ATHENS -- Its easy to say that emotion is a hokey thing. Its easy to say that rousing speeches and public flogging are better suited for high school, and that an SEC team doesnt need that.
The evidence, however, dictates otherwise for this Georgia football team.
Based on what weve seen so far, this Bulldogs team thrives when it has outside motivation and struggles when it doesnt. And if its going to do something big this year, it needs that extra jolt.
Last week, Shawn Williams public evisceration of his defense was the spark for that units best performance of the season and a win over then-No. 3 Florida that revived SEC and national championship hopes.
A cynic might argue that Williams comments were just a convenient media storyline and that Georgias defensive revival was inevitable anyway.
But speaking minutes after the game, head coach Mark Richt indicated otherwise.
I dont think there was another game this year where we quite came out of the gate the way we did this one. Maybe Vanderbilt, where I think some guys were a little bit mad about some things that happened the year before, Richt said. So I gotta do a better job of figuring out how to motivate, I guess.
Richt could also have mentioned the Missouri game, where the entire team played well after the old man football comments.
Thats three games where emotion was paramount. Otherwise, Georgia has had wins that were mostly listless (Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Tennessee, Kentucky) and a loss in which its doors were blown off (South Carolina).
No matter. The Bulldogs now find themselves in position for a championship run. But if theyre to make it, they need to harness that emotion the rest of the way. And it doesnt need to be a player calling them out.
Rather, the Bulldogs just need to listen more to the detractors who say theyre a product of their schedule, and (if they get that far) will be blown out by Alabama or LSU in the SEC championship game.
Junior tight end Arthur Lynch, one of the leaders on offense, offered his take after Mondays practice.
I think its important that we first of all stay humble, because in reality the one game we lost, we lost bad. So just because we control our own destiny doesnt make us king of college football right now. Because thats not what we are, Lynch said. We were brought back to reality, in a sense, by that South Carolina game. We took that and went back to square one and obviously got humbled a lot. We took that and went back to square one, and hopefully we take that and build on that and build on that.
Lynch also agreed that the playing soft comments were a motivation -- but not just the ones by Williams. The Bulldogs watched enough TV to see analysts digging at them for not playing physical enough.
People questioned our manhood, Lynch said.
It might help Georgia if those critics stay out there. The Bulldogs had a swagger last year, a chip-on-shoulder attitude, that was missing the first half of this year. It took the loss to South Carolina to jolt the team, and eventually that was turned from frustration to motivation.
Richt gets criticized for not being demonstrative enough. Perhaps there is merit to that. But in the case of Williams comments, Richt should get credit for getting out the way of them. He didnt exactly embrace Williams going public, but he didnt publicly disagree with his player, and it was telling what Richt said last Tuesday when asked if he felt the comments would be a spark.
They might. Well see, Richt said, grinning, and left it at that.
Based on last week, the emotional factor may be more important on defense. The offensive players are a bit more methodical, and its not Murrays style, nor that of the Gurshall tandem, to be rah-rah. They obviously didnt need emotion the first five weeks when they were racking up huge numbers.
But perhaps Murray and the offense needs a bit of a chippy motivation to take it to another level. Perhaps Williams needs to remind Murray of the many critics that hes not an elite, big-game quarterback.
The Bulldogs have a lot of talent, especially on defense. Their coaches have a proven track record. But this team isnt a machine the way Alabama, or even LSU, is right now. But a good amount of motivation can make up for that.
Yes, it might sound corny. But you cant look at Georgias season so far and come to any other conclusion. Emotion matters a ton to this team. And it needs to be going forward.
Contact Seth Emerson at firstname.lastname@example.org.