First off, I never thought I would see the day that an intercollegiate tackle football team from the University of Georgia ever scored less points in a game than an intercollegiate tackle football team from Vanderbilt. To be honest, I'm still not completely convinced that it actually happened. I will, however, proceed with the assumption that we did in fact lose to the might Commodores Saturday.
This is a foreign situation to be in for UGA fans, players, and coaches alike. The team, from walk-on all the way up to head coach, is in a confused and uncertain state right now, something that we haven't seen in Mark Richt's tenure until this point. Even in Richt's first year, some of the losses were understandable considering the transition period and his freshman status as a head coach. There are many problems with the team right now, both on and off of the field. I'll start with the most important position on the team, quarterback.
From the day that D.J. Shockley graduated I have said that Joe T is one heck of a loyal Bulldog and a great special teams player, but one thing that he is not
is an SEC quarterback. I don't care how much you love the man, this has become crystal clear this season. The argument for Joe T over one of the more talented young guns has gone something along these lines from the mouths of what I call the 3rd Generation Crowd:
"Joe T knows the playbook backwards and forwards. He can make ____ (insert a number between 5 and 35 here) checks at the line of scrimmage, and can recite the different defensive schemes backwards in Spanish. He is a 'game manager', he might not make the big play, but he won' t make the big mistake. He will not lose
a game for us. He has paid his dues to the program, he deserves his shot."
That's great, but let's reconsider these statements. First off, there is only ONE thing that anyone deserves on this team, and that is the chance to compete. There is not a single player that deserves playing time based on their seniority, loyalty to the program, or how many relatives played for UGA. Joe T is no different...if he does not earn his playing time based on outperforming the other players at his position in practice and in games, he does not deserve to be on the field. He has played poorly this year, and his physical limitations have held back our offense greatly. He is not talented enough to lead an offense against SEC defenses, yet Richt, in an effort to be fair and give him his shot, basically giftwrapped the starting spot for Joe T. Even when Stafford showed that he was getting comfortable and was looking sharp by the end of the Ole Miss game and Joe T hadn't practiced in 3 weeks, Richt came out on the Sunday following the game and said that if Joe T was healthy then he would be the starter against Tennessee. Did he wait to watch him in practice all week to see if he was playing better than Stafford? No, he had his mind made up in advance that Joe was our starter no matter what. This was a critical mistake that more than likely cost us the Tennessee game. We will never know how Stafford would have performed in the early stages of that game, but what we do know is that Joe T committed 3 turnovers that led to 21 points and effectively sealed our fate.
Joe T lost the game. Plain and simple. Did our defense still give up the points after Joe turned the ball over? Yes, but they were placed in a nearly impossible situation as Joe gave the Vols the ball deep in our own territory every time. During the Colorado game when Stafford was struggling to move the offense, Richt replaced him with Cox and he led us to the victory. Yet when Joe was struggling against Tennessee Richt did not do the same thing, choosing to leave Joe in the game rather than giving Stafford a chance to see if he could spark the offense and give us a chance to compete. Why? Allegiance, pure and simple. This is one of the first times that Richt's stubbornness and loyalty has led to a loss, the other being Tennessee in 2004 when Greene was struggling, DJ came in and led us down the field to score, and on the next position Richt went back to Greene, who continued to struggle.
Following the Tennessee game it still made some sense to let Joe T start against Vandy I guess. Sure he lost the game the week before, but Stafford wasn't given an opportunity to show that he was a better option at starter, so why not start Joe and give Stafford playing time, which he did. Yet even as Joe struggled to move the ball against Vandy, throwing errant passes consistently, Richt still only gave Stafford one series in the first half, in which he threw the ball very accurately and made great reads. Heading in to the second half Richt once again stuck with Joe, who continued to play poorly. Only when we were behind late did Richt finally decide to put Stafford in to lead us from behind. Stafford moved the ball great, completing 9 of 13 passes, with 3 more passes that were perfectly on target that were dropped, including an easy catch by Milner in the end zone that he dropped (which is becoming a theme for Milner's career here at UGA). Stafford was clearly rolling and showing a strong grasp of the offense and perfect execution. We had opportunities deep in the red zone to punch the ball in, but Richt played it like he always does, playing for the field goal rather than being aggressive and trying to put sixes on the board (see: HB draw on 3rd and long).
On our last opportunity to score, his decision to try the field goal backfired, as Andy Bailey choked yet again
, missing an easy 30 yard field goal (on a topic for another day, why is Bailey our first string kicker still? A missed extra point last week, 2 missed field goals from easy range, let Ben Wilson give it a go, he can't be any worse). That decision sealed our fate, as Vandy needed only a field goal to win the game and quickly marched down field on our suddenly Little League defense to score.
End of game. End of the Joe T experiment.
Joe T is a great story for old Bulldogs to sit and talk about in their tailgating spots, for Holly Rowe to talk about on the sidelines, and for Mark Richt to talk about at a local church. What Joe T is not
, is the quarterback for the University of Georgia. There is absolutely no excuse for Joe T to start another game at UGA, and if he does, it will be a serious question of Mark Richt's judgment. What do we have to gain by starting Joe? Nothing. Stafford is far more talented than Part 3, and is the future of the program for the next 3 years. He is playing better than Joe T right now anyways, and will only get better with more experience. Naming Stafford the definite starter from here on out will do wonders for both Stafford, and the team as a whole. Stafford will develop a newfound confidence and swagger, and will become a much more vocal leader for the team. He will know
that this is his team and he is the man, and as important, the TEAM will know that he is the man.
Richt said himself following the game Saturday that the team's problem is that it is inconsistent. Whose fault is that? How do you expect consistency when you are rotating in 2-3 QB's, 3 RB's, and 6-8 WR's? He refuses to name a starter at any of these positions, instead sticking too steadfastly to the notion of open competition and depth, when what these positions need the most is consistency. Stick with ONE QB, ONE RB, and concrete starters at WR - let the players get comfortable playing with one another and let their confidence grow. Create some chemistry between these 3 positions and we will see an increase in productivity as well as a consistency from the positions. It's not that difficult. It's not a foreign concept. Rotations rarely work at such crucial positions on the offense, look around the country at both the college level as well as the NFL. Depth charts do not change from week to week, teams pick their starters and stick with them. I can only hope that Richt finally settles on a few players and decides to ride them from here on out. If he does not, there is no reason to expect far better results than what we have seen so far this year.
I will go ahead and give him a starting point. Matthew Stafford is our QB, Kregg Lumpkin is our RB and needs 20-25 carries a game, and MoMass and AJ Bryant are our starting WR's, with Mikey Henderson and Demiko Goodman getting the nod in 3 and 4 WR sets or when the starters need a breather.
Hey, it's worked for my team in NCAA 07 on the 360.