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Monday, November 23, 2009

Exploring the Depths

I posed the question on Twitter yesterday as to whether Saturday represented the worst loss of the Mark Richt era. Most of those who responded agreed that it was. Here were the other suggestions:

-- Vandy in 2006. This one was bad, but Vandy had to drive for a field goal at the end, and the Commodores had a future NFL star at quarterback.

-- Tennessee in 2007. About as ugly as any UGA loss has ever been, but the Vols did go to the SEC title game that year. They were a good team and it was in Knoxville.

-- Tennessee this year. Bad, yes, but it was in Knoxville, not at home.

-- Alabama last season. That first half was dismal, but Georgia did fight back to make it close and Alabama went 8-0 in the SEC and played in the conference title game.

-- Florida, pretty much any time. The 2002 game against the Gators is probably the only one I can really get behind because it probably kept Georgia from a national title.

Beyond that, this was as bad as it has ever been. Georgia lost the game because of it's own problems. It turned the ball over four times -- and fumbed two more times that it miraculously recovered. The defense gave up big plays. They had costly turnovers. The special teams were a disaster. It was at home. It was against a team that is 5-15 against SEC East foes since 2006, and all five of those wins are against either Georgia or Vandy. And it was on Senior Night, a day after Uga VII died. When you include how it happened, who it happened against, where it happened and when it happened, it's hard to find another loss that tops this one. Just brutal.

But look again at that list of other suggestions for worst loss of the Richt era. Outside of that 2002 Florida game, every one has come in the past three seasons.

With that in mind, I have a story in today's Telegraph discussing the direction of the Georgia program. Mark Richt has been asked after his past three losses if he was concerned about where the program was headed, and he has consistently said that the future remains bright. With players like Orson Charles, Branden Smith, Washaun Ealey, Caleb King, Brandon Boykin and Bacarri Rambo and another great signing class on the way, it's not entirely hard to believe him.

But looking ahead is conjecture. Maybe things work out. Maybe they don't. I think the odds remain in Georgia's favor, but it's hard to say for sure.

What we know for certain is what has happened for the past few years, and regardless of what Richt says, the situation is dire.

In its last 21 games, the Bulldogs have allowed 34 points or more 10 times. That happened just 11 times from 1997-2007.

While we know the defense has had it's problems, let's look at who is scoring on them in 2009:

-- Kentucky hadn't topped 26 points against an SEC foe all year. They got 34 against Georgia.

-- Florida's high for the season was 41 points (against Kentucky) which it matched against Georgia. They failed to top 29 against any other SEC foe.

-- South Carolina averaged 15 points per game in its other seven SEC contests. It scored 37 against Georgia.

-- Tennessee averaged 20 points per game against other BCS-conference foes. It scored 45 against Georgia.

-- Johnathan Crompton's 310 yards vs. Georgia were his most against any opponent except Memphis; Stephen Garcia's 313 were the most against any opponent except Arkansas; Morgan Newton's 137 nearly reached his previous career total; Ryan Mallett's 408 were a career best, too.

And how does Georgia fare against strong competition?

-- Against teams ranked at the time they played Georgia, the Bulldogs are just 2-6 in the past two seasons (with one of those wins being Vandy last year).

-- Georgia is just 6-9 vs. teams that finished the year ranked in the AP top 25 since 2006 (*using current AP poll for this season) and just 1-6 the past two seasons.

-- Georgia is just 15-12 overall against BCS-conference teams who finished the regular season with a winning record in the past four years.

But that's big picture. What about Georgia's primary competition?

Here is the Dawgs' record against the SEC East since 2006:

Florida: 1-3
Tennessee: 1-3
Kentucky: 2-2
South Carolina: 3-1
Vanderbilt: 3-1

In other words, here is Georgia's record against the SEC East since 2006: 10-10.

And that record is every bit deserved. In the past four seasons, Georgia has actually been outscored by SEC East opponents 520-473.

