Damn. Just Damn. A game where we came out and looked like the better team almost the entire time.
A game where Crowell runs for over 100 with another 40 in receiving yards. A game where we had over 400 yards of offense and had 23 first downs. A game where Bobo adjusted (mostly), our defense got pressure and two playmakers developed right before our eyes..6 plays lost the game for us. 6 crucial mistakes. Take away any one of them and we win. But combined they were too much to overcome.
Each mistake cost us exponentially it seemed. To have a fumble is one thing, to have it run back the other way for 60 plus yards is another. Each mistake we made seemed to be at the exact wrong time and produced the worst possible outcome for our team. What the hell has Bulldawg Nation done to deserve such a curse?
You can say what you want about the botched hand-off that resulted in the runback for the cocks, was it Murray or Crowells fault? Does it matter? Mistakes happen right? But did it have to happen where it happened as we were driving in for a score? To add insult to injury, did the recovery run back have to be so damn long? Just one tackle could have saved our bacon.
I wonder how many other teams get the flag for that very close off sides on the onside kick. We all know Penn Wager is a big ole jerk and he has it out for us but what was done was done. Execution was off by just inches but I was very impressed that we made a the call. Incredibly we were actually doing something proactively to try and win, to try and get the upper hand instead of being so passive. I liked it. A hint at a change of philosophy or a guy coaching for his life? So no biggie, we just kick it again right? I mean our D has been solid so lets just hold em now, and we're no worse off. But the Old Visor decided that he was going to make Richt pay for his sins and just a few plays later with his evil trickeration they take it in for a score and swing the points. Spurriers 4th & 7 call for a fake punt had better than expected results even for him. A fake punt did us in AGAIN? How many times since West Virginia has this happened to us? To anyone else? When will we learn?
And dammit the Murray pick 6 was devastating and dammit again on Murray with the fumble that should have just been a sack. If dude would have just tucked the ball in and taken the loss instead of giving them another easy 6 points we may have overcome. Murray, the guy the media proclaimed is perhaps the leagues best QB gift-wraps them 14 points? When will he learn instinctively when the play is dead? When its time to fight another down instead of turning something bad into something worse? I know its hard when guys come in untouched like that and his O line hasn't yet gelled ( to be kind) but you HAVE to learn to take those sacks.
Then there was the chip shot field goal. An easy 3 points and a wide miss by our money man Walsh? To quote Ed Helms in the Hangover II "What the F&*CK IS GOING ON?"
So despite all these mistakes we are in the game at the very end only to come up short. All this AND I had to watch the game sober? Total heartbreaker.
How much can one fanbase take? How can so many bad things happen to one team? Ok, you say, we showed some spark and some fight despite all that, at least we didn't lose any starters this week.... Not so fast Batman...to make matters worse Christian Robinson joins Ogletree with an injury that will keep him sidelined for "a few weeks". Ouch.
On the bright side, we found our new Kris Durham in Michael Bennett and Murray has 6 LEGIT receivers at any given time. Bobo found the I formation and we moved the damn ball. We discovered Crowell is the real deal, (I freaking love watching Figgins run block) and our D was swarming the field most of the night.
Our team did not lack heart and they clawed their way back into this game after every miscue. Something that was admirable and has been missing for quite some time now. There is some fight to these Dawgs people but we dropped yet another game.
So yeah...damn, just damn. I've been very conflicted on this game folks. Half of me gets straight up angry that we lost. This half of me says we needed to come out blow their doors off. This is uSC for crying out loud. last years SEC east champ or not, its just the lamecocks! But see, this half of me is still living off of the success that was the 2002-2007 seasons. In those years, with a few notable exceptions, we competed in every game. As a fan I came to expect victory against anyone we played. I have to accept that those days are over. Where did the slide begin? What does it say about the state of my denial that after 4 disappointing years that I still debate this with myself. Our record against top 10 teams is an embarrassment and there are no excuses for the mental errors that resulted in these 6 mistakes against uSC. The other half of me tells me I need to accept that such is the state of the program that moral victories are a part of who we ARE right now. This half of me remembers well the Goff and Donnan years and is deathly afraid of going back there. I suffered through the Goff years as a student. I lived through the Donnan years as a young alumni. In those 12 years I sat in half empty stadiums; young and blurry eyed while the Dawgs slept walked though over a decade of mediocrity. Talent was wasted and bowl games were rare. I remember a time when the Dawgs just didnt get it done against big teams in big settings. When push came to shove, we expected to lose. Goff and Donnan were a combined 49-43 in conference play over that time period and 86-53 overall. In my reoccurring nightmare Ray Goff and Loren Smith are discussing last weeks loss to Vanderbilt over a plate of Zaxby's chicken fingers on Inside Georgia Football. Loren asks Goff about Terrell Davis's talent being wasted while Jim Donnan refills their ice tea. I wake up in cold sweats every time. Richt changed all that and took us up to a new level. We began to believe we could win and we started winning. We came to expect victory, we came to expect our Dawgs to be in any fight. Under Richt the program is 53-28 in conference play since the Goff and Donnan days, but with 12 of those loses coming after the 2007 Sugar Bowl, the downhill slide back to mediocre-town is becoming something we can't ignore. Talent is being wasted, sleepwalking cant be far off. Seemingly we've become those mediocre teams again. So adjusting to this reality, ignoring the successes of our recent past, then yes our future could be bright. We had some fire last Saturday that's been missing. We have better talent and better coaching then we did in those dark ages. I like our coach, although I question some of his tactics and decisions. Despite the sour taste a moral victory could be the first step to building something special in Athens again. Am I lowering the bar for this team? Yes I am, but I'd prefer to think its just a temporary reset.
This is the year. This is the last year to stop the slide. This year defines who we are and how we are perceived. We either take our place with the South Carolinas of the world and settle for 8-4 type seasons singing the ole "we'll get em next year" song, or we wake up and continue the rise that Richt brought us, taking our spot among the elite teams again. This year will tell the tale. I believe we have the talent to make this season special still. There isn't one game on the schedule that this team can't win. For the players this means eliminating the costly mistakes. Focus every minute of every game and with everything you do. Tie your freaking shoe like you mean it, buckle that goddamned chin strap, and hold on to that damn ball. For the coaches this means REAL TIME adjustments, and not just from game to game. Give our kids a chance to win. Can Richt do whats needed with Bobo if he continues to inexplicably turn away from what works? Can he teach this guy to not outsmart himself? If he can not, can he make the tough decision?
So where do we go from here Richt? Can we point to this game as the turning point? Does it signal a return to glory? Or will this be another footnote on our slide back to mediocrity?