss, did it?

There’s another way to look at it of course. These trips to Tempe, Boulder, and – I suppose – Stillwater can be their own bowl trips within a season. Anyone who made the trip to Tempe can tell you that the scene felt just like a bowl (and a major bowl at that). The upside in a situation like 2008 is that you get a nice midseason bowl-like trip and get the win that builds your resume for a better postseason bowl bid. We saw the downside this year when a nonconference road loss to a quality opponent probably contributed (along with the whole losing 4 conference games thing) to missing out on a more attractive bowl game.

Damon Evans’ consistent message in his approach to scheduling is to “build the brand”. That brand took enough damage this year thanks to the results on the field, but the aggressive scheduling won’t be doing the brand any favors this bowl season.

Post Dawgs passed over for Outback, Chick-fil-A Bowls

Tuesday December 1, 2009

We learned earlier that the Outback Bowl had selected Auburn. Now the Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting that the Chick-fil-A Bowl will pair Tennessee against Virginia Tech.

Is the Music City Bowl the next best option? Georgia might face strong competition from Kentucky where local sources are playing up the Wildcats’ chances.

“I think from all I know and am hearing, Kentucky will be in the Music City Bowl,” said a bowl source Monday.

The bowl’s preferences might have shifted during the course of the day as the Outback and Chick-fil-A Bowls made their moves. Kentucky has traveled well to Nashville, but they’ve been to that bowl after two of the past three seasons. Will fans be as enthusiastic for a third trip to Nashville since 2006?

South Carolina is another remote possibility for the Music City Bowl – a potential North Carolina vs. South Carolina matchup has been mentioned.

If Georgia slides past the Music City Bowl, they’ll be looking at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, or the PapaJohn’s Bowl in Birmingham. Paul thinks Arkansas is a lock for the Liberty, and we won’t argue with that. Shreveport seems most likely in that scenario.

Post Outback Bowl shuffles SEC deck?

Tuesday December 1, 2009

WVLT in Knoxville is reporting that the Outback Bowl will select Auburn, and the Cotton Bowl will welcome back Ole Miss. If true, that would mean that the top five SEC bowl slots are now settled:

BCSC: Alabama/Florida
BCS: Alabama/Florida
Capital One: LSU
Cotton: Ole Miss
Outback: Auburn

There are six SEC teams with 7-5 records. Auburn is one of them. They are 1-3 against the others. But of course bowls aren’t about the best teams; the Outback is banking on Auburn fans traveling and selling tickets.

What does that mean for Georgia? Tennessee and Georgia, both at 4-4 in the conference and 7-5 overall, look to be the best remaining teams on the board. But as the Outback just demonstrated, the records don’t really matter now. Granting that the bowls could pick South Carolina, Kentucky, or Arkansas too, you’d expect the Chick-fil-A Bowl to pick between the Bulldogs and Volunteers. The outcome of the ACC Championship will have an impact since the availability of either Clemson or Georgia Tech will change things.

It’s true that a Clemson-Georgia matchup would sell tickets and draw a lot of regional interest, but I doubt that’s weighing on the committee of the CFA Bowl. This bowl is one of the few that rarely has trouble selling tickets, and Tennessee fans excited over this season would likely be able to fill the Dome as well as Georgia fans regardless of the opponent. It’s really a toss-up, and I don’t see it being settled until after the conference championships are played this weekend. It’s anyone’s guess what happens after the Chick-fil-A Bowl decides, but the Music City Bowl would seem to be the most likely destination for the team not selected to play in Atlanta. Again, though, there are still five SEC teams with 7-5 records from which to choose, and it will come down to which program and fan base is likely to sell the most tickets and generate tourism and interest for the host cities. Kentucky has traveled well to Nashville in the past, so Shreveport, Memphis, and Birmingham are still very much on the table for Georgia.