In its last seven meetings with SEC East opponents, Georgia is allowing an average of nearly 37 points per game. They have allowed 34 or more in six of those seven games.

But in truth, Georgia has been banged up and lost some big-time talent of late. So how about just comparing Georgia to general expectations?

-- The Dawgs are 3-8 against the spread this season.

-- Georgia is 7-15-1 against the spread in the past two seasons.

-- In games when Georgia is favored, it is just 5-12-1 against the spread in the past two seasons.

OK, but spreads are simply a tool for gamblers, not necessarily a judge of quality play. So how does Georgia stack up nationally?

Georgia's ranking this season, nationally, in a few categories:

Total Offense: 73rd
Pass Efficiency Defense: 90th
Scoring Defense: 75th
Third-down Conversion Pct: 73rd
Time of Possession: 84th
Red-Zone Defense: 103rd
Interceptions Thrown: 111th
Turnover Margin: 119th
Takeaways: 120th
Kickoff Coverage: 119th
Punt Coverage: 88th
Penalties: 116th

But is Georgia possibly improving anywhere? Maybe the coaches were dealt some bad hands, but they're making progress.

Issues that dogged the Dawgs in 2008: O line, pass rush, lack of takeaways, penalties, scoring defense, kick coverage

Issues that have been fixed this year: pass rush

(*It's also worth noting that coaches promised an improved pass rush would help the secondary. Georgia had 23 sacks last year, had 16 takeaways and ranked 47th in pass efficiency defense. Georgia has 27 sacks this year in two fewer games, but has just eight takeaways and ranks 90th in pass efficiency defense.)

But hey, there's more to coaching than adjustments. How about the work done game planning.

A few factoids about Georgia's starts to games this year:

-- Georgia has scored first in just four of 11 games this season.

-- Georgia has been outscored 75-34 in the first quarter of SEC games this season.

-- Georgia's offense has produced 10 points or fewer in the first half of 10 games (out of 21) against BCS-conference foes in the past two seasons.

But we also have to remember, Mark Richt's calm demeanor is crucial to overcoming adversity. Only Georgia hasn't had the best history of halting momentum in the past four years.

-- Against UK last week, Georgia was outscored 28-7 in the second half.
-- Against Florida this season, Georgia was outscored 24-10 in the first half.
-- Against Tennessee this season, Georgia was outscored 24-7 in the second half.
-- Against LSU this season, Georgia picked up just one first down in the first half.
-- Against Alabama last season, Georgia was outscored 31-0 in the first half.
-- Against Florida last season, Georgia was outscored 35-7 in the second half.
-- Against Georgia Tech last season, Georgia was outscored 33-14 in the second half (and 26-0 in the third quarter)
-- Against Tennessee in 2007, Georgia was outscored 28-0 in the first half.
-- Against Tennessee in 2006, Georgia was outscored 37-9 in the second half.
-- Against Virginia Tech in 2006, Georgia was outscored 21-3 in the first half.

And how about dominance in games?

Against BCS-conference opponents in Mark Richt's first seven seasons at Georgia, the Bulldogs won 17 games by at least 20 points. They lost just two -- the 2003 SEC title game against LSU and the 2007 game at Tennessee.

In the past two seasons, Georgia has dominated just one BCS-conference opponent: this year's 34-10 win over Vandy. They've been blown out three times (twice against Florida and this year against Tennessee).

But, of course, it all comes down to wins and losses, and that's not so great either.

Georgia is just 9-7 in its last 16 games.

That has only happened three other times since the Ray Goff era: 9-7 from Oct. 29, 2005 through Nov. 4, 2006; 9-7 from Oct. 30, 1999 through Nov. 25, 2000; and Aug. 31, 1996 through Nov. 15, 1997.

If Georgia loses to the Yellow Jackets next week, they'll be 7-7 in their last 14 games.

Georgia hasn't lost seven of 14 games at any point since Goff was coach.

