Paybacks are hell as we discovered November 1, 2008.
To set up the payback, first rewind to October 27, 2007. That’s when Georgia rushed the field after its first touchdown against the Gators in a game eventually won by Georgia, 42-30.
Mark Richt spent the next year feigning surprise that his Bulldogs had left the sideline en masse to celebrate Knowshon Moreno’s touchdown. Spontaneous celebration is how Richt tried to pass it off. He can spend the next 50 years denying it wasn’t planned and practiced and every time he does his nose will grow a little longer.
Of course it was planned. Of course they practiced it. Do you think any coaching staff with even a few live brain cells would have just stood there and let 80 kids go rushing the field in a game where the outcome so often is fueled by emotion? Can you imagine the brawl that could have ensued if just one Georgia player had shoved a Gator or vice versa?
Georgia got a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Don’t let anyone from Georgia fool you into thinking otherwise: the Bulldogs were hoping for some Florida player to do or say the wrong thing for a flag that would offset the penalty the Bulldogs knew was coming.
Rushing the field was designed to get the Georgia crowd into the game emotionally. Georgia had lost the second game of the season and Richt had endured more than his share of criticism. Florida already had two SEC losses but the Gators were ranked #9 nationally and Georgia #21. Everybody figured Tim Tebow would light up the Georgia defense but when Georgia rushed the field, the emotional demeanor of the Georgia crowd changed instantly. With crowd roaring behind them and Florida’s inability to tackle Knowshon Moreno, Georgia won that game, but Richt turned himself into public enemy #1 of Urban Meyer and the entire Gator nation.
From the time spring practice ended in 2008 until the Friday the Gators boarded the buses for Jacksonville, the televisions in the Florida football complex kept rewinding the incident. Publicly, Meyer rarely said anything except there would be “consequences” but in private he made certain the Gators seethed with what can only be described – if you’re a Florida fan – as righteous anger.
It was game on for the Gators on the second play of the game when Brandon Spikes decleated Knowshon Moreno. The Florida defense would deliver the hits and take the ball away from Georgia four times that day.
It was 14-3 at the half. Then came the third quarter and all hell broke loose. It started with a Joe Haden interception and 88-yard runback to the Georgia 1. Tim Tebow hammered into the end zone and suddenly it was 21-3. The Florida defense delivered a 3-and-out and the Gators went 56 yards in 4 plays, scoring on a 44-yard Tebow to Louis Murphy touchdown pass. Then came the fumble when Matt Stafford was taken apart by the UF pass rush. Terron Sanders recovered and rumbled 20 yards to the Georgia 10. One play later, Tebow went 8 yards for the TD that made it 35-3 and the only thing missing was the fork to stick in Georgia because the Bulldogs were done.
With less than a minute to go, everyone thought Meyer’s payback was to stomp the life out of the Bulldogs, but as mentioned before, paybacks are hell. The Gators held a 49-10 lead and could have scored another touchdown but that would have only given Georgia payback incentive. Instead, Meyer had time outs remaining and he called them much to the chagrin of Richt. The indelible memory is Richt twice looking at the scoreboard to see the time remaining – and the score, 49-10.
A ONE-MAN SLEEPER CELL
Steve Hummer, who writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote this Wednesday: “So long as Will Muschamp head-coached the Gators, Georgia was bound to be a rightful favorite in Jacksonville. A former Bulldog player himself, Muschamp continued to be a boon for his alma mater even as he game-planned against it. Sort of like a one-man sleeper cell inside the Florida fortifications.”
JASON WHITLOCK ON THE SAD STATE OF SPORTS JOURNALISM
When I was a young sports writer, I had the good fortune of being mentored by one of the true greats – Jack Hairston. They called him “Just the Facts Jack.” Nothing fancy in the way he wrote but when you finished you knew everything you needed to know. One of the first things Jack taught me was “Get the story” and I learned that the story wasn’t always the final score, that no matter what the final score read, there was a human element. Someone performed and someone failed and behind the final outcome someone’s heart was ready to explode with joy while someone else’s heart was ripped out of his chest. I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to get the story.
