OK, the Dawgs aren't Ole Miss. But how much better are we?
I had two things on my mind a week ago as I trudged toward our tailgate before the Coastal Carolina game: One, how I'd ended up wearing shorts and a polo in 60-degree weather, and two, the Ole Miss Rebels. Not that I was looking ahead or anything, mind you, but I'd noticed some uncomfortable parallels between our situation and theirs. Could I live with my beloved alma mater becoming the Peach State's version of Ole Miss: venerable state institution in a gorgeous town, with a great party scene and all-world female talent -- and a marginally relevant football program? Then, of course, there was the realization by day's end that when the two teams met up in Oxford a week hence, they'd both still be looking for their first win over an FBS opponent.
Georgia ended up getting that win, of course, and in fairly dominating fashion, despite what the plain-vanilla final score would tell you. If Houston Nutt wasn't fired coming into this game, he surely is now, though it remains to be seen whether a year or two from now we'll all be chuckling about him getting "Richted" the same way we used to talk about poor suckas getting Croomed.
But the more pressing issue is that Georgia's not quite out of the woods yet when it comes to Ole Miss comparisons, because while we got confirmation that the 2011 Dawgs aren't a bad team after all, neither did anything necessarily point to us being a great one. We may not be as bad as the Rebels are now, or as bad as they were when Ed Orgeron was leveling the Ole Miss program and doing his best to salt the earth behind him; but on Saturday, at least, you couldn't necessarily find a lot of daylight between us and, say, the Rebels' 2009 team, or the squads of the mid-David Cutcliffe era. Like them, we beat an opponent we were supposed to beat, but we found ways not to do it in a fashion that would make people think, "Dang, those guys are really gonna make a run this year."
If two things really nagged at me about Georgia's performance in Oxford, it's probably because those things have bugged the crap out of me for the last five or six years. Actually, make it even longer than that when you're talking about Georgia's propensity to settle for field goals, because it seems like that's been a feature, not a bug, of Mark Richt's entire tenure in Athens. Yeah, I'd probably be less inclined to pick at that particular scab if Blair Walsh had actually, you know, converted more than two of his five tries on Saturday, but whatever yips he was experiencing in his game, they weren't responsible for Michael Bennett dropping that pass in the end zone on Georgia's first drive of the day, and they darn sure weren't responsible for the following coaching decisions:
- Very end of the third quarter, Dawgs have driven down to the Ole Miss 39, and then Isaiah Crowell busts a nine-yard run that lands him just short of the first-down marker. Quarter ends, Georgia has time to draw up something nifty on fourth-and-1 from the Rebel 30, and Richt sends in . . . the field-goal team, for a 48-yard try Blair Walsh misses. Did any of y'all keep up with the "#notoriousTOB" tag that caught fire on Twitter on Thursday in anticipation of the N.C. State-Cincinnati game? Maybe the missed field goal was my punishment for contributing so gleefully to it, because that was a Tom O'Brien play call if ever I saw one.
- Four or five minutes later, Dawgs are on a long clock-grinding drive down inside the Mississippi red zone, and second-and-4 becomes third-and-6 when a Rebel player jumps across the line and Aaron Murray kneels on it but the refs determine the defender got back in place first. Instead of trying some play-action or maybe tossing one in the flat to Orson Charles, who was having a pretty productive day, Richt calls a straight-up run and Crowell gets stuffed after two yards. Call in the FG unit, and Walsh misses a 35-yarder.
- Four minutes and change left, Georgia has gotten the ball back in great field position after the Rebels failed to convert a fourth-and-10 in their own territory. Three runs, the first two from Richard Samuel (que?), and on fourth-and-2, we call in the kicking team yet again, and Walsh finally nails one.