And when Ray Goff is being mentioned that often, that "lunatic fringe" suddenly doesn't sound so crazy.

I think Richt has done more than enough in his career to engender a little good will and a fair amount of confidence that he'll get things turned around. But as any dime-store shrink can tell you, the first step is admitting you have a problem.


Mike said...

What we know for certain is what has happened for the past few years, and regardless of what Richt says, the situation is dire.

The past few years? Such as winning 21 games the previous 2 seasons including a #2 finish?

Maybe it's that you fell so hard for that off-season "Cox will be a much better leader" meme (a pretty obvious trashing of Stafford by many UGA fans), but it appears you are trying to create more drama around Richt than is warranted.

It's a crappy team, and Joe Cox, Bryan Evans, and the players you keep bending over backwards to defend are a large part of that. Richt has done a poor job this year, but given 9 seasons there are very few coaches that would not have at least one go .500. Even fewer that would produce 6 top 10 teams in that stretch though.

There is all the reason in the world to think Georgia will be quickly back to where it's been once changes are made this off-season... and once players like Joe Cox and Bryan Evans are gone.

Unknown said...

This whole "loyalty" thing Richt displays with players and coaches is a Catch-22. It's a tough situation he is in. I'm sure he will make the right move when he has to....which will be the offseason.

"Lunatic Fringe"...nice Red Rider reference.

Unknown said...

I hear what Texas_Dawg is saying in that it was just two years ago that we thought we deserved a shot in the Natl Championship game. 3 of the past 4 years, however, have been complete disappointments.

The sad thing is that two of those years included a QB talented enough to go #1 overall in the draft.

Those are some damning numbers that have been put up, and the main one is that 7-7 in the last 14 games. Mark Richt is not among the highest paid coaches in college football to go .500.

I think we have come upon some bad breaks (players leaving, poor officiating, etc), but we do have major issues as well (best example is David's point abt things from '08 that haven't improved) and David makes a great point in saying that the first step in finding the solution is to admit we have a problem.

What scares me is that Richt has yet to do that. He continues to skirt around the issues and make excuses. In fact, I think that he has garnered more criticism this year than he probably should because he simply won't take charge of the problems at hand. If Richt wants to lead this team into the future and back to success, he needs to admit we have problems, be open and up front about them, and take some accountability.

He needs to show us (and "us" includes Damon Evans, who is the only one that he actually NEEDS to show) that he can take charge in the face of adversity and pull through it. He has yet to do this.

ted said...

damn david, if it was possible to be even more depressed then you just did it.

we're horrible and richt needs to get his head out of his ass or leave.

Anonymous said...


Lots of stats to show how bad and unpredictable this 2009 Georgia team has been. However, we know that by our 6-5 record.

I agree we need some changes, but I also recognize that some of our upper classmen have not panned out the way we all planned. Sometimes you have to play the cards your dealt. This season has been abysmal to watch, but I am excited about the future.

2011 could be a special year for the Dawgs with a loaded offensive line, Ealey as a junior in the backfield and Murray with a year under his belt at QB. And a new defensive coordinator in his 2nd year of a new scheme.

Richt has taken the Dawgs to levels we haven't seen in 20 years - SEC Championships, 10-win seasons -- all while being a consummate professional and ambassador for UGA.

To me, it's insane people are even discussing a "coaching change." Guess USC and Oklahoma need to fire their coaches, too. Those two lousy coaches are also having inefficient seasons. And while you're at it, Fire Perno.

Ant123 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


I think it's pretty clear we have a problem.

And I think Richt knows we have a problem.

But you just don't fire coaches and change your whole philosophy in the middle of a season.

I expect major defensive changes at year end.

The Catch-22 is Coach Garner. In order to change schemes, we need to bring in a new coach. And that means Coach Garner will be passed over as Def. Coordinator. To keep Garner, we may have to name him Assistant Head Coach or something like that.

