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It didn't take long for the 2017 UGA football season to go off the rails. Eight minutes and thirty seconds, to be precise.
There between the goalposts you'll see UGA's 2017 season being helped off the field.
That's when sophomore starting quarterback Jacob Eason went down with what has been called a "knee sprain" on a late hit out of bounds. As I write this, the true extent of the injury is unknown, but judging by how quickly Eason disappeared from the sideline never to return, this thing is serious.
Eason wasn't exactly tearing up the field in the brief time he did play. He completed one of three passes for four yards. His two misses were overthrows of open receivers. Like the rest of the team, he seemed too "tight" to start the game, a recurring problem for the team during Smart's increasingly dissatisfying tenure.
Everyone loosened up when true freshman (and the latest in a line of "No, Seriously, He's The Next Great Thing℠" at quarterback) Jake Fromm replaced Eason, and the Bulldogs went on to win in convincing fashion. Chubb and Michel looked game ready, and everyone was happy. Until the fourth quarter, when Bryce Ramsey, in true Bryce Ramsey fashion, threw two interceptions on two consecutive drives on the only two passes he attempted in the game! All 10 of Appalachian State's points came indirectly from Ramsey turnovers. Sigh. I hope next week's opponent — Notre Dame — wasn't watching.
Jake Fromm, you better find a way to make a uniform out of bubble wrap. Something tells me you're going to need it.
Today is the University of Georgia's annual G-Day
game practice, the unofficial start of the 2017 hype season. This marks Kirby Smart's second year as head coach. You may recall he was hired to take the team to the next level after Athletic Director Greg McGarity lost faith in Mark Richt. Let's just say that year one wasn't everything Bulldog Nation hoped it would be.
So how does Smart kick off year two? By demanding that the media not report on injuries unless he gives permission. Even if the player breaks his leg in front of a television camera.
What the fuck, Kirby?
Hey, man, I get it. You're a tin-pot dictator who gets paid millions of dollars a year to boss around children. That shit goes to your head. Last year, you somehow convinced the Georgia State legislature to pass a law allowing you to extend delays in responding to open records requests from three days to three months. It's only logical that the next step in your plan for world domination would be to refuse the release of any information at all.
The only question I have is how is this media gag order supposed to help UGA win football games? Did the Bulldogs go 4-4 in SEC games last year because our opponents knew Jacob Eason was a Freshman? Did Vanderbilt get its 3rd win versus Georgia in 22 tries because reporters told them ahead of time that the Bulldogs couldn't stop a 75-yard drive in the final quarter? Did Tennessee's Hail Mary to defeat Georgia with only zeroes showing on the clock happen because they'd read news reports about the secondary's practice habits in the week prior to the game? As I recall, it was Nick Chubb's mother who released information about the extent of his knee injury in 2015, by the way. Good luck stopping her from talking to the press in 2017, Coach.
Hey, sports reporters, if you see something, say something. I have a hunch you'll still have a job in two years. Coach Smart I'm not so sure about.
Before the game started, I didn't think UGA was good enough this season to beat Tennessee. With one minute left to play, I hadn't changed my mind.
Jacob Eason wasn't having the best game, but he had it when it mattered. When he launched the ball into the end zone from the 47 yard line, I thought there was no chance. (I said as much to friend Ken sitting next to me.) But freshman wide receiver Riley Ridley came down with it in the corner of the end zone and Sanford Stadium exploded. In 14 years of games, I don't think I've seen that level of elation.
After some terrible officiating (penalties called on replays? failing to replay incompletions?), terrible play calling (where'd the successful running game go in the second half? why did the offensive coordinator keep calling for an empty backfield when the offensive line couldn't protect Eason?), and terrible execution (drops? fumbles? SPECIAL TEAMS!), the Bulldogs were going to win the game, 31-28!
Tennessee had other plans. UGA's score left 10 seconds on the clock. It turned out to be 10 seconds too many.
After Georgia mangled yet another kickoff, Tennessee took possession with the ball on Georgia's 43 yard line and 4 seconds to play. Time enough only for one throw into the end zone for all the marbles . . . and Georgia's players watched as the Tennessee receiver came down with the ball.
