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2009 At a Glance

December 2, 2009

“What might have been?”

When I think about the 2009 season I think of what could have happen and what in reality did happen. As any reader can tell from my posts before every game, I always think the Dawgs will win. I never expect to watch the Dawgs lose. However, this world is not perfect and mistakes happen and mistakes is what will summarize this season. There were times – see Arkansas and Tech – where the Dawgs played lights out consistent football. I will never forget the day that the Red Headed Stranger threw 5 touchdown passes or the day the King-Ealey Connector was constructed and the Dawgs beat Tech at their own game.  However, I will also never forget the fumble to start the second half of the Kentucky game or the missed tackles that allowed Scott to scamper 32 yards to the endzone and dash our SEC hopes. It was a season of ups and downs. As the great Ron Burgundy would say, “Im in a glass case of emotion.”

27 turnovers to 10 takeaways. Im no math genius but I can add those numbers and see that our turnover margin was -17. I heard a statistic a few weeks ago saying that Georgia was the only team that had this kind of turnover margin that had more than two wins. That is a telling statistic. That means that most teams that suffered this kind of fate would have had losing seasons. Also, it makes you think what we could have done if we cut out those turnovers. I love Joe Cox but coming into the season I knew we were not going to be able to rely on his arm to win us games. I feel like we did not take advantage – until the last game that is – of his abilities. He has a great ability to lead and manage a game. He can get the offense in the correct plays and recognize defenses and formations. I feel like our coaching staff could have formulated a better game plan each week to fit his skills. Part of coaching is knowing what plays to run, the other part is knowing how to use your players. Joe Cox is just one example. I feel like part of the problem all year was the fact our coaching staff didnt use our strengths enough to our advantage. Blair Walsh needs to have the freedom to kick the ball through the endzone every time. Even though he was frequently hamstrung by coaching decisions he lead the nation in touchbacks. Amazing. I am no defensive genius but I could see that our best players were not always on the field on defense, especially in the secondary. Young players like Boykin and Smith and Rambo had the better ability but did not always see the field. I understand the coaches respect to the older players but sometimes you have to play who will win the game. For the Dawgs to improve in 2010 I think the coaches need to reflect on the starting lineups and truly make decisions each week based on who gives them the best shot to win. As pressure from the fans and the media increased, we started to do this. It needs to be something that is done from the start. I could go on about this but Im going to move on.

Penalties were a killer. Even as the number of penalties started to decrease, it seems like the penalties always came at a bad time. Even in the Tech game, I think we only had 5 penalties but one false start in the red zone was the difference between a field goal and a touchdown. I can’t recall every single one but I know that this was not the only situation where that happened this season. Richt’s punishment for penalties seemed to change every week. Im sure they had to do this, but in high school we had to do up-downs for every yard of penalties we got the previous game. After we did 50 one day we quit getting penalties. Just a suggestion  that I’m sure Richt has thought of and probably put into place. For a successful 2010 season we cannot be the most penalized team in the nation. Offseason discipline and training players to be mentally into every snap will be key. It will be interesting to see what happens in this area of the game.

Those are the only three negative things Im going to focus on because those are three very correctable mistakes.

What did this team do well? Through it all, they stayed together. In a season like this it could have been very easy for it to go from bad to worse and fall apart. As can be seen from the Tech game, the leaders on this team did not let that happen. They stayed together as a unit and kept fighting. Even in the games they were down and out early – Tennessee and Florida – our players continued to fight up until the end. They never gave up and they would not take anything from anyone. They were a very cohesive group and one that I will miss. The hardest thing to replace next year will be the leaders. Hopefully these old guys left a lasting legacy on the younger classes on how things are supposed to be done and they will follow and take the initiative to lead themselves. I will be interested to see who will take on the leadership roles this off season.

Finally, I have already commented on the coaching a little bit but I will say these coaches have served us well for many years. While they have not given us a national championship yet, they have restored the Dawgs a respected name across the nation. Every year, the Dawgs are expected to be a team to be reckoned with. It is a nice change from the 90s when were happy with 8 wins. Now ten wins is an expectation. I will be anxious to see what direction the program takes in the next few days and weeks.

All these things are just my opinion. I cannot wait to see how the Dawgs respond over the offseason and what the 2010 season brings. Looking back it was overall a season to forget but also a season to learn from. The Dawgs are at a place where they could rebound next year and continue the upward trend or they could take nothing from this season and start a downward trend. Whatever happens, it’s still great to be a Georgia Bulldog. As I have repeated throughout the year, I wouldnt be anything else.

Until next time, “You stay classy Classic City.”

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