I was thinking after Georgia got the ball back late in the 4th Quarter, the headlines and talk about the game would be about how Paul Johnson blew the game. Afterall, after Georgia seemingly forgot how to field a kick off (again), Georgia Tech recovered essentially a 30 yard onside kick up 4 points with about 4 minutes left. Our defense hadn’t had much success stopping the run, was dog tired, so Tech just needed to run it up the gut a few times to kill the clock.
What did Paul Johnson do? He got cute (again). He seemingly forgot his teams are built to run and had been doing that well all game. Of course his quarterback fumbled the ball going back for a pass.
Well a Coach screwed up and cost his team the game, but it wasn’t Coach Johnson.
Mark Richt didn’t trust his players to make a play and decided to step in (again).
The squib kick was awful. It was one of the dumbest decisions I have ever seen. Georgia has not allowed a kick off return for a TD this season, and is only averaging 20 yards per return (4th best in the SEC). Return coverage has been excellent, if you don’t kick it out the back of the end zone.
It’s not all that Richt made the bad call. Look, we are all human. We make mistakes. He realized it and owned it. A lot of times after losses, he gives long, rambling, and evasive answers or explanations. Not this time. He owned it and fell on the sword. I appreciate that. And Mark Richt is compensated well to make tough decisions in crunch time. But all coaches make bad calls.
What bothers me is the repeated failure to put trust in the players to make plays, and also the moments of inconsistency with the approach to games.
It is no secret that Georgia plays better when they are playing with aggression and their hair on fire. See, the Auburn game. No question, Richt wanted that game. Fake punts, going for it on 4th down, playing and coaching with aggression. Think back to all the biggest wins or moments. They all involve a team that is playing with their hair on fire and with nothing to lose. We all say it; when a Richt coached team is down in the dumps or counted out, they come out swinging. They are at their best as the underdog, when everyone counts them out.
When he gets bottled up and conservative, that is when things tend to go south.
The squib kick was a dumb decision. But humans make mistakes. Whatever. It happens. The decision is forgiveable; the mindset behind it is what is troubling and frustrating.
The decision I can’t fathom is settling for a field goal inside the 3 yard line after Richt made a ballsy call to fake a field goal. That was one of the most unexpected things I have ever seen. We NEVER fake field goals. We might fake a occassional punt or try a surprise onside kick once a season. Not only did we fake a field goal, we did the crazy backwards Les Miles pass thing.
Not going for it on 4th and 2 was just an example of the inconsistent decision making. Sometimes, they play aggressive and put it all out there. Other times, they decide to play conservative and not to lose, rather to play to win.
The old saying is a tiger can’t change its stripes. Richt is who he is, for better and worse. He has tried to change and evolve over the years, sometimes at a glacial pace.
Playing to win leaves you with no regrets, because at least, by God, you tried to win.
Playing not to lose leaves you wondering…what if?