And I think Coach Garner is a huge asset!!! Wouldn't want to see him go.

Ant123 said...

David, To really make the point could you compile and compare Ga's results verses AL and LSU the top two teams in the west and verses FL and TN our top competition in the east. If you could do this for 2001-2005 compared to 2006-2009.
This is what I think you will find. In 2006 there were signs that the defense had slipped. By the end of 2007 there were more signs of the same with increasing frequency. In 2008 it was obvious there were major problems. In 2009 the failure to make changes in the defensive staff allows some of that complacency to bleed over to the rest of the team. (You could make a case that it started in 2007).
In Richts first year we were not super talented but we were fundamentally sound. Today we are talented but not at all fundamentally sound. It has snowballed and now it has to be stopped. What is your take on this?

Harry Dawg said...

Our defense was good early on because of Coach Van Gorder.

His intensity and instruction, along with some talented players, afforded us a top defensive unit. (It's also nice to have a David Pollack on your team for 4 of those years!)

Martinez carried over that scheme, but we are no longer as fundamentally sound.

Besides that, the offenses int he SEC have continued to evolve and had time to figure out our "scheme."

I think we should make a change at year end in both scheme and coordinator when it comes to defense.

Anonymous said...


Please slip this under Mark's door.

Anonymous said...

I've been watching Georgia for longer than most. I don't remember any Georgia teams looking this bad in losing.

Except for our kicking game I can't point to a part of our game that has looked good. More troubling is that I have seen no progress in our team from game 1 to game 11. Turnovers, penalties, defense out of position, kick coverage, etc. etc. Are these players uncoachable or are they receiving no coaching or improper coaching? There's an answer somewhere.

We heard from Coach Richt that we needed a 5th year senior at QB to have a chance to win. We've also heard that our kick coverage team is bad because they are so young, even after game eleven.

Unknown said...


I agree completely. We have too much talent tied into Garner to let him leave, which is what scares me about this entire situation.

We've got some of the TOP recruits in the country that are rock solid to us DESPITE a .500-so-far season, and he is the reason.

You think Garrison Smith signs on the dotted line if coach G is gone? I don't know the answer to the question, but I don't care to find out.

Our offense looks like it could be EXCELLENT if Murray can improve AT ALL upon Joe Cox's year this year, especially with the potential addition of Da'Rick Rogers, whom I expect to at least be our third option at WR next year.

Outside of Rogers (and maybe Benedict) our two biggest recruits for next year are defensive studs who are more than likely tied to Garner (Ogletree and Smith). I would hate for signing day to come and for us not to receive their signatures. With Coach G in house, I don't think we have to worry.

One thing to keep in mind is that this year we were stuck with Senior "place-fillers" as starters because we had nothing else (Evans/Miller)- next year, we have playmakers starting in their place, followed by more young depth (Rambo/Smith and then hopefully Hamilton/Ogletree) so with a little coaching- and i dont think willie is the one who can provide it- we have the potential to have a FANTASTIC year.

Hopefully we can realize that potential because if not, I dont know what possible excuse would remain.

Anonymous said...

I trust Damon has our recruiters doing their research at all levels of the football staff.

We should be doing our homework now to get prepared as this thing can go a number of ways during after the season.

Regardless, I am pulling for this group to overcome their discipline issues for 60 minutes and beat a much better disciplined team in Atlanta.

Anonymous said...

I don't think CMR is making excuses when he says that teams go through "cycles". A fair comparison would look at similar teams (SEC)won/loss records over the past 9 years. All teams, including Bama, Florida, Tenn and LSU have experienced the same type of cycles in their program the past 9 years, much of them worse than UGA. The reason other teams like Ohio State or USC haven't experienced the same loss cycles has a lot to do with the competition they have faced in their conferences the past 9 years. I don't think you can lose a Stafford, Moreno and Massaquoi and expect the same success as previous 2 years.

There are significant differences between Goff and Richt, at least the program is moving in a positive direction with recruiting and young talent.

