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October 7, 2013
No time for excuses
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We're about to find out what this Georgia football team is truly made of.
Sitting in the press box Saturday night, I realized I've seen games where multiple players have gone down with injuries, but I can't recall seeing that many key players on one side of the ball fall like we did against Tennessee.
First, you feel so bad for the kids. Keith Marshall, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett are three of the hardest working, most humble guys on the team. Like many, they've busted their tails to get to this point - you hate it for them.
At least there seems to be chance that Bennett's injury may not be a season-ender. He'll have it scoped Tuesday so doctors can get a good look at the damage. No doubt the Bulldog Nation will have its collective fingers crossed.
Before we proceed, got to give a huge shout-out to Aaron Murray.
Considering all the obstacles that he and the offense face on that final drive, to allow Georgia to send the game into overtime - you won't find one any better. Aaron Murray's a winner. Nuff said.
Now, as Paul Harvey so aptly put it, the rest of the story.
Assuming Todd Gurley can come back in a timely manner and remain healthy, I'm not so concerned with the tailback situation.
Mark Richt said during his Sunday afternoon teleconference that the sophomore was 50-50, and that he'd almost certainly be ready for Vanderbilt two weeks from now.
So, unless we hear otherwise, we'll take Richt at his word.
Wide receiver appears to be a trickier situation.
If Bennett can come back, that will lessen the blow, but right now the hodge-podge of targets Murray has to work with is somewhat concerning.
Chris Conley is the goods, that much is certain. The question is, how much will opposing defenses now focus more attention to him, perhaps with double-teams forcing Murray to depend on some of his less-heralded targets to make play?
That's the question.
Once you get past those four, it really gets scary.
Will Jonathon Rumph ever get over his hamstring issue? Richt said that probably won't happen against Missouri, but he's going to need to shake it someone and get on the field.
Ditto for Blake Tibbs.
While there's no doubting his talent, word is Tibbs has been slow picking up the schemes, and that's why we haven't heard anything to the date on the former MLK star. Either way, it's time to step up.
Former UAB player Kenneth Towns hasn't caught a pass yet, but has received decent snaps in recent weeks.
Some folks have asked about Tramel Terry, but honestly, I don't think he should go.
It hasn't even been nine months since he tore his ACL on the opening kickoff of the Shrine Bowl. Make no mistake, Terry is a special talent. But Richt didn't sound too keen on chancing it with the freshman Sunday night and I don't blame. I just don't see the Bulldogs' taking a chance this soon and risking playing the young man.
Now, to the defense.
Bottom line, if the Bulldogs want to win a championship - be it Eastern Division, SEC, or whatever - they've got to quit giving up so many points.
I know, no duh.
Well, against Clemson, South Carolina and LSU you can sort of understand - three very good teams, with very good quarterbacks - they're going to score a lot of points against a lot of teams.
Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley, on the other hand, was a dead man walking for the Vols before Saturday's game.
Nearly booed off the field following three-second half interceptions the previous week, Worley ranked near the bottom of the pack as far as SEC quarterbacks are concerned before throwing for 215 yards against the Bulldogs.
While that isn't a large number by today's standards, considering he came in averaging only 147 with a league-high six picks, that's a considerable improvement.
Especially since the Bulldogs weren't able to force a single turnover, something the defense has struggled to do all year.
Yes, the youth of the defense played a role, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham hasn't used that as an excuse and neither have the players we've spoken with. Since that's the case I won't do it either.
During Sunday's teleconference, I asked Richt if he was concerned that the offense was - for lack of a better term - carrying the defense and whether or not that could continue for Georgia to accomplish its goals.
Predictably, Richt brushed off the question, saying "We're all in it for Georgia." I understand that. Richt has never criticized his own players or coaches and he wasn't going to start then.
Still, from my vantage point, there's going to come a time where the defense is going to have to start making some plays, cause some turnovers, something, in order for the Bulldogs to win a game.
That could come as early as Saturday's game against Missouri. Yeah, the Tigers haven't played anybody of substance to date, but their 51-28 win over Vanderbilt was impressive and as it stands now, Georgia's defense has not shown it can consistently slow anybody down.
So right now, that's it in the old proverbial nutshell.
Georgia is still 4-1, ranked 7th in the country and still in position to control its own destiny and accomplish all of its football dreams.
The journey won't be easy - especially now in light of the injuries.
But champions dig deep and they don't make excuses.
If the Bulldogs still want to be one, that's the route they'll need to travel.