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UGA wasn't a very gracious host today, beating the visiting Troy University Trojans 66 to nothing.

Troy 0, UGA 66

Honestly, I left after UGA scored on their opening drive in the 3rd quarter, making it 52-0. I decided that I had better things to do than sit in the sun and wait out the game clock.

Biggest thing of note in the game was the presence of the blue Allstate net strung up in the far endzone. Don't think I've seen that in Athens before. (We also had a visit from former Dawg Terrell Davis, but I have seen that in Athens before!)

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Dogs win for homecoming! Bulldogs 44, Troy 34. I think this game had just about everything that you could've asked for in a football game. An F-14 flyover, an enthusiastic crowd, and an alumni band and cheerleader squad. Not to mention that for the better part of 4 quarters, it was anybody's game.

But it shouldn't pass without controversy. Down 10 points and losing yards to penalties and a suddenly swarming Bulldog defense, Troy's coach, Larry Blakeney, seemed to give up late in the fourth quarter when his team chose not to attempt to convert a 3rd and 29 from their own 16 yard line, instead opting for a short yardage run up the middle to set up the punt. Invigorated by Troy's decision to give up the game, the Bulldogs returned the punt to Troy's 2 yard line, from which they easily scored their final touchdown to drive the victory margin up to 17 points.

Troy's next possession was a quick 4 and out. No attempt to punt, but it certainly appeared that since the coach had given up on the team, the team didn't care to play anymore. And why should they? What was the point if the coach had already thrown in the towel on the game? Taking advantage of the situation, the Bulldogs ate another about half the remaining time off the clock and gave the ball back to Troy with more than 2 minutes remaining. That's when things got weird.

UGA 44, Troy 34

For their final drive, Troy put in their second string. And drove the ball down the field. When they reached the UGA 35 yard line, they took a timeout with 34 seconds remaining. Two plays later, having reached the UGA 4 yard line, they took their second timeout with 18 seconds remaining. Failing to score, they took their final timeout with a mere 11 seconds remaining. That's right: eleven seconds in the game. Down 17 points. With the second team in the game. Troy called their third timeout. Sure, on the next play they scored. But with so little time remaining, the game was over.

The question becomes why Troy's coach called those last two timeouts on consecutive plays with less than 18 seconds in the game. The likely answer was to ensure that he scored another touchdown to keep the margin of victory at 10 points. He called those timeouts not to win the game, which with a mere 11 seconds remaining is essentially impossible, but to ensure the scoring of the touchdown. (Note that after the score, with 5 seconds on the clock, he chose not to onside kick, but rather to kick a regular kickoff 40 yards deep to kill the remaining clock.) In the Coach's own words to ESPN following the game:

"The crowd that stayed booed us for trying to execute, which was funny," Blakeney said. "I think we certainly had the potential to win, and I doubt we'll get any quick invites back here."

Sir, we didn't boo you for trying to execute, we booed you for wasting our time.

"The potential to win"? Down 17 points with only 18 seconds left, victory is all but impossible. Certainly, I am completely unaware of any time when such a large margin was overcome so late in a football game. In an earlier game today, Clemson scored 16 points in 39 seconds (two touchdowns separated by a safety), a rare and amazing scoring pace that is one fewer point than what Troy needed in more than twice the time. Clemson running back Cullin Harper said of Clemson's performance, "that's the fastest I've ever seen 16 points scored." By comparison, Clemson's all-time fastest back-to-back touchdowns were scored just 14 seconds apart. But two touchdowns is still fewer points than Troy needed at that point in the game. Seventeen points is at least three scores.

Since the coach had all but given up the game two possessions earlier, and he had replaced his starting players with second-stringers, there are only three possibilities. One is that he intended to give his second-string players some experience. This possibility is a necessary evil of football and would not require a lie to cover it up. Another possibility is that he wished to ensure that the record books didn't include such a lopsided score. Unpleasant and selfish, but understandable. But the worst of all is the possibility that the coach was gambling on his team. Or at least encouraging it.

After the game I checked and found that at most Las Vegas casinos, the spread on the game was between 14 or 15 points in the Bulldog's favor. By struggling to score that last touchdown, Coach Blakeney was ensuring that his team would beat the spread. This no doubt won money for gamblers backing Troy and the spread. However, beating the spread serves no purpose on the field of play and should never be the concern of a coach or a team of players. It's an embarrassing day when the head coach of a highly touted (reigning Sun-Belt Conference champion) Division-IA football team is more concerned about beating a gambling spread than winning his game. Embarrassing and disgraceful.

There is at least one thing that I agree with Coach Blakeney about. I also certainly doubt that UGA will extend any more invites to have Troy back, either.

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To be continued...

 

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