“You’re rooting for clothes when you get right down to it. I’m rooting for an outfit, that’s what it’s come down to. Laundry. We’re rooting for, we’re screaming about laundry here.”
– Jerry Seinfeld
You know, I’ve been doing these things – the mailbag, live chats, Facebook Lives – for years, and it was a running joke to ask about black jerseys. Silver britches, Joanthan Rumph’s playing time, and black jerseys. That’s it, that’s the list. Now the momentous week is here, and as much as I’ve considered the whole thing a sideshow, a joke, and whatever reasonable pejorative you want to come up with, I think we all know where we need to start.
“A regular comment contributor offered the idea of making the black jerseys a reward for winning the SEC East… wearing them for Tech (1st game after clinching), or SEC championship (1st post-season game), or all post-season games. I think this is brilliant. I wonder if the UGA athletic association would agree. If nothing else, it puts the persistent ‘will they/won’t they’ to rest.”
– Patrick Yaggy
OK, there’s close to zero chance of that happening. The answer from UGA and Kirby Smart I could anticipate right now: The reward for a good season is a good season.
Count me in among those, however, that is perplexed about the timing. It’s so anticlimactic. If you’re going to do something like this, which coaches may roll their eyes at but fans and players to get excited about, choose a good time. I would have considered it for the Auburn game, but as it turns out Georgia didn’t need the extra motivation.
For all the eye-rolling, though, I’ve actually been in a stadium when black jerseys may have changed the result of a game. Back in 2009, in Lane Kiffin’s one year at Tennessee, I was covering its home game against South Carolina. It was around Halloween, and there had been chatter all week about whether the Volunteers would wear black for the first time in 87 years. They came out in orange for warm-ups. But then they went back in the locker room. And minutes before kickoff, the team burst out onto the field in black jerseys, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Neyland Stadium any louder. Tennessee wasn’t very good that year, but it beat a ranked South Carolina team that night, 31-13. I’ve always believed that game was over the moment the Vols came out in black.
So Georgia breaking out the black for Louisiana-Lafayette, for a noon game, announcing it in advance …. Eh.
“This marks the second straight week with better offensive line play, the most recent against a very good defensive line that has manhandled SEC opponents. With 343 yards of offense, things are starting to look a little more like Georgia fans expect. Despite only scoring six points they moved the ball fairly well and made plays when they needed to while wearing down the Auburn defense. What do you attribute this improvement to and how can the Dawgs maintain this momentum entering rivalry week, bowl season, and moving forward into next year?”
– William Andrew Hall
Well if you ask Kirby Smart, it wasn’t so much the line as it was the play-calling. Speaking of the improved run game, Smart said: “We’ve tried to be creative about the way we’ve run the ball, and finding different ways to get the ball to the playmakers.
“So the biggest difference is the commitment level and the styles of runs we’re running.”
Having re-watched every game this year, I can’t say I disagree. Tyler Catalina has probably improved a bit, and played well as the Auburn game went on. And the Georgia defense was also a huge help: As talented as Auburn’s defensive front is, the more it had to be on the field, the more it wore down.
If confidence is a factor, then this will help down the stretch of this season. I could see a strong finish for the line this season, especially if Jim Chaney continues to scheme around the deficiencies: Calling outside runs, and using more shot-gun. The question is whether that carries into next year – when they have to replace three seniors off this year’s line, but probably also the top tailback, and perhaps the top two. That would point to a very pass-oriented team, but I doubt that’s the vision Smart and Chaney have for this offense. They want to be physical and run downhill, but this year they finally realized it just wasn’t in the cards, at least on a consistent basis.
Side note: I thought about opening up with the quote: “Lafayette, we are here!” That’s the quote attributed to Gen. Pershing when he arrived with American forces on the beaches of France in 1917. It’s a great quote – the Americans repaying the Marquise de Lafayette, etc. – the only problem is Pershing never said it. The good news is one of his lieutenants did, it was just mis-attributed to Pershing. So that’s your history lesson for the days, kids.
Hugh Nash offers up three quick-hitting questions, and I’ll try to answer them in quick-hitting fashion:
“Did you see Terry Godwin and Shakenneth Williams laughing on the sidelines after Godwin threw the interception?”
Yes, but I wouldn’t make too much of it. Godwin’s natural expression is to smile; I’ve interviewed him a number of times and he’ll smile most of the time, even when his answers are “I don’t know” or something nondescript. Not a big deal.
“Will Smart get Solomon Kindley’s redshirt year back from the conference or commit to giving him lots of snaps in the final three games?”
