I've finally passed my cooling off period, and I can post this without being a full bore rant.
Preseason, I thought this team would go 9-3 or 10-2. I also felt that the South Carolina game was one of the biggest hurdles on the schedule due to timing, and I still feel like it's a 9 or 10 win team.
What bothers me isn't the loss. Realistically, the quality of the tackling doesn't bother me that much either because I didn't think that would be totally fixed yet anyway. What bothers me is the cause of the loss. We didn't drop this one because a freshman QB nutted up in a hostile place.
We lost because we didn't want it as badly as they did. Richt can say there wasn't an effort issue on Saturday. I disagree. However, it sounds like we do agree (as do several of UGA's players) that there was an issue with intensity, timidity, toughness, and GATA-itude. And I can't comprehend that.
How do you come out flat for a game this important? There were a variety of players who genuinely looked as if they had zero interest being in the stadium, playing football or wearing a G on their helmet. I don't get it, and it's not the first time.
Grantham was billed as the injection of whoop ass into the program that would bring the violence, tempo and expectations back to our pre-2005 levels. What's so frustrating to me is that the defense was just a pancake flat (or more so) than the rest of the team. In fact, I sincerely believe that had we brought the intensity (on both sides of the ball) of the ULL game to Columbia, we wouldn't won.
Having said all of that, it's not all bad news. Some broader thoughts:
-- The Offensive Game Plan. I am a card carrying registered Mike Bobo Apologist(TM). The guy takes entirely too much heat, but I can't back him on Saturday. I challenge anyone to watch what we did and articulate the plan. I talked to a buddy who said he believes the plan was the same as the Georgia Tech 2009 plan. The flaw being that SC's defense isn't as craptacular as Tech's. Maybe.
-- The complete unwillingness for leaders to step up. At some point, you have to say "This is bullshit." You can't watch what's happening around you and let things continue to slide. And you can't just TALK about leadership or making plays. You actually have to step up and make the plays. Several of our offensive players basically spit the bit on Saturday. Their number was called, and they wanted no part of putting the program on their back. That has to be resolved against Arkansas.
-- The Belly Button Rule(TM). If you have a skill player who can comfortably hide in your biggest lineman's navel, you shouldn't run him up the middle unless he has Olympic Speed (See Demps, J.). Additionally, if the player wears green shoes, make delicous buttery cookies and lives in a tree, you shouldn't run him up the middle. Get those guys the ball on the edge...not up the gut.
-- The Run Defense. As I mentioned earlier before ULL, having Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn miss almost the entire fall camp with injuries and illness would hurt the unit's cohesion and conditioning. However, at some point having more combined starts than probably any other OL in the country should matter. This group is wildly under performing.
-- Trusting Your Talent. Blutarsky has been pounding this theme for a few years, and he's dead on. You have to trust your talent. There's no reason on earth to send a 5 star alpha-QB with two full spring practices under his belt into his second game armed with the Joe Tereshinski Florida '05 Plan of Fail(TM). You can either play or you can't. Plan accordingly.
-- The defense was in the right place to make a tackle more often than not. Approximately 140 of Lattimore's 180+ yards rushing came after contact. The players were in a position to make the play. Think back to 2009 in Neyland. Our guys were absolutely baffled against Kiffin's Vols. This is a more correctable situation than that.
-- Pass Blocking. Murray had enough time to make some plays.
-- Pass Defense/Pass Rush. Our guys looked dramatically better than last year.
-- Richt has said the right things in the aftermath. He spent much of the past several years in public denial. He has admitted the timidity issue, and he acknowledged the need to bench players who are under performing. We'll see if that actually happens, but that was NOT the case last year as we saw with Bryan Evans. If we're bringing a meritocracy back to Athens, it will do wonders for turning the program around. That and taking the training wheels off our talent.
It's not as bleak as it looks:
From UT '06 to UT '07, the Bulldogs lost 6 straight games to SEC East opponents. It took a near miracle stop in Nashville to avoid a seventh loss in a row. Yet...as bad as things looked after that Vandy win (and it was looking very bleak), we still went to Jacksonville and beat the Gators senseless. Things are never as good or bad as they look.
Most of our issues are fixable. Obviously it shouldn't be a recurring theme that we need to GATA more. But it is. If we Get After Their Ass (GATA) against the Hawgs, we'll be fine. And...well..getting AJ back wouldn't hurt either.