I know. That’s a heck of a statement. And I’ve been tough on Brian Schottenheimer and his plodding offense. Shoot - everyone has been tough on him; and rightfully so. That the defense must perform well is imperative, always. Especially now that the offense does not score nearly or more than 40 points every time out like last season.
But a year has passed, and the results of last season against the Gators are fresh in the mind of every Bulldog partisan as they make their multi-hour drive to Jacksonville.
That’s where Pruitt comes in.
Last year the offense goofed, but the defense was gutted. But it was worse than that. Florida, a very limited Gator offense, ran the same two plays over and over again. There was no reason to do anything else. It was working.
Two plays. Over and over and over and over.
Pruitt said after the game that the performance was “embarrassing.”
You got that right - not that Georgia is new to embarrassments while playing in Jacksonville.
But the mulligan is there to be had for Pruitt and the Bulldogs.
Quarterback Treon Harris is once again starting - this time in place of the suspended Will Grier. Harris attempted six passes against Georgia last year. It was six attempts too many. The not-so-mighty Gators lined up and ran the ball down Georgia’s throats to the horror of those dressed in red and black.
Nightmare is the word that comes to mind.
It was a pitiful exhibition of mental and physical toughness for those in Silver Britches.
Now Pruitt and company get another shot at the Gators.
A year later changes have been made - folks are listening to the case that Pruitt has been making for change inside the Georgia program. An indoor practice facility is on the way; Strength and conditioning has been revamped; in many cases new (quite young) players are on the field; and, too, Pruitt was rewarded with a handsome pay increase for his efforts last season.
Folks have listened to what Pruitt has correctly pointed out as the flaws in Georgia’s program. But coaches lose credibility - even if they are correct - when their teams or units don't perform. Right or wrong, another flop in this game defensively is going to nudge back Pruitt’s contrastive criticism correctly of this program.
More than that, this game is make or break for Georgia.
If you come to Athens to play and coach in big games there is no bigger game than this one every year.
Forget the money - this is about atonement for what happened. This is about pride. This is about holding an offense, with its backup QB and without a placekicker of note, out of the end zone. Thats is certainly possible to do - not for the entire game - but enough of the game so that Georgia’s hobbling offense can get it together long enough to break double digits.
Georgia fans, with visions of Larry Munson’s negativity dancing in their heads, don’t understand why the Gators are only listed as three-point favorites. They know the offense is sputtering, and hopes of improvements are just that - hopes. The offense is what it is right now - flawed.
Someone has to lead here, and Pruitt, is in position to do just that.
This defense can play - at least it has shown that it can. What Georgia partisans want to see is the defense they have hoped to see since hiring Pruitt in 2014 - a shutdown defense. Its building there - you can see it coming - but they are not quite there yet.
This week, however, might be one step towards that achievable goal.
Frankly, that’s not asking too much. The Gators are struggling to run the ball (108th in NCAA), and Pruitt’s bunch has been pretty darn good at red zone defense (14th in NCAA). That means if Georgia can avoid giving up the big play to the Gators on defense they should be able to win the game.
So its time to see if Pruitt, who has at least been reliable this season on the defensive side of the ball, can help guide the Bulldogs to a win in Jacksonville. Pruitt’s side of the ball has pretty well kept up its end of the bargain this season.
We will see this week if Pruitt can save Georgia’s season along the banks of the St. John’s River. If not we are going to see a lot of bridge jumpers afterwards - and its a long way down.