You know, something funny hit me walking out of Everbank Stadium after the game. For a long stretch that began with Spurrier’s arrival, my departure mood would be largely one of frustration that the series could be so one-sided. Last year, I was angry that the team took a rival lightly and got its ass handed to it in an embarrassing way.
This year, and for the first time ever, I left after a Cocktail Party loss without thinking of it in terms of losing to the Gators. I just saw it as another generically depressing loss by a team that’s lost its way on the path to mediocrity.
The sad thing is that I didn’t find that Florida was particularly more talented than the Dawgs are. It’s just better coached in the sense that it avoided making more stupid plays than did Georgia.
If you want a better idea of what I mean by that, read David Wunderlich’s advanced stats analysis of the game here. He’s spot on with this bit:
I don’t like to say that a game would’ve been completely different if you just changed a few plays throughout. Different numbers on a scoreboard will change the way coaches call their games. For example, maybe if Team X didn’t get that cheap touchdown in the first half, Team Y could have gone with its strong run game more in the second half instead of having to lean on its shaky pass game. The scoreboard dictates strategy to a great degree, so unless you’re just tweaking a few plays at the end, there’s usually no way to say how a game might’ve been different. That’s not even taking into account swings of momentum, if you believe such things exist.
I’m not so sure that’s the case with this one. Both offenses were bad throughout, but I didn’t detect much of a change in strategy from Florida until the game looked out of hand in middle of the fourth quarter. If Davis doesn’t fumble that punt, and Bauta doesn’t throw four interceptions, this game probably would have just ended up more in the 7-3 or 14-3 range. And maybe if the score was closer late in the game, Mark Richt could’ve pulled out some kind of special trick play to get a quick score and possibly win.
From that standpoint, Richt might have lost this game by going with Bauta over Greyson Lambert—especially because we never saw Bauta’s claimed mobility ever come into play. For all of Lambert’s faults, he hasn’t been a turnover machine. His interception percentage is 1.3%, which is on the low end for a starting quarterback. I feel comfortable in saying that the Bulldogs would’ve been in a better position to win had their quarterback not thrown four interceptions. I know that might be controversial, but I stand by it.
On the flip side, this was another game where Florida looked like the better coached team that prospered by not screwing up and letting the other team screw up. It’s a big change.
I know there’s a certain random factor to turnovers, but it’s by no means totally random. Georgia’s drop in turnover margin after the Cocktail Party from last season’s +13 to this season’s minus-3 is disastrous, not just on its face, but also because Richt’s overall management strategy which worked so well in 2014 was to rely on turnovers and field position to support a run-oriented offense. Those are gone now. Without decent quarterback play, he’s got nothing left in the tank.
That’s why I’m depressed.