From the opening kickoff Friday, it was obvious the Georgia Bulldogs were yet again uninspired. Central Florida ran for a 99-yard touchdown, only to be called back on a penalty.
And then Mark Richt perhaps drove the nail into his coaching coffin at Georgia. On the first drive for the Bulldogs, which started at their own 2, they faced fourth-and-inches on the UCF 3. Instead of going for it, and setting the tone for the entire game, Richt played it safe and kicked a 20-yard field goal.
Well, that did set the tone for the entire game. It showed Richt was coaching scared. It showed he has no confidence in his anemic running game or in his disappointing offensive line, which somehow was rated as the best unit in the country in the preseason by one publication that I’ll never buy again.
Sure, the running backs are mediocre and the offensive line has been horrible, but there was no reason in a bowl game to not go for it in that situation.
Maybe Richt thought his offense, which had scored 30 or more points in the final seven games of the regular season, would be potent enough to not worry about going for three that early in the game. He had beat his chest the past month about how well the offense had played, but he failed to realize that it’s not like he played against great defenses in that seven-game stretch.
Scoring a bunch of points on Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky is no big accomplishment. Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech all had shaky defenses, and the Bulldogs shouldn’t be proud of scoring 55 on Idaho State.
But Friday’s opponent was better. It was a George O’Leary defense. Remember him? He’s the man who practically got Jim Donnan fired because his defenses at Georgia Tech in the late-1990s were always tough.
And so when Georgia had to play against a good defense, it once again choked. Aaron Murray was awful. The running game, without Caleb King again, was pathetic. And Georgia again showed having only A.J. Green was just not enough.
But again, it’s the way Georgia looked in losing that is a problem. The sideline took on the personality of the coach and was comatose. Where is the inspiration? Where is the energy?
Georgia hasn’t been the same since Alabama went to Athens in September of 2008 and embarrassed the Bulldogs. It had nothing to do with what color uniform Georgia was wearing that night. Instead, it was the lack of emotion shown on the sideline by Richt when his Bulldogs were down 31-0 in the first half.
That’s when I really started to doubt if Richt would be able to take this program to the next level. It didn’t really make any sense to see a coach not react to another team coming into his back yard and getting that big of a lead. There was no panic, no emotion, really nothing.
Thirty-five games later, Georgia has won only 20 times. That’s just not enough. And now, Richt’s winning percentage (.677) in the past five years is worse than Donnan’s mark (.678) in his five seasons at Georgia.
The fans have now turned on Richt. They are caring less about how great of a person he is and how he carries himself off the field. That’s nice. But the bottom line is fans want to win, and if he’s not the coach to do it, they’re going to want him gone.
There is no reason to believe Richt can turn this around. The talent level is so far off that even Central Florida looks far superior to Georgia. Georgia is, at best, the seventh best program in the SEC right now, and that’s just not good enough. And there’s nothing to show it’s going to get better overnight.
It’s now not a question of if Richt will be let go, but when. Athletics director Greg McGarity says Richt will be back in 2011, but it’s just delaying the inevitable. A year from now, McGarity will be looking for a new head coach.
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