Time will tell if Georgia’s stressful success against Tennessee will turn out to be a pyrrhic victory — a victory so costly that it is tantamount to defeat. Can the Bulldogs win big games with so many players on offense out and with so many who are not ready on defense — all compounded by injuries.
Pyrrhic victories often bring about struggles which wind up ruining the victors. You don’t have to be a Greek historian to appreciate the circumstances. As you analyze the Tennessee game, you lament the losses, but are moved to express gratitude for victory. The mantra incumbent upon the Dawgs is to accentuate the positive with an appreciation for the fact that this team, despite its pyrrhic troubles, is finding a way to win.
Perhaps, at this juncture, one can readily see the importance of scheduling. Playing non-conference games against heavyweight opponents, namely Clemson, is great for the non-partisan soothsayers and television pundits, but not good for business. The fallout from playing a heavyweight schedule is that attrition, when the playoffs begin next year, may determine the national champion. In other words, you might win the prize only if you are the healthiest. If you play a dozen games, as is the case, you need home games where you have the advantage to bring about opportunities to heal and regroup. Fortunately, for Georgia, the Bulldogs have an athletic director who understands this.
In the final analysis, focus on this perspective. Georgia, which did not play with the urgency to tack on a touchdown in the second quarter (another score and a 24-3 halftime lead would have likely affected the psychology of the day) allowed Tennessee to stay within a two possession opportunity. With today’s offenses that is nothing.
This about Aaron Murray, who is putting up Heisman numbers. He has experienced the vicissitudes of the focal point of the team — quarterback. So goes Aaron Murray so goes the team. Of all the successes he has enjoyed playing for the Bulldogs, all other highlights pale against his fourth quarter directed drive to get his team into overtime and bring about opportunity to win the game.
With 1:54 on the clock and 75 yards to the Tennessee end zone, he calmly moved his team to goal in what Larry Munson would have noted, “a hundred and fifty-four seconds.” With one time out! Your two best backs — Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall — are lame and out of the lineup, and two starting receivers — Michael Bennett and Justin Scott Wesley — have joined them on the trainer’s table. Has there ever been a more critical drive in Georgia history to meet up with mission accomplished? I don’t think so. If a championship had been on the line, it would have been a drive for the ages.
We can now see the folly of anticipation. Yes, following LSU, you might have succumbed to thinking that this team, might well run the table, but such thinking is always insane. You only think in those terms when there are three or four games to go. Even then, it is not advisable. Too many variables like critical injuries.
Georgia’s defense is not a championship defense at this point. Perhaps it can grow into one, but is there enough time? Giving up points is one thing. That is the order of the day in these times. Denver on Sunday, defeated the Cowboys 41-38. Seventy-nine points. There was a time when you could have scored that many points, plus a dozen, and won the national championship.
Pre-game Saturday, an on-the-field conversation with Willie Martinez, Georgia’s former defensive coordinator, centered around the fact that kids today don’t want to play defense. “Where are the Thomas Davises,” he asked? He also sounded a warning about SEC dominance. Oregon, which defeated Tennessee 59-14, has recruited players who are not as big as what you find in the SEC, but have extra speed. In other words, a 260-pound lineman can hold his own against a lineman, thirty pounds heavier with speed and quickness which becomes the equalizer.
Georgia is faced with both an offensive and defensive challenge. The defense sorely in need of play makers (one interception and three forced fumbles in five games) and the offense needs to produce points to cover for the defense’s deficiencies. Can the offensive production (39.8 points per game) continue with critical injuries to playmakers? Two ACL’s (Keith Marshall and Justin Scott Wesley), one of which (the latter) was likely due to the poor condition of the Tennessee turf will, no doubt, impact scoring. Then Michael Bennett is likely to miss the next couple of games, maybe more.
Good news remains, however. These Bulldogs find a way to win.