Since no one asked, my preference is for the Music City Bowl in Nashville. I know Atlanta’s a great town, but I live there. Nashville’s a fun town (even if the last visit to the Music City Bowl was frigid), and it’s an easy trip. The projected opponent in the MCB is North Carolina. I know some have a preference for a traditional rival like Clemson in the bowl game, but Georgia also has tradition with the Tar Heels though the teams haven’t met since 1971. Georgia holds a thin 16-12-2 advantage in the series that includes a 20-10 Georgia win in the 1947 Sugar Bowl which featured the great Charley Trippi.

I’m sure none of you are surprised by my preference to play the Heels.

Post Game 12 gives us a glimpse of what was expected since Game 1

Monday November 30, 2009

If you go back and look at a generic preview of the 2009 Georgia season, you’d get a sense of a team that was planning to lean heavily on its offensive and defensive lines. There would be the inescapable fact that Georgia was replacing first round draft picks at quarterback and tailback. The roster was thin at receiver as well as defensive end. The quarterback, though capable and a fifth-year senior, was most often lauded for his leadership and other traits that were valuable to the team but which also implied that Georgia shouldn’t be a team slinging it all over the field. Georgia’s best hope, at least on offense, was to be a team that went as far as its offensive line could take it, get efficient play from its quarterback, and let a fleet of tailbacks do the rest.

It didn’t take long for reality to deviate from expectations. One of Georgia’s biggest talents on the offensive line, tackle Trinton Sturdivant, was lost for the year in the season opener. Whether due to the unsettled line or the tailbacks themselves, the running game never materialized except for isolated moments like Samuel’s run at Arkansas or Branden Smith’s play against South Carolina. Anyone remember Carlton Thomas? Instead of “managing the game” or whatever you ask of a quarterback who’s not a superstar, Joe Cox found himself with a lot more on his shoulders than anyone expected. In Georgia’s five losses, Cox attempted at least 30 passes four times. In Georgia’s seven wins, Cox attempted an average of just over 22 passes.

It took 12 games, but we finally saw the team that most had in mind when Georgia was ranked in the high teens to begin the season. A stout offensive line and fullback led a committee of two tailbacks up and down the field. The defense was shaky at times but solid up front and delivered when they had to. The quarterback didn’t have a dominating game, but he didn’t have to. He didn’t make many mistakes though, avoided the crushing turnovers of a week ago, and he came up with three big completions on third down – one of which was a second quarter touchdown to Michael Moore and another of which kept the Dawgs from going three-and-out after Tech had closed to within six.

Of course the downside is that it took 12 games to get to this point. The team played with a chip on its shoulder, the tailbacks were determined to “run this state”, and defensive players like Rashad Jones had redemption on their minds (and, boy, did he deliver). Such intensity, focus, and will hasn’t been there much this season. How can Georgia be so effective on the ground in this game a week after twice being unable to score from the goal line against the SEC’s second-worst rushing defense? The win over Tech was euphoric, but it underscores the consistency that’s been an issue for this team all year.

You’ve got to like how the Georgia offense is shaping up for next season. King and Ealey have emerged as a nice backfield combination. The entire line, except for Vance, returns. White, Charles, and the return of Figgins makes the TE position as deep as it’s been in years. Receiver is still a little thin, but you can put King opposite Green and still feel confident that something can come from the group that will include Wooten, Troupe, Marlon Brown, and the return of Kris Durham. The big unknown of course is the quarterback. It’s not automatic that things will get turned over to Logan Gray, and you’ll be sick of the coverage given to the offseason competition by the time the season rolls around.

It’s my one hope for 2010 that many of the questions get sorted out before the season rather than during it. In 2006 it took until the midpoint of the season to settle the quarterback position. Stafford took his lumps but hit his stride in time to beat three ranked teams down the stretch. In 2007 Knowshon didn’t become Knowshon until the Vanderbilt game. Even this year the reshuffling of the offensive line that moved Boling to left tackle as well as settling on King and Ealey in the backfield didn’t come until late in the season. That’s how it goes sometimes – many moves have come as reactions to injuries and other twists introduced by the season, and you have to credit the coaches with getting the answers right in the end. Players improve during the season. I also know that other teams deal with the same thing: how many Tennessee fans are asking the same what-if questions about the Crompton that finished the season?

