I am afraid he will not get his wish – that is to say – unless the Sanford Stadium crowd is the way it was for the Auburn game in 2007 or the LSU game in 2004 Grantham is asking a lot .
Sanford Stadium is not loud... I’m not sure if Georgia fans are not loud (that, I think, is part of it) or if the makeup of the stadium itself – wide, not tall – is the reason for it, but nonetheless Sanford Stadium is not an intimidating place to play… at least not right now.
This is not necessarily a “hate the fans” rant… it’s not that at all. I have seen Sanford Stadium rocking… it happens, and when it does it is a crazy, scary place to play. The problem is that it is not always like that. It doesn’t have the magic of LSU’s Tiger Stadium, or the nuttiness you find at Virginia Tech.
“We need to make sure the stadium becomes a benefit to our defense. If (it's) loud, with the things we’re going to be doing, it can be very difficult for an offense to change plays (and) protections,” Grantham told the AJC after G Day. “When you’re loud at home, the offense has to go on a silent count. That means everybody’s moving on the ball. Basically, the advantage that the offense has is no longer there. I’m definitely going to encourage our fans to be as loud as they can be from here on out.”
Grantham is right to ask for the most from the fans… he and the team deserve it. But, in fairness, the fans need something good to watch at home, too. Georgia has not played well over the last few decades in big home games. For instance, the Bulldogs have lost several big home SEC games against ranked teams: (#4 LSU in 2009, #8 Alabama in 2008, #18 Georgia Tech in 2008, #13 Tennessee, #15 Auburn in 2005, Tennessee in 2004; big wins didn’t really exist at home in the 1990s)
Hairy Dawg Gets the Crowd Going
But my examples are somewhat skewed, much like the set up of Georgia’s schedule each year. I can’t leave out that Georgia doesn’t play its biggest rival at home… ever. So the chance to have the same sort of panic/fever pitch that happens in Jacksonville will never happen in Athens because Georgia doesn’t play Florida at home. At the same time, the Tech game is always two days after Thanksgiving, which leads to a smaller student crowd, and a more subdued crowd, in my view, than it would be if that game was played the weekend before Thanksgiving. I have always found the Georgia crowd in Atlanta (for Tech’s home games against the Dawgs) more alive than the one in Athens for the Jackets, but that’s probably because the road fans are the truest of the true… the most hardcore and best fans.
All of that, however, should not serve as an excuse for fans. They need to come to the game ready for whatever challenge comes in each game. Georgia has one of the largest home crowds in the nation, but it does not feel like it most of the time.
The first big home game of 2010 is Arkansas – a team with a quarterback who is going to want to change the call and protection at the line of scrimmage – just what Grantham would like to take advantage of. Georgia fans won’t think of it that way, however, they will think about Georgia playing Arkansas – a team Georgia has no rivalry with, and one the fans will think Georgia should beat. The crowd probably will not be at its best that September night, which will make it slightly easier for the Hogs.
I guess I am spoiled in a way. When I go to other stadiums I always see the best those fans have to offer because Georgia has been one of the top teams in the conference for the last decade, and opposing fans always bring their best when the Dawgs come to play… Nashville, Columbia, Lexington, Tempe, Knoxville, Tuscaloosa (that crowd was frothing at the mouth in 2007) and Atlanta – they all want to beat Georgia, and they all bring their A game every time. It almost feels like Georgia plays better, or is more focused on the road.
Still, Grantham expects the most out of his players, and now he wants the best out of the crowd… I bet he gets both this fall.