The Georgia Bulldogs Look to Unite Against All Odds
Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” If something does not change soon, at the end of the 2013 season they might rename that slogan the “Georgia Bulldogs’ Law.”
Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the Georgia Bulldogs. A once-promising season now finds the Bulldogs grasping for anything positive after their 31-27 defeat this weekend to the Vanderbilt Commodores.
For the Bulldogs, the unfortunate chain of events started early. In fact, it happened on Georgia’s first touchdown of the season. The Bulldogs’ leading returning receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, hurt his knee when celebrating with a teammate after Todd Gurley’s 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
A season-ending ACL tear on a routine chest bump. What were the chances? Georgia would go on to lose that game 38-35.
While Mitchell was the Bulldogs’ best option to stretch the field heading into the season, wide receiver was one of two positions that the Bulldogs could replace with little drop-off.
The Bulldogs responded in a big way with a 41-30 win over the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks, and after a win over North Texas, the Bulldogs once again beat the No. 6 team in the nation, this time the LSU Tigers.
However, it was a play early in the second quarter that would end the Bulldogs’ BCS National Championship aspirations. Gurley was dominating the LSU defense, as he had done to every opponent the Bulldogs had faced, until he went out with an ankle injury.
Gurley had already amassed 73 yards on just eight carries. However, despite losing college football’s most complete running back, the Bulldogs still had Keith Marshall in the stable. Marshall finished the game with 96 yards on 20 carries, and the Bulldogs went on to win the game 44-41.
The ankle injury to Gurley was not expected to keep him out long. As a result, Marshall would shoulder his load, and the Bulldogs would still have enough firepower to defeat Tennessee and Missouri before healing up over the bye week.
The plan seemed perfect, but anything that could go wrong has gone wrong.
In the Bulldogs’ game the following week against Tennessee, Marshall was lost for the season with a torn ACL after he was hit on the right leg while attempting to catch a pass from Aaron Murray during the Bulldogs’ second possession of the game.
Had that been the end of the injuries, the Bulldogs had enough playmakers to keep piling up the numbers. Unfortunately, wide receiver Michael Bennett went down with a knee injury, and then big-play receiver Justin Scott-Wesley went down with an ACL tear when his knee appeared to buckle as he was running to cover a Georgia punt.
Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong. The Bulldogs pulled out an overtime win despite the injuries, but the damage had been done. The Bulldogs would lose their second game of the season the following week to the Missouri Tigers. The Bulldogs offense was a shell of its former self. The team made very few attempts to stretch the field in the passing game and settled for short, safe passes.
The Bulldogs were then 4-2 and needed help to get back into the SEC Championship. Gurley and Bennett would be back soon, and a road trip to Nashville to face Vanderbilt seemed to be the last hurdle before the bye week.
But as you might have guessed, anything that could go wrong did go wrong.
It began when defensive lineman Ray Drew was ejected from the game for targeting. I will be writing an article in the coming days about this bogus penalty and what Georgia players had to say about it.
However, at this time, I will leave it at this: It was a horrific call that caused one of the most improved players in college football to be ejected early in the game. If that wasn’t enough, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons left the game with an injury to his right foot.
This was even more damaging because the other safety, Tray Matthews, was already out with a hamstring injury.
Despite holding a strong lead most of the game, bad calls, a muffed punt and a disastrous snap left the Bulldogs trailing 31-27 with just a few seconds remaining. Murray was forced to heave up a Hail Mary.
Any other season, the Bulldogs would have made the reception or Vanderbilt would deflect the pass. Not this season: Anything that could go wrong, went wrong. After the leaping players came down, Chris Conley had suffered an ankle injury.
As I looked down from the press box, I saw a Vanderbilt team rushing the field. I watched as Conley received medical attention, and the Bulldog players were still in shock.
At Vanderbilt, they set up chairs outside the visitors’ locker room. Certain players and coordinators came out to face the media. By the time we made it to the locker room, I observed five players dejected in the chairs waiting for the same questions to be asked repeatedly.
I talked to Shaq Wiggins, Damian Swann, Jordan Jenkins and Aaron Murray. All four expressed the same sentiment. It has been a tough few weeks, but the team must unite together.
“We have had a lot go against us this season, but we will just have to go game-by-game. But our goal is still the same,” Wiggins declared.
Swann shared the same sentiments, saying that “This loss really hurts, but we’re not going to quit fighting. We’re going to get better together.”
“Definitely very stunning, it’s hard. But like I said, it’s a good open week for us. We got to get healthy and got to get guys working a little harder this week, next week and then get ready to finish off strong,” Murray added.
“This hurts, but we got to put this one behind us and find a way to turn this season around,” Jenkins stated.
During Mark Richt’s post-game press conference, he would state repeatedly that the players and coaches must bind together and become stronger together. But this was more than coach talk. This is their reality.
Sunday morning I woke up and toured the usual Georgia Bulldogs message boards. The theme was the same—the “Doomsday Dawgs” were out in full force. Richt must be fired. Todd Grantham and Mike Bobo must be fired. Forget that they have won two consecutive divisional crowns and still have an outside shot at three.
Players were being criticized, and there were several calls to go ahead and replace Murray with backup Hutson Mason.
Had they forgotten that, for most of the game, UGA was without its top three wide receivers, top two running backs, two starting safeties and top pass-rushing lineman?
To be honest, I was sickened by the responses. This is not a team that was missing players like 2012 because of suspensions for off-field issues. This wasn’t the 2011 team that once had three running backs suspended for failing drug tests.
This is a team that is missing key players because they were injured while giving their all. This team deserves better, and they deserve your support, Bulldogs Nation.
This team has watched one teammate after another go down with injuries. Perhaps the players replacing the starters were not of the same caliber. However, they are working their butts off every play, and they deserve your support.
Should coaching changes be made at the end of the season? That is not my decision. However, all of that can wait until the offseason. Right now, the Bulldog fanbase needs to rally around its players and coaches.
I am convinced the Bulldogs players are going to rally around each other. My hope is the Bulldogs fanbase will as well.