Monday, September 29, 2008

Some perspective

OK, Alabama came to play.

But, as completely crazy as it sounds, this game was not the complete domination that some have made it out to be. It isn't the end of the world for Georgia, and it doesn't even dash any sort of title hopes - SEC or national - largely based on the events of the past week. Yeah, it really sucks to lose like that on ESPN and it is beyond depressing to be down 31-0 at halftime, but I'd argue the Bulldogs were only a play or two away from winning this game and winning it outright.

Consider Alabama's successful scoring drives in the first half.

The first touchdown came thanks to a mulligan on a roughing the passer penalty that, though it was technically the proper call to make, is also an absolutely preposterous rule and should be enforced with much more leeway. Daryl Gamble, as he was properly coached, put up both hands to bat away John Parker Wilson's pass and, as he brought them down, one glanced by Wilson's facemask. Nothing malicious intended, but rather an aggressive player trying to make a play for his team.

The penalty wiped out an Alabama fumble, gave the Crimson Tide new life and they cashed in, going up 7-0.

Their next drive resulted in a field goal after a pair of silly penalties gave Alabama considerably better field position. Still, Georgia's defense held as it should have and forced a field goal to make it 10-0.

The Crimson Tide went up 17-0 after Brian Mimbs, one of the best punters in the SEC, shanked one only 18 yards, giving Alabama a short field to work with. As any good team should, the Tide cashed in.

It became 24-0 on what I feel was the definitive play of the game when A.J. Green loses a fluke fumble after picking up a first down in Alabama territory. If Green had been able to cleanly pivot and get past his defender, there was no one between him and end zone. So a 17-7 Alabama lead was transformed into a 24-0 one. This changed the entire complexion of the game for the rest of the contest.

Alabama puts together a nice drive and Wilson hits Julio Jones in stride for a touchdown to make it 31-0 at the halftime.

That's a rather atypical first half performance, is it not? A shanked punt from the conference's best punter spots Alabama probably 25 yards against a tired Georgia defense, coupled with a 14-point swing on one play. This game was very, very close to being - at worst - 17-7 Alabama at the half.

This is even more frustrating when you look at the second half when, as I properly called at halftime, Georgia came out and put up 31 points (30, I know, but the Bulldogs wouldn't have gone for two points if they weren't down by 18 at the time). Georgia held the Crimson Tide to no yards in the third quarter and rattled off 17 points in the blink of an eye. They tacked on two more touchdowns in three minutes to close the game out.

And they did it without ever committing to the running game (for obvious reasons seeing how the Bulldogs trailed by five scores at the half).

Look at the final statistics ... this 'dominating' Alabama team outgained Georgia by 10 yards. This 'dominating' Alabama was held to an average of 2.9 yards per rush, despite working behind one of the best offensive lines I've seen in a long, long while. This 'dominating' Alabama team threw for fewer yards than Arizona State did last week.

The Crimson Tide is a very, very good football team, but they are not - not - heads and shoulders above Georgia. They were very opportunistic and brilliantly took advantage of some Bulldog miscues - a silly penalty, a shanked punt, a fluke fumble - and turned those mistakes into 21 points.

If there's no penalty, does Georgia drive the length for a touchdown? If Green spins free and scores, does that energize the team and we rally to win big like Tennessee did to us two years ago?

Yes, I know it's all 'would have, could have' right now, and I ain't taking anything away from Alabama, but the hand-wringing that has already emerged and that only Georgia fans can do is misplaced and borderline preposterous. The Bulldogs have some question marks and some key injuries, but they've got enough talent and are well-coached enough to

And, honestly, someone point out a Georgia team under Mark Richt that has ever quit (um, that wasn't playing Tennessee)? West Virginia needed a fake punt to stave off the biggest collapse in a BCS bowl game. Virginia Tech couldn't hold off a team it had down on the mat. And, for a few moments in the fourth quarter until the Crimson Tide themselves woke up, Alabama was facing the same predicament.

Win out, and you still play for the national title. Lose just one game that isn't to Florida, and you play for the SEC Championship. The season ain't lost yet. Remember how lousy you felt after Tennessee last year? How much better did you feel at the end of the year?

A little perspective is all we need now.


Blogger Jared said...

I agree completely. Here's hoping for a rematch with Bama in the SEC title game. That said, another thing that really didn't work in Georgia's favor was several blown catches (including, but certainly not limited to, the Green "fumble"). This game could've looked very different had some key catches not turned into drops.

9:44 AM  
Blogger paveplanet said...

Yeah, it is not the end of the world but revealed that all of the "problems" that were quickly dismissed by the faithful after South Carolina are truly problems that Richt and his staff better find a way to address.

11:53 AM  

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