I find most of what passes as “good journalism” or sports writing these days is either unreadable or not worth the effort it takes to listen. It turns out that I’m not the only one who thinks that way. Jason Whitlock, the often-controversial columnist who recently left ESPN for Fox Sports, had this to say about the sad state of sports writing and broadcasting:
“Untrained, predatory kids are being passed off as the next wave of journalists. They’ve bullied and intimidated their way into a leadership position. And they’re using their platforms to convince the public that anyone over 40 is a dumbass who shouldn’t be listened to and that their select group of approved friends are the smartest people in journalism.
“That’s how people who have never spent one minute acquiring journalistic chops are becoming the leading opinion-makers in the sports world and people with experience are being pushed out of the business or characterized as idiots.”
To read this entire essay, please click on the link.
#7 ALABAMA (7-1, 4-1 SEC): Nick Saban updated the injury status of three key players. Safety Eddie Jackson (knee) is practicing and is expected to play against LSU on November 7. Safety Ronnie Harrison (ankle) is still in a boot but is also expected to be ready for LSU. At this point, it’s 50-50 whether right tackle Dominick Jackson will be ready to go against LSU.
ARKANSAS (3-4, 2-2 SEC): The Razorbacks shouldn’t have any problems with D1AA opponent Tennessee Martin Saturday. A win would bring Arkansas to 4-4 for the first time since Bobby Petrino’s final season in Fayette Nam. The Hogs have only one more game in which they’ll be favored (Missouri) so they’ll have to steal a win from Ole Miss, LSU or Mississippi State to become bowl eligible for the second straight year under Bret Bielema.
AUBURN (4-3, 1-3): File this under not very smart. Auburn DB Jonathan Jones commented about Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell Tuesday, saying “He’s a regular receiver like everybody else.” A regular receiver? Treadwell is the most physical wide receiver in the SEC and possibly the nation. He’s totaled 56 catches for 756 yards and 5 touchdowns through eight games.
#11 FLORIDA (6-1, 4-1 SEC): A foot injury to freshman Antonio Callaway could affect Florida in the passing game and special teams Saturday. Callaway is listed as questionable after he was injured during Wednesday’s practice. Callaway averages 19.2 yards per pass reception and 14.8 yards per punt return. He is Florida’s game breaking threat who forces double coverage on offense and forces punters to try to sacrifice distance for height in an attempt to keep him from snapping off a big return.
GEORGIA (5-2, 3-2 SEC): Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that while Georgia hasn’t been great in any phase of the game this year, the source of all problems is at QB, where Greyson Lambert has performed great against bad teams and bad against good ones. Writes Schultz, “The Dogs have been underwhelming this season on defense and special teams. The loss of running back Nick Chubb meant the loss of a great player who could make up for the team’s other significant flaws. But Georgia’s biggest issue going back to last spring has been the absence of a competent starting quarterback, a passer who could make plays to win games in big games.”
KENTUCKY (4-3, 2-3 SEC): Patrick Towles might remain Kentucky’s starting QB by default. Redshirt freshman Drew Barker dinged up his shoulder while playing in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State and it won’t be known until later in the week if he can play against Tennessee. There is some good news, however, on the injury front. Corner Kendall Randolph, wide receiver Garrett Johnson and left tackle Jordan Swindle will all be available Saturday.
#4 LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC): When quarterback Brandon Harris and wide receiver Malachi Dupre ventured off campus Sunday, they went to the aid of a stranded motorist whose car had been overwhelmed by floods caused by monsoon rains. Harris and Dupre got the woman and her son out of the car then went back in to retrieve insulin since the child is diabetic.
#25 MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-2, 2-2 SEC): Since arriving at Mississippi State in 2009, Dan Mullen has completely changed the football culture. The Bulldogs are 52-33 in his 6+ years on the job, the second best stretch in school history, and they will be going to their 6th consecutive bowl game this year. “When I got here people were patting me on the back saying if we get to a bowl once in a while that’s fantastic,” Mullen said. “They expect that now. I love it.”
MISSOURI (4-3, 1-3 SEC): While Missouri’s offense was nothing to write home about when Maty Mauk was at QB, it was night and day better than the four games under freshman Drew Lock. Mizzou has scored 36 points in Lock’s four games. Mauk, who was reinstated to the team Tuesday, threw for 654 yards and six touchdowns before he was suspended and is expected to be the #1 QB again when the Tigers face Mississippi State on November 5.