Given the likelihood of staff changes making the offseason even more unsettled than usual, it’s going to be a tough job. Unrealistic or not, it would still be nice to see these answers and the team hitting its stride come before the last half (or month) of the season.

Post Tastes like victory

Sunday November 29, 2009

Ben Jones after GT win

Post Stafford’s headed to the Hall of Fame

Wednesday November 25, 2009

Well…at least his jersey is.

Matthew Stafford, the NFL’s first overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, had a record-setting and gutsy effort in the Detroit Lions’ thrilling 38-37 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 11. The torn jersey he wore on Sunday and a football he threw for one of his five touchdowns in the win were delivered to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Tuesday.

The mementos were promptly placed on exhibit in the Hall of Fame’s Pro Football Today Gallery next to a number of other recent acquisitions from moments that made history this season.

Stafford was also wired for his record-setting performance by NFL Films, and NFL Films president Steve Sabol called it the “most dramatic player wiring ever.” Looking forward to hearing that – over 350 players have been wired since 1965, so a recording called the “most dramatic” out of all of those has to be pretty compelling.

SEE ALSO: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford part of ‘cinematic folklore’ after win (h/t Hale). NFL Films president Steve Sabol said Stafford “earned a lasting place in the cinematic folklore of the NFL.”

Post Apparently airplane bottles aren’t enough anymore…

Tuesday November 24, 2009

This was one way to get through the second half:

A University student was arrested with felony possession of cocaine after a bag of white powder was discovered on him in Sanford Stadium during Saturday’s football game between Georgia and Kentucky.

My favorite part: explaining to the arresting officer how he came to have the bag.

The officer asked what the bag was, and Jahn said he did not know because he found it on the bathroom floor earlier in the evening.

Because picking up unknown bags of white powder from a stadium bathroom floor would have been entirely understandable and normal.

Post Lady Dogs, Robinson get a scare

Monday November 23, 2009

For the second time in this early season the Lady Dogs hosted one of the big names of the sport and came away with a win. Georgia escaped with a 49-48 win over Rutgers on Sunday afternoon.

The script was much different than last weekend’s impressive win over Oklahoma which was dominated by the Georgia frontcourt. This time the Lady Dogs needed a career game from sophomore guard Meredith Mitchell and timely jumpers from freshmen Jasmine James and Anne Marie Armstrong to come back from a late 10-point deficit. Armstrong’s first three-pointer as a Lady Dog proved to be the game-winner. Rutgers had a chance to win by intercepting a Georgia inbounds pass with three seconds left, but their final shot hit off the rim.

A low-scoring game with Rutgers is nothing unusual; that’s the way they play, and their matchup zone can be frustrating. Last year Georgia lost an ugly 45-34 game at Rutgers. Rutgers had denied Georgia time and again by blocking over ten shots, and it wasn’t until the jumpers started falling down the stretch that the Lady Dogs were able to make any headway. Georgia’s defense meanwhile clamped down and forced 29 turnovers to keep the team in the game.

The game had scary moments for both teams. Georgia’s Angel Robinson banged her head on the floor during a collision while going for a loose ball, and she had to be taken off the court on a stretcher and transported to an area hospital for evaluation after complaining of neck pain. Georgia fans who had just seen football player Bacarri Rambo taken off the field with a similar injury just a week earlier fell silent. The Athens Banner-Herald reports that “Robinson received a CT scan and X-rays, which were both negative, and she was discharged from the hospital.” Her status going forward is uncertain though.

A few minutes later Rutgers point guard Khadijah Rushdan went down with an apparently serious knee injury that left her unable to stand or extend her left leg. After nearly being dropped by medical personnel, Rushdan was carried into the locker room, and the extent of her injury is unknown.

The Lady Dogs have a midweek game with Alabama State before heading to Southern Miss for a Thanksgiving weekend tournament.