Yeah, this is a tough one. In order for it not to be a wasted year I’m sure they’d love to play him, but besides needing to win this game in blowout fashion – something Georgia hasn’t done this year – they’d also have to be willing to give up on getting the redshirt. Smart indicated a couple weeks ago they would try to get one for Kindley, even though he did play at Missouri – albeit just for one play. Technically, that still burns the redshirt, but maybe Smart and Georgia’s staff are aware of something else. I’m assuming they’ll say an injury ended his ability to continue playing.
“Rico McGraw has not played this year. He seems to have a shoulder that dislocates frequently. Will he redshirt this year? Why don’t they go ahead and have it fixed surgically so he’ll be ready for next year?”
McGraw, like Kindley, actually played in one game, at Ole Miss, which is prior to the medical redshirt cut-off. But I’m not sure whether he hasn’t played because of the shoulder or just because of Maurice Smith (who grabbed the nickel spot at the end of the preseason) or Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee (who moved ahead of McGraw in the pecking order at the other cornerback spots.
“How many victories did CMR have against top 10 rated teams?”
– Todd Poucher
CMR didn’t have any wins, because he didn’t exist. Now if you’re talking about Mark Richt, his Georgia teams had 12 wins over top 10 teams. The first one was the win over No. 6 Tennessee in Richt’s first year, the famous Hobnail Boot game. The last one was two years ago against No. 9 Auburn. Kirby Smart’s first one was against … No. 8 Auburn. Symmetry.
And yes, I’m still being a curmudgeon about the CMR/CKS stuff. Get off my lawn. My finely-manicured, grammatically correct lawn.
Side note No. 2: I got a lot of questions this week about the music selection in Sanford Stadium. As in, people don’t like it, one saying it’s not fresh and up to date. Many would prefer if the Redcoat Band just played more instead. Honestly, I don’t have a great answer for that, other than I did make a call and was told the music selection is by the operations department of the athletics department. So perhaps forward concerns to them? Y’all have seen how Kirby Smart reacted to the black jersey questions. You want me to fire a question to him about the music at the stadium?
“Of UGA’s potential bowl game destinations, which is the most likely? Which would you prefer? And is there one that you have yet to attend?”
– Charles Forrester
If I had to guess today, I’d say the Music City. Georgia’s pretty much assured (barring an 0-2 finish) of being in one of the “Six-Pack” middle-tier SEC bowls. I’d rule out the TaxSlayer because it would be three out of four years. The Outback is the next least-likely because, whether anyone admits it or not, I still believe it gets the best available team, and that probably won’t be Georgia. Though who knows, other SEC teams could continue to collapse. Some believe the Belk will be off the table because Georgia was there two years ago, but Georgia went to Jacksonville twice in three years. And the Texas Bowl usually goes to an SEC West team.
Most likely bowls, in my estimation: Music City, Liberty, Belk.
Frankly, for my own personal reasons I’d prefer the Outback, because it’s a warmer weather site. And I may be the only person out there who’d be OK with yet another trip to Jacksonville, because I’d just stay on Amelia Island. But of the realistic choices, I’d prefer the Belk, because Charlotte is a nice city.
Also, you’re going to hear more talk about whether Georgia would be matched with Miami in a bowl. This is just me guessing, but while I believe a bowl and the conferences would find that enticing, my sense is both schools would end up asking out of it. Richt actually told me last year he thought it would happen and sounded willing, but my guess – and again, it’s only a guess – is both sides would prefer a bit more time pass.
“Is Mo Smith the defensive MVP thus far this season? Newcomer of the year at least?”
– Charles Forrester, again
Newcomer of the year for sure, though it’s hard to give that to a senior. Freshman of the year would be Jacob Eason, and I guess you can also make a good argument for him over Smith. It’s close.
While Smith has been very good, particularly the second half of the season, I’d give defensive MVP to Trent Thompson. He doesn’t rack up the stats, but his impact is felt, trust me. He’s a big reason Georgia’s run defense has been so good, and he’s helped push the pocket; Thompson leads the team with six tackles-for-loss, also has two sacks, and has 39 tackles – which is a lot for a defensive tackle in a 3-4.
“History question for change of pace… As my Dad and I were driving into Athens for the Auburn game we were talking about the history of the rivalry, noting its beginning in 1892. Specifically, we were wondering how the teams would have traveled to and from games in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? It’s about 175 miles from Auburn to Athens on today’s roads, making the drive about 3 hours each way. Even with modern travel it’s a considerable investment of time for student athletes (and most trips include flights these days).”
– Chris, Columbus, OH
Huh, that’s a pretty fascinating question. I didn’t know off-hand, so I asked Kolton Houston, who obviously was there, and he told me …. OK, the Internet tells me that teams went by train, and that attendance of course was much sparser than it is today, both because of travel concerns and the relative popularity of the sport.
