ATHENS — Herschel Walker was famous for saying “the ball ain’t heavy” when he was at Georgia. You know what? It ain’t hot either.
This new trend of dropping the football as soon as one crosses the goal line would make you think it is. It seems like the Bulldogs can’t wait to get it out of their hands. It’s like they’re playing hot-potato with it. You know, don’t hold it too long else you get burned.
We saw it three weeks ago when Deandre Baker’s 56-yard touchdown on an interception was changed to a 55-yard return and fumble after he dropped the ball inside the 1 against South Carolina. We saw it again this past Saturday when Georgia receiver Jeremiah Holloman did something similar. Though, to be clear, it appears to me that he’d easily cleared the plane. But it was close enough to have warranted an extensive video replay review.
Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Receivers and running backs are always pining for the football. “Give it to me,” they beg. “Throw it to me. I’m open.” Then they finally get it, turn it into a score and it’s like they can’t wait to get rid of it once they reach the end zone.
And that goes double for defensive backs. The ultimate success for a DB is to end up with the ball in his hands. They fight, claw and scratch to beat out opposing the receivers for the football all day long. Finally, they catch it and cash it in for a touchdown and the first thing they want to do is discard it like a piece of tissue paper.
Georgia, a program of many great traditions, needs to start a new tradition when it comes to touchdown celebrations. And it sounds like they’re going to.
Coach Kirby Smart, who’d change his middle name to “Discipline” if his wife Mary Beth would let him, discussed it after last Saturday’s 43-29 win over Missouri and again at his weekly news conference this week.
“We’ll address it at practice,” Smart said. “… I think the important thing is that we get it fixed. How many times does something have to happen? But it’s not something that you don’t talk about. You talk about it, you confront it, you demand.”
This edict has given way to some hilarious conversations about what Smart and the Bulldogs should do. The best I’ve heard came from Matt Chernoff of 680 The Fan’s Chuck & Chernoff Show. Georgia plays Tennessee this week, so Chernoff suggested that the Bulldogs commandeer the “Turnover Trash Can” that the Vols are no longer using since Butch Jones was fired and turn it into the “Touchdown Can.”
“Put it next to Kirby and, after Georgia players score, they have to carry it all the way to the sideline and drop it in the Touchdown Can,” Chernoff said.
I think that’s actually a great idea, especially in this day and age of Turnover Chains, Savage Pads and Hit Sticks.
I saw another good one on Twitter on Tuesday. It included video footage of former Georgia running back Thomas Brown scoring his many touchdowns in the mid-2000s. Almost every time Brown reached the end zone, he would set the football on the back line of the end zone. Kirby Smart was actually Brown’s position coach at Georgia in 2005, so he’s probably aware of that tradition and might want to adopt it.
During the Chip & Griff Show on DawgNation’s Facebook page on Tuesday, Georgia All-American tight end Troy Sadowski suggested the Bulldogs simply do what coach Vince Dooley insisted they do when he was playing for him from 1985-88.
“We were told to hand the ball to the ref,” Sadowski said.
If I had to guess, I’d say the latter is what we’ll see from the Bulldogs this Saturday when Tennessee comes to town. The good news is the Vols are terrible this year — Georgia has been installed as a 32.5-point favorite — so the Bulldogs should have plenty chances to practice their new touchdown routine.
Whatever that ends up being, we won’t know until Saturday. Smart has vowed to keep his new edict in-house.
“We’ll handle it internally,” he said. “It’s not really for public consumption.”
Joking aside, it is a somewhat serious matter. The game has change a lot over the years, with players always diving for the pylon and breaking “the imaginary plane.” We’ve seen this go wrong many times, including a couple of times from this weekend’s visitors.
Remember when Tennessee’s Pig Howard lost control of the ball as he dove for the pylon against Georgia in 2013? That ended up being a touchback in a game the Bulldogs won 34-31 in overtime. Well, the same thing happened last week when Tennessee tight end Austin Pope fumbled the ball through the end zone trying to dive for a touchdown.
In his defense, Pope was just trying to score. But, kidding aside, if he just tucks it and hangs onto the ball, the worse case is first-and-goal at the 1 (OK, maybe Tennessee wouldn’t have scored from there, but that’s not the point).
The real point is that not enough of a premium is put on possessing the football, never mind scoring it. And that’s what Smart was harping on this week.
“I’m a big believer that leadership on the team has to do that; tt doesn’t just come from me,” Smart said. “It comes from every player on the team buying in that it’s important. I can assure you that neither kid [thought] as they were running down the field, ‘I’m going to drop this ball near the goal line.’ It’s just a lack of respect for the ball and a lack of respect for your teammates, which you can’t have.”
So something is definitely going to change with regard to Georgia’s touchdown routine this week. Can’t wait to see what it is.