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Thursday, October 1, 2009

These Aren't Last Year's Bulldogs

A year ago, Georgia opened the season No. 1 in the country, then opened the season with four wins -- three of which came pretty easily. In Week 5, a top-10 team with a few question marks came into Athens with something to prove. The result was a 31-0 lead at halftime for Alabama.

This year, the Bulldogs didn't open anywhere near No. 1. They lost their first game and essentially evaporated from the national scene. The next three weeks resulted in wins, but not were convincing and all had a touch of ugliness -- and maybe more than a touch -- to ensure fans stayed nervous well beyond the clock hitting zero. Now, in Week 5, another top-10 team with a few questions and something to prove is heading to Athens once again.

Marc Weiszer wrote earlier this week that it's been a long time since Georgia has beaten a top-10 foe.

LSU is sounding confident, assuming this year's Dawgs aren't what they were a year ago.

But while Georgia doesn't have Matthew Stafford or Knowshon Moreno this time around, it may have something else -- something that was missing in that 31-0 embarrassment against Alabama.

These past three games have been less than spectacular, but they have been tests. They have tested Georgia's resilience, character and heart. And in the end, they were each wins.

It's hard to say whether that will translate into another victory this weekend, but to hear some of Georgia's most important players talk about it, it certainly sounds like they think it can.

Rennie Curran on how much better prepared this team is for a big game...
“This team realizes way more than last year’s team that there’s no way we can roll our helmets out and expect to win. We have to fight hard for every single down on every play for the success we want. It’s not going to come from just one guy making a huge play. Everybody has to win their battle to win the war ultimately. It really has helped us.”

Bryan Evans on not relying on just two players this year...
“It’s always good to know the offense can bail the defense out one game, the defense can bail the offense out one game, special teams can bail us out. If we can just get all three of them rolling, man, we can be unstoppable. That’s what we’re looking at is we have never finished a whole game together with all three phases. If we can get all three phases together and we win the turnover ratio, I’m pretty sure we can be the best team in the country.”

A.J. Green on playing so many tight games...
“That’s just show what type of team we are. We’re never going to give up, and we don’t care what’s the score or the time on the clock, we’re going to keep fighting.”

Mark Richt on what the close games have done for Georgia...

“I think it builds confidence. I think when you’re in the middle of a game and you hit that adversity everybody can look at each other and say ‘Here we go again; let’s go do it,’ rather than ‘Here we go again, we’re in trouble’. I think the first attitude is the one that we have at this moment and hopefully we continue to have it. I’ve said it ever since I’ve been at Georgia; I think we’re a good football team. I think we’re good enough to win the East and win the SEC, but the teams that win the close games are going to be the champions and so that has to be the first and foremost thing of importance is winning that football game. That’s what we are preparing for right now.”

Joe Cox on the team's mind-set going into this game...

“We’ve definitely been tested this year, and that’s always important. If that’s what people want to see is us getting tested or not, I don’t know. But I definitely think it’s been good that we’ve had some of the games we’ve had. We’ve been able to come back from being down. We’ve been able to drive the field in the last minute and get in position to win a game. There’s been a lot of things that have happened amongst the ugliness that’s been happening, too. We’ve been tested and we know what we’re capable of. We know what the defense is capable of. We know what (the offense) is capable of. I think our unity is great, and I think it’s come from those tough games when we’ve had to rely on each other. That’s going to help us in the long run.”

13 comments:

Texas_Dawg said...

Last year's Bulldogs went 10-3 (6-2). How much better are you thinking this year's Bulldogs will finish than that?

David Hale said...

Last year's team also got blown out by Alabama and Florida. The record might not be any better, but the effort I think will. Or at least that's what the players seem to think.

Texas_Dawg said...

OK.

Well, fortunately for this year's team it likely won't have to play any teams that go 8-0 in SEC regular season games. And hopefully we won't see another blowout by Florida... although the early line is UF -15. At least this year's team won't have to face Percy Harvin though.

At the end of the day though, wins and losses are what matter. If this year's team goes 10-3 (6-2) and wins the Citrus Bowl, that will be fine with me. Hard to expect much more in a "rebuilding" year.

Silver Dawg said...

The Season of Nervous Anticipation, for me, has been replaced by a Season of Hope, Don Knotts-style.

I'm full of hope, confidence and some say, @*&##, for a Saturday win over LSU by 3 field goals from Mr. Walsh.

Phil Steele said...

Thought you'd want to see that Phil Steele has picked Green as the surprise WR for this week. He said the surprise factor is that they're playing the #4 team. Also, he picked Joe Cox as Honorable Mention for QB. Last week, he picked Georgia's defense.

Matt said...

Dave, can you check on Makiri Pugh's status? Seems like in the offseason it sounded like the coaches wanted to get him some playing time (at nickel/safety), but I can't remember him being on the field. Is he injured?

David Hale said...

He missed Week 1 because he had swine flu. He's played since then, but almost entirely on special teams. He's been working at nickel, but right now, Prince has been the team's primary nickel, with Branden Smith or Vance Cuff coming in at the wide corner spot in nickel packages.

Chuck said...

The team decided that just relying on two players for all their offense was a mistake, so now they just rely on the one player.

Anonymous said...

11-2 SEC East Champs. To do it, we have to split LSU/TN and win against FLA which we've historically done with a week off. If you think this year is a rebuilding year wait until 2010 when we have a RFR QB and a new defensive front.

Personally I think LSU is way over rated. 30 yards rushing against MSU is a joke. Chavis has had alot of success against Richt's offenses so I expect a low scoring slug fest.

Dawgs are way better than the media gives them credit for. No one has played our scheduled or turned the ball over like us and sitting 3-1. Beware of the Dawg.

Anonymous said...

Chuck- if you're talking about AJ Green, please keep in mind that someone has to get him the ball. Give Cox a little credit here.

Texas_Dawg said...

David Hale said...

Last year's team also got blown out by Alabama and Florida. The record might not be any better, but the effort I think will.


How about now?

David Hale said...

Through five weeks I was right -- the effort was better.

Last week? Eh, no so much.

But hey, I'm no fortune teller. Just put the best analysis together I can with the evidence at hand.

Although, much like forgetting to carry the 1, I may have forgotten to factor in the Willie Martinez defense.

Texas_Dawg said...

Well... you were saying the effort would be there. And that didn't happen.

But whatever. Stafford and Moreno were both excellent CFB players. Without both of them, UGA probably goes 9-4 and 8-5 the last two seasons. But we 11-2 and 10-3 instead and came inches from playing a reeling LSU in Ryan Perrilloux's first game in what would have been the de facto MNC game.

Had that happened they'd be celebrated as UGA legends forever. But instead they left to UGA fans and journalists that cover the program talking about a lack of effort, lack of leadership, and all the other nonsense implicit in that whole "new leadership and discipline" silliness of this off-season. A real shame, imho.