Call it the Dog Pound. That's what it was yesterday at the Georgia Dome. I've never seen a game of that magnitude and that situation that was so dominated ... both by one team and their crowd ... as it was by Georgia in a 30-3 victory that seemed more like 77-0. I was intimidated when I saw the situation that Arkansas faced, and usually I'm not that way.
Arkansas fans numbered around 10,000, best I could tell. They cheered hard and loud, but were drowned out in that big place by the Georgia fan. Even the Georgia band seemed louder and more menacing that the fine Arkansas band.
The referee called a lot of penalties on Georgia and was fair, and I'll give him credit for hanging tough because he was booed from start to finish. I wouldn't have been so kind had I been a referee in that setting. That's about the only thing the Hogs had going for them in the Georgia Dome, a fair set of referees concerend with keeping the playing field equal. There was nothing else fair in the game ... not with the talent that the Bulldogs trotted onto the field.
The blocked punt was the defining moment in the game. I cringed when I counted only 10 on the field for Arkansas as the play clock ran down. Mark Pierce ran out at the last minute ... thanks for Dowell Loggains finding him ... to take the place of Brandon Holmes. And, when the cover man for the right gunner broke on a dead sprint for the end, and came in untouched, it was an easy block.
The Hogs weren't good enough. That's all there was to it, from what I saw. They weren't good enough in the defensive front to play Georgia straight up, and when they put extra men in the box, David Greene picked our secondary apart and there was nothing they could do. It wasn't so much that our cover guys were inadequate, but that we asked them to play man-to-man against the league's best wideouts. That's a problem caused by inadequate defensive linemen.
Georgia was better at wide receiver and in the defensive line than Arkansas. It wasn't just a small difference, but a huge difference. That made it easy for David Greene, the Georgia quarterback.
Georgia brought a championship team to the SEC title game. Arkansas brought a team that has feasted on others mistakes and won with solid play with a young team.
Houston Nutt's challenge this winter is to find bigger, more athletic defensive linemen. We've known that from the start of the season. In fact, we knew that and talked about it last spring. The second priority is to find some game breakers at wide receiver. They lack that now, although that crew has become better as the season has progressed. Georgia blanketed Arkansas' wideouts with sound coverage, mainly because it could handle Arkansas' running game with a terrific front four, possibly the best the Hogs have seen this season. The third priority is to find a playmaker at tight end. The Hogs must develop that position.
To be honest, I was not surprised that Georgia won the game. I was surprised that it was so easy. Arkansas has not been an easy touch for anyone of late and had developed a toughness that suggested that an upset was possible, although probably not probable.
Georgia's players talked afterwards about the break they got with an open date two weeks ago to freshen their legs before their rout of Georgia Tech and then another rout of Arkansas.
The Hogs worked in full pads Tuesday and Wednesday and that could have backfired in the title game. They were obviously sluggish and the slower team in the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs looked like the quickest team this side of Miami, Fla., against the Hogs. And, what was thought to be a quick, fast Arkansas team looked like a team of plodders.
That could have been the key to the game. Arkansas was playing for its 11th straight week. And, the Hogs had to travel while the Bulldogs were pretty much playing a home game.
None of these are excuses. No way should the Hogs have played the way they did, and it is a tough pill to swallow after such a fine run to end the regular season. Somehow the Hogs must regroup to win their bowl game. A 10-victory season will take the edge off of what has to be viewed as a disappointing trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game.
No doubt, it's better to have gone to the SEC title game (and lost in a rout) than to not have gone at all. Although, there were probably plenty that questioned that thought around 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.
Hogs No Match in Title Game
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