Sophomore Michael Moore and freshman Tony Wilson were the No. 23 Bulldogs’ hottest wide receivers this fall. Both charged from the bottom of the depth chart to near the top of the rotation by making plays in practice.
And, then, on Saturday, they were plagued by the same gremlin that has lurked among the rest of the receivers since the Mark Richt era began. Moore and Wilson each dropped a pass that would have give the Bulldogs a difference-making touchdown in their 16-12 loss to South Carolina.
“You forget about it right after the play,” Moore said. “It didn’t hit me until after the game basically because of the result of the game. That comes with the pressure of playing in the SEC, at a big school. You play at Georgia, you’re expected to make big plays.”
Moore’s drop came on a Matthew Stafford pass from the 26-yard line, and he was in the wide receiver’s film room with Mohamed Massaquoi on Sunday methodically analyzing his mistake.
“Right after the game, me and Mo said we’re going to go to church on Sunday, get something to eat and come watch the film,” he said. “I kept telling him, ‘Mo this is not going to happen again. We’re not going to lose because of the receivers ever again.’”
Georgia fans may or may not believe that. Dropped passes have been a troubling trend since Richt took over in 2001.
“They should rebound (from the South Carolina game),” Richt said. “They need to. They’ve just got to concentrate. It’s not just one guy.”
Wilson’s drop came on Georgia’s next-to-last possession and, along with a successful extra point, would have tied the score at 16-16 with fewer than five minutes left. His mistake, hesaid, was trying to “double catch” the ball, meaning snag it out of the air and then reposition it in his hands. Somewhere in that process, he was hit by a defensive back and the ball fell to the ground.
“I make that catch in practice every day, it was just a matter of me holding onto it after I took the blow,” said Wilson, who sat out Monday’s practice due to a rib bruise that came on that play. “You can’t dwell on it. I know I’m going to hear it around for a while, I just have to let it go. I’ve got more than enough years to make a great catch and overshadow that one.”
Georgia’s receivers need to do something to overshadow their overall lack of production in the last 15 games. In that span, they have caught six touchdown passes. This season’s only scoring catch was a 9-yard reception by Moore against Oklahoma State.
Six receivers have caught passes this year, totaling 23 receptions for 280 yards and one touchdown. Five players in the country have accounted for more receiving yards; three have caught more passes, and at least 30 have multiple scoring catches.
None of that concerns this group, Moore said. Just like the South Carolina game, it’s in the past. (Sean Bailey and Kris Durham also let catchable passes fall to the ground, but neither was as clear cut, or as crucial, as the pair by Moore and Wilson.)
“As this year’s unit, it’s just one game,” he said. “Last year is way behind us.”
He also knows there’s only one way to make everyone else think like him.
“We just have to prove it on Saturdays,” he said.