Georgia Tech was playing in Athens. The Yellow Jackets were running a triple-option offense under a first-year coach. Georgia was having a mediocre season. It was a cool, rainy day. And Georgia Tech won.
Sound like 2008? Well, actually, that was a description of Georgia Tech’s 34-14 victory over the Bulldogs in ’74, what was the low point of Vince Dooley’s otherwise spectacular career at Georgia, which ended with 201 victories and a national title. The Jackets used Pepper Rodgers‘ Wishbone offense to dominate Georgia on a rainy, cold day.
Now, Tech has punched the Bulldogs in the nose again between the hedges. The Jackets’ 45-42 win on 11/29/08 was impressive in that Tech trailed, 28-12, at halftime, yet led by 10 after three quarters. Georgia’s defense allowed at least 38 points for the fifth time this season, a season in which it was regularly picked No. 1 by many preseason polls.
Now, it’s the third straight season in which the Bulldogs have not even reached the SEC title game. Mark Richt won SEC titles in 2002 and ’05, but he has lost to SEC East foes Florida and Tennessee two of the past three seasons. And losing to Georgia Tech at home is never good. Tennessee is revamping a stale program with a brash young head coach, Lane Kiffin, who was offensive coordinator and recruiting guru for USC in its 2003-04 national title years.
In other words, the Bulldogs have hit a rut. That also was the case after the remarkable 1974 loss to Tech. That was the third straight mediocre season for the Bulldogs. Dooley responded by revamping his offense, justifiably criticized as too conservative and predictable. He brought in a new offensive coordinator (Bill Pace), and installed the veer offense, which featured a triple-option running attack. The result? Georgia played in the Cotton Bowl, then one of the majors, in 1975 and won the SEC in 1976.
This time, the Bulldogs’ woe is defense. The Jackets’ 45 points vs. Georgia was their season high. In fairness, one Tech TD came off an interception return, but the Bulldogs were repeatedly unable to stop Tech in the second half. If your offense scores 42 points, you should win.
So far, Richt has refused to throw any player or coach under the bus over the disappointing season. But he has to know there will be grumbling among Bulldog fans over the subpar season. If he makes no coaching-staff changes, that’s like saying that 9-3 is acceptable. It’s like saying that it’s OK to not play for the SEC title. If you don’t improve, you’re falling behind.
And remember, QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno … or both … could be in the NFL next season. Seems the Bulldogs have plenty of work to do. Study history.