According to the web site Sportsknowhow.com: “In the late 1800s thousands of fans would travel by train or carriage to watch football games between Ivy League rivals like Yale and Princeton. Fans would stand or park their carriages, and later cars around the playing field.”
A lot of people may not know this, but today teams still travel by bus a lot, rather than fly: Georgia typically busses to South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Auburn, and Auburn went by bus to Athens this year.
Side note No. 3: Just saw the headline for a story: “Man bungee-jumps over 240 feet to dunk a cookie, setting a Guinness World Record.” Look, people ….
“What is the difference in an official and unofficial visit by recruits? Do they have to be treated differently by coach and staff? Georgia had many there Saturday at their game and I was curious how this worked.”
Good question, as we often as media members gloss over that, assuming everyone knows the difference.
An official visit is when a school pays the expenses for the recruit and his or her parents: Transportation to and from campus, including plane flight if need me, boarding and three meals per day, and what the NCAA calls “reasonable entertainment expenses.” But an unofficial visit is on the player’s dime. Or his parents’ dime. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. The only thing the NCAA allows a recruit to receive during an unofficial visit is three complimentary tickets to a home game.
Also: A recruit is limited to five official visits. But he or she could take as many unofficials as they want.
Side note No. 4: What do you suppose the Guinness World Record is for drinking Guinness?
(Update: They officially stopped tracking records for gluttony in the 1990s.)
“Thanks for all the good information and insight over the years. My question: what exactly is the point of Coach Smart not allowing more media access to the coaches and players? It’s not even so much about straight up information. With all the losses, it has been harder than usual for Bulldawg Nation to get behind this team. Perhaps if we could get to know some of the coaches and players better, we would develop more affection and respect for them and get more excited about the team. What do you think?”
– JJC in Charleston
I promise I’m not planting these questions.
A couple weeks ago in the mailbag I listed all the stories on players I’d love to do but haven’t been able to because those players haven’t been available. (And I don’t just mean freshmen and assistant coaches, but plenty of veterans who have been off limits.) Last week, though, more players were available, and it was nice. Rodrigo Blankenship, for instance, was a great story to do. This week it’s been back to the tighter ship.
I’ve never actually talked with Smart about his reasoning, but it would be great to have that exchange sometime. In general when coaches limit player access it’s about controlling the message, not wanting players to say the wrong thing, whether it’s bulletin board material or something else. But, as I say often, I don’t really care about bulletin board material. I just want to write interesting and informative stories. It’s hard to do that when you only talk to one coach and the same group of players.
Now, along those lines, since everybody just LOVES media questions …
“Maybe this is tertiary to the main focus of your mailbag, but I found Mark Cuban’s banning of reporters interesting given your earlier article regarding people not reading Georgia basketball coverage. I’m sure there are no plans in the immediate future, but games like Georgia-Furman would seem to be a natural place for the AP-type automated reporting to be tried. And since the AJC seems focused on a purely cost analysis of your stories – i.e. is anyone reading them? – I can see the day in the near future where this might make sense. What are your thoughts?”
– Bob Ho, Greater Chamblee
Every Georgia home basketball game will be covered by a living, breathing human. I can assure you of that. As for road games, pretty much every company is going through that cost-benefit analysis with basketball right now.
It was actually Chip who wrote the article you were referring to, throwing down the gauntlet: We’d love to write more hoops – I love basketball – but will enough people read to justify it? It’s too early to gauge that, quite frankly.
Side note No. 5: While I couldn’t find a Guinness record for drinking Guinness, a Google search reveals that Andre the Giant holds the world record for the largest number of beers consumed in a single sitting, 119 bottles of 12-ounce beer. This information is found on the site www.Drunkard.com and now my life is complete.
“The win over Auburn was certainly a great victory. The fans, particularly the students, were loud, and the Redcoat Band played their hearts out. Such support is contagious and important to home field advantage. When the game was over, several players came to the student section and celebrated with them; however, coach Smart did not acknowledge the students or Redcoat Band at all. While he seemed to put great importance on filling Sanford Stadium for the G-Day game, coach Smart has given no recognition whatsoever to the student body or Redcoat Band during the season thus far. He should foster their support and acknowledge their efforts and support.”
– Mike Deal, Alpharetta
This is one of those where I just let the opinion see the light of day, and don’t comment directly on it, other than I’m not sure Smart even realizes he’s doing that. Or not doing that, I guess.
It’ll be interesting to see, once the smoke clears from this season and Smart has time to evaluate, whether he makes a few changes on things like this. For instance, the spring speaking tour was severely cut short this past year, and fewer people were let in, and the media was cut out unless they paid a ticket. The explanation for cutting down the tour itself was that Smart had less offseason free time due to the transition. But Nick Saban cut his tour down as well, so we’ll see.