Any Given Saturday Recap, Week 3: UGA Goes “Wide Richt” 

The only thing worse that not having any hope is watching that hope get stomped on over and over again.

The only thing worse that not having any hope is watching that hope get stomped on over and over again. This weekend wasn’t the first time or the last time Mark Richt’s been blindsided by a loss that crippled his national championship hopes. We forget that just as a (sort of) young Bobby Bowden nearly won a two-peat in 1978 and ’79, Richt only lost one game in his second season to the post-Spurrier Florida Gators, finished No. 3 in the nation and knocked off Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

We also forget that before Jimbo Fisher straddled into Tallahassee, Richt was Bowden’s long-time right hand man (Micky Andrew was the left) and appeared set to be the Seminoles’ heir apparent. During his initial stint with Florida State as a graduate assistant, Richt watched FSU lose its only game of the ’87 season to Miami by the score, 25-26.

With 42 seconds remaining FSU quarterback Danny McManus talked Bowden into going for two, instead of the tie. After McManus’ fade throw into the right corner of the end zone failed, the onside kick bounced into the arms of Miami’s Brian Blade. If FSU had recovered, the offense would have immediately begun scrambling to get in position for a game-winning field goal.

Knowing what we know now about Miami and FSU, it’s probably best that it didn’t come down to a kick for the Seminoles.

As the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Florida State in the ‘90s, Richt, a former Miami Hurricane quarterback was privy to three different Florida State’s Wide Right/Left losses to The U.

The most painful loss was the 1991 Wide Right I. The next year Wide Right II peeled back the scab over Wide Right I.

Three months before Richt branched out on his own at UGA, he endured one final Wide Right against Miami in 2000.

As Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan’s kick hooked wide right, all you could do is wonder what was going through Richt’s mind. Before Morgan failed in his execution and kicked Georgia in the gonads, he broke the 30-year-old SEC record for consecutive field goals made.

With the record safely in hand, Morgan proceeded to miss a 44-yarder in the waning minutes of the first half. With that miss out of his system there was no way he could miss a kick that would tie Georgia with five minutes remaining.

You’d only think that if you haven’t been undergoing acupuncture treatment to recover from a decade plus of great, but not quite elite football.

Just to double down on UGA’s inauspicious kismet, South Carolina’s fourth down quarterback dive resulted in a measurement that was a tenth of an inch past the final link.

It was just another day in the life of the Georgia Bulldogs. Like Bowden, Richt’s been close. However, his losses have been more soul crushing.

Tommy Tuberville, Gus Malzahn, Nick Saban at Bama, Nick Saban att LSU, Gene Chizik, Urban Meyer and Les Miles have sprinted through the SEC gauntlet an into BCS national championships or undefeated seasons in the 14 seasons that Richt’s been jogging around the SEC track.

UGA had felt the warm glow emanating from national championship contention before. Like a Warner Bros. cartoon character with a proclivity for standing underneath falling anvils, crestfallen Bulldog nation has gotten used to an unexpected obstacle crushing their reasonable, but soaring aspirations.

 Clemsoning, derived from UGA’s neighbor to the North and defined as an inexplicably disappointing performance, has become a part of college football schadenfreude. UGA, which shares a border and recruiting pipeline with Clemson, takes Clemsoning to a whole different level.

The difference is that Richt’s resurrection of the program has raised the stakes and the blood pressure for its fans.

The 2012 SEC Championship Game is the closest UGA has ever come to reaching college football's pinnacle since Hershel Walker was plowing through SEC defenses. In 2008, they were in the conversation, but the coputers chose LSU. In retrospect, a playoff committee probably would have gone with Stafford and Co.

Trailing Alabama by four, Aaron Murray took the field with Georgia’s offense and piloted the offense within striking distance of the end zone.

However, with 15 seconds remaining, Richt opted not to have Murray spike the ball and strategize with his offense. To this day, it’s the most controversial decision of Richt’s career.

Instead of pounding the into the offense’s head that every throw AND catch should be made in the end zone, Murray’s back shoulder fade to Malcolm Mitchell never reached its target as linebacker C.J. Moseley pulled up on his pass rush and deflected Murray's pass. The arc of Murray's deflected pass landed in the arms of receiver Chris Conley, who slipped inbounds at the five. Richt could only watch helplessly in stunned silence.

Richt is now in his 14th season and it’s been nine years since they won an SEC title. While it has probably been frustrating to see the rug pulled out from underneath him so often, it also took Bobby Bowden 18 seasons to become a national championship winning coach.

There’s a possibility that UGA could replicate 2012 by losing to South Carolina on the road before going on another trademark Richt mid-season roll.

The advent of a playoff, gives an SEC team more room for error, but a loss against a Spurrier’s Gamecocks which they were expected to flatten, was a terrible first audition for the inaugural four-team tourney’s committee members.

The winds of fortune rarely blow in Richt’s favor. Maybe someday a gust of wind will force his kicker’s attempt a little to the left.

 

USC Drops A Turd

Javorius Allen’s 287 yards against Fresno State and Stanford was the impetus behind USC’s 2-0 start. In Saturday’s loss to Boston College, Allen was a complete non-factor in the running game. Allen scored on a 51-yard touchdown pass, but his absence running the football was glaring while Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy ran for a career-high 191 yards. Overall, the Trojan defense never saw it coming.

By the time, Boston College’s onslaught was over they’d outrushed USC 452 yards to 20. Already Steve Sarkisian has begun feeling the backlash. At the very least, this takes pressure off of Pat Haden having to appear impartial while making a case for playoff committee members for USC’s playoff inclusion.

 

Pac-12 Pooper Scooper

The Pac-12 has some exciting football players on both sides of the ball. Some play both sides of the ball. Myles Jack’s versatility overshadowed the dual gifts of Washington’s linebacker/running back/receiver Shaq Thompson.

In addition to running for a touchdown last week against, Thompson was the pooper scooper against Illinois’ offensive excrement, picking off one pass and returning it for a touchdown before depositing another fumbled football into the end zone later on in the afternoon.

Good News: This the type of game Florida would have lost last season. Bad News: It was Kentucky.

Florida barely escaped with a victory over the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team on Saturday night. After their 65-0 victory over The Citadel zombies in Week 2, Will Muschamp’s Gators defense nearly dropped a turd and reminded us all that he’s a double agent for the University of Georgia.

One second, you’ve fallen back in love head over heels with Florida football and the next, you’re looking like this couple.

 

On the other hand, last time I saw a top 25 team look so mortal against Kentucky, Randall Cobb nearly won a duel with Matt Stafford, AJ Green, Knowshon Moreno and Geno Atkins. A month later, Georgia was in contention for the national championship. Next Saturday against Alabama will be Muschamp’s waterloo.