By the way, it was a 5 loss LSU team that throttled the "Nerds" last year in the Chick-Fil-a Bowl game.

Matthew said...

Yes David,

Please do a similar post from 2001-2005.

I think this will be very telling....

Anonymous said...

Your comment at the end is laughable after you spent the entire column tearing UGA and Richt apart by dissecting EVERY blemish, ignoring the positives. Welcome to the lunatic fringe, you seem to fit right in.

No one is saying things shouldn't get better, or changes don't need to be made, but this public lynching that has been going on for the last 3-4 years has ripped the guts out of the UGA program and fanbase. I honestly don't know why a recruit would want to joine this lunacy. UGA fans have become the worst. What a bunch of whiners surrounding this program. And what a bunch of fools to take personal shots at the staff and players. Low class, no other way to describe it.

Anonymous said...

I watched the replay over and over, and I am not sure why Ealey keeps saying he fumbled. He clearly had his arms in position for a handoff (right hand on top of left waiting for the QB to put it in between).
The playcall is one thing, but the players were on two totally different wave lengths and for some reason no one is mentioning it.

Anonymous said...


CMR continues to use the youth and inexperience excuse, but has anybody actually called him out on this and pointed out the fact that they aren't young and inexperienced 11 games into a season?!

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:12

If you don't like it, the nerds wagon is always looking for another passenger.

hoodawg said...

David, great post. It almost makes me glad we lost last week so that these apparent facts cannot go ignored for another year. Almost, but not quite.

Randall said...

Rumor circulating that Willie is going to resign at the end of the season. Any truth David, or just message board garbage?

BZ said...

Can you show these stats to Richt so he won't be in denial that we suck. oh and let him know his kicker leads the SEC in touchbacks so the next time he thinks that starting a team off at the 35 instead of the the 20 is a good idea.

Anonymous said...

You can blame Cox and Evans all you want or love affair or that Stafford was maligned (a new one on me), but they didn't start every game on their own decision.

There have been terrible mistakes that have been repeated for two straight seasons now with the acknowledgement that "we have to get better".

It ain't getting better. Ultimately, this is on the guy making $3 million a year to make the right decisions, whether they're hard or not. It's obvious to the most average of fans that Murray should have gotten the nod after the UT game, Willie Martinez shouldn't have even started the season, and Bobo's continued grad assistant work at OC simply isn't working out.

If he's incapable of making the hard decisions based on the obvious, then he needs to say, "I can't make these decisions" and we need to find someone who can.

Will said...

What's really tough is that next year, theoretically, should be "our" year. Think about the range of issues that will befall our SEC brethren next season:

1) Florida will lose, essentially, both it's entire Defense, it's entire offense, and quite possibly it's defensive coach (and/or head coach if Notre Dame comes a calling).

2) Tennessee will be in year #2 of a new regime, again with an new QB, and will not have Eric Berry the wonder Faerie on defense to do everything again. Also, they're going to lose their starting RB to the NFL.

3) Kentucky will lose at least 4 starting Olinement, along with it's RB and a number of defensive players.

4) Auburn will be in year #2 of it's new coaching regime, losing it's senior QB, along with a number of important role players around the offense (Tate et al).

5) Alabama will essentially lose it's entire defense (9 of 11 are seniors/juniors) and be starting over there.

6) Georgia's schedule next season is the opposite of this years, with an extremely easy slate of non-conference games (outside of Tech) with it's biggest game at Colorado, likely to be under a new regime with new players.

7) Tech seems likely to lose it's only good defensive player (Burnett) to the NFL, as well as it's star RB Dwyer, who McShay and Kiper predict as one of the highest rated backs in the draft currently. As well, their QB will be relatively untested backup Jaybo Shaw, and they're be facing a (supposedly) tougher ACC slate, with more teams coming into their own, as well as being the 3rd year defensive coaches will have seen the option.

