Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

UGA Loses to Florida, Again; Fans Question Coach, Again

There was a rumor last season — not a rumor as much as an accepted truth — that the University of Georgia let Mark Richt go after another 10-win season (a fine record in college football) because he couldn’t seem to beat Florida.

ATHENS, Ga. — Mark Richt’s critics will tell you he’s the kind of man you’d want coaching your son — unless you wanted him to beat Florida.

They’ll tell you Richt is the kind of man you’d want representing your alma mater — unless you wanted to win national championships.

In the end, that’s why Georgia forced out Richt on Sunday, whether it’s fair or not.

Kirby Smart Might Be Playing the Long Game

After the Bulldogs failed to top the Gators Saturday, fans were already starting to complain about rookie coach Kirby Smart. Even one of my game-watching friends, one of the most vocal anti-Richt fans I knew, looked at me toward the end of the game and said, “I think maybe Kirby’s not as talented as we thought.”

Sigh.

Let’s refrain from commenting on whether or not that’s fair to Smart. Or whether it confirms that UGA fans are too fickle to even appreciate a National Championship even if they are to get one in the next five years. But a tweet in this piece from one of the local sportswriters makes, perhaps inadvertently, a compelling argument.

Coach Smart, in fact, did not use his running backs very successfully, and he has good ones in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. But Florida — with a defense that held UGA to 164 yards on offense, a season low for the Red and Black — may have been at least partially responsible.

As has been the case every week with the Bulldogs, there was some marked improvement with the defense; this time with UGA’s own prowess. Putting Georgia’s offense within striking distance on several occasions, they forced six punts, allowed 231 yards, and sacked Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio three times.

But striking distance means nothing when your offensive line is defeated more often than it protects. It means nothing when your punters can’t get the ball past the 30 yard line, thereby allowing strong field position for the Gators at the start of almost every drive. (Credit where it’s due, the punting problems are what my Pops — who helps me analyze these things — believes lost UGA the game).

But back to that tweet…Florida head coach Jim McElwain was quoted post-game saying he desired, and was successful, in forcing Georgia to be as one-dimensional as possible. Kirby Smart said post game he was aware of that plan, and also acknowledged its success.

And Smart chose, rather than letting Florida put on a show defeating his run game, he, intentionally or not, exposed the weakness in UGA’s offense. That’ll be good optics next year if he manages to improve the passing game, while refining the running game. None of this is to suggest he’s not trying to play hard and win every game, but he’s giving Jacob Eason the chance to learn by fire, while also protecting his star running backs.

That, my friends, is coaching the long game. It’s wise to give Smart the chance next year to knock down the obstacles he’s allowing the fan base to see.

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