#19 OLE MISS (6-2, 3-1 SEC): The good news in Oxford is defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche practiced Tuesday and he’s likely to play Saturday when the Rebels visit Auburn. Nkemdiche suffered a concussion against Memphis and was held out of the Texas A&M game. Safety Tony Conner also practiced Tuesday and could be on the field at Auburn.
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-4, 1-4 SEC): Although he’s pegged Perry Orth as the starting QB for Saturday’s road encounter with Texas A&M, interim coach Shawn Elliott says the Gamecocks might very well play Connor Mitch and Lorenzo Nunez, too. Both Mitch and Nunez have missed games because of shoulder injuries.
TENNESSEE (3-4, 1-3 SEC): Butch Jones says placekicker Aaron Medley is “very resilient.” Resilient is nice, but accurate would be much better. Medley hit 20-26 on field goals last season as a freshman. This year he’s 9-17 and that includes three misses against Alabama (UT lost by 5) and a game-ending miss against Florida (Vols lost by 1).
TEXAS A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC): Kevin Sumlin announced that the QB job is wide open. Kyle Allen, who started the first seven games, will have to compete with sophomore Jake Hubenak and true freshman Kyler Murray to keep his job. Sumlin will announce the starter for Saturday’s game with South Carolina prior to the Friday walk-through.
VANDERBILT (3-4, 1-4 SEC): The only thing freshman QB Kyle Shurmur (10-20, 89 yards) did that was impressive in his first start against Missouri was protect the football. Shurmur neither fumbled nor did he throw an interception, unlike Johnny McCrary, who threw three picks and fumbled the ball twice just the week before.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
There is an unexpected opening at Minnesota as Jerry Kill has been forced to retire because of a recurrence of seizures. That brings to eight the number of current openings that will have to be filled. At least nine other vacancies are expected between now and December 1.
Former Vanderbilt and current Penn State coach James Franklin denies he has any interest in the Miami job. He’s in the same division with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten. Franklin would find it a whole lot easier to win a division with Virginia Tech, Pitt, Duke and Georgia Tech.
The two names you’ll be hearing plenty of in the Illinois coaching search are Dino Babers and Brock Spack. Babers won big at Western Illinois before taking the Bowling Green job while Spack is 52-27 in seven years at Illinois State. Spack’s name will also be heard if and when Purdue unloads Darrell Hazell. Spack was Joe Tiller’s defensive coordinator at Purdue for 11 years.
Purdue knows Hazell is not the man for the job but getting rid of him comes with a $6 million price tag. Whoever negotiated that contract should be canned immediately.
The powers that be at Indiana are apparently concluding that Kevin Wilson should be given another year. The Hoosiers are 4-4 and will go bowling if they go 2-2 the rest of the way, likely since they finish the season with bottom feeders Maryland and Purdue.
Could Baylor become the second straight college football team to lose its star QB to injury and rally behind a backup to win the national championship? With Seth Russell gone for the year, true freshman Jared Stidham will get his chance to lead.
Does Travis Haney of ESPN think something is up at Texas A&M? Haney writes that an ideal replacement for Kevin Sumlin is SMU’s first year coach Chad Morris.
Does this sound like 2009 all over again? Florida averaged 43.6 a game in 2008 whiie winning the national championship. After a change of offensive coordinators, the Gators dipped to 35.9 in 2009. Florida fans lamented the dip in the offensive production. At Ohio State, the Buckeyes averaged 44.8 and won the national championship last year. With a new offensive coordinator, the Buckeyes are averaging 35.8 this year. Fans are lamenting the lack of offensive production.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When you look back on the 2007 incident at the Florida-Georgia game, what was your first reaction and does it still anger you that Mark Richt was given such a pass by much of the media?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
During my family’s 3-year exile to Mississippi during the 1960s, I was introduced to the music of blues legend John Lee Hooker through the woman who cleaned our house and washed and ironed our clothes. We had a beautiful console stereo and she brought her records to listen to while she worked. John Lee Hooker was one of her favorites and he became one of mine, too, the first time I heard “Boom Boom.” One of my favorite of the 100 or so albums he recorded during his 60+ years of making music is “The Healer” from 1989, which featured contributions from Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Carlos Santana, Canned Heat, George Thorogood and Charlie Musselwhite among others.