Georgia-Clemson: Fallout Overstated After Good Game
Those who tuned into Georgia and Clemson on Saturday watched a good game from the opening drive until the final whistle.
Clemson came out on top and Georgia fans are left wondering if their dreams of a national title are all but over.
Inevitably, fans immediately started calling for head coach Mark Richt's head, saying he couldn't win the big game. While he has struggled in some big games, it must be noted that Richt has an even better winning percentage (.742) than Vince Dooley (.715). Apparently that isn't good enough. With the talent Georgia has every year, they should have won a national title or two during Richt's tenure by now.
So the fallout continues among Georgia fans. But is there any real need for a fallout?
Earlier this week, I wrote a story on how one Georgia fan in particular (who called to a local radio station) was literally crying on the phone saying the school needed to get rid of Richt. He said they were never going to go anywhere with him as a head coach. The season is apparently over (according to this caller) and he didn't know how the Bulldogs were going to go play South Carolina this week.
Ironically, the sun did rise Sunday morning. A new day came about and Georgia still has as good of a chance at beating South Carolina as they did before the Clemson loss. Did the loss hurt? Absolutely. But it's not like Clemson is a scrub team. They returned one of the top offenses in college football from a year ago and a quarterback who is getting a lot of Heisman attention.
It was also a close game. Georgia didn't get blown out and there are a few plays that stand out as big moments in the game.
Five Plays That Determined The Outcome
I've heard multiple football coaches tell me that a well-played game comes down to about five or six plays. In Saturday's game, that was exactly the case as I can point to five plays that gave Clemson the advantage.
1. The most obvious play is the botched field-goal attempt when the holder fumbled a high snap. No fault on the holder there, it was just a bad snap.
2. One play earlier, after failing to run the ball in on first and second down and goal-to-go, Georgia's offensive coordinator tried to sneak the fullback into the end zone (once again), but Clemson was ready for it and stopped the run. Had Georgia passed on third down (or one of the previous two downs), then we're likely talking about a different outcome.
3. The next key play came on the Murray sack that resulted in a fumble. There were multiple problems with this play as the offensive line didn't block well enough and the quarterback didn't get protect the ball. Being a fourth-year starter, Murray has to hang onto that ball given the situation. It was a key momentum swing for the Tigers.
4. Then there was the interception Murray threw just after Georgia's special teams caused a turnover during a punt return. There's no problem with Murray taking a chance, but he missed a defensive player in his reads. That player, Corey Crawford, made the interception and thwarted Georgia's momentum.
5. The final play really wasn't a play at all. Malcolm Mitchell tore his ACL during the celebration of Todd Gurley's touchdown run in the first quarter. While stuff like that happens, it was no doubt a key moment in the game as the Bulldogs all of a sudden were without their best receiver. Nothing against guys like Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley, but Mitchell is the best receiver on the Bulldogs. His loss was felt for the rest of the game.
Likewise, Georgia had five big plays that would have been talked about as being the key had they beaten Clemson. From Gurley's touchdown run that answered a Clemson touchdown to the fourth-down fake punt that Collin Barber ran for a first down, the Bulldogs had big moments as well.
Losing The Game Clouds Perspective
Fans tend to focus on the little things that went wrong when a team loses.
There is no credit given where credit is due. Georgia is an SEC team and should have beaten the ACC's Tigers. To some fans, there's no excuse for a loss to an ACC team, whatever their ranking is.
There's no doubt Richt and Bobo deserve to take some blame for the loss, but the blame is not entirely theirs to shoulder. The offensive line has to take some blame because they failed to do a good job at blocking for Murray. Likewise, Murray has to take some blame for the mistakes he made. Then there's the defense that struggled to keep Clemson out of the end zone (although we can forgive them because they're young).
Everyone on the team takes some blame in this loss. It's not just one player's fault.
But let's think about it ... had Georgia scored a touchdown instead of having to attempt a field goal, which later failed, would we even be having this conversation? Had the Bulldogs scored a touchdown or the field goal wasn't botched, the Bulldogs could have come out on top.
And had they come out on top, those same fans would have been praising Richt for a well-played game against all odds in Death Valley.
Perspective is a great thing to have and when fans realize that a national championship is still within Georgia's grasp, it will be better. The Bulldogs lost to South Carolina last year, but still managed to put themselves in position to win a national title.
Why should this year be any different?
There's no huge fallout from Georgia's loss. They just lost to a team that made more plays than they did. It's football. It's life. It happens.