Whether issuing a mea culpa or defending what they did, college football coaches’ comments after a controversial loss don’t change anything. But, if the tone and substance are handled right, they can at least score some points with the fan base. In that regard, Georgia’s head coach and his two coordinators did pretty well this week.
First, Mark Richt candidly admitted that, in hindsight, he wished the Dogs had “hammered it” (meaning given the ball to tailback Todd Gurley) when they had first-and-goal at the 4 Saturday night in Columbia. Then, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, neither of whom was available for questions immediately after the game, met with reporters and discussed the relative failures of their units.
Bobo generally stood his ground on his controversial first-down call, maintaining the resulting “catastrophe” was more a failure of execution rather than a fatally flawed concept.
“We had three shots and didn’t get it in the end zone and that’s my responsibility and my fault. But we did what we thought would work at the time and obviously it didn’t work. … At the end of the day, we had a chance to score on our last possession of the game and we didn’t get it done.”
As for faking a toss sweep and going for a bootleg pass on first down, he said: “I’m going to make the calls I think give up the best chance to win. At that time I thought that play did, period.”
(I still have to differ with him there; even if everyone in the stadium expected Gurley to get the ball, that was still Georgia’s best option. Simply put, Gurley is that much of a difference-maker).
Bobo did concede that, “After every game, there’s more than one call that you wish you could have had back or changed or called something else. That’s football.”
Interestingly, Richt then made a point of gathering reporters to express his support for Bobo and his play-calling and to make clear that in his earlier comments he was not “dogging” Bobo. “I just want to make it real clear that I think Mike Bobo is one of the best coordinators in America and one of the best play-callers. I’ve got full faith in the guy.”
He added that, as head coach, he now wishes he had called a timeout at that point to talk to the offense and urge them to “knock” it in.
As for Pruitt, Georgia would have won in Columbia if his players’ performance Saturday had come halfway close to being as flawless as his apologetic media appearance this week. Unlike a certain past UGA defensive coordinator, he didn’t throw any players under the bus. Pruitt took full responsibility, said he had put his players at a disadvantage on 10 to 15 plays with his defensive calls (“That’s my fault. … Just some bad calls on my part.”), praised South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s game-planning, and promised to do his best to see the Georgia defense doesn’t have another game like that.
Even more creditable, Pruitt stood up for Bobo, noting that any time a team scores 35 points they ought to win. He apologized for his defensive unit not holding up its end.
“It’s really embarrassing for me to be a part of a team that scores 35 points and you lose the football game,” he said. “That’s embarrassing. And I’ll be the first to say, I’ve got to do my part on this side of the field. That won’t happen again.”
It was a classy, mature statement by the Dogs’ defensive chief.
STUDENT SEATING PROBLEM
In the wake of the mess that they made of handling student seating in Sanford Stadium at the Clemson game, the UGA Athletic Association this week sent students an email outlining new procedures adopted “in an effort to maintain safe and orderly entry,” and a new wristband distribution plan for lower level seating in the student section, effective with Saturday’s game against Troy.
Basically, they’ve told students they have to enter at certain designated gates if they want to sit in a particular section, and wristbands (which give the students in-and-out access to those sections) will be distributed upon gate entry.
Students must enter Gate 1 for seating in sections 138-143; Gate 3 for seating in sections 307-313 (no wristband required for the 300 level); and enter Gate 4A for the most desired seating in sections 109-114 near the Redcoat Band. (Gates will open at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday, a time when most college students haven’t even entered the r.e.m. portion of sleep yet.)
Wristband availability is limited to the seating capacity in those lower level areas, the email said. When all wristbands have been issued, students will be directed to best available student seating.
I asked my daughter Olivia, a UGA junior who had to fight her way through the dangerous scrum for a wristband at the Clemson game, whether she thought this plan would solve the problem.
“I understand what they’re going for,” she said, “but now Gate 4A is going to be a zoo. A lot of people are going to be angry when they get turned away because the wristbands for those sections will be gone. Plus, people are now going to line up ridiculously early to get wristbands for those 110-114 sections.”
Looks like a situation that might need further consideration.
ICE DOGS OPEN SEASON IN DOWNTOWN ATHENS
The 2014-15 UGA hockey season gets underway at 1:30 p.m. Sunday when the Ice Dogs play host to rival Florida at the first of 20 home games set for the Classic Center Arena rink in downtown Athens.
After 27 years of playing in facilities outside of Athens, UGA’s club hockey program has finally now found a home just blocks away from the UGA campus, having played their first game at the arena last April in a win over Georgia Tech before a sold-out, raucous crowd of 2,000.
“Our goal is going to be to replicate that excitement, that experience, 20 times,” head coach John Hoos said. “I think we’re going to do just that.”
Single tickets for all the home games are on sale, starting at $7. Several different ticket packages for students, groups and others are available. Fans can go to ClassicCenter.com to buy tickets, call 706-357-4444 or visit the Classic Center box office at 300 N. Thomas St. in downtown Athens.
Hoos said moving the home matches to the downtown Athens rink has been a game-changer for the Ice Dogs’ program, boosting recruiting and giving the nonvarsity team more of a local profile. “Athens is on the map now as a hockey home,” he said.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg