… We came into the season with a QB that has been praised for ‘getting the most out of his talent.’ We came in with two of our top receivers sidelined. We came in with a defense that was perilously thin, and one that the new DC was consistently and vocally not happy with. We endured another rash of injuries, and other things, that lead to us losing a whole team’s worth of RBs.
Still, Georgia is poised to lead the conference in scoring, improve 8+ points in scoring defense, and has fixed most of the special teams non-sense from the last four seasons. Bobo has done his best job yet in scheming, game planning, and coaching his players. Pruitt has done a good job with the players he thought weren’t ready for his style of defense. Richt and his staff have done a stunningly good job of maximizing what this team can be.
And that is what is so maddening. The two losses in conference were due to coaches not doing what it takes to win the game, as opposed to worrying about not losing. Richt, despite the fake kicks, going for it on fourth down, and breaking out trick plays, still, at inexplicable times, grasps onto the don’t screw up mentality. The squib/pooch kick was just one example of that.
At this point, Mark Richt still can’t recognize how to step into a situation where if things go wrong there isn’t really that big a difference, but if they go right, there is a huge payoff.
It’s been a season that started off with lowered expectations, as Tyler describes. Those jacked up quickly after Clemson, faded a little after South Carolina, came roaring back at Missouri and Arkansas (ironically, without Georgia’s best player) crashed at Florida and were finally put to rest for good in Week 14.
From a macro perspective, Richt did his job. The defense, while staggered by a steady run of dismissals and defections, stabilized over the course of the season and improved. Replacing Grantham with Pruitt has paid off in both the short and long run. Special teams, for the most part, was turned from a weakness to a strength. The coaches took an offense run by a quarterback with a very different skill set from Aaron Murray and made it the most successful in the program’s history. Most of all, Richt knew that for things to work based on his team’s strengths and weaknesses, the two most important areas Georgia had to control were field position and turnovers and that’s exactly what drove Georgia’s season. That’s what Tyler is referring to when he describes Georgia’s 2014 season as “the best job coaching Mark Richt has done, as far as getting the team to play like a team and be better than the sum of its parts.”
In the end, recordwise, the Dawgs ended up where we probably expected before the season got underway. Yet many of us, including me, feel a bit deflated at the end of the regular season. Why? Because as good as Richt has been with the big picture stuff this season, there have been flops on the micro level that have simply killed Georgia in its three losses. The squib kick against Georgia Tech. The failure to have the team mentally and emotionally prepared to play Florida (what the hell?). The ineffective playcalling at first-and-goal on South Carolina’s four-yard line.
No, it’s not all on the coaches. It’s not on Richt that Todd Gurley sold some autographs. The players bear just as much responsibility for not having their heads in the right places in Jacksonville as the coaches do. (And let’s not forget the one common thread in all the losses: missed Marshall Morgan field goals.) But it drives me crazy to see the same guy do such a fabulous job in the offseason of identifying the major areas that needed correction, take concrete steps to fix them and yet whiff on much smaller stuff that wound up undoing most of the good he accomplished.
It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog. But sometimes it’s frustrating as hell, too.