ATHENS — It was a good win in the sense that losing would have been unthinkable. Georgia beat what has become the SEC’s worst team 27-3. As rough as the past eight days had been, the Bulldogs can now say, “At least we’re not Kentucky.”
Georgia had better players and Georgia won. That’s what Georgia does. These Bulldogs could finish their regular season 9-3 without beating a Power Five opponent that finishes above .500, and that’s why we spent the week discussing the future of this program. Georgia under Mark Richt is still capable of winning games; it just appears incapable of winning a championship.
One week after beating Georgia by 24 points on a neutral field, Florida needed a late field goal at home to nose Vanderbilt. The Gators aren’t great by any measure, but they’ll grace the Georgia Dome on the first Saturday in December. For the third year running and the eighth time since 2005, Richt’s team will not.
Richt’s team will spend November positioning itself for yet another mid-level bowl. Since 2007, here are Georgia’s New Year’s getaways: Capital One, Independence, Liberty, Outback, Capital One again, Gator, Belk. If you’re a Georgia fan – or, more to the point, a UGA administrator – is that enough? Does fattening up on the Kentuckys and Vandys satisfy the Bulldog hunger?
“A good day,” Richt said. “A good solid victory.” And it was, kind of. (The first half was dreary.) But even he didn’t try to make it more than it was.
Richt again: “It’s just one week, one game. But it certainly has us moving in a positive direction.”
There were thousands of empty seats in Sanford Stadium 10 minutes before the noon kickoff. Yes, it had rained earlier, and noon kickoffs never play very well on this campus, and yes, most (but not all) seats were eventually occupied. But the vibe was as if Bulldog Nation didn’t know how to root: Pull hard for Georgia to beat Kentucky or hope inwardly the Wildcats win and drop the curtain on Richt?
Outside the stadium, scalpers — who usually pay to buy fans’ extra tickets — were saying they couldn’t pay even a dollar for one because there was no demand. There were no planes circulating overhead bearing banners with the words, “Fire Mark Richt,” but that was the subject of every Georgia-related conversation over the post-Florida week.
Every day brought another report, another rumor. Richt himself took to Twitter to announce that Jeremy Pruitt was still his defensive coordinator. Whether Pruitt is next year’s D.C. is another matter, though Richt did single out his handling of the defense, which limited Kentucky to 180 yards.
Georgia’s offense was a bit better than it had been since September, not that it could have gotten worse. Greyson Lambert, who started Games 1-7 but didn’t play against Florida, was again the No. 1 quarterback and again impressed no one. (He completed 6 of 13 passes for 64 yards.) Brice Ramsey got some work. Faton Bauta, last week’s forlorn hope, did not.
Thing was, Georgia didn’t need to throw the ball to beat Kentucky. Tailback Sony Michel and flanker Terry Godwin took direct snaps, with Godwin orchestrating a version of the Wildcat. (The Bulldogs call it the Wild Dog.) So why didn’t Georgia try this against Florida instead of letting Bauta throw 33 passes? Dunno.
The only touchdown of the first 35 minutes came when Godwin fumbled a snap, picked it up and dashed 28 yards to score. (Who says Brian Schottenheimer can’t draw up a cool play?) The first half featured Richt opting to play for field goals twice — once on fourth-and-a-foot at the 6 — and being rewarded only the first time.
Again, though: This was Kentucky, beaten by an aggregate 57 points in its past two outings. As long as Georgia didn’t mess up, it was going to win. Credit the Bulldogs for not collapsing during a difficult week – “A lot of things swirling,” Richt said, “and we all know what I’m talking about” – but even the Bulldogs themselves were more relieved than giddy.
They’d beaten a bad team. If, sometime over the past calendar year, Georgia had beaten a good team, we wouldn’t be debating the future of Mark Richt.