We argue a lot here about whether the offense or defense should shoulder most of the blame for this year’s disappointing season, but I think Mark Richt hits closer to what the systemic problem is with this comment from last night’s Bulldog Hotline (h/t, as always, to Jim from Duluth):
… Dale in Glendale wanted to give a shout out to one of the guys on the scout team. He asked CMR for his top 3 ways we can get back to where we are.
CMR – In the big games, we’ve got to play the entire 60 minutes. If you turn the ball over at a key time or make a penalty at a key time .. bottom line is we’ve got to win these close ball games. Even like an Arkansas game .. we fight and scrap to get back in the game, then 2 min. left and a chance to run the clock down and kick a FG to win.. one of our guys misses a protection he’s done 5 times already in the game.
In our offseason program, we’ve got to train our guys to make these plays at the moment of truth…
Speaking of that Arkansas game, you’ve got to train your coaches to make the right calls at the moment of truth, too.
But I think his larger point about focus is well taken. It’s hard to think of a single loss this year when there wasn’t a stretch in the game where the team got its act together on both sides of the ball and made a game of it. The good news is that they haven’t had any of those soul numbing performances where the team disappears that plagued Georgia in the past three or four seasons. The bad news is that this season they weren’t able to sustain those periods of excellence long enough to salvage a win against the better teams on the schedule (and, ugh, Colorado).
Which makes this quote from Richt a good reminder about the effort needed from the defense Saturday night.
… Asked if his defense gained confidence from keeping the Yellow Jackets in check last year, Georgia coach Mark Richt instead talked about 2008.
“I think two years ago anybody who’s still left over realized how crucial it is to be focused every single snap,” Richt said. “Every single snap, You just can not think you’ve got ‘em, because you don’t. You might have got ‘em one play, but you don’t have these guys unless you are focused every single snap and you do exactly what you’re supposed to do and then it gives you a chance.”
And it’s why I share Paul’s concerns. One thing I like, though, is that Grantham’s been looking at tape from last year’s game.
… Grantham said he has watched some of Georgia’s defense against the Yellow Jackets last year.
“We can get to what they did,” he said. “You’ve just got to be sound on those guys. They’re going to make you defend everything. They’re going to make you defend the fullback. They’re going to make you defend the quarterback on the edge. They’re going to make you defend the pitch and you’ve got to be able to handle those and you’ve got to understand they’re going to try and get angles on you different ways.
“They’re going to test your support system and we’ve got to be able to handle that stuff.”
It’s not that I expect him to take much from Martinez’ scheme. But that game from a focus and preparation standpoint was easily the best effort the staff and players turned in against a quality opponent in the last two seasons. It’s worth reminding everyone in the program that they’re capable of playing a solid 60-minute game if they put their minds to it.
Honestly, if they do, I don’t see how this one stays close.