Thankfully some good news hit the Bulldog Nation last Wednesday night with our basketball team pulling off an upset win at Mizzou. After the ultra disappointing New Year’s Day Gator Bowl loss by our football team, it was so refreshing to see Bulldog fans celebrating with one another on social media.
What this exuberance once again shows is just how passionate the Georgia fan base is and how much they crave championship level play. And unfortunately, on the football front, an 8-5 record for the 2013 season was far from that.
I’m not going to rehash the game by game details because Jeff Dantzler did an excellent job of that in his wrap-up. However, as he always does, his words are not filled with far reaching venom. Instead, they are seeded in straight facts. And as the old saying goes, “the facts don’t lie.”
JD hit the nail on the head when saying self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities doomed the 2013 campaign.
As I sit back to reflect on the season, I find myself back in Butts-Mehre in early August on Media Day. Mark Richt was kicking off his 13th season at Georgia, so I asked him if he was superstitious. By then, Bulldawg Illustrated had made its intentions for the season perfectly clear by putting a rose themed cover on its 2013 Season Preview issue. Being a fan, I was hopeful that perhaps the normally unlucky number 13 might be just the opposite for Richt. After all, he had brushed with the ultimate prize of making it to the national championship game several times, including coming up five yards short in 2012.
Now, over five months later, we all know my desire for Richt’s 13th season to be lucky was far from it. The bad luck began with Malcolm Mitchell’s fluke knee injury to celebrate the season’s first touchdown at Clemson. It continued with other injuries to Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett to just name a few. And of course, there was the loss of Aaron Murray on Senior Night in his last home game in Sanford Stadium.
And then there was Auburn, where the amazing comeback by our team was rewarded with a kick in the gut that the Bulldog Nation will never forget.
Yes, 2013 was brutal in the luck department, but if you are realistic, then you simply cannot chalk up the mediocre season to all misfortune. For whatever reason, the ebb and flow of Georgia football during the actual games continues to be a herky-jerky ride. There are moments when the team is clicking on all cylinders that are unfortunately coupled with discombobulation, like the inability to getting the right number of players on the field.
A lot of folks want to characterize most of our football’s team’s shortcomings as special team related. And yes, that is where the biggest problems exist. However as I have said many times before, there are other problems. For whatever reason, throughout Mark Richt’s tenure, situational game management has and continues to be his biggest Achilles’ heel.
Now that the season is over it is the proper time to self-evaluate. If Richt is honest with himself, then he will finally make some sort of move to aid himself on game day. Perhaps it’s something as simple as having an assistant coach positioned somewhere else on the field, much like Auburn’s Gus Malzahn does. Perhaps, it’s having a fresh voice on the headsets positioned in the press box looking down on the action. Shoot, maybe try naming your permanent captain at the beginning of the year and let that player have the ability to speak up when he sees something going awry.
Bottom line, Mark Richt has to try something different in 2014 or I fear the season will again end in disappointment. I’m rooting on him, but if he thinks the “Georgia way” is filled with self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities, then his awesome tenure at UGA is in real jeopardy.
With the exit of secondary coach, Scott Lakatos and defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, change is coming whether Richt wanted it or not. Now, he’s on the clock to hit home runs with the new additions to his staff. Godspeed to him.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I have to end giving praise to this 2013 University of Georgia football team. Despite a ton of misfortune, the team never rolled over (I’ll give them a pass for the Gator Bowl clunker). Many teams would have ended a season like this one with a 5-8 record. Moving forward, that’s definitely something to build on. The task now is to leave the uninspired pockets of play that plagued this past season in the rearview mirror. The ultimate goal for next season is to start and finish every game like champions. PERIOD!
And for the fans, once again, your love for your football team is so special. Even in terrible weather at the Gator Bowl, there were many of you just as passionate as on a perfect day in Sanford Stadium. Don’t fret Bulldog Nation, the 2014 season will eventually get here and when it does good things will happen.
Now I will say goodbye to 2013. But to our loyal readers and followers, please keep up with what all our folks here at BI are doing online as Signing Day and spring football approaches. That’s a wrap … let the day dreaming of making it to the inaugural College Football Playoff begin. Go Dawgs!