Tell me that all these things lining up doesn't sound great to Georgia fans?

Now tell me, with a redshirt freshman QB and Willie Martinez at defensive coordinator you have any confidence in our ability to maximize our potential in the face of all these lucky breaks?

I know I don't.

Ginny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginny said...

Where are people getting off thinking that Mark Richt is "in denial" about our problems? That sounds so dumb to me. I don't see it at all. We could be 1-10 right now and he still wouldn't publicly call anyone out or talk about coaching changes. That's not his style. Please wait and see what he does in the off season before you start making these ridiculous assumptions.

Mike said...

Where are people getting off thinking that Mark Richt is "in denial" about our problems? That sounds so dumb to me.

The reason it sounds so dumb to you is because it is really, really, dumb. Almost indescribably so.

But there are a whole lot of dumb people that comment on internet blogs.

Bulldawgy said...

David -

This is quantitative evidence of the angst that so many of us have been feeling. You have made a rock solid case - and while I have never considered myself on the lunatic fringe, after the Tennessee game this year - it became crystal clear that changes needed to be made. Now, whenever anyone wants to question why I think this - I am just going to email them the link to this page.

BTW - your blog is the most informative Georgia Football blog available (in my estimation). One day, you will move on to bigger things - you've got mad skills. That day, will be a sad day for me - and for many that follow you.

All the best,

daryl said...

hey i love CMR as much as anybody, but some things just don't make any sense to me.

letting Evans continue to play when Rambo is clearly better?

letting the kick-off coverage fiasco continue? it's as bad or worse than when the season started.

those are things that are easily fixed. now. mid-season. anytime. just put Rambo in and put in better personel on KO coverage, not walk-ons and backup QBs.

these things that are easily fixable are what frustrates me to no end. i understand not calling out your coaches and/or firing them mid-season, but dang.

The 3rd Richt said...

I understand Garner is a great recruiter and I see some folks think he should be moved to DC. I don't think he is a good coach and he uses his visits to other schools as leverage to get raises. From what I understand he butted heads with VanGorder and Kirby Smart which led to their departure. Not my idea of a team player.
Word on the street from Gainesville is that they love getting ready for UGA's vanilla D and we are the easiest D to prep for. I'm sick of our D freeing Willie. I think it sucks for him and his family coming home to empty U-hauls after away games but he'd be best stepping down and moving to a smaller job out of Athens.
Sucks to be Mark Richt right now but that's why he makes the big bucks and it's nothing any big time coach doesn't go through in their career. Bowden's words of Richt being too nice of a guy are being tested right now.

Anonymous said...

Worst loss was last year to Georgia Tech. Up by 16 at half, with Tech 1-6 passing. They did not attempt a pass in the 2d half, yet Martinez had a nickel package in there. This weekend's Kentucky loss, first time in Athens in 32 years, was a close second. Up by 14 at half, receiving the 2d half kickoff, that should've been an easy win.
IMHO, Georgia will not win an SEC or National title with Martinez as defensive coordinator.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if anyone noticed on our drive when we were down 6-0 that we had the potential to run 7 plays inside the 2. Let me explain. On first and ten at the 11 we gained 9 yards to put us 2nd and 1 at the 2. We could have run 3plays to get the first down then 4 more to get the final yard. Here's what happened. We unexplicably through a play action pass for an incompletion. We ran an off tackle sweep type play(I'm not sure what it was)and lost 3 yards where our best O-lineman is supposed to be. We throw an incomplete pass and then have to settle for a field goal. What happened to a Q-back sneak(Successful earlier) or a full back dive. 7 possible plays. Then we do the same thing at the end and somehow turn the ball over. 3 lousy yards to sets 9 possible plays against KY.

Anonymous said...

Way late and no one will ever see this, buuuuut...Jay Cutler was not on the Vanderbilt team that beat Georgia in 2006...unless you are referring to the immortal Chris Nickson as the future NFL star who led the game-winning drive.