Gary Pinkel, who enjoyed noteworthy success at Toledo and Missouri, was a guest on the Georgia pre-game show Saturday, a game in which he was given his on campus salute as the newest coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
In recalling Missouri’s upset of Oklahoma, then ranked No. 1 in 2010, I asked him how worried Georgia should be about the game? He, ever the gentleman, said that it would be helpful if the Bulldogs brought their “B” game and that Missouri come with an “A” game.
Pinkel, a close friend of Alabama’s Nick Saban, who coached with the latter under Don James at Kent State was not about to say anything foolish, but he knew that the talent level favored the Bulldogs. He knew that for the Tigers to win, Georgia had to help the home team.
The Bulldogs did that for the better part of three quarters with an offense that could not score touchdowns until it counted with time running out in the fourth quarter.
This could be a blessing in disguise. It is tough to carry the No. 1 ranking though the season. There are countless cases where the top ranked team in the country has escaped close games by the skin of their teeth. You are going to have an off day, no matter the team. And it could be costly. To have survived, however, means that all Bulldog loyalists should be celebrating not carping and finding fault.
Even the best pitchers with four days rest don’t follow up a dominant outing with another the next time out. A golfer shoots lights out for two rounds and then loses concentration and lapses into forgettable shot making that costs him the tournament.
The reason that Nick Saban has won so many championships is that he has done such a good job recruiting that when his team has an off day, he can beat you with his superior talent.
I’d like to think that Kirby Smart has reached that point. It certainly was the case Saturday in Columbia. His team had an off day but escaped with victory.
Think of the plusses that should come from this game. First of all, his players now realize that all the pats on the back would have included daggers if the Bulldogs had lost.
The Bulldog players will work harder, they will pay attention to what the coaches are saying and now have a chance to bond and move into position to compete for another championship.
The timing of this toe stumping is fortuitous in that the game was won. There remains a goose egg in the loss column, which means that all goals can be reached. There are no guarantees, however, but there is no regrouping from the agony of defeat. None of that will eliminate the griping and carping, however.
Kirby frequently reminds his players that it is human nature to lather you up when you are winning, telling you how great you are, but just as quickly come with venom and contempt when you disappoint them.
At an occasion such as this, it is also good to point out that when he expresses concern about Vanderbilt which is on the schedule following Auburn, that he is underscoring the obvious: This is the Southeastern Conference and every team has players so it is best to get yourself in the proper frame of mine to play an SEC team which can embarrass you when they play at their best—certainly if you are not ready to play.
In 1957, Auburn won the national championship but had a problem defeating Georgia in Columbus. That was a day when the Tigers were powerhouse and Georgia was struggling. Auburn, late in the game enjoyed a 6-0 lead, but the Bulldogs drove down to the War Eagle one-yard line. A national championship that game looked dim, but Bulldog quarterback Charley Britt fumbled a snap at the Auburn one-yard line. Auburn recovered and a national championship was saved.
When there is talk of this championship in the “loveliest village on the plain,” there is no mention of the Bulldogs offensive mishap on the Tigers one-yard line.
Maybe that will be the good fortune Georgia will experience after getting by Missouri on Saturday night.