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Ashway: Richt is getting harder and harder to defend
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Forsyth County News

If Mark Richt’s attempting to cultivate support among the Bulldog Faithful, he’s sure going about it in a strange way.

He’s also making the job of his defenders ever more difficult.

Clearly, the chasm grows in Bulldog Nation, and it might be widening faster than Richt can bridge it.

Richt and his brain trust had two weeks to prepare for Georgia’s annual Florida Follies. Saturday’s despicable 27-3 loss to the Gators proved a worthy performance.

On a positive note, the game should be a boon for recruiting. Any high school seniors watching this performance know they can come in and immediately vie for playing time.

Georgia allowed Florida to run 10 plays on its opening possession. The defense finally forced Treon Harris into three straight incompletions. Georgia had Florida in a perfect position: attempting a field goal.

Georgia then surprised all by opening in a WildDog formation, and Sony Michel raced around left end for 27 yards to the Florida 45-yard-line.

Alas, fullback Quayvon Hicks was detected flattening a Gator defender. Why couldn’t the Duke-Miami officiating crew have been on hand?

Undaunted, newly installed quarterback Faton Bauta threw a flat pass to Michel for eight yards. Then Kolton Houston false-started.

Georgia had run one play, officially, and been penalized twice.

An incomplete screen pass toward Terry Godwin that never developed preceded the predictable stagger over left guard by Brendan Douglas, ending the series.

Three plays for a net loss of three yards.

Hard to imagine a more deflating start.

Unless you include the next offensive series. This one began with a nine-yard pass to Godwin. It ended with Douglas ramming into the line twice, to no avail. Did the brain trust not watch the Missouri game that the rest of us suffered through?

Now consider the third offensive series, which began with a five-yard pass to Jeb Blazevich. After five games, Georgia re-discovered its tight end! The next play resulted in the first of Bauta’s four interceptions.

But the Georgia defense held. To no avail.

Back in the dark ages of the ‘60s, the very first thing a punt returner learned was “never field a punt inside the 10-yard-line.”

Apparently, that’s still the case. Not because Gary Danielson said so during the game telecast, but because Richt told Mark Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald as much.

“You’re supposed to put your heels at the 10, and if it goes over your head, you let it go. That’s just basics. I think he might have touched it around the four or something. I don’t have to sit here and hide that. Everybody knows that. He should have let that ball go, if you know football.”

And when Reggie Davis failed to field that punt, Florida recovered in the end zone, and the first quarter ended with Georgia down, 6-0.

Those were all the points Florida would need.

To be sure, Georgia made myriad mistakes over the final three quarters. But that first quarter performance was mystifying. How could a team be so unready to play in so big a game?

How could a team that had tasted defeat—bitter defeat, twice already—come out and perform in exactly the same fashion that led to the previous two defeats?

Beyond those threshold questions, many more beg for answers. 

The brain trust decided to start a new quarterback. Fine. Assuming that you’ve installed a package during the off week to enable the new quarterback to utilize his biggest asset: his ability to run. 

And also assuming that you’ve given him some snaps in previous games. If the quarterback competition was as close as the brain trust claimed, why weren’t snaps allotted to all three quarterbacks earlier in the season? Isn’t that what games against Louisiana-Monroe and Southern are for?

You do those two things, and you might get performances like the ones Harris turned in against Georgia the past two years.

And what’s the deal with Georgia’s offensive line? Wasn’t this unit supposed to be the team’s strength? Was David Andrews, now the Patriots starting center, that big a loss? Did Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb simply run past the line’s mistakes?

Why did it take so long to change punters? And could a worse fake punt play possibly have been designed?

Richt says that he sits in on virtually all of the offensive meetings. So how is it that Georgia’s offense has gone from Ferrari to Fiat so fast?

One thing both sides of the broadening Bulldog chasm can agree upon: they’d like to hear the answers to these questions.