“We’re not playing on any emotion right now. Period,” Williams told reporters Monday night after the Bulldogs’ 29-24 win over Kentucky.
Williams hit the nail on the head. Georgia, for whatever reason, has not played with the fire and intensity it is capable of the last two times it has hit the field. And that’s a major, major problem.
Maybe that’s because Georgia has played on the road of late (but they played intelligently and with fight against Missouri). Maybe Georgia the program doesn’t realize the magnitude of the opportunity it has, or doesn’t believe it deserves it (but last I checked they didn’t give up in 2011, either).
Either way Williams has correctly diagnosed a key problem at this pinnacle moment for the Bulldogs.
A person can’t just create intensity – you have to do it all of the time for it to crossover into the times at which you compete. Georgia did that for the bulk of 2011, and it has done that at times in 2012 (Vanderbilt game, start of the Tennessee game and second half of the Missouri game), so we know the program and this team can do that. But Mark Richt and Georgia’s problem of late is that they are not doing that at the most appropriate time – witness the trip to Columbia the first week of October.
Now, amazingly and as if predictably on cue, South Carolina has crumbled right out of the East race leaving Georgia in position to play what is shaping up to be the most critical test of the season and possibly of Mark Richt’s time at Georgia.
At stake? The legacy of many, many players – particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Lose this game and there is no rebound game – no championship to play in or play for – just another Sunday wondering what could have been in Jacksonville; another trip to a meaningless bowl game against either a Big Ten foe no one cares about or another hapless ACC program people care about even less – does playing Duke or NC State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl sound like fun?
This is the pinnacle of Georgia’s season. Georgia’s season starts and finishes this Saturday afternoon. Everything before now is irrelevant. Anything after a loss this weekend will not be enough to satisfy Georgia’s correctly grumpy fan base or the coaches and players in the program itself.
Williams was right to point out what I could feel on the sideline Saturday night. He might not have been correct to say it in front of reporters, but I get the feeling he’s said it before now in the locker room, and it has not gotten through, or he wants it so badly he can hardly contain himself any longer knowing what looms around the corner.
All-or-nothing games with the Gators is not exactly unfamiliar – last year’s game against the Gators was about if Richt was going to be the coach at Georgia in the future. This season it’s about if Richt can finally, after a slew of embarrassing performances in big games, win in this critical and looming “moment of truth.”
Richt and Georgia won “moment of truth” games quite often at the start of his tenure. Think about the wins over Tennessee in 2001, Alabama and Auburn in 2002, LSU in 2004, LSU in 2005, Auburn and Georgia Tech in 2006, Alabama, Florida and Auburn in 2007 and Georgia Tech in 2009. In those games Georgia came out with fire, played defense well and won monumental wins. A couple of those games were blowouts, but most of them were fourth quarter or last-second wins.
Georgia hasn’t pulled out a big win on the national scene in what seems like ages.
What Williams, and fans want, is for Georgia to come out with fight – not fake fight or something artificial – but real fight. Fight that this program, its coaches and players have been known for in the past and should be known for right now.
If Tuesday’s practice is any indicator Williams’ message got through. Several sources called the practice Georgia’s “roughest”, even “bloodiest” practice all season… or even in recent memory. Time will tell if its too late to turn back the pattern Georgia has set all too often in big games – failure.
What Williams, in his simple sentence, is saying is that he’s tired of it. I think most everyone in red and black has your back on that one Shawn.