Tennessee wins, 34-31.
Goddamn, that hurts.
UGA played their first home game of the Kirby Smart era against 50-point underdog Nicholls State University. Unfortunately, no one told Nicholls State. The entire Bulldog Nation has to hope that it wasn't indicative of how future home games will unfold.
Full credit to the Nicholls State Colonels. If not for one single play in the 3rd quarter, when their senior QB (who wasn't even their starter at the position — that would be freshman Chase Fourcade, who played a pretty great game) fumbled a ball that UGA returned for a quick touchdown, they would have won the game outright. Instead, they only managed to play to within 2 points, losing 24-26.
Their defensive line held Georgia's offense and Nick Chubb in check all afternoon. The Georgia players and staff didn't help themselves, continuing to make the same sorts of special teams mistakes that were named among the reasons that former coach Mark Richt was fired. Late in the 4th quarter, after Nicholls scored their 24th point, Smart replaced first-time starter Jacob Eason with Greyson Lambert. As the fellow to my left yelled, it wasn't Eason's fault that Nicholls was scoring points.
If a lowly FCS school like Nicholls can stymie the (formerly) number 9 ranked Bulldogs, UGA might be in real trouble when they start SEC play next week against Missouri.
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Word on the street (or at least the word via the AJC) is that the Seiler family, owners of UGA's beloved Uga mascots, is looking to inject some fresh DNA into the winnowed Uga bloodline. Future Ugas should be smaller and look more like the bulldogs of yesteryear. Good for them. Our mascots have been getting far too heavy, and the breed has serious health issues that need to be addressed if it's going to survive into the 22nd century.
There are some other Bulldogs that could use some new blood, too. Greyson Lambert has officially been named as starting quarterback in today's season opener versus North Carolina. Coach Smart has been hinting at this heavily for months now, so it comes as no surprise. It's a shame that Smart hasn't learned from history.
Lambert, as all Bulldog faithful recall, was not spectacular last year. In fact, I blame Mark Richt's firing on his decision to waste a year on the arms of Lambert, Bauta, and Ramsey in anticipation of incoming wunderkind Jacob Eason. Richt learned the hard way that high expectations plus lackluster performance are a fast track to a pink slip.
Eason, Smart says, isn't ready to start yet. He's playing it safe, putting in the proven commodity. Lambert is experienced. If he wins, no big deal. He's also terrible. If he loses, no big deal. That's the kind of selfish coaching decision you like to see: no matter what happens in the game, coach can't lose. Yet another indication of just how much we've lost by ash-canning Richt.
Sink or swim, there's no time like the present to learn how to play the game. If Eason is as great as they've been saying, let's get him some game experience that counts at the start of the season when losses mean the least. When Bulldogs need new blood, procrastination isn't an option.
Saturday, Georgia had a packed house at its first G-Day Game under new coach Kirby Smart. Let me restate that: 93,000 people watched a Georgia football scrimmage. Wow. As recently as last season, it was hard to get 93,000 people to watch a game.
So why did so many people turn out for practice? Was it a chance to see what changes Smart might bring to the game plan? Was it excitement over incoming freshman quarterback Jacob Eason? Was it because seats were free? Was it Ludacris' pre-kickoff "performance"? Probably some combination of all the above.
Did I go? No. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased that 93k people could be bothered to show up to support a team in transition. But I'm not bothered that I missed out on anything, either. After all, it was only a practice.
Mark Richt gambled that he could survive the 2015 season with a crop of lackluster quarterbacks in the hopes that he could reach current high school senior Jacob Eason on the other side. Many thought that Richt's firing would send Eason to choose another school, but new hire Kirby Smart worked hard to re-close the deal.
It worked! Eason has re-committed to be the University of Georgia's 2016 quarterback. After two years in the wilderness, UGA will have a quarterback again. Cue the fireworks and parades.
Now let reality set in. It will be hard enough for Eason to live up to the years of hype UGA fans have been sold. Worse, to justify Richt's firing, he'll be asked deliver a national championship to Athens sooner rather than later. That's something Eric Zier, Mike Bobo, David Green, Matt Stafford, and Aaron Murray all failed to do.
Good luck, kid